This review contains spoilers.
On one hand, there’s a lacrosse scrimmage between Liam’s old school and his new school. It’s also Kira’s first night on the lacrosse team and Scott and Stiles are both actually attempting to pay attention to school this year, since they’re juniors now and need to actually keep their grades up if they want to go to a college that isn’t Beacon Hills Tech. Of course, it’s hard to focus on training a new Beta in the ways of lycanthropy when there’s yet another group of powerful assassins on the loose in your hometown and local supernaturals are finding themselves chopped down with tomahawks, blown up with mines, and beheaded with weird heat filament garottes.
There are still teenager concerns to be dealt with, but most of this week’s episode of Teen Wolf is about situations most teenagers will hopefully never have to deal with, like learning how to handle your homicidal rage and claw powers or how to communicate with the spirit world to crack a high-tech code to find out out which of your friends is on a $117 million dollar hit list courtesy of The Benefactor. Even in the relative safety of the sports field, no member of the McCall pack is safe from murderers within their midst, particularly when those murderers have wolfsbane-coated knives hidden in their lacrosse blades.
Jennifer Lynch is a great addition to the show’s directorial line-up and she brings some great visual style to the proceedings that both fits in well with Russell Mulcahy and Tim Andrew, but is also subtly different. She seems to favour strong close-ups, at least in this episode, and she does some great things with those tight, intense shots, particularly all those of Lydia as she stares at the record in the soundproof white room or the clean white paper of her drawing pad while trying, and failing, to find out the second of the three cyphers to unlock the second half of the dead pool. There’s a heartbreaking vulnerability there in Holland Roden’s face that Lynch captures perfectly, and the shots are framed in such a way that even when Lydia has company around her, like Malia, it’s clear that she’s on an island on her own and none of her supernatural friends, for all their skills and powers, can help her.
It’s a great synthesis between a wonderful performance from Holland Roden and great shot composition. Teen Wolf can be a beautiful show, but the shots of Roden’s eyes staring helplessly, pained and struggling to help her friends, are downright haunting. Even when she cracks the riddle, it doesn’t seem to help her all that much in terms of dealing with her place in the world. After all, her name’s on the dead pool list too, and if these mysterious hunters—who we know but the kids only have suspicions about—can kill werewolf adults and wendigos and all that, who’s going to stop them from taking out a girl whose only power is, as she puts it, voices in her head?
The voices line, from Angela L. Harvey’s script, is one of the many great lines this week. Most of them were joke lines, but not all of them were obviously funny. Some were comical on the surface, but revealed deeper pain (such as Sheriff Stilinski’s line about once being a rational human being). Others, like Araya Calavera’s line about Mexican stand-offs just being called stand-offs where they’re from, are comedy lines that are presumably aimed at people, like myself, who watch too much television and know entirely too much insider lingo—though the Mexican stand-off might be a well-known term at this point, I don’t know what the kids have learned from Tumblr these days.
Either way, it’s another clever, funny, and surprisingly adept show that continues to be all those things and more with every passing episode. That the show can maintain such steady quality four seasons into its life is a bit of a surprise, though perhaps the cast churn helps keep things fresh and gives familiar characters new people to play off. However, it’s the new wrinkles for familiar characters, like Scott’s growth into an Alpha with a pack of his own while Derek watches like a proud papa or how Sheriff Stilinski and Stiles are more alike than anyone could have guessed in their general attitude and impressive cleverness, that have kept Teen Wolf interesting.
Simply throwing new teenagers into the meat grinder every year wouldn’t be enough to do it; losing important characters is change enough, but having that damage reflected in the psyches of the kids several months after the death and mourning periods are over is the sort of move that creates true dramatic growth moments for the survivors. By remembering the dead, bringing the dead back to life, and using the names of the dead as the secret passwords for the dead pool list, it reminds the audience that this is a show where anybody can die at any moment.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see not every assassin haunting Beacon Hills is supernatural, and not every supernatural in Beacon Hills is directly related to the Hale family in one way or another (just the interesting ones). Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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