Previously on Teen Wolf: Everything happens all at once, nothing is satisfactorily explained, and all hell breaks loose.
S4 E9: Perishable
What is Parrish? Dunno, but whatever he is, he’s fireproof. Deputy Haigh learns this too late, and gets the snot beat out of him by an angry Parrish after the former tried to kill him. Lydia reveals her grandmother’s sad tale about discovering her banshee powers after the death of her beloved. Eventually, Lorraine found Meredith, and drove the poor girl batty with her experiments. Lorraine made the code used in the dead pool and left Lydia the note in the boathouse. If she is The Benefactor, then she may still be alive. Derek’s reduction in power got him booted off the hitlist, and Liam’s now worth $18 mill. Stiles and Lydia go back to Eichen House to confront Meredith, but are outfoxed when they realize she used Brunski to enact her evil plan. Parrish pops up just in time to stop Brunski from killing them. Music assassins at the high school bonfire debilitate Scott, Liam, and Malia. Mason kills the music, and Derek and Braeden show up in the nick of time, saving the kids from a fiery death.
S4 E10: Monstrous
Meredith may be outed by The Benefactor, but her dead pool is still active. Kira rescues a couple of weres from a group of hunter mercenaries, but as long as there’s money, humans are going to keep going after the Beacon Hills supes. After resolving their relationship issues, Stalia discover Lorraine Martin played the banshee for the future supes, thus creating the names for Meredith’s hit list. With a little help from Lydia, Malia and Stiles shuts down the computer generating the dead pool. Meredith summons Peter Hale and they, Lydia, Parrish, and Sheriff Stilinski have a tete-a-tete. Years ago, Meredith and a raging, comatose, post-fire Peter were hospitalized together. Her banshee powers somehow hooked her into Peter’s subconscious, and it drove her mad. Mixing Lorraine’s predictions and Peter’s violent temporary insanity, she concocted a plan to get Peter his revenge – hence him not being on the list.
S4 E11: A Promise to the Dead
Deaton rescues a girl from being eaten by a wendigo, then, after delivering the monster to a secret monster wing of Eichen House, stops off for a visit to a psychic. Third Eye Blind shunts Deaton into a dreamlike coma, where he remains until Lydia banshees at him to wake him up. Scott and Stiles are a little too tempted to spend Peter Hale’s money, but Scott ultimately does the right thing by returning it to Derek. Not that Derek cares anyway, given that he has his own wisely invested wealth. Liam suffers a bad case of berserker-induced PTSD, but his pride and anger management issues won’t let him ask for help. Speaking of berserkers, they and Kate break up Scott and Kira’s first date and cart them off to Mexico so Kate can turn Scott into a berserker. Stiles tries to keep Liam from PTSD-ing all over the lacrosse field, but the kid’s a mess. Parrish tracks Argent down to the sewer where Peter had him skewered to the wall. Peter propositions Malia to kill Kate, and in exchange he’ll tell her who her bio ma is.
S4 E12: Smoke & Mirrors
Kate infodumps all over Kira, with reveals meant to explain how an alpha werewolf turned a hunter into a were-jaguar then acquired obedient Norse berserkers in an Aztec temple but, in fact, she explains nothing. Then she uses berserker!Scott to stab Kira nearly to death. Stiles gets the gang together to rescue Scott and Kira in Mexico. Double-cross Peter insists they kill all the berserkers, knowing full well Kate’s plan. As Peter later infodumps, he’s still pissed that he lost all his alpha power to Scott and is determined to take it back by force—he needs to kill Scott to take back his powers, and Scott can’t kill him if he wants to keep his. Human!Derek dies, and Shapeshifter Wolf!Derek is born. Mason and Lydia are cornered back at the high school by a berserker meant to keep her from telling the others about Scott’s transformation, but they suss it out anyway. Liam learns to control his wolf, and his earnest appeal pulls Scott from Kate’s spell. Scott and Peter throw down, and our hero comes out on top. Argent wounds Kate with wolfsbane, but after she explains she blames Scott for Allison’s death, she flees. Argent goes with the Calaveras.
In the beginning of this season, I compared Teen Wolf to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The analogy works for the most part, but always felt slightly off in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A teenager who suddenly, through no fault or desire of their own, becomes more powerful than everyone else and is thrust into the role of having to save the world over and over again. It is about a young person struggling with the impossible, and their friends who see them through it. It’s about the heroes not always being good and the villains not always being evil, and learning to tell the difference. It’s about doing what’s right no matter how difficult or awful or painful. That’s what the show is about, but each individual episode not so much.
And then it hit me. Teen Wolf wants to be the next Buffy, but it’s really the next Criminal Minds. Most of the episodes start with a victim being brutalized, then the good guys are pulled into the mystery and must stop the Big Bad from killing again; there’s a season-long arc involving the dark past of one of the gang of heroes, although the weekly stories may only tangentially connect. That could easily be the synopsis of the latest season of Teen Wolf or another Jeff Davis created show, Criminal Minds. Don’t get me wrong, I love Criminal Minds. It’s a terrible show, no doubt, but it’s one of my all-time guilty pleasures. But just because I enjoy a show about grotesque serial killers doesn’t mean I want it all up in a story about teenage werewolves.
