Jun 24 2014 10:25am

Teen Wolf: Lobito

Previously on Teen Wolf: The Scott pack—now with more magical shapeshifting Japanese foxes!—battle Nogitsune!Stiles; Allison learns to be the hunter she was always meant to be; Derek continues to have terrible taste in women; Lydia never stops screaming; a coyote shifter stirs up trouble and hormones; Jackson leaves town to be Red Hood on Arrow; and nobody hugs Isaac enough. Basically, everyone is dead or gone and everything hurts.

This review is operating under the assumption you’re up-to-date. Proceed with caution. Thar be spoilers...

S4, E1: The Dark Moon

The kids head to Mexico in search of Derek Hale. Homeboy’s gone AWOL, and their only clues are some bullet casings with the logo of the Calaveras hunters etched in. Their grand plan goes bad almost from the start, and they’re taken captive. Mama Calaveras forces Kira to electrocute Scott for information. Malia and Stiles are trapped in a bathroom down below. Malia’s too distracted to use her super hearing, that is until she kisses Stiles and he makes her go all blue eyed. Scott uses his Einstein-like powers of deduction and figures out a possibly were but definitely undead Kate kidnapped Derek. Mama Calaveras shoos the kids off toward Las Iglesias, an ominous church built on the ruins of an Aztec temple, surrounded by a decimated town, and probably haunted by ancient, evil were jaguars. Because of course that’s where Kate’s holed up. Why the hell not, right? Scott and the Mercenary head off into the temple alone. The rest stay behind so Stiles can repair his jeep, Lydia can fret at him, and Malia and Kira can act like impulsive dummies. By the time they catch up, Scott and the Mercenary have barely escaped the Temple of Doom, with De-Aged!Derek in tow.

Oh. This was one of those episodes. You know, one of those Teen Wolf episodes where EVERYTHING HAPPENS but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS all at the same time. Where there’s a lot of sound and fury, but all that emotional blustering is really there to distract you from the inconsistent logic and Grand Canyon-esque plot holes. There’s some thrilling stuff going down—the masochistic group of Mexican hunters who’ve been hanging around in the periphery since early last season get a step up in the plot department, Scott enacts one of his trademarked Strategic Double Cross Plans, and Aztec jaguar weres!—but it all gets mired in cardboard acting, dialogue so half-assed that even Supernatural was rolling its eyes, and a whole lotta wheel spinning.

Teen Wolf has never claimed to be a master of the art of television. Fans don’t tune in expecting Breaking Bad with teenage werewolves. The show not only acknowledges the inherent silliness of its premise, but actively engages with it. But it’s at its best when it takes audience expectation and turns it on its head. “Insatiable,” the season 3 penultimate ep, was a great episode of television, and a frakking incredible one by Teen Wolf standards. Most of that praise rests on Dylan O’Brien’s shoulders. He’s always been the best factor of the show, and although he gets a helluva lot less to do in “The Dark Moon,” every little bit shimmers. I’d accuse Tyler Posey et al. of forgetting how to act (again), but the whole episode was so clunky and shoddily crafted that I’m more inclined to blame poor direction. O’Brien is good enough to work wonders on bad material, but like Lee Pace in Halt and Catch Fire, there’s only so much great talent can do.

In the past, badass characters like Nogitsune!Stiles and Gerard were 15 steps ahead of everyone else, and half the fun was watching the Scoobies finally outwit them. In “The Dark Moon,” all that cheeky cleverness seems to have been left behind in Beacon Hills. Lydia’s right: Scott’s plan was really stupid. Even their escape was boring; the Calaveras gave them a guide and pointed them in Derek’s direction. The title of the ep should’ve been “I Don’t Know,” because that’s all anyone had to say. The kids don’t know anything and go stomping about anyway, and the only things keeping them from getting killed are dumb luck and good contracts. Not that Kate is worth that much effort. She was never as cool as she or the show thought she was. Her transformation is intriguing, however. Teen Wolf delights in breaking its own rules of magic as a worldbuilding cheat, and undead Kate is a new move from an old playbook. At least it’ll be fun to have her and Derek sniping at each other again.

That being said, Teen Wolf is always in a state of half sinking, half righting itself. The cast constantly fleeing like rats abandoning ship isn’t helping matters. Allison was never my favorite character, but she was stable enough to hold down some of the looser elements. And where omegas Erica and Boyd weren’t good for much else other than being melodramatically sacrificed, Isaac had enough sass and put upon glares to get the hardest jobs done. So far this season, anyone outside the Sciles brotp is still suffering from a lack of development. Lydia and Derek (and the parental units) have the benefit of a few seasons of tertiary history to add personality, if not depth. But Malia and Kira are virtually non-existent. They’re far too ephemeral to do much of anything, and the actresses playing them have stretched their abilities past the breaking point. They’re on camera and even given a handful of weightless lines, but they could easily be excised with little ill effect. Maybe the show could spend their paychecks on upping the CGI or something. Or buying Holland Roden a pair of flats. She looks like she could benefit from some Chucks.

