This review contains spoilers.
5.18 The Maid Of Gevaudan
One of my favourite shows of all time is the TV series Highlander. It takes the Russell Mulcahy original and builds it into something a little less horrifying, a lot less dramatic, and a lot more amusing. Highlander is a show split between two time periods, one the ‘modern’ 90s and the other some random historical epoch, with Adrian Paul poncing about in ropy costumes while trying not to act like a modern person. After all, he’s supposed to be an Immortal with a thousand years of history to inform his decisions. It’s far from the best TV ever, but it’s a whole lot of fun, and this week’s episode of Teen Wolf wouldn’t be out of place in one of the lesser seasons of Highlander, right down to the dodgy French accents.
Teen Wolf is split into two segments this week, both centered around the Beast of Gevaudan. In the modern period, the Beast is rampaging around Beacon Hills, killing people and picking fights with Scott McCall. In the historical period, the Beast is rampaging around 1760s France, killing people and picking fights with Allison Argent. Or, rather, Allison’s distant ancestor, Marie-Jeanne Valet (a returning Crystal Reed), the titular maid of Gevaudan. Like last week, it’s another really fun episode, though not deliberately funny, just unintentionally funny in spite of a solid framing device involving the Argents and Lydia digging into some family history.
Mostly it’s funny due to the performance of Crystal Reed. She was never the strongest actor in the line-up, nor the weakest, but she cannot do a French accent at all, and most of the episode requires her—and a bunch of other actors—to speak in English with French accents. Her actual French is better, but the accent moves in and out from scene to scene. It’s kind of amusingly distracting, and probably unnecessary. One of the strongest elements of Teen Wolf has been the way it’s used real historical events and real-world folklore and legends to inform its use of the supernatural. It’s never really indulged in a lot of actual history, and it’s certainly never done an outright period piece like this.
In a way, it’s a bold move for the show. You’re leaving your element for an extended back story on your monster; there’s no use of the bestiary, just a gravely Canadian actor giving cool voice-over. It’s all new characters, mostly new actors, and it’s leaving your main cast stranded in the now. It’s not entirely effective, at least from a dramatic standpoint, but it’s a lot of fun to watch, and it’s some clever thinking from Marie-Jeanne to uncover the person who has taken the form of the Bete; similar clever thinking allows Scott and company to uncover who the unwitting teenager possessed by the Beast is.
I can appreciate the effort, and Jeff Davis takes great pains to make sure the plot bookends with satisfying endings on both time lines, but at the same time, the French moments don’t quite work. The accent is really hard to get past, and I would have rather just not had Crystal Reed make that attempt considering it ended up distracting from her performance rather than enhancing it. Still, the French scenes are a lot of fun to watch, and director Joseph P. Genier gets great mileage out of the horrors Marie-Jeanne uncovers in the basement of the little inn. There’s still no disguising the fact that the Beast looks kind of terrible, but it’s kind of more forgivable when surrounded by, charitably, other slightly dodgy things. In a standard Beacon Hills setting, it looks bad; in some weird faux French village, it’s more at home.
Of course, it won’t be in a weird French village for much longer; indeed, this trip to France will be our only flashback experience of the season, unless there are more surprises not involving Crystal Reed planned. The beast is in Beacon Hills, and Scott knows just who the carrier of the beast is—in a flashback to Evil Stiles, it’s Mason, which is kind of a surprise only because it hasn’t actually been hinted at before now. I’m not sure if it’s been hinted at and I’ve just missed it, or if they haven’t hinted at it at all and they’re just pulling it out of nowhere, ‘Tate is the Rubber Man’ style.
It doesn’t feel built-up; surprise for the sake of surprise is never all that surprising. Still, it gives the character something to do other than be a replacement for Stiles when Dylan O’Brien is off shooting movies. There aren’t too many episodes left, so there’s not a lot of time to develop this (if this is really how it’s going to work out). We’ll see how this ends up playing out over the next two episodes.