This review contains spoilers.
5.10 Status Asthmaticus
This is the end of the summer television season. There are a few stragglers yet to close out, but by this time next week the summer shows will be gone, with some of them never returning to television again. Fortunately, Teen Wolf isn’t one of those shows; it’s coming back for the second half of its fifth season at some point this year, probably after the holidays, but I can’t help but compare it to another summer show that first appeared five years ago, Falling Skies. I cover both shows for Den of Geek, so they’re kind of linked in my mind, and it lends itself to easy discussion on my part.
Falling Skies went into its final season promising a darker outlook, more excitement, and a killer final season. So far that hasn’t materialized, though there’s one episode left so maybe the last one will get super dark and murdery. However, the one thing they have done that I can talk about is blow through plots left and right. Falling Skies had a lot of stuff, and they’ve introduced more plot elements to blow through. One character’s resolution was literally buried at the end of one episode, then over in five minutes of screen time in the other. This is a major role with a major grudge, a fan-favourite who turned on the show’s hero, and that’s all the time he gets! Meanwhile, Teen Wolf has showed remarkable restraint in giving the arc of its villain of the season, Theo, space to breathe, stretch out, and really influence the entire run of the show.
You’d think the show aimed at younger viewers would rush about more, but they’ve been playing the long game very well, and in the last episode for the summer half, the wait pays off big-time. Throughout the season, Theo has worked at odds with Scott and his pack, saying one thing then doing another, working to either ingratiate himself with the gang or push them away, depending on who it was and whether or not they could prove useful. Theo’s goal has been his own pack, and he’s going to get it one way or another, springing out his master plan this week by singling out Lydia and Malia and separating them from the group, setting Liam against Scott in a fight to the death, and generally pulling the strings on his wolfy puppets. It’s immensely satisfying to see, and Jeff Davis (who wrote the script this week with Ian Stokes) deserves credit for his ability to plot things out, laying the groundwork patiently without going too slowly. The viewer sees it clicking into place, but for the most part, the characters don’t—and Stiles, smart enough to suss out the plans, is given a very difficult choice between saving his best friend or saving his father.
So, yes, a lot of things happened this week, but the story is kept very clear and is told very well in Russell Mulcahy’s distinct visual style. Lots of flashing lights, lots of shadows, and a brilliant, multi-level fight scene between Liam and Scott that takes place in the underused library. It’s really a thing of brilliance, and despite the boys looking very similar in their wolf makeup, it’s pretty clear who is who, and who is beating the other to a bloody pulp at all times. When Liam runs off to tend to a dying/dead Hayden, Scott is left a brief moment to rest before Theo comes rolling up to finish the job Liam started; the plan didn’t work in that case, but it was a good attempt and it still results in dead Scott until Mama McCall shows up to save the day.
Now, I think we all know Scott can’t die permanently, and death is meaningless in the Teen Wolf universe, but this was a great bit of filmmaking, and it worked despite everyone knowing Scott was going to sit up and survive his claw-to-the-torso moment. Melissa Ponzio remains underrated on the show (and in general, as I liked her a lot on The Walking Dead), and she’s got good chemistry with all the kids around her. It’s a nice character moment for Melissa; she couldn’t save Hayden, but at least she’s able to save Scott. Now someone needs to do the same for Sheriff Stilinski, bleeding out in his son’s arms. Dylan O’Brien hasn’t had a lot of screen time lately, but he makes up for what he’s not getting with serious impact every time he’s on camera, from his scenes with Linden Ashby to his mostly-silent angry car ride with Shelley Hennig. Dylan Sprayberry has improved, Tyler Posey has gotten a much better handle on his character, and Holland Roden is as consistent as always, so while the kids might be in trouble, the actors are excelling.
A defeated Alpha, a possibly dying father figure, a definitely dead Roscoe the Jeep, the threat of the Desert Wolf’s return, the Dread Doctors successfully completing their plan, Parrish being a hellhound, Braeden’s return, and Theo resurrecting a pack of his very own chimera from the dead bodies of the Doctors’ failed experiments. With the way the reanimaged shuffled along after Theo, any doubts I might have had about Teen Wolf‘s ability to sustain itself over a long break seems silly in retrospect.
A mid-season split is always difficult, as is filling twenty episodes in a season, but Teen Wolf has paced itself expertly, and it’s given us just enough of a climax in this half of ten to make me return for the back half of season five, because I’m anxious to see how it all ends up playing out. Adding the Desert Wolf and giving Theo an evil pack of chimera to face off against Scott’s scattered and broken pack only makes things that much more intense, because it looks like they’ll have to pull themselves together before they can take on any external threat.
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