TV Reviewer Katie Young reviews the first four episodes of Teen Wolf season four. Hairy chests optional…
Season 4 opens with Scott, Stiles and Lydia in Mexico (or at least a set painted in shades of terracotta to look Mexican), searching for Derek who went missing at the end of the last season. They believe he has been kidnapped by the sinister hunter family, the Calaveras. For (scantily clad) reasons, the Calaveras are operating from a nightclub. Mama Cal is one mean mother, and though our plucky trio attempt to bribe her with $50k (I’m not exactly sure where they got the cash from) for Derek’s safe return, the scary matriarch gets the upper hand by doping them along with their back-up (Kira and Stile’s new werecoyote girlfriend Malia, who are forced to do a bit of faux-lesbian bumping and grinding to blend in within minutes of the opening title sequence) with wolfsbane-laced smoke and she forces Kira to torture Scott with electricity. The juice sparks a vision, and Scott realises Kate Argent is alive, wolfing out, and that she probably has Derek. Mama Cal confirms they took Kate’s body from the morgue after Peter Hale ripped out her throat as she was on the turn, but she refused to kill herself as the hunter code dictates and instead killed her captors and escaped. Scott quite reasonably asks why Mama C didn’t just tell them Kate was alive rather than the elaborate electrocution thing, but Mama C is all like ‘where’s the fun in that?’
Mama Calavera turns the gang loose, promising she will track Scott down the minute he bites an innocent. Uh-oh…foreshadowing? They head across the desert accompanied by Braeden the mercenary in Stiles’ Jeep to the place where Kate is rumoured to be hanging out. It’s amazing that the Jeep made it to Mexico, and even more amazing that no one back in Beacon Hills has noticed that the five missing minors have gone camping in one Jeep with no equipment and $50k in cash. Kids today! Stiles’ Jeep does what it does best and breaks down, so Scott and Braeden are forced to go ahead to the abandoned church and site of an Aztec werejaguar temple to look for Derek on Braeden’s motorbike. Both groups come under attack by mysterious creatures wearing bone armour, but manage to escape unharmed. Scott and Braeden find Derek buried in a wall of the church, only he is now a teenage boy. Suddenly we are in strange kinky fan fiction territory…
Episode 2 begins with a flashback to Derek and Peter as teenagers. Presumably this is to make it clear that the kid Scott found is actually Derek, and also to reintroduce the Triskelion, a wooden totem Derek uses to help control his wolfy urges. Meanwhile, Stiles’ Jeep has miraculously carried them all back to Beacon Hills, and de-aged Derek is taken to see druid-cum-vet-cum-general confidante, Dr. Deaton. Deaton’s MO is to deny all knowledge of the supernatural thing he’s being consulted about before proceeding to explain EVERYTHING about said topic. My BFF and I call him Dr. Alan ‘I’m No Expert’ Deaton. Either he’s modest to a fault or he just can’t be arsed getting into yet more disparate areas of world mythology. Just as sure as you’re going to get blasted with incredibly loud, intrusive electronic music every two minutes, Deaton will deny knowing about something, and then know everything about that thing. But hey, it’s got him through three seasons unscathed.
Anyway, Lydia and Deaton spend the night with Baby Derek because Scott and Stiles have been sent home. It’s a school night after all, and if there’s one thing more important than not getting killed by the nasty of the week, it’s a good attendance record. Never mind the fact that Lydia has enough smarts and money to rival Bill Gates, Stiles regularly runs rings around experienced FBI agents and Scott is a werewolf with superpowers, there is a syllabus to follow, goddammit, regardless of the fact most of the teachers are either trying to off them or are related to them. But I digress. Baby Derek is able to heal at an alarming rate. He wakes from the mother of all disco naps, disoriented, to find Deaton and Lydia standing over him and flees the surgery. Having regressed to a pre-fire mind-set, Derek returns to the Hale house, only to become confused and upset when he finds it razed to the ground. He is rounded up by deputies Parris and Lou Ferrigno’s Son who good cop/bad-cop-with-a-Taser him into