This review contains spoilers.
5.11 The Last Chimera
One of the things Teen Wolf has done spectacularly well is capture relationships. The blush of first love. The closeness of best friends. The pain of losing a friend. The father/son bond between the Stilinski men is one of the strongest depictions of a father and son relationship on television, and to watch the two of them at odds, or to watch one comfort the other one can be really touching. When the good Sheriff of Beacon Hills is in trouble, the emotional pain Stiles goes through feels very, very real.
In my last review of Teen Wolf, I mentioned that I had been through the pain of losing a beloved car, but not the pain of losing a parent. Well, in the month or so since that review was put up, that’s changed. About the time The Last Chimera was airing, I was making arrangements to bury my own ever-supportive father. Like Stilinski, he might not have always understood what I was on about when I talked about writing for Den of Geek or working on websites, but as someone who was a writer himself—he wrote songs, little snippets of poems, little creative things—and as someone who built things, tinkering with old cars or working on my house with me, he understood the drive to do something, to create something, to make words do what you want and to make things look on a screen how they’re supposed to look in your head. He might not get it, but he got it, the same way Stilinski didn’t quite understand the world of Stiles and his friends, but he understood enough to put it into a framework he could follow along with and he was always supportive of his only son.
Like most of the viewers of the show, I’m far from immune to the way Teen Wolf picks at and pokes at emotions. Fear, anger, loneliness, frustration… at some point or another, Teen Wolf has hit all those marks for me on some level or another, partially due to the way Jeff Davis, who wrote tonight’s episode, is able to weave those things into the world of the supernatural. Werewolves have always been a symbol of something deeper, having been used to stand in for everything from man’s inclination for violence to the horrors of puberty. Davis is able to take werewolves, and all the other supernatural monsters in Beacon Hills, and use them to tell the story of growing up through a uniquely approachable framework. What teenager doesn’t feel alienated from his friends, like the chimeras? Who doesn’t feel rage and frustration at their inability to control their own body? This use of real feelings intermixed with the supernatural and mysterious helps to ground a show that might otherwise end up being a goofy comic book (or some of the lesser efforts of The CW).
Having just seen my own dad in the hospital, hooked to machines and wearing a paper gown, I have to commend director Russell Mulcahy and, in particular, Dylan O’Brien, for capturing and recreating a situation and feelings that reduced me to gutted, sobbing tears. Stilinski might be okay, and Linden Ashby will definitely be okay no matter what happens to the character, but my father is gone. Quite frankly, it was hard to watch at times, but it was balanced enough that it didn’t feel emotionally manipulative, even for someone in a very easily manipulated emotional state. I’ve teared up to life insurance commercials, but I somehow made it through Teen Wolf without breaking down, thanks in no small part to the show’s surprisingly enthralling layers of conspiracy and the slow reunion of Scott’s pack. It was limited enough to be effective, without overwhelming, though the mirroring of Stilinski comforting young Stiles and Stiles comforting his bed-ridden father hit very hard.
One of the things that helped soften the emotional blow is the sheer style Russell Mulcahy brings to everything he does. The beginning of the episode opens with some very interesting camerawork where we follow Lydia on a walk through a dream, assisted by Dr. Valack. She’s trying to find out what drives Theo to do what he does, which results in a spectacular jump scare when Theo’s late sister comes springing out of the water, Friday The 13th style. Following that is a great scene in which we follow Scott from his bathroom to the hallway. He’s woozy and bleeding from an injury that refuses to heal—his wolf has abandoned him. Like Lydia, he’s not operating at 100 per cent; if anything, he’s worse off because he doesn’t have his friends to help him. Mulcahy makes great use of what had to be a body camera rig, keeping Scott in frame at all times while capturing the spinning hallway around him.
Much like lightheaded Scott, the episode seems to be moving around chaotically, but there’s a clear focus bringing everyone together. Parrish is chasing after Lydia who is being used by Valack and hunted by the Chimera pack. Scott is bleeding and trying to recover his pack, bringing him into contact with Stiles and a returning Malia. Stiles is trying to figure out what’s killing his father, without really wanting to lean on anyone else for support thanks to Theo’s machinations. Mason (Khylin Rhambo is becoming a great Stiles replacement for when Dylan O’Brien can’t balance Teen Wolf and YA movie stardom) and Liam are looking for Hayden, who might be another chimera, while also picking up the search for the Nematon that’s been abandoned by Stiles and Lydia. The connections reuniting characters feel natural (Malia would definitely be there for the Sheriff in his time of need) and the chaos served to make things properly suspenseful and tense, rather than confusing and frenetic.
Teen Wolf has a pretty big cast for a show like this, and rather than that being an issue, the show is turning it into a strength. The characters all seem to have more individualized quirks now, with Liam and Mason recapturing the early season Scott and Stiles routine and Stiles having morphed into a better looking version of one of the Lone Gunmen as he seeks to weed out every possible angle that the Dread Doctors might be working while also trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a werewolf. There are a lot of things happening, and they seem to all either A) be good or B) be going somewhere good.
The cliffhangers from the mid-season finale are being resolved pretty quickly, while also building towards something much, much bigger. Theo has a pack of Chimera, Scott seems to be getting his pack back together, and some steam punk Cenobites seem determined to build the Ultimate Weapon no matter how many sexy teenagers they have to turn into mercury-drooling mutants. If this doesn’t end in a pack-versus-pack-versus-Doctors situation, I’ll be very surprised (unless it’s a pack-united-with-pack-versus-Doctors situation).
US Correspondent Ron Hogan has leaned quite heavily on Den of Geek’s series on depression and grief. If you are in need, please consider giving it a re-read. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.