True story. When I woke up after missing most of “Letharia Vulpina,” the first thing I saw was the Viewer Discretion Advised warning on my screen, and I panicked. Truefans may recall that I started watching the show when my computer was in the shop and I didn't have the sweet, sweet embrace of the internet to help me waste my evenings for a couple of days, so I also didn't have any advance warning on anything. I was enjoying that, so when I got the computer back, I kept not looking up any spoilers or anything in advance. But when I saw the warning (there was another one in 301, but I missed that the first time around, so this was the first one I saw), I was direly afraid that I was going to have to quit watching Teen Wolf because rape.
I have this ongoing quest, you see, which is not to watch any more goddamn rapes. I'm not moralistic about it; people can keep filming them. Some of the ones I've seen have been very strong parts of the show or movie in question, and absolutely deserved to be there (Battlestar Galactica comes to mind as a show that, at least initially, did pretty well with its rapier plots). Some of them have been a whole hot bunch of Some Bullshit (yeah, True Blood, I am talking to you). Most are probably somewhere on a spectrum between “man, I'm glad they've tackled this serious subject” and “what the fuck just happened?” It's a personal thing that I adopted a few years ago, just for my own sanity, because totally irrespective of how well or badly they're done, I just don't want to anymore. I'm sure it's all super important and very realistic and all of that, I won't argue the theory, but at some point I just realized that the emotional toll it was taking on me every time I watched another actress (or very occasionally, actor) I liked have to perform her imaginary rape for the camera was not worth anything to me anymore. I'm not willing to do it.
As you can imagine, this means I can't watch a lot of things. I don't really miss Game of Thrones, because season one convinced me I preferred the books anyway (I don't have the same ban on written material, because apparently my imagination is pretty shit, and I never get nightmares from rapes I only have to read). I hear Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was pretty good, but I'll never know. I'd have liked to see Outlander, but noooope. Often I don't have advance warning, so I end up watching a rape by accident; I always quit the show after that, which doesn't really solve the problem, but I do it anyway. Usually I do it gleefully (fuck you, Prime Suspect), but sometimes I did want to keep watching and I'm frustrated – The Fall was good! I was liking it, dammit! But whatever, it's my rule and if I don't want to live with the consequences, I'll break it. Right now, I'm perfectly content with my choice.
I was really going to burn something the fuck down if I had to stop watching Teen Wolf in the middle of 302 for rape-related reasons, though.
Anyway, a quick Wikipedia reading had me feeling fairly secure that this was not going to be the case. I actually don't know quite why they thought this episode was so much more adult than all the others, but okay. Asylums are pretty scary! I saw Amadeus in the theaters when I was nine, and I remember the framing device in the asylum being pretty terrifying, plus I have a whole complex of fears around the ideas of imprisonment and being restrained, so I get that. I'm just used to most people not having that complex of fears, so it's never something I expect warnings for. On to the actual episode!
You know, I don't usually say this, but Scott is totally right and Stiles is totally wrong. It was a stupid idea to put Stiles, who is under the control of an evil spirit to we-know-not-what-degree, into a place where he's totally isolated from anyone who knows about the supernatural (well, ostensibly), but has complete access to a lot of other chaotic people in pain who have no knowledge of or defense against the situation. I mean, I realize that Stiles is freaked out that he hurt Scott, but Scott and the Gang are exactly who should be watching him right now (heck, if it were me, I'd turn him over to Derek, who's exactly the right combination of well-intentioned toward Stiles and immune to Stiles' wheedling to keep him on lockdown indefinitely). “I don't want to hurt you” is noble, but “so in here I'll probably only hurt a whole shitload of people I don't care about” is markedly less so. Get your head on straight, Stiles! This isn't all about you.
I'd be angry about it, if he didn't just almost kiss Scott right then. Oh, you can tell me he didn't, but I'm just going to laugh at you, because I just now watched it like four times, and he absolutely did.
The juxtaposition of the door slamming and Stiles emptying his pockets into the dish is a nice effect.
Oh! It's a shadow again, right? That's the riddle, with the birds and the swimming? Shadow.
Okay, this scroll stuff is really hard for me to track, probably because it relies on me being able to track the relationships between several of these yakuza characters, none of which I can keep straight in regard to their roles now or in Argent's flashback.
I feel like they do a really good job in this episode of portraying the essential terror of being under the control of people who view you as a problem and aren't willing to listen or be on your side at all. It's in some ways far worse than supernatural horror, because at least in that case you can be like, well, zombies gotta zombie, or whatever. It's frustrating and scary any time you realize that you have no recourse against humans that you shouldn't even need recourse against, because you should just be able to explain the situation rationally and be treated rationally in return. Unfortunately, the very rules in an institution – a mental institution or a prison or, horrifically, even a school in many cases – are set up to enforce control and not to be responsive to a rational argument.
