Oh, man, a lot of this part of the season is a blur to me, but I do remember this sequence with Stiles on the phone. It was really stressful for me! I have kind of an intense stress-response specifically to people begging for help, like I get really jittery and shake a lot myself (I used to think that was just a normal response that all people have, but I've been told not really!), so not only did I have that response to Stiles, but I empathized very much with Scott's helpless panic. It's just a horrible feedback loop of me squeaking and fluttering my hands and scaring my cat.
I can't believe Lydia has the gall to look surprised that Aiden took off his pants. Obviously if you give him that opening, he's going to take off his pants.
Well, that was certainly some Kira cheesecake! I'm not opposed to that by any means, but it really took me by surprise; I've grown so accustomed to this show being the Lost Island of the Female Gaze.
I take back all the positive things I said about the bear traps. Bear traps bad!!
Well, that was horrifying. I think I dozed off during the sleepwalking/nightmare scene because it was really hard to hear what the hell the spiny-mouthed guy was saying. He sounded like he had spines in his mouth. But when you put the effort in, wow, it really repays you in personal trauma.
I also never caught that Stiles' mother suffered from the same progressive brain disorder that he's diagnosed with here. Does that mean that before his mother died, he had to watch her succumb to dementia and lose her grip on reality? God, that's even more-- OH MY GOD, SCOTT, JUST KISS HIM. Look at the pair of you, for god's sake! I can't even with these two. Just kiss him!
I'm sorry, what was I saying?
On the surface, it seems like there's a lot going on with this episode, but when you get right down to it, other than a certain amount of business with Lydia's self-doubt and Derek – for some reason showing up and not doing anything related to the stuff we saw in the beginning of the season, where he was tortured, and that kind of looked like it was going to be a thing, but now he's just here to cheerlead Scott and provide random supernatural answers, like how did he get from foxfire to magnetized bat to Stiles is the nogitsune, what do we think, guys, does that make sense or no? – but I mean other than that, it's really just a string of set-pieces following through on the descent we knew from last week was coming for Stiles.
I don't say that to be dismissive of it! I actually really like that they took their time with this plot and devoted two separate episodes to Stiles' perceptions of the whole thing as it unfolds (this one and “Echo House”), interspersed with the episodes framed through the eyes of everyone else trying to figure things out from the outside. I think that gives the whole season an emotional weight that it wouldn't have if you framed it the same way they did s2, with half devoted to “who's the monster?” and half to “can it be stopped without killing the host?” (It's very much to this season's credit that it took me quite a while to notice it's the second time around for this same basic plot.)
I have this theory that any show is going to have its very best season as either season 1 or something like season 3-4; nothing ever gets any better after season 4, although you can certainly hope to hold steady on quality for a while. Some shows are clearly labors of love, where someone has devoted years of their life to crafting this perfect first season, and at the beginning of s2, you can almost smell the panic in the air as everyone realizes they've really for real been renewed, and how do you top that? (I call this Veronica Mars Syndrome.) But most shows need a little room to craft a stage big enough to hold the really good stories, and time to get to know what their actors and writers are best at. By season 3 or maybe 4 (but usually 3), the audience knows the rules and knows the characters, and you can get real mileage out of subverting expectations and forcing hard reversals and testing the limits of the format and all the stuff that really makes a show sing. By this point, if a show is even remotely good – hell, if it's competent in the least – it at least knows what it really has going for it.
This show has sure as hell figured out that what it really has going for it is Dylan O'Brien. That's not a slight to the rest of the cast; I think they all range from pretty good to excellent. But it's really exciting to see this young actor, who's been giving these great, subtle, sensitive performances since the first season, get scripts that really let him take control of the season and do something beautiful with it. I really can't pick out individual moments, either in this episode or over the course of the arc, because while there are a few that stand out as flashy Big Acting Moments, those wouldn't really be as effective on their own if O'Brien hadn't been in there for forty episodes now, building this character so incredibly carefully in the balance of his bravery, vulnerability, resilience, and innocence. So as good as his performance is as this kid whose life is being absolutely shredded into bits by something both random and malevolent, it really works because it's Stiles, and O'Brien has already put in so much work to make this the absolute last person you'd want to imagine it all happening to.