It’s like Davis and co. decided what fans really liked about Teen Wolf wasn’t the dynamic between Scott and the Scoobies as they solved a mystery but the mystery itself. And as much as I like Criminal Minds, the one thing it isn’t is a good mystery. The problems that plague CM—poor plotting, red herrings and loopholes, clunky dialogue—hobbled TW’s banshee arc. Awesome new baddies are introduced and killed off too quickly to be truly memorable, and those that stick around for a while don’t seem to have any real emotional effect on the heroes. Davis has gone Moffat. He’s so enamored with his “clever” stories and plot “twists” that he forgot about the characters. Every now and again Stiles and Malia have a heart to heart or Scott and Kira take tentative steps forward in their new romance, but where they should be the heart of the show, the main thrust has been uncovering who is behind the dead pool (and the scattershot Peter/Kate battle).
The dead pool mystery was inherently a featherweight plot so to make it last 12 episodes the writers added mysterious subplot after mysterious subplot. At the end, the season felt like a ring-sized box in a refrigerator box full of packing peanuts. SO MUCH STUFF happens in each episode, but it’s all variations on the same theme. The eps dealing with the assassins were time fillers that added little to the main arc and lacked enough character development to be meaningful. Every new plot twist made the final reveal both underwhelming and needlessly complicated. Meredith, a poorly drawn character defined entirely by plot circumstance, undermined what was supposed to be a Lydia-centric season, and then she was undermined by making it once again all about Peter Hale. Having the killer also be the victim was interesting on paper, but since the audience had no emotional investment in Meredith, the whole thing fell flat.
Episodes 11 and 12 get the show back on track, but they still reek of the show’s other main problem: it’s too fractured. There are half a dozen vaguely connected subplots all happening at once, most of which are only mildly compelling. The abrupt shifts in plots causes a tonal disconnect, making it hard to grasp the theme. In any given episode we fret over Liam’s PTSD while being happy Kira and Scott are finally getting closer while learning a lesson about returning something that isn’t yours while being reminded Deaton still exists while wondering what Lydia’s role in all this is while enjoying a good romp on the lacrosse field while growing anxious over Peter’s plot to uncover Malia’s bio ma is while sussing out Parrish while freaking out over Scott getting berserker-ized. Because so much is packed into a single ep, the more mundane elements get brushed off and, more importantly, the emotional punch withers.
Lastly, we were promised a Lydia-centric season 4, and so far nada. It’s not so much Lydia-centric as Lydia-continues-to-stand-around-looking-frustrated-while-Jeff-Davis-doesn’t-give-her-anything-to-do-but-look-cute-in-heels. She finally gets her own plot line…and it’s instantly taken away from her. The banshee story involves Lydia, but it isn’t about her. She’s a victim of circumstance, no more. The arc is taken from her and thrust upon Meredith, a character so thinly drawn you can see the writers room machinations right through her. Lydia is a teenage genius, but she’s rarely allowed to act like it. Holland Roden deserves a real role, something meatier than staring wide-eyed at record players. She, Dylan O’Brien, and Shelley Hennig are the best actors on the whole damn show, and yet she still gets relegated to powerless B plots. No thank you.
- “Now what I don’t understand is why anyone would want to get massively, falling down drunk in front of an open fire.”
Stiles: “Ok! What did you read?”
Lydia: “The Little Mermaid.”
Stiles: “You read that movie?”
Lydia: “It was a book first.”
Scott: “Where’s your money?”
Derek: “You’re standing on it.”
Scott: “There’s another vault?!”
- “I will obliterate the weak, and I will remake the supernaturals of Beacon Hills IN MY IMAAAAAAGE!”—Take a chill pill, Peter.
- “You can save people’s lives, but you can’t save them from life.” – I live in fear of the day Teen Wolf does to Mama McCall what Buffy did to Mrs. Summers.
- “I have never been so happy to have almost been murdered.”
- Supervillian couple Peter and Kate (Kater? Pate?) could be hella awesome or hella disastrous. If Gerard makes an appearance, their combined powers of scenery chewing could take down the world.
- Teen Wolf’s always been pretty sketch about plot holes, but you could drive a tank through the ones this half-season.
- A thousand Landlord!Derek fanfics are now canon. I would give anything for a webisode of Derek tending to his other tenants.
- Back in my day, when a teen show dealt with drinking, the results were always so terrible the stars vowed never to drink again. Nowadays, kids have drunken bonfires on school property. What is the world coming to? *Grumpy old woman grumbling*
- Seriously, where were all these supernatural creatures the last 3 season? That magic beacon tree is becoming more and more like a cheap patch to cover poorly conceived plot devices.
- Say it with me now: WHERE IS DANNY?
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.