Is this the first episode that comes with a “mature themes” disclaimer on Amazon? I feel like it is, although I know for sure it's not the last – I'll tell you that story in a few days when we get to it.
First, I just want to say that this episode is delightful just as a haunted house story. That said, it's an oddity as a Teen Wolf episode. The thing about Teen Wolf is that it doesn't really do monster-of-the-week episodes. A story about the gang being away from Beacon Hills and running into a whole new paranormal clusterfuck, Murder-She-Wrote style – that just never happens. So it sits oddly in the framework of the series, but it's a great deal of fun, so I can't judge it too harshly.
I feel like with this pair of episodes – “Frayed” and “Motel California” – they came out of the gate with New and Improved Lydia and never looked back. Instead of being sort of a gothic wandering crazy lady who exists mainly so Allison has someone to talk to, she comes across as a person that you can see being someone you'd want in your pack. A lot more of this episode is framed through her perspective than any other so far (I think); not since the strange cul-de-sac of the Lydia/Peter relationship have we gotten to see the world through Lydia's eyes for any extended period. It's good; I like it. I like Lydia, but I feel like I was always extending her a certain amount of on-credit approval just because I think Holland Roden is beautiful and charismatic. This is the point in the series where I feel like I'm getting a return on my emotional investment in terms of actual Lydia awesomeness.
Stiles did say that he found Matt creepy, it's true, although I'm not 100% sure he actually said, “I think Matt is behind these killings.” He just grumbled about not liking the cut of Matt's jib. I can't quite decide if I think that's a case of Stiles revising history in his head so that he totally knew it all along, or if I, like Scott, don't know when to take Stiles seriously.
It's interesting to me that in a series that largely eschews threats of sexualized violence against their female characters (the male characters seem to be fair game), the only time I remember seeing that used is this scene between Scott and Allison. I guess they decided it felt safer, since neither Allison nor the audience really gets past “this seems really weird and sort of uncomfortable” into the territory of “genuinely scary experience.” I'm down with it; we've largely abandoned the idea by this point that Our Werewolves are really dangerous to anyone who doesn't deserve it, but part of the fun of werewolves in general is that you can't entirely discount the possibility that they could turn on you.
Nice effort at providing some backstory for Boyd, but it's really too little too late. And you couldn't set it up even slightly in advance? Scott has hallucinations of failing to protect his mother, which is well established – Isaac gets the freezer – Ethan has a weird body-horror thing, which makes sense for a dude whose super power is squishing into another person's body. All of it makes sense with what we already know of the characters – except Boyd's trauma, which they couldn't squeeze into one damn episode, even though he was introduced like ten previously. I swear, it's like they're aggressively not-trying to make Boyd compelling in any way.
Helloooo, Danny, though. My, my. Good for Danny!
I don't understand exactly how Jennifer ended up taking care of Derek? I thought this would be clearer if I watched it while awake, but not so much. He fell off the balcony during the fight, everyone left him for dead, and...? Good for Derek, though, I guess? (Her “I've been hurt before” is rather more poignant when you know she was straight-up savaged and left for dead by the last lady who loved her, though. I like those lines that play quite differently the second time around.)
Okay, I MIGHT HAVE cried a little when Stiles made Scott cry. You don't know. Those sort of scenes are a particular weakness for me – the “well, if I can't save you, I guess we'll just stay here and die together” scene. Steve and Bucky at the end of Winter Soldier – Sam and Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings. Joss used it twice: Willow and Xander and the Yellow Crayon, and then Simon climbing onto River's pyre. I fucking love that scene; I will never not love it, in any of its many forms. So much love. I feel incredibly vindicated in my choice of pairing now, because LOOK AT THEM.
I guess everything I said up front about this being an odd monster-of-the-week episode is sort of wrong, because this is – related to the main plot? I mean, I guess the implication is that the Darach spiked Coach's whistle with wolfsbane in order to...hopefully get all the werewolves at the track meet to...kill themselves...? It's not the world's most logical plan, but there was definitely wolfsbane and the Evil Chorale and what looked to me like the Darach's real form, so – plot! I'm not sure what would've happened if the bus hadn't been delayed or if they'd found a motel to stay at other than the suicide one. I'm not sure all this bears too much thinking about, but whatever – Danny's getting laid, and Stiles loves his best friend, and Coach. Just...Coach. That is all.