This review contains spoilers.
This has been an interesting run thus far for Teen Wolf. After the uneven first episode gave way to a more solid instalment, the third begins to reveal some patterns in the way Jeff Davis and company seem to be approaching this season. In many ways, this season is about fusing the old and new, and I’m not just talking about whatever nefarious stuff the Doctors have dreamed up for the teenagers of Beacon Hills.
Take, for example, the character of Tracy. She’s already been the menaced callback-to-the-fourth season character type, when The Mute struck down Sean the wendigo. Now she’s taking on a very familiar set of characteristics for those of us who have watched the show from the beginning, developing lizard scales on one side of her body along with some talons, crazy eyes, and a barbed, venomous tail. That’s right, Tracy is apparently becoming a kanima, and that means trouble, but she doesn’t seem to be bound by the kanima rules.
The kanima, as you might remember, is someone trapped in between shift stages, held back from becoming a wolf or whatever by some sort of negative emotion. However, Tracy is a kanima with a difference. For one, she doesn’t appear to have a master controlling her actions; she seems completely independent and self-directed, which is why she’s attacking people who have tried to help her in her life, like her father, her therapist, and (spoiler alert) her guidance counsellor Natalie Martin (Susan Walters). Another issue with Tracy-as-kanima is that she doesn’t completely transform into the scaly monster we all remember from Jackson’s time on the show. She only transforms partially, with the other part of her skin that doesn’t turn into kanima scales displaying super resilience to damage—even unconscious, she shrugs off Deaton’s attempt to poke around under her skin by shredding his scalpel—and her kanima tail is disturbingly spinal in nature, rather than a barbed lizard tail.
It’s a variation on a familiar theme, right down to the mysterious vomiting she does, but it’s changed just enough to reflect how unnatural it is to someone like Deaton or Scott, both of whom have experience with this sort of thing in the past. But that past experience may not help them as the machinations of the Doctors get better and better at whatever chaos they’ve been created to sow. Even the familiar can change, becoming somehow more of a Cronenberg-esque body horror in the hands of director Russell Mulcahy than the original kanima once was. Tracy’s examination is disturbing enough, as things moving beneath human skin will always disturb me, but watching her tail flick around between her flesh and spinal column was gross, even before her back ripped open and sprayed blood and flesh gobbets everywhere.
Once again, I find myself invested in Tracy’s story, particularly as it intersects with the investigation into just why she went crazy and started killing people. Kira and Lydia make a pretty good detective team, and it’s nice to see Kira actually winning a fight with another supernatural monster, at least for a bit, and the brawl between Tracy and Malia is really entertaining (and I think it’s the show’s first girl-on-girl fight since Allison’s heyday). Russell Mulcahy knows his way around slow motion, moody lighting, and interesting use of color.
There was a good tonal balance this week. Teen Wolf loves its comedy almost as much as it loves its feels, and the script this week from first-time Teen Wolf writers Talia Gonzalez and Bisanne Masoud hits both areas pretty well. More so funny than feels, though Sheriff Stilinski getting ready for a date with his two boys helping was adorable (and the fact that it’s Linden Ashby and real-life wife Susan Walters is also a lot of fun). Khylin Rambo is also making Mason’s amazement/excitement at being part of the inner circle a lot of fun, to his credit.
This is a show that needs some levity, because it’s dealing with some heavy emotional issues, plus all the killing. It’s never going to be great comedy, but the attempt at keeping things light is enough to keep the tension from building too high when it works, and the attempt is usually appreciated even when it doesn’t work. Even when the best they can do is make me roll my eyes, it’s usually a much-needed pump of the Feel Train’s brakes.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Parasomnia, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is a huge fan of those three creepy doctors. Jumping out of nowhere, injecting people in the neck, making people barf silver paint… what’s not to like from a safe distance away? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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