This review contains spoilers.
5.6 Required Reading
One of the strongest points of the third season of Teen Wolf was the fact that, at any point, you couldn’t really be sure if you were looking at something real or if you were looking at some sort of hallucination. Particularly when it came to Stiles and his delusions. The Nogitsune was awesome at making viewers question everything they were seeing, and it’s interesting to see Teen Wolf going back once again to this familiar territory, once again to great effect. Granted, what’s happening now isn’t exactly delusion, but it may as well be.
Malia, the girl who was a coyote for most of her life, was the first of the Teen Wolf bunch to actually bother with reading that book that might be the key to unlocking the mystery of the Dread Doctors, if only because it might explain how they got the name everyone’s sticking on them to Sheriff Stilinski’s chagrin. She’s also the first one to suffer the after-effects of reading the book in question. Last week, Malia ran out into traffic and nearly got turned into a werepizza thanks in no small part to a repressed memory returning due to Valack’s book. What she remembered was the traumatic source of her isolation: the car crash that killed her family caused by the Desert Wolf’s blazing guns. She’s the first, but she’s not the only one to find herself haunted by memories.
The cold opening is, as per standard, really impressive. Scott’s on the floor of the hospital, gasping for breath and completely at the mercy of one of the three Doctors. The elevator doors open and Malia rushes out to save the day while Mama McCall rushes to save her son. An injection of a bronchodilator and some Malia martial arts later, and the three are… fleeing from the Doctor, who was otherwise unaffected by Malia’s repeated kicking and punching and Mama McCall’s impressive lung capacity. This will be revisited later, but first a lot of mystery has to be resolved and a lot of hallucinations have to be had or, rather, memories to be awakened.
This season, the Teen Wolf gang seems obsessed with keeping secrets. Stiles is keeping Donovan and his Donovan hand-leech bite secret. Scott is keeping Kira’s unusual aura secret. Malia is keeping the Desert Wolf secret. Everyone’s keeping secrets from everyone else, or flat-out lying to everyone else, and it seems that Theo has positioned himself as the controller of all these secrets. Given that Theo’s secret is the most dangerous one of all—he’s some sort of mouthpiece for the Dread Doctors and he’s clearly been sent by them to shatter Scott’s pack in spite of all his talk otherwise—and he’s got blackmail information on everyone else, well… this is going to get messy, and strained relationships are going to fracture.
Those flashback memories manifest themselves in some clever ways, courtesy of Jeff Davis and Ian Stokes. Last week’s Malia flashback was appropriately stunning, but the two big returning memories this week, courtesy of Lydia and Stiles, are positively heartbreaking. Lydia’s cutesy moment with Parrish is spoiled by her stolen memory from one of the chimeras (picked up courtesy of her banshee powers), then the show tops that by showing us that little Lydia walked in on her dead grandmother and her mother in Eichen House; the grandmother then sits up and warns her that they’re coming for her. They, I assume, are the doctors. Stiles’ memory, like everything that makes Stiles look sad, is even worse. The Stilinski men’s is one of the show’s best relationships, and when you add in the tragedy that is Stiles’ dead mother, it’s even more affecting.
The fact that it morphs in mid-dream from a fight with Stiles’ mother to a fight with a rampaging chimera is even better, with director Alice Troughton (of Doctor Who fame) slipping in just a little shock glimpse of the face before the show cuts perfectly to commercial. She does a fine job of keeping the look uniform to the rest of the season’s shows, even if she doesn’t use a lot of the shadow dynamics Russell Mulcahy and others lean on. She does a great job with the look of the flashbacks, as well, filming them in a slightly different style and a different aspect ration than the rest of the show that adds to the unsettling nature of the visions. For a UK TV veteran, it’s a great introduction to American viewing audiences; maybe she can get some extra cross-over between Teen Wolf and Doctor Who? A good touch with the visuals and a great touch with the actors will help any director cross the pond, and Troughton has the knack with both aspects of creation.
Dylan O’Brien is proving that he’s the best part of the show, and Holland Roden is quickly moving up the ranks, too. Both performers have been making the most of their material as of late, with some surprisingly good work put in this week by Dylan Sprayberry—he’s able to keep Liam eager and puppy-like without being too over the top with the character rapidly growing on me—and Khylin Rhambo—who will make a great Stiles replacement when that finally happens, as he captures a lot of the best traits of first-season Stiles and brings a little comedy and has a good moment with Kira in the library where his kitsune research pays off and solves another of the show’s smaller mysteries.
This season has been an improvement over last season, which I enjoyed but will admit suffered from a surplus of ideas and a lack of focus. This season, however, has been much tighter, and it definitely feels like the Teen Wolf creative crew is building towards something. I’m sure it’s going to involve the Doctors somehow, and possibly another dead friend or eleven for the Teen Wolf kids. This chimera infestation is going to significantly up the body count for this season, which already has a really high death count. If Theo keeps ripping out throats, it’s going to be really messy (and satisfying).
US Correspondent Ron Hogan hasn’t been clean-shaven in years, but back when he was forced to shave for school, the end result usually looked like the throatless, gurgling chimera on the hospital roof. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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