Hey, it's a berserker call-ahead! And also a Jackson call-back, which makes it even dumber that I didn't connect this plotline to s2 for a long time. Actually, though, I'm starting to like that this is a recurring theme in the series, because it keeps things tethered to the essential werewolf metaphor. If a werewolf is a sort of symbiote between the person and the bite, or the wolf, or the lycanthropy, or however you want to frame that, which is how it seems in this show (as a werewolf, people are obviously strongly their pre-existing selves, but they do also change noticeably, some more than others), then you lose that thread a bit several seasons in, when we no longer really have the human version to compare against. We barely remember Scott-as-Scott, because we've been living with Scott-as-werewolf for so long now that he's the one who's normal to us. So the show has come up with other avenues to explore this idea of being yourself and simultaneously not yourself, influenced by something that feels corruptive or threatening to your sense of identity. The kanima and the nogitsune are obviously the big ones, but I think the berserkers should count, too – their presence is fairly short-lived, but they stand in a pretty key role at the end of s4, as a threat to Scott's identity and the payoff to s4's renewed interest in the monstrousness of werewolves.
I don't know that it was very bright of Morrell to inform Stiles that she's willing to kill him, when she doesn't really know to what degree the nogitsune is aware of his surroundings, capable of responding to his surroundings, or willing to protect his host. Those would be things I'd want to be really, really sure of before I just blithely went and outed myself as the nogitsune's would-be murderer.
Oh! And I also have a fear of forced injections. So this is fun! But actually, no, it is; I'm enjoying this as the type of horror that you want to be scared by, as distinct from the kind that you regret having made yourself watch. Unfortunately, you don't usually know which kind it's going to be until after you've seen it, and then it's too late, you've seen it. But this episode is good-scary. I like it. (I'm glad they didn't get to force-feeding, though. I'm really bad with force-feeding. Totally ruined Iron-Jawed Angels for me, and I otherwise loved that movie.)
The armored-car plotline seems like mostly extraneous business, but I like that their clever crime was foiled by actual violent crime. It's the way things seem to work in Beacon Hills: just when you've calibrated your level of force to the situation, someone else shows up to dial the situation up several notches more than you were prepared for.
So I rather like Malia/Stiles, to be honest. I don't think they're some grand love affair for the ages, but that's honestly what I like about them. Every relationship on these soapy kind of shows is either a grand love affair for the ages or something totally fucked up. Malia likes Stiles basically because she's young and lonely and horny and he's very cute and has been basically kind to her, in a low-key sort of way that doesn't push her boundaries. Stiles likes Malia because he's young and needy and horny and she's the only person in the world he has right now who's kind of part of his real world, therefore the only person he can really share anything with, and also very cute. These aren't bad reasons to strike up a sort-of relationship. I mean, they're not the best-case scenario, very-most-perfect reasons, but the thing is, lots of good relationships aren't begun in the very best-case scenario. A lot of times it really is, “Well, they seem nice, and I bet it's going to make me happier than I am now” – and either things get better and stronger from there, or they don't, and you regret it, or else you don't. This just seems like an eminently human experience for the two of them, and I like the quiet way they progress, getting comfortable with the fact that they like sex with each other and simultaneously getting to know and trust each other more. I can't really imagine them lasting forever, but Jesus, they're seventeen. Why should they last forever? I think Malia will end up being his friend and packmate and someone he has warm youthful memories of, and Stiles will be the same for her. That's a win, in my opinion.
It does play a little oddly that they frame Malia's safety as the thing that gets past Stiles' defenses and convinces him he can't continue to fight the nogitsune. I mean, I think they were in a jam there, writing-wise. You need to do something to force the issue, because otherwise you could just wander on indefinitely with Stiles having nightmares and nervous breakdowns and trying to resist the invasion, and while that's always good drama, you have to bring it to a head at some point. Someone else's safety was the only really obvious way for the nogitsune to coerce him other than just endless wearing down, and while it might have been more resonant for him to trade his life for his father's, or Lydia's, or Scott's – all of whom he's been willing in the past to risk his life for – the episode was set up to isolate him from all of them (because they might have actually been able to help, and apparently we can't have that). So it was kind of either use Malia as a hostage, or else just have Stiles get exhausted from the struggle and be like, “Fine, fuck it.” Which might have been tragic and interesting in its own right, but I can see why the writers would be uncomfortable with that direction for the character; I would certainly have had my strong reservations in their place, too. So even though it's non-ideal to put a brand new character into that role, I don't know what else I would have wanted to happen.
Man, that last scene took me entirely too long to parse. I couldn't figure out why Malia was somehow just allowed to walk out in broad daylight. It finally hit me that she was walking around because it was assumed that she couldn't pass the gate, and that flashing her eyes was the sign that, I guess, she's about to vault it or break the padlock? Which is all fine, but that seems like something we'd want to see, just so I didn't have to watch it three times and sit here for five minutes before I pieced together what was happening. I don't know, maybe it was obvious to everyone else, but even if so, it would be nice to see Malia get to do something physically cool.