This review contains spoilers.
One of the things Teen Wolf struggles with is introducing new characters. Sometimes they can feel a little bit forced, and there’s always a little chemistry difficulty when a new element is added to a cast we’ve been with for five seasons at this point. Liam was a little difficult last season, and Kira was (and continues to be) a little problematic from a chemistry standpoint. While Kira might not yet feel like she’s fitting in, Liam seems to be adapting nicely to the Teen Wolf world, even if the character seems very different from the angry kid we were introduced to last year.
Liam, from a character standpoint, seems a little inconsistent. From last season’s little bundle of rage to this season’s bouncy, friendly, kind of fun Stiles Jr. is a bit of a big shift, but I’ve been thinking about it over the last day between the premiere and the second episode and I think I’ve figured out just what’s going on with little Liam. Key word ‘little’. He’s a kid; even by high school standards, he’s a child, unable to drive, unable to buy cigarettes, and not really able to do anything by himself, and now he’s got a bunch of cool older friends who drive him around and go on fun werewolf adventures with him. I don’t remember a whole lot about being 14, but I do remember how much having a good group of friends meant to me, even if my friends weren’t nearly as attractive or furry as Liam’s buddies.
While the long-term characters can be more difficult to mesh, Teen Wolf does a surprisingly good job with short-term characters. I’m thinking back to the introduction of Sean the wendigo and his torment at the hands of The Mute last season in episode 4.3 Muted. This week’s new edition, Tracy (Kelsey Chow), immediately makes a strong impression in the very creepy cold opening, as she lapses from a therapy session with Lydia’s mom to a pretty vivid night terror involving creepy black crows and a skylight that just won’t stay closed. That segues to a creepy steampunk grasping hand and an episode-long arc interspersed with the more traditional Teen Wolf make-outs, car trouble, and Stiles not trusting yet another teenage shape-shifter.
That’s one of the highlights of the episode; we might not know much about Tracy, but we know all we need to know. She’s having night terrors, and they’re bleeding over into her day-to-day life in effective fashion. That’s a credit to director Tim Andrew (who also did Muted last season) and to the design crew who put together the Dread Doctors. Something about that combination of leather, metal, and needles is naturally unsettling, and when the doctors jam a needle into Tracy’s neck near the end of the episode, it makes the big reveal of just what’s going on with her much more effective (and the creepy claw marks and dead birds by the skylight is going to kill skylight installations). It’s a very propulsive story, in much the same way the Theo (Cody Christian) storyline is also getting really interesting in a hurry. Not that the show really needs another teenage werewolf at this point—Sherriff Stilinski makes a great point when he lays out just how infested with supernatural critters the town is—but I like that he’s serving as a source of conflict for Stiles and Scott.
I also like that Stiles and Scott continue to have the strongest friend chemistry on television. Their disagreement, and the way that Stiles blows up when he flat-out tells Scott that he has to be cynical because Scott is too trusting, and even though we find out Theo’s not who he seems to be pretty quickly in this episode, it’s nice to see that even he can recognize the role Stiles plays in Scott’s life. The two clearly need one another, and Jeff Davis does a great job at capturing that teenage friendship in his script. The Liam-Stiles pairing is going to be really fun, too, and Dylan Sprayberry delivers his laugh lines perfectly this week (I had to pause the TV to stop lauging at “I fell in a hole.”). I also kind of like that Scott’s taking AP courses, as we’ve seen him work harder at school and while he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer (judging by Lydia and Kira’s reaction to Scott being in AP classes, they’d agree), but it’s nice character growth.
After the uneven but interesting first episode, it’s nice to see Teen Wolf finding its stride pretty early on. This episode is a big improvement over the fun first episode, and with a combination of propulsive storylines, emotionally impactful writing, and awesome villains, well, this might be something of a return to the heights of the Evil Stiles, or at least a closer proximity to that than the wobblier but still entertaining season four. This is going to shake out in a very interesting way, I think. Cool villains really help that process along.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is a huge fan of those three creepy doctors. They’re clearly doing something terrible in their gross basement, and I can’t wait to see how that terrible thing ends up attacking Scott McCall. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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