This review contains spoilers.
Knowing a little bit about how television production works, Teen Wolf‘s latest episode seems like it could almost be a ‘ripped from the headlines’ sort of affair. While not intended to capitalize on the Ebola outbreak in western Africa and the fact that the United States is currently bringing two Ebola-infected people to Atlanta (Teen Wolf‘s old stomping grounds) in an effort to treat the insanely unpleasant and deadly disease, it could not have been timed more perfectly. The United States government is importing fatal diseases and Beacon Hills High School is ground zero for an entirely new disease that’s spreading like the gross rashes on the bodies of its victims.
One of the interesting things about Teen Wolf this season is how they seem to be more actively trying to remember that the stars of the show are supposed to be high school kids who still do high school things when they’re not being shot at by assassins. But even a simple thing like the PSATs, a relatively meaningless test measure most high school students take, ends up being potentially fatal for the shape-shifters and supernatural monsters that compose most of Beacon Hills’ population (also the normal kids, but nobody really cares about them).
Turns out it’s all Coach’s fault. Well, coach and a wannabe biology teacher/killer by the name of Simon (as played by awesome guest star James Urbaniak) who has developed a pretty clever way to kill all the werewolves without getting in danger of being killed by those very same werewolves, using a genetically modified version of canine distemper. Now with the CDC coming into town with a quarantine to lock down the high school, it’s up to the lucky few on the outside, namely Lydia, Derek, and the ever-clever Deaton, to save those trapped on the inside: Scott, Stiles, Kira, and Malia. Maximum feels!
Teen Wolf has a way with a bottle episode, and the high school has become almost like another character in the programme given its relative importance to the show as a whole. As fun as it is to learn little facts about Coach—like the fact he’s a recovering alcoholic—and spend a little time with the lovely Ms. Martin, the center of Teen Wolf remains its teenagers, specifically their romantic relationships. Any time you get Stiles involved, there’s going to be an outpouring of feels, and Alyssa Clark’s script mines the continuing relationship between Scott and Stiles to maximum effectiveness. They really feel like lifelong friends, this week more than most, plus there’s the added chemistry between Dylan O’Brien and Shelley Hennig’s Malia that makes that first love pairing work like gangbusters, too.
I have no doubt this week’s episode kept the fandom on the edge of their seats, even as the normal folks began to recover and our were-critter friends took respective turns for the worst. There’s really nothing creepier to us old folks who remember the specter of the Cold War than people in germ-proof suits. With Ebola in the news, it’s doubly effective. I’m sure even Teen Wolf’s target audience of kids home for the summer have heard about that outbreak by now, and director Tim Andrew does a great job of taking the familiar school setting and turning it into something spectacularly creepy thanks to added plastic tents and forced air circulation tubing. Andrew also does a fine job of accentuating the script’s themes with some of his shot compositions, particularly Stiles on one side of the vault and Scott on the other, both of whom look like they’re slowly dying. (The two action sequences, a stellar dual between Deaton and Satomi played by Lily Mariye and another fight between Satomi and a nameless assassin, are spectacular bursts of frenetic energy that perfectly blow off the tension of the episode at crucial points.)
That’s an admirable through point with Teen Wolf since the very beginning. The show isn’t afraid to make its adorable cast of shirtless hunks and leggy hunkettes look absolutely awful. It’s not afraid to blow a hole in someone’s forehead and splatter its breakout star with corn syrup blood. It’s not afraid of teeth and claws and blood and hair made lank by fevered sweat. It’s not afraid of lesions. It’s not a show that fears getting sticky and gross at times, and it’s all the better for that fearlessness and the constant evolution of the core cast. Things will be getting a lot more bloody before all is said and done this season.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Orphaned, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is will be glad when he’s no longer got the specter of Ebola to make him paranoid. It will be nice to go back to the usual worries about being trapped in an underground Hale Vault. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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