I'm sitting down with a cup of coffee, a big-ass slice of Trader Joe's Viennese lemon tart, and deeply ambivalent emotions about this, my very last 60 Teen Wolfs in 60 Days episode review. This season has been a bit sloppy, especially compared to how generally propulsive and entertaining both halves of s3 were, but I rarely felt like it was boring. Quite the opposite – I could never really get a handle on what to expect next, because it was all just a barrage of craziness.
Another thing I'm ambivalent about this season has been the aesthetic, which is tapping into a whole different type of horror than before. There's a scuzziness to the visuals, almost reminiscent of 70s splatter-horror – like this whole opening sequence with Kira in her bone-filled cell could practically be a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, and we've already had cannibals and body bags full of not-deer and literal axe murders and a recurring character (temporarily) immolated, and it just seems like a very different look from previous seasons, which have had a high-gothic sort of vibe. I don't know how I feel about all that. I'm not really anti- that particular aesthetic, but it does feel like a genre shift, and I'm not sure it lends itself as well to the character-driven stuff that the show likes to do. Scott really has a nice arc in this season, kicked off in the very beginning when Sra. Calavera tells him he's not a truly threatening monster to her until he bites an innocent, running through his relationship with Liam and exploring the way other werewolves conceptualize violence and control and climaxing with him just barely choosing not to kill a hunter, then rounding out down here with Kate trying to force him to violate his beliefs by converting him by force into a full-monster instead of the hybrid-monster he's been so far. Unfortunately, I think it's been a little buried under ASSASSINS SERIAL KILLERS FIREFIGHT MAYHEM FLAMES PANIC! Slowing things down and letting us focus in on some of those images and lines of dialogue might have given us a better chance to connect with that emotional plotline and draw us into wondering how it'll be resolved. There was no time this season to wonder about how anything would be resolved, because there was always some other damn thing popping up. (And yes, I remember that I complained about there not being enough B plot in 302; I'm the worst.)
Heh. Stiles, your first attempts to acclimate Malia to the idea of a threesome with you and Scott are not going so great.
Whatever bad blood may or may not exist between the showrunners and the Sterek fans, I do think they threw a nice little bit of red meat into this episode as a farewell gift. It's so fascinating to come into the show at this point in its run, because it's abundantly clear to me that Stiles and Derek never had much of any kind of relationship – but it's also abundantly clear to me why in the first two seasons it seemed like they would. They were set up as kind of meta-rivals for Scott, standing in for his old human life and the wild and woolly werewolf world, and I think the original intent was for them to be foils for each other and thereby to symbolize the two ways Scott could try to be going forward, pretending nothing had changed or acclimating to werewolf society, and then the gist was going to be that Scott refused to choose – or to abandon – either of them, insisting it was possible for him to live balanced between those obligations and those relationships. They were both intended to be appealing but also to butt heads constantly, and that's an obvious entry-point for shippiness. If you were watching the show in real time, particularly in s1, I think you could imagine that they were building this solid little triskele-like set of characters who would rotate around each other and dispute each other and provoke each other but ultimately back each other up. It could've been that show. I think it originally even planned to be that show.
I'm speaking from no knowledge whatsoever on this, just intuition and knowing how writing works, but what I think happened is that they gradually realized that balance was impossible to maintain, for two reasons: Posey and O'Brien have an ease and warmth with each other that makes it absolutely impossible to imagine anyone at all mounting a credible threat to steal Stiles' best friend away, and Hoechlin is just not a good enough actor to carry the weight they started out hoping he would carry. So by the end of s2, Scott has fully distanced himself from Derek and Derek's agenda (“but you're not my alpha”), and the following 36 episodes take place in a narrative that has no real room for Derek as any kind of strong influence on Scott. Derek's a likeable enough character and certainly has fans, so they struggled to find something for him to do that would keep him connected to the plot, with varying degrees of success (I thought the Derek/Jennifer stuff was pretty emotionally effective in 301, can't even remember what the hell he was doing during 302, and couldn't really connect with any of his role in 4). But nothing really remained to tether him to Stiles, and without plotty stuff tying them together, they just weren't characters who would bother with each other. That's the problem with that bickery dynamic; you have to keep forcing the characters to interact, or you've just created two people who don't care for each other and will disregard each other given the opportunity. When the show stopped forcing Stiles and Derek to interact, it became obvious that...they just don't like each other much, and proceeded to disregard each other.
This scene in the van forces them back together one last time and makes an attempt to do something cute and bickery, the kind of thing that would've fit into s1 or 2, but from an older, mellower place in their lives where they don't have to bicker, really, because they don't fundamentally disagree on what should be done for Liam. They do some eyebrow acting at each other, and generally come off like people who don't really get each other, but acknowledge that they have ties of history and community and shared friends, and it's not forced or overdone, but I think it's enough to make the moment later on pay off, where Stiles thinks he's leaving Derek to die and clearly feels he should say or do something, but has really nothing to say or do. They don't have unfinished business. They don't have comfort or wisdom to share with each other. It's just that they've known each other for a while now, and he's sad that there isn't more he can do. It's a poignant moment that sits just at the right level for the canon relationship that they have, not ginning up some big thing that forces an intimacy the show never earned for them, but also acknowledging that they have a bond that's being severed while Stiles stands helplessly by. I have no idea if it was satisfying for fans of the pairing, but I hope it was at least a little.
