Oh Teen Wolf, how did you go so horribly awry? The show has never been good at internal logic, but at least it was fun. It was a wild, bizarro ride that dragged you along whether you wanted it to or not. The fourth season was dire as all get-out, and while season five isn’t quite as bad as its predecessor, without a powerhouse forcing the characters into terrifying situations and desperate decisions the whole thing falls flat.
There seems to be a growing problem in fantasy television shows where those running the show don’t understand their own show. Sleepy Hollow wasn’t an instant success because fans wanted to know all about the romantic backstory of Katrina, Headless, and Ichabod, it worked because we loved watching BFFs Crane and Abbie battle crazy shit every week. Supernatural isn’t still raking in the ratings because fans want more mythology but because despite everything we still love spending time with Dean and Sam.
We watch Teen Wolf not for a bunch of pretty people doing sexy fighting things with other pretty people but because we care about the characters and want to see them overcome. We’ve gotten little character development in nearly three seasons because there’s no room in any given episode for growth, what with them being packed to the gills with lacrosse matches and all-ages dance clubs. If you’re going to write a show set in a world where anything is possible then you need to give your characters the freedom to explore it, not shove them into inexplicable directions because you think it looks cool.
Right now, the biggest problem with Teen Wolf is the absence solid characters. Melissa and Sheriff Stilinski leaven the pot, but the lack of Danny and Derek (and to a lesser extent Chris Argent) is apparent. And it shouldn’t be that way. The cast has practically tripled in size since the pilot, but depth has not come with breadth. I like Tyler Posey, Arden Cho, Victoria Moroles, and Dylan Sprayberry a lot, but their acting talents are mediocre at best. Holland Roden, Shelley Hennig, and Dylan O’Brien have long been the best young actors on the docket, but with such a sprawling cast their ability to improve a scene just by being in it is diluted. I suspect Ryan Kelley is actually a good actor, but until the writers give Parrish something substantial to do it’s a moot point.
Obviously the show is spending so much time on the newbies because they’re planning ahead for Stiles, Scott, Malia, and Lydia’s eventual departure, but the replacements are depressingly uninteresting. Mason hooking up with Danny would be interesting, mostly because Danny himself is interesting because Keahu Kahuanui is. Mason hooking up with some forgettable floppy-haired white boy? Boring as a mayo sandwich on crustless white bread.
The teenagers should be the strongest part of the show—it is a YA show after all—but it’s the non-teens (and the good actors) that hold the show together. But as the seasons have progressed, the teens have all the action and the adults get all the smarts. With the Argents AWOL, Deaton spending most of his time dispensing nuggets of wisdom then vanishing on an exploratory mission to uncover a truth that didn’t really require an international mission, and Braeden and Derek off having sex and punching things, you’d think it would give the teens a chance to pick up the slack. But instead they’ve just gotten dumber and dumber.
Imagine if Buffy, Willow, and Xander ran around aimlessly for several episodes until Giles or Joyce told them everything they needed to know about the Big Bad. Imagine the Scooby Gang never doing any research, never making plans, never training, nothing. Until an adult tells the Teen Wolf teens exactly what to do, they are completely unable to solve the problem. Melissa and the Sheriff figure out how the Dread Doctors choose their victims, Noshiko gives Kira the tip about how to outsmart her inner fox, and Valack literally hands the kids an instructional manual on the Dread Doctors. In between those revelations, the plot stagnates.
And by plot I don’t mean Liam and Hayden’s sixth grade backstory. Christ, I don’t think there’s any subplot I could care less about in the show’s entire run. I get why it’s there—in order to make Hayden’s story mean something to the audience the writers tried to turn her into a love interest for Liam—but sweet zombie Jesus is it boring. You know what’s not boring? A bunch of mad scientists trying to make monsters in a basement. The fact that the show couldn’t even make that exciting is a sign that there are bigger problems behind the scenes.
The mythology is all over the map, partly because the character motivations are vague and partly because the writers cared more about reaching a specific endpoint and less about whether or not the characters would realistically be there. This half-season alone there’s the Dread Doctors, Theo Rankin, and the Desert Wolf. Because there’s so much competition for the Big Bad, none of them get enough time to really be evil. The Desert Wolf has nothing to do with anything in the main plot. Theo would be a better villain without being both a murderous sociopath and a puppet of the Doctors, just as the Doctors would be more frightening if we understood their motivations and they had personalities. Theo’s plot is crazy convoluted and makes sense only when you don’t think about it. The Dread Doctors are…doing something…because reasons…
Speaking of inconsistent personalities, let’s talk about what the hell is up with Stiles and Scott this season. I don’t buy for a second that Stiles would keep killing Donovan a secret from his best friend, nor that Scott would believe Theo’s ridiculous story about Stiles being a violent murderer. Stiles feeling guilty about what happened to Donovan is understandable. But that conversation in the rain where they shout around the truth is not only shoddy storytelling but ciphering characters. Nothing in either boys’ personalities have indicated that they’d turn on each other, but the writers wanted Theo to form a wedge between them and this is what we’re stuck with. These kids should be telling each other everything, but they don’t because if they did then the season would’ve ended before it began. The Walking Dead had a similar problem way back in the Lori seasons, and I hated it just as much then as I do now. Fingers crossed Teen Wolf can pull itself together in the next half of the season.
- Sheriff Stilinski: “Your best friend is a werewolf. You are dating a werecoyote. I still don’t know what Kira is suppose to be. When the flying monkeys come soaring through this station you will have my undivided attention. Until then, just go to school.”
- Scott: “Why can’t you trust anyone?”
Stiles: “Because you trust everyone!”
- Sheriff Stilinski: “There’s a dead girl in your kitchen with a sword sticking out of her chest. What did you think I was going to do?”
- Wait, wait, wait. Parrish isn’t a phoenix but a freaking hellhound? JFC, Teen Wolf. And if this is headed to the Dread Doctors making a chimera fight Hellhound!Parrish I’m going to be mighty pissed off.
- And why is Liam totally chill about Hellhound!Parrish carrying off his dead girlfriend when no one has told him what Parrish really is?
- Who decided to make Lydia—a high school student—into a love interest for Parrish—a grown man? That’s seriously creepy.
- It was bad enough when they took a kid with anger issues and turned him into a werewolf. Now he’s a werewolf-chimera hybrid. Bad news.
- #SlappedByMelissa is a terrible hashtag, even for MTV’s standards.
- Are Melissa and the Sheriff going to do anything about the skin graft reveal? Because that seems like a major thing to keep to themselves. If they did tell the kids in the flashforward between eps 9 and 10 then why didn’t the kids do anything with it? Why waste a whole subplot on it if it’s never mentioned again?
- So, are we going to talk about Lydia being a patient at Eichen House? No? Alright then.
- Maybe I’m just old, but I have no clue what the Dread Doctors are saying. Like, at all.
- This post-midseason interview with showrunner Jeff Davis doesn’t leave me feeling excited about the rest of season 5.
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 and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.