This review contains spoilers.
5.12 Damnatio Memoriae
One of the rare places where Teen Wolf is let down is in the show’s use of CGI. They do their best to keep it rare, to save it for sweetening moments, but very rarely do they just build creatures whole hog out of digital effects. That’s probably a good move; if movies, which have tens of millions of dollars to spend, can’t make convincing CGI creatures, why would a television show think they could shoot around digital effects? Teen Wolf indulges in it rarely, because it doesn’t really work on their scale, and that’s part of the problem with Damnatio Memoriae.
One of the things that the Dread Doctors have been attempting to do with all their experiments is to create the ultimate killing machine. Well, they don’t manage to create it, but they successfully resurrect some sort of giant, smoke-shrouded supernatural creature that looks vaguely like a werewolf, but with glowing white eyes and a great combination of both claws and spiked knuckles, for maximum carnage. That’s the purpose of the creature: it lives only to kill, for for some reason, the steampunk Cenobites thought that bringing this thing back to life was a great idea.
Last week’s episode of Teen Wolf was full of characters, and this one is even more full of characters than the last. Hayden returned, and now she’s bringing back her sister. We meet more of the Chimera pack again, and they’re starting to get character traits—the chameleon is scared! One of them is gay! The girl is always ready to fight!—because this thing wasn’t getting complicated enough. Oh yeah, plus Gerard (Michael Hogan) is back, to give advice on how to fight the Beast of Gevaudan, and I believe that Braeden was back for a minute too, roughing up a KGB agent while looking for the Desert Wolf, who has Deaton as a hostage, because of course she does.
Usually, Teen Wolf can make overstuffed work, but this episode is just entirely too much stimulation in too short a time. I don’t think that can be blamed on Brian Sieve, who wrote this week’s episode, because it seems like a staff decision and feels like whoever got to write this episode was going to get a lot of stuff on a very small plate. Some of it really works—Stiles having a reunion with Scott, Mason and Liam’s trip to the library—but most of the stuff with the chimera kids feels unnecessary. I get that they’re trying to reinforce the fact that these are just kids like all the other kids in town, but I don’t really need to get to know disposable teens who are destined to be fed to La Bete.
However, the surplus of characters does help Tim Andrew fill out a visual palate. The chimera provide for a lot of fun visual jokes—Scott smells Corey (Michael Johnston) the invisible chimera’s fear and immediately notices him after disabling the other attackers, Corey gets to have a little fun with electricity thanks to a pair of jumper cables (fortunately, not attached to his nipples) and all the scenes involving comatose Lydia and her spirit guide Meredith (a returning Maya Eshet) all end up looking very cool, due to some very creative camera angles and the pleasantly odd cognitive dissonance that comes along with astral projection. The fights continue to be well-staged, and while Andrew isn’t successful at shooting around the CGI monster, he gives a great attempt at it.
It’s not a great episode, by any stretch; the show has done much better work this season, and I’d say that the 5B premiere episode worked much better than this one by a long shot. Maybe it’s just the head space I am currently occupying. The build-up to the chimera pack is currently better than the execution, but there are a lot of episodes between this one and the ending, and it’s always possible for Teen Wolf to pick itself up at any point. That’s the best thing about a show with so much happening; if you don’t like something, just wait a few minutes and something you do like will come to the forefront. This week just wasn’t my week, but the cliffhanger ending suggests that I’m going to like episode 5.13 much better.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan wishes that Teen Wolf would go ahead and bring back Peter Hale and Kate Argent. Yes, again. If you’re bringing back people, they may as well be some of my favorite people. Maybe Peter can be La Bete? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.