This review contains spoilers.
5.7 Strange Frequencies
Danger seems to lurk around every corner in Beacon Hills. It doesn’t matter if you’re a normal person or a supernatural monster, there’s something or someone out there looking to kill you. We’ve seen that a lot this season thanks to the weird science wrought by the Dread Doctors, and it’s not really getting old yet. There’s always something interesting happening, the dangers are varied enough and fleshed-out enough that whether we feel sorry for the victim/monster of the week or not, we at least feel something. Tracy didn’t deserve her fate; Donovan did, because he threatened everyone’s favorite TV dad with a stabbing-related death. Hayden, the latest target of the Doctors’ dread machinations… not sure yet.
In an effort to come clean to Hayden, Liam explains to her all about werewolves and that she’s some kind of something, which gets him a solid punch in the nose before Hayden drives off into peril. That’s right, the Dread Doctors want her, and after Liam intervenes and saves her bacon, they turn to Scott to protect her. But that plan to protect her has a second, more nefarious portion… if you can’t turn the school into a fortress—and you can’t, because anyone can get in any time and there’s never a locked door—then you can turn it into a trap. A Dread Doctor trap.
As you might imagine, this won’t go particularly well, but as Scott says, it’s not like they can stop these guys from doing what they want, so might as well try to capture one and figure out what’s going on in the pasty, liver-spotted head under the mask. If they succeed, maybe people stop dying. If they don’t, then people will continue to die and the experiments will continue. Meanwhile, Stiles and Theo can hang out in front of the vet clinic and try and figure out just who is stealing the dead bodies of Beacon Hills in their own little side-plot.
Russell Mulcahy is an awesome television director. Working as he did in music videos and in independent cinema, he knows how to stretch a dollar, and he knows how to creatively shoot around limitations and work with the cast he’s got on hand. Sure, he has tropes that he leans on—tropes that inform the direction and look of the show in general—but they’re useful because they work. For example, there’s a tracking shot through the hallway of the school, ending with Parrish standing out by his car, putting a round in the chamber of his unholstered gun. It’s a normal tracking shot, just sped up to get us to the point faster and to add that creepy swoop effect as we through the various trap points set by the Teen Wolf gang.
It’s an awesomely fun shot, and the changes in filming speed work really well from a dramatic standpoint. It’s nothing that you haven’t seen before, but it’s executed flawlessly. Ditto the shot near the end of the episode when Liam is tied down by the Dread Doctors and we see a shot of a puddle on the floor, reflecting Hayden’s predicament before the puddle is shattered by the boot of one of the doctors going to do something nefarious. It’s shades of Walter Hill’s classic The Warriors, thanks to the use of reflection on concrete floors and the general dampness of the facility, and it’s another great, scary moment in a very creepy, gory episode.
Angela Harvey makes good use of the Dread Doctors and their mind-altering powers during this week. After all, the teenage werewolves and friends set a trap for the Doctors, and the Doctors just walk right into it without much in the way of problems by tapping into the gang’s worst fears once again. Malia is captured by bear traps, confined and unable to escape. Scott is having a literal fight with Kira, because he doesn’t trust her now that her fox powers are manifesting in a strange way (see also the awesome sword fight between Kira and her bad-ass mother, which was a great callback to Mulcahy’s Highlander, particularly the shot of the two fighting as shown from outside the building). Parrish and Lydia get to confront two of their biggest fears, too; Parrish finally gets that sweet make-out scene with Lydia, only to burn her alive while not extinguishing her desire to make out with him. It’s shudder-worthy, and the effects are spectacular. Ditto Lydia’s fear; her failure to help Tracy comes back to bite her, or in this case rip her tongue out, leaving her struggling to breathe on the ground, choking on her own blood.
Let’s double-down on the body horror, Teen Wolf. I’m not sure how the Doctors are able to create these visions, or how they’re able to erase themselves from memory, unless it has something to do with electricity. The brain is just an organic bundle of electric-fired nerve endings and connections, and I guess since the doctors are operating on a whole different frequency, that gives them some control over the brain itself in addition to simpler electronics like car doors, as we see in the cold opening with Hayden getting menaced. Even when it’s not true, it’s very effective stuff, and it seems to tap into a lot of fundamental fears in a more visceral way than Theo and Stiles talking in the Stilesmobile. Not that talking about emotional fears isn’t also good, but… bear traps and a murder kitsune will usually win.
This has been a season of escalation. It seems that every week, things are getting weirder, more dangerous, more troubling, etc., and it’s working really well. The half-season break is coming up pretty soon, and while I’m not ready for it to arrive, the cliffhanger is going to be excellent. I’m not sure what it’s going to be quite yet, but it’s going to be fun whatever it is, because Teen Wolf has proven to be a really fun show. The fifth season has been a return to form for the show. I still miss Chris Argent and Derek/Peter Hale, but… I can’t really complain about the desire to work new characters in with the old mix.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is amused to see Teen Wolf has such a desire for weird mouth horrors, like ripped out throats, torn out tongues, and jagged monster teeth. I guess everyone is afraid of the dentist, if only a little. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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