This review contains spoilers.
It’s been a long time since Teen Wolf paid more than cursory attention to the fact that its central characters are all high school students. There were moments during Kira’s introduction in season 3B where the classroom gained some focus, mostly in Mr Yukimura’s history classes, but aside from that there’s been a lot of Wolf and not a lot of Teen. In particular, when’s the last time the Beacon Hills lacrosse team has been a plot point? I think that hasn’t been a real factor since season two, if not season one. It turns out, Teen Wolf still has a thing for its version of quidditch, and lacrosse can still be a plot point, especially when it comes to the introduction of new characters.
However, there’s a much more efficient way for Teen Wolf to introduce new characters, specifically new antagonists, and that’s through a pre-credit murder sequence. In this case, a young man named Sean—who clearly hasn’t seen enough horror movies—goes out to look for his missing cat. Failing to find missing Willow, he ambles back inside and shuts off the lights one by one before retiring to his bedroom. He takes his shirt off and crawls onto the bed, only to notice something strange on the floor in the form of discolored footprints. Sean looks under the bed and sure enough, there’s his cat covered in what looks like mud, except that it turns into blood when he examines it under the light. Cue the screaming, running, hiding, and the tomahawk murdering. Sean survives, for the moment, but his would-be killer is spectacularly creepy, and he only gets creepier the more you see him later.
With a rogues gallery of monsters and weird creatures, you’d expect that Teen Wolf would eventually run out of creepy stuff to put on screen. After all, as the show references, Beacon Hills has been a magnet for crazy stuff over the better part of three seasons, and yet it seems like Teen Wolf has an endless bag of tricks at its disposal, and director Tim Andrew digs into some of the more reliable ones this week to further emphasize the horror. The opening scene is pretty standard horror stuff, though it’s interesting that the victim is able to escape (for the moment). However, when Sean manifests supernatural symptoms during his hospital stay, that’s when things take a turn for the really disturbing. It’s simple stuff—weird colored eyes, crazy mouth appliances, and a whole lot of corn syrup blood and rubber intestines to chew on—but the simple stuff works for a reason. It’s creepy to see this kid having torn open a deputy for snacking purposes, and it’s even better to think that, only a moment before, Scott was told to go protect this kid; now, he’s having to defend his mother’s life from the patient she was just taking care of a few moments before.
The abrupt tonal shifts on Teen Wolf, from horror to comedy in the span of a commercial break, are one of the show’s secret weapons. It’s one of the more popular programmes on television, and that’s because there’s something for just about everyone who cares to tune in, from cute shirtless boys to cute girls in their underwear, all the feels, all the violence, guns and mysteries… The episode opens and closes with terrific action set pieces, and in the middle there’s some comedy-of-high-school about Scott and Stiles trying to stay in the good graces of everyone’s favorite comic relief, Coach Finstock of the Beacon Hills High School lacrosse team. There’s also the comedy of Malia’s continued attempts at pretending to be a normal high school student, as well as Deputy Parrish and Lydia’s discovery of a meat freezer full of bodies that brought back memories of the old human meat sales website hoaxes.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Teen Wolf this season is the fact that fifty episodes of craziness is finally starting to take its toll on Beacon Hills. Every action has a response, and it appears that the people and institutions are starting to suffer both physically, emotionally, and financially as a result of all the supernatural shenanigans. There have been hints at this during season four, most notably the stack of bills on Sheriff Stilinski’s desk, but the consequences are explored more overtly in tonight’s episode by writer Alyssa Clark.
Scott, who is only a junior but who seems to have aged a lifetime since the show debuted, is getting supplanted on the lacrosse team by Liam (Dylan Sprayberry, making his debut on the show), he’s been struggling in school, and the werewolf powers that were such a blast in the first season now come with the burden of every teenager’s nightmare, responsibility. Scott’s panic about holding onto his place as captain of the lacrosse team is less about lacrosse and more about the fact that, increasingly, Scott can’t be a teenager. He’s the Alpha wolf in a town beset by nightmares on all sides, and he’s one of the few people who has some inkling of understanding as to just how messed up things really are in Beacon Hills.
As Melissa and Sheriff Stilinski discuss at the hospital, their kids need a night off, but so do they. The hospital is about to go under due to the massive amounts of damage it has sustained. The police department goes through deputies like a marathon runner goes through shoes. The Yukimuras are threatening to flee town for some place a little more functional. Even Coach, who has been as disconnected from the teen wolfery as possible, has been severely injured as a result of shape shifter shenanigans. It seems that no one is going to get out of Beacon Hills without suffering some sort of loss, and only the luckiest will get out of town alive.
The fact that the actions of Teen Wolf‘s shifters are reverberating throughout the community at large is a brilliant touch, and a great reminder that to build a world, you actually need to have a world that isn’t static. Beacon Hills, no matter where filming might take place, feels like a richer place because the hospital getting trashed twice a season is affecting hospital budget, the robbery of the Hale family vault means the Hales may have to get jobs, and even the pressure of Scott’s mantle of leadership might manifest itself as jealousy over something as meaningless as the captaincy of the lacrosse team.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, 117, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan feels better about Liam now that he’s been introduced than he did about the idea of Liam when he was first mentioned at the end of last season. He might not end up being Cousin Oliver after all. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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