Seinabo Sey's “Hard Time” is one of my very favorite songs, and in fact is on my playlist for the novel that I'm avoiding finishing by writing 80,000 words about Teen Wolf. (It's a Georgiana song, if you happen to be one of the 3 people who read my first novel. If you aren't, by the way – don't yet! It's kind of comforting to know that only 3 people realize the sequel is a year and a half late.)
I feel like there's a lot going on in this season with the introduction of Satomi's pack, and the similarities and differences between the Hales' method of training a werewolf for control and Satomi's; the mantras clearly aren't meant to be interchangeable, given their different effects on Liam. It makes sense that alpha-beta-omega doesn't, as Stiles says, “resonate” with someone who knows almost nothing about werewolf society, so maybe part of what's going on there is a distinction between how born wolves think and what bitten wolves like Satomi understand – that position in the pack isn't as fundamental to the bitten ones as this deep question of what part of them is the truth, what nature do they have that cannot long be hidden.
A lot of this show is about agency and control, which is why it's always been so successful with plot elements like body horror and possession and people being used, via magic or trickery, as pawns in someone else's game. It's not a huge stretch to say that stories with werewolf protagonists have to somehow confront this issue of, if your behavior has changed, have you become the person who does these new things, or are you being controlled by something else that does these new things? Are you just not acting like yourself on the full moon anymore, or is the person you thought was “yourself” now gone for good? Who's running things around here? And of course that's a resonant question, because on some level none of us really understand self and choice and consciousness. We've been struggling for millennia to figure out why we know one thing and do something else, why we think we want this but act to produce the opposite, how it is we can feel so profoundly alien to ourselves, especially when it comes to the visceral things like love and sex and territory and aggression. So we come up with philosophies or we practice mantras or we write Romans 7 or we do whatever it is we do to try to resolve this crazy-making sense that there is more than one person in our heads, and we suspect we may not be the alpha in the relationship.
I don't think the show knows quite how to attack something this thematically hefty, but that's okay. Like I said, we've been at this for a long time as a species, and most of us don't know how to attack it either! I think the show is admirable for even knowing that these questions are there. I actually think all of us who even know that this question exists are doing pretty well; if you never think to count anyone's fingers, you're never even aware that it's all a dream, you know?
Okay, Peter in the background when Stiles stops to take a call from his dad is priceless, making his “are you for real right now?” gestures. Not least of all because he's right! Stiles, let it go to voicemail, for Christ's sake.
Well, Mason's been officially jumped into the gang, I suppose. Welcome to the team, Mason! You'll hate it!
Yeah, I don't get this, either. Peter taught Kate how to control the berserkers? But she was doing that before the season opened, and we saw his first approach to her at the end of “Orphaned” – or what sure sounded like his first approach to her. And none of this resolves the whole heist question: if Peter was behind this nonsense from the beginning, rather than opportunistically latching onto Kate mid-season, then what was even the point of all that nonsense? I suppose he didn't know Meredith was stealing the money, but then how did Meredith teach Kate how to use the temple to de-age-- Oh, wait, I forgot. Nobody cares. Right, moving on!
I really wanted Scott to at least try to break that table. That would've been a badass moment; I can't believe they opted out of that.
Much as I enjoyed seeing a real wolf show up on Teen Wolf (real for certain values of CGI, anyway), I have to drop a flag on that play. I hate when a character's death is hammered via prophecy, and then they're dead for like two minutes and everyone is like, Totally counts! No, it does not totally count. It didn't count when it was Buffy, it didn't count when it was Harry Potter, it doesn't count when it's Derek. You don't bounce right back up from dead, that's not enough time to join the bleedin' choir invisible. Yeah, we know, it's genre, everyone's definitely coming back eventually, unless they don't, but you have to fucking stay dead for a little while. Even Jesus had to stay dead for three goddamn days. Stop trying to upstage Jesus; it's tacky. (Also, who brought a spare henley for Derek? I don't know if that's absurd or brilliant, because of course he was going to get blood all over the one he was wearing. He's Derek.)
Ow. Goodbye, Coach Finstock. You were the best of all of us. I hope they send you to the farm where Isaac and Danny get to run and play and be happy. (Seriously, I thought I'd catch it on the rewatch, but they never do say what happened to Isaac. God damn, show. This shit isn't complicated. A couple of lines from Chris about why they separated when Chris came back! Done and done.)
Well, I'm in under the wire on this last one, y'all! Tomorrow I'm going to catch up on the season's worth of comments that I've shamefully let pile up, and then I'll try to knock something into shape about my experience of doing this from beginning to end.
And then a little nap, and then I guess season 5!