Final Thoughts

  • Overall, not a great start to a new season. Then again, “Omega” and “Tattoo” (seasons 2 and 3 openers, respectively) weren’t much to write home about, either. And if we’re going to shit on fantasy shows with terrible season premieres, look no further than True Blood.
  • Since Kira can control electricity, why didn’t she harness the charge instead of pouting while Scott got electrocuted?
  • If I were Kira (and thank Hera I’m not), I’d use my glowstick nunchucks for everything all the time.
  • This show walks a fine line between being playfully sexy and queerbaiting. I suspect your tolerance for the Malia/Kira dance-off will depend on which side you fall.
  • Coverage will happen as it did with Hannibal: in chunks every few weeks. See you in a few...

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Alex Brown
1. AlexBrown
I've since rewatched the premiere, and think I was a bit too harsh on it with this review. The biggest problem with the ep isn't the usual stuff, but the Calaveras plot.

Mama Calaveras isn't menacing enough to be the next Gerard, nor risky enough to make up for it by chewing scenery. The actress never does anything with the lines, just blahs out whatever's on the page. (Same charge could be brought against the women who play Malia and Kira, but at least they're trying.) The rest of the Calaveras hunters aren't much better. None of 'em even have names, except Severo (really? *sigh*). The torture they inflict doesn't seem to carry any long-term effects, plot or character-wise, so what's the point? Skipping their scenes doesn't make the ep tremendously better, but it makes it a helluva lot less grating.
Cyn Chow
2. Cyn Chow
No, you were not too harsh on this episode. There was an immense amount of overacting (Mama Calavera apparently was told that doing random tasks with her hands was her ticket to an Emmy) and not a whole lot made sense. The kids' awesome infiltration plan consisted of not knowing what they were doing, and the interrogation and torture told everyone what they actually already did know?

Stiles and Malia were the two saviors who brought some actual wit to their lines, and the rest just seemed like they were in an art house scary movie. One that really needed speeding up with all of the fakeout turning around to see what was behind them.

Teen Wolf now seems to be following the Vampire Diaries formula of killing off everyone over thirty. Although I guess TW gets credit for just making Derek a tween?
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
@Cyn Chow: De-aging Derek made a million fanfics suddenly canon. I am absolutely loving the interwebs freakout. I'm also totally confused by it on the show. He was shown earlier in the ep as "old" Derek, so unless that was a mini-flashback (although he was covered in webs, so?) that was some awfully fast magics or something else entirely is going on. Might I suggest multiverse theory?

Malia does have great lines, I'll give her that. But, man, her readings are sooo flat. But she feels too much like a bargain bin Anya from Buffy, and Kira is a knock-off Tara. She's pretty badass with the katana, though.

Derek trivia: He's not over 30; his age is currently unknown. He was supposed to be 19 in the pilot, which would make him about 13 when Kate burned down his family and house...and when they knocked boots (which, ew). If we assume he was older when they hooked up, say 15, that would put him at 21-22. He's at least under 25. Unless you mean Tyler Hoechlin, but he was only born in 1987 (he's actually a year younger than Daniel Sharman!).*

*I can't believe I frakking know all that. Ugh.
Cyn Chow
4. Cyn Chow
Thanks for the background. I'm a latecomer to this series, having been a dedicated Buffy fan subsisting on Vampire Diaries. On Buffy people stayed dead. Except for Darla. And Angel. And Spike. And oh yeah, Buffy a couple of times. Kira is finally useful and not just the girlfriend, which does make her more interesting. And I guess I was giving Malia credit for being deadpan, and not just acting lifelessly.
Cyn Chow
5. Kita
With Teen Wolf, it's always queerbaiting.
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
@Kita: Most of the time the sexual innuendo works for me as a plot device. Jeff Davis has always been intentionally vague about Stiles' sexuality, and he's a teenage boy with a helluva lot on his plate, so I'm more lenient about him not taking time out to contemplate his orientation. Deathan never felt like queerbaiting to me. but rather a subplot the writers didn't know how to flesh out properly. That being said, Malia and Kira seems a lot more on the queerbaiting side than anything.

For me, Supernatural is the highwater mark of queerbaiting in fantasy television. We don't appreciate that, Supernatural writers. Knock it the frak off. Canon or no, I still consider Dean and Stiles to be bi.
Cyn Chow
7. FDS
Finally got around to watching this (was frankly shocked this summer to even see any kind of review-ish covereage on this site).

Parts of it looked, stylistically, techniquely decent. Otherwise, meh.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
@FDS: This was definitely not the best season to come into the show. Binge-watch seasons 1 and 2. TW is a hella fun and enjoyable when it doesn't get tripped up in its own overcomplicated mythos. I knocked it when I first heard of it, but now (despite season 4) it's still one of my favorite shows currently on air.

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