Teen Wolf messes with the formula to deliver an out of the box narrative structure that suffers because it asks the audience to believe the impossible.
Let’s bitch it out…One of the things that I love the most about Teen Wolf is its unapologetic fervour. It has a “devil may care” attitude that is refreshing, even when the series is asking us to accompany it into some pretty unbelievable territory. One place that this series has always struggled with, unfortunately, is the believability of its consequences. As Peter (Ian Bohen) tells Cora (Adelaide Kane) mid-way through the episode, Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) slit his throat from neck to neck. And yet there he stands.
I’m not opposed to supernatural themed shows killing characters only to revive them in unexpected ways (often this exceeds my expectations in terms of creativity of execution). What doesn’t work, however, is trying to play the “everyone believes this character is dead, but they aren’t” card. Because as an audience, we’re far to savvy to fall for this. So it’s a huge mistake that ‘Frayed’ suggests that one of the principle characters on the show – Derek – met his demise in a completely understated fight in the fifth episode of the season. We all immediately smell a rat and it makes the resulting episode feel like we’re simply going through the motions until the reveal we knew was coming.
I’m of two minds whether this is rectified or exacerbated by the tweaking of the narrative’s timeline. It’s not uncommon for shows to begin in medias res and then jump the clock back a set number of hours to show how everyone got into position. But it’s rare that we’ll jump back and forth between multiple timelines without a fairly clear structure. I imagine I’m not the only one who found themselves wondering if they’d missed an episode as they watched the cold open on the bus. Wait, why is Scott injured? Why are Boyd (Sinqua Walls) and Isaac (Daniel Sharman) so pissed off?
These confusing questions definitely drive our interest…for a moment or two until we’re told that a particular someone is dead. Then this narrative shuffling suffers because it’s all leading up to the big reveal of how Derek supposedly died and the not-so-shocking reveal that he’s still alive. I’ll give ‘Frayed’ credit: as a narrative exercise, this certainly makes the episode stand-out. Ultimately, however, knowing what the end of the episode would be two minutes in certainly removed any kind of thrill. And that’s a problem when the show is supposedly trading in life or death situations – these characters are never in any real jeopardy because everyone heals or simply refuses to expire. We’ve already had one incredible scene featuring Derek surviving impossible odds in the school basement, and now he’s survived a three story fall. As much as I like Hoechlin, this is a case of diminishing returns; the writers either need to stop relying on the “near deaths” to provide the action and thrills, or they need to step-up and actually kill someone to drive the point home that these characters are vulnerable. (No, Gage Golightly does not count because that was a pathetic off-screen death that has had virtually no impact on anyone other than Boyd).
Chock this up as a mixed bag in what has thus far been a bit of a mixed bag season.
- I love the unassuming references to Lydia’s (Holland Roden) intellect, like the theoretical textbook she’s nonchalantly reading in the car
- While the groundwork for the twins’ respective romances was laid in 3×02 ‘Chaos Rising’ it still felt odd to suddenly see Aidan (Max Carver) making out with Lydia and Danny (Keahu Kahuanui) cosying up to Ethan (Charlie Carver) on the bus. When did everyone get so close?
- Funniest scene (in the vein of Austin Powers) has to go to Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) and the Coach (Orny Adams) and their interplay with the whistle. It may be overly familiar, but the scene is well-executed and O’Brien’s increasingly frustrated reactions are hilarious
- I didn’t make anything of Alison’s (Crystal Reed) dream-vision of her dead mother (Eaddy Mays) last episode but it looks like we haven’t seen the last of it. This week Bad Mama Argent reappears to sternly guide Alison in saving Scott’s life with the worst stitching job I’ve ever seen. And in a public men’s room, no less?! Hardly the most sanitary of places to conduct surgery there, Ali
- Side Note: Argent’s (JR Bourne) subsequent analogy to “threading a needle” (ie: staying out of the fight between packs) definitely elicits a “boo urns”. Too obvious
- Initially I thought that Dr. Deacon (Seth Gillam) has some kind of mystical powers that forced werewolves to listen to him, but alas no, the Alpha pack simply can’t enter the veterinary clinic because part of the building is made of mountain ash. This still doesn’t explain why Mrs. Morrell (Bianca Lawson) is working with them, which may be the mystery I’m most interested in learning more about
- Finally, it’s nice to get a reminder that Scott and Alison have chemistry. Their bedroom sparring scene (not a euphemism!) is sexually charged, although Scott should probably be a little more conscious of how easily he can hurt her. His warning to her obviously pays off when she saves their butts during the fight. Alison is pretty kick-ass with her flashy little arrows, no?
- Scott (discussing the pre-emptive strike): “Why is the default always murder?”
- Lydia (chastising Aiden for having his hands on her waist): “What am I? A nun? Put them somewhere useful”
- Stiles (surveying Ethan): “I have a very perceptive eye for evil”
Your turn: did you buy that Derek was dead? Were you excited to see Bad Mama Argent again? Why do you think that Deucalion (Gideon Emery) killed his underling after they went to so much effort to save him? Why is Mrs. Morrell working with the Alpha pack (something to do with Lydia’s suggestion that the “trio” murders are in preparation for battle)? Sound off below
Teen Wolf airs Mondays at 10pm EST on MTV