MTV’s Teen Wolf returns after what feels like a brief hiatus to begin its fourth season – minus a few key players. How does the show hold up?
Let’s bitch it out…
When last we saw the Teen Wolf crew, they were mourning the loss of Allison (Crystal Reed) and celebrating a win over Evil Stiles (Dylan O’Brien). In the time between seasons, recurring star Daniel Sharman (Isaac) has jumped ship*, and a few of the background ladies – Arden Cho’s Kira and Shelly Hennig’s Malia – have been promoted. Oh yeah, and Allison’s crazy aunt Kate Argent (Jill Wagner) is back and looking a little blue.
*Technically the hot twins have also left (for HBO’s prestigious adaptation of The Leftovers, debuting Sunday), but few will miss them unless it’s for the eye candy.
The season opener, ‘The Dark Moon’ opens in medias res, which is the modus operandi for this show. We open with Lydia (Holland Roden) and Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) gaining access to the smallest rave/dance club in Mexico (Teen Wolf loves its outdated dance club scenes – we’ve had one nearly every season that the show has been on the air). We quickly learn that the gang is all here, posing as clubgoers while Stiles and Lydia negotiate with Araya (Ivonne Coll), the woman we saw torturing Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) last season. She’s the head of the Calaveras, a group of badass hunters who poke and test our heroes before setting them loose in the desert to track down the real villain: Kate Argent.
This episode has all of the show’s trademark narrative and visual styles, which is both a strength and a weakness. The opening two acts with the Calaveras reinforce all of the show’s bad qualities: the flashback that reveals why the characters came to Mexico is unnecessary because it contributes nothing we don’t already know or couldn’t have figured out; the faux-lesbian dancing panders to the MTV audience; the slow-motion action scenes look cheap (particularly in such a small space); and the lack of reaction from the clubgoers as security agents are thrown around is laughably unrealistic. Even Araya’s casual torture of Scott (Tyler Posey) feels born not out of genuine storytelling need, but rather to a) include more action and b) let Posey make sexy screamy faces.
Things improve dramatically when the group ventures off with Braeden (Meagan Tandy) to La Iglesia (the desert home of Enrique?), if only because the visual landscape is gorgeous and atmospheric. This new environment is a radical departure from the usual sandbox that the show plays in and there’s a different kind of energy watching Malia and Kira try to defend the broken down jeep in the open, or watch Scott and Braeden work through a creepy church built atop an Aztec temple. Narratively none of this makes a lick of sense: something is hunting them (all we see are flashes of a suit made of bones) and there’s never any kind of explanation why Braeden even knows to bring them to a town flattened in an earthquake, but this is Teen Wolf: you either roll with the plot holes or you spend 42 minutes questioning every action and line of dialogue.
The cliffhanger that ends the episode is a doozy (it also makes no sense). Scott and Braeden survive an encounter with the beast o’bones when Scott’s roar creates a cave-in (that somehow does them no harm and doesn’t prevent their escape moments later). Buried behind a were-panther seal, they find a very different version of Derek – a teenage version, to be exact. Like I said, this makes no sense, but this is the premiere and we have eleven more episodes to figure things out. For now, let’s roll!
- Lydia still has virtually no control over her banshee powers, as demonstrated when she completely fails to predict which of Araya ‘s men will die. It’s almost amusing how the show acknowledges that Lydia sucks at using her gift, but it also feels stagnant considering this storyline has been in play since the first season.
- Please note the lack of reference to virtually anything Nogitsune-related. It’s as though the best storyline the show has ever done never even happened.
- While I appreciate that there’s an attempt to be consistent and show how growing up as a coyote has affected Malia’s ability to connect with other humans, the repeated references to her lack of social skills and her “progress” in developing them is already annoying. Let’s hope she adapts quickly.
- Finally, the bathroom that the kids (and Kate, in flashback) are locked in = the bathroom from the original Saw movie?
- Lydia (when Scott suggests Kate has taken on a shape informed by her character): “What kind of shape is sociopathic bitch?”
Your turn: are you excited to have Teen Wolf back? Is it clear that Kate is a were-panther? What was the creature made of bones? How did Derek turn into a teen? Were the Calaveras scenes as frustrating to you as they were to me? And why can’t Scott just admit that Kira is his girlfriend? Sound off below.
Teen Wolf airs Mondays at 10pm EST on MTV