This review contains spoilers.
When Teen Wolf is at its best, it is mining all possible feels out of its situations. “Feels” is a relatively new term coined by the Tumblr generation, which means that basically Teen Wolf successfully replicates the emotional roller-coaster that is the teenage experience. First love, first crush, bromances, the never-ending travails of a transforming body, Teen Wolf handles all these very well indeed, without being too heavy-handed. When the show is heavy-handed, it usually doesn’t stay that way for too long. Being a teenager is a horror show, and nobody knows that better than Derek Hale.
Derek Hale, everyone’s favorite grouchy mentor and foil to Stiles, was found in a teenage state (played by Ian Nelson) last week by the gang in their Mexican cave. This week he’s back in town and back under the care of Scott, Stiles, Dr Deaton, and the rest of the Beacon Hills shifter community. As it turns out, Lil Derek had a little getting trouble to his lycanthropy during his teenage years, and he needed a magical macguffin, the triskelion, to help him focus himself and control his abilities. Kate Argent, herself a new were creature, needs that macguffin to help control her own homicidal, gas-station-attendant-eating ways. (The attendant is named Briggs, which I can only assume is a nod to drive-in movie critic and fan of all things gore Joe Bob Briggs.) Then again, if she has the power to change Derek back into Teen Wolf Too, then does she really need that amulet? That question is never really addressed, so let’s forget it and just move on, shall we?
Despite Derek being a teenager—and being played by a different actor—Teen Wolf does a great job with the writing for the character. Unlike standard, growly Derek, teenage Derek was regressed back before the Hale family fire, so he trusts Kate Argent and he’s a lot more friendly and open with the gang. Of course, as his scenes with Stiles remind us, he’s still Derek, and there’s still a lot of comedy tension there, even if Derek is now the younger of the two rather than the older two. It’s one of many really funny moments from the pen of writer Eoghan O’Donnell, who plays to two of the show’s strengths: the Stiles family and Peter Hale. It was a lot of fun to see the Stilinski boys back together for a few scenes, with teen Derek serving as their mutual link; in scenes like the interrogation scene, in which Sheriff Stilinski expresses horror at the thought of Stiles and Scott getting involved in time travel, show that there’s not really all that much difference between father and son in spite of the years separating them (it helps that both of them are very funny characters in their own right, and Linden Ashby does a wonderful job of physical comedy during his scene studying young Derek). In a world where teenagers turn into monsters, is time travel really that far-fetched?
Teen Wolf was going for both comedy and terror this week, and rather than just extract a few little chuckles to relieve tension here and there, Teen Wolf outright played for funny this week, and it worked out very well. The whole cast is very funny, especially Arden Cho, Ian Bohen, and Dylan O’Brien, and it’s nice to see them getting to play with some lighter material, rather than the heavy stuff that filled out last season. The show even includes some playful, teasing nods to the original Teen Wolf in the cold opening, when young Derek has to try to control his lycanthropy while still keeping up with the Joneses on the Beacon Hills basketball team during the state championship.
Of course, thanks to the returning Kate Argent (AKA actress Jill Wagner, who also hosts the Wolf Watch after-show) things will quite quickly get heavy. With the reappearance of the berserkers from the abandoned Aztec temple, who look like a combination of Lord Humungous from The Road Warrior and Rattleshirt from Game of Thrones, there’s clearly going to be some significant action this week, and it’s fun to see the kids—including wee babby Derek—getting involved in the action. Malia’s fight-first-and-ask-questions-never mindset is going to be a lot of fun this season and Christian Taylor does a good job of capturing the fight scenes on film without revealing too much of the new this season’s version of the oni.
It wasn’t the height of what Teen Wolf can be, but it was a great example of just how much fun the show can be without sacrificing both horror (the splattered guy in the bathroom) and action (the extended fight between the berserkers and all the Teen Wolves). The theft, which wasn’t perpetrated by Big Bad Kate, looks to be the work of the Mexican hunters, or some other nefarious person wearing leather shoes. I have no doubt this ties back in a greater way to Mexico, which means the return of the show’s second-creepiest mother character (not Mama Argent, AKA the scariest person ever on TV).
That secret will play out in time, but until then, can’t we just all enjoy the return of one of Teen Wolf‘s best villains of all time in Kate? She’s a true menace, in that her actions are only for her pleasure, and for no other higher purpose. Except, perhaps, the love of Derek Hale, but even that doesn’t seem like it would provide much motivation for her. Kate Argent is true neutral bordering on chaotic evil, and she’s good for the show. It’ll be great to see her torturing shirtless teens again.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is sad to see Baby Derek go, but it’ll be fun to have Adult Derek back, if only so the show continues to have some beard on its characters and angst in its heart. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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