This review contains spoilers.
5.4 Condition Terminal
Teen Wolf has a complicated relationship with the human body. On one hand, the show clearly loves it. After all, any excuse to get a Teen Wolf hunk to take his shirt off seems to be a good one, from Parrish’s inability to keep clothes on (keeping up the tradition of Derek Hale’s shirtlessness) to random shirtless cage-dancing hunks in their underwear at some sort of weird underground rave orgy club. Any excuse for some lubed-up guy abs. Of course, to counterbalance the lusty gaze on the male form is a deep, consistent vein of body horror. That hunky guy just might have a tail rip its way out of his spine or weird talon-like protrusions come bulging out from beneath the skin on his forearms. You take the good and that signs you up for the bad in this universe.
The presence of the Dread Doctors is a good sign that the viewing audience is going to endure something disturbing, and they definitely live up to that promise this week. Some people don’t like eyeball gags. Some people hate things moving beneath skin. I hate things involving teeth; blame it on my years of orthodontia. Picking up where last week left off, the doctors have Donovan strapped down into a chair, and now the experiments begin. Cue the pliers, cue the rattling teeth on the concrete floor, cue the spraying blood from inside the mouth, and cue the needle-sharp shark teeth springing forth unbidden from the gums. Of course, it wouldn’t be Teen Wolf if there was just one monster, so while they tinker with Donovan, the doctors also release their next creation, a wolf/scorpion hybrid named Lucas, at one of Beacon Hills’ many warehouse raves. A warehouse rave that just so happens to be where Liam, Mason, Brett, and Liam’s love interest Hayden (Victoria Moroles) are in attendance.
It’s almost like a Teen Wolf rite of passage at this point. If you haven’t been at a party where supernatural monsters bent on destruction pop up to go kill-crazy, you’re not really on the show. Every season, the new characters get put into a situation where they’re fighting for their lives while in the next room everyone’s getting their shirtless, greasy freak on, which is kind of a good stand-in for growing up in general. On the outside you might look cool, but behind closed doors, there’s turmoil.
It is familiar territory for Jeff Davis (who wrote the script with Ian Stokes), but they know what they’re doing in that respect and it always works well. More surprisingly, the focus on relatively new and unknown characters (Brett, Parrish) also ends up working very well. The familiar gang is in the episode, but it’s more of a B story for them. They’re investigating, rather than instigating, but so long as Lydia continues to hallucinate Dread Doctors, well, it’s going to stay scary. It helps that the idea that someone is playing with the rules of the Teen Wolf universe—when Deaton doesn’t know what’s going on, you know something seriously dangerous is going on, and that adds some legitimate teeth to Teen Wolf’s antagonists for this season, with Theo providing the emotionally dangerous part of the equation via his infiltration of the group.
I’ve made a big deal about the body horror this week, and the eye-candy, but Bronwen Hughes has a good touch for scene-crafting, as well. Lydia’s hallucinations were really well staged, and the shot of her waking up—half her face visible in the foreground, blinding bright light in the background—was very striking. Ditto the appearances of the doctors and the general ambiance of the rave/bar scenes. The doctors have an interesting textural appearance with the metal and leather and rubber that makes up for their dingy color scheme; the docs are a good counter point to the more colorful party particularly when they show up at the party to execute their latest failed experiment.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I’m definitely enjoying this season of Teen Wolf more than last season. The new character introductions have worked better, the fleshing out of the older characters is improving them, and the antagonists are impressive to look at even if their motivations and characterization are yet unknown. Scott has matured nicely into a leadership role, Stiles is still a highlight, and Liam and Mason are beginning to fit in well with the group and the show’s general vibe. Provided they can keep this up, the idea of a rotating generational Teen Wolf has serious appeal. I mean, I wouldn’t like not having Stiles around, but I like that idea better than a Teen Wolf Too: Teen Wolf Goes to UC Santa Cruz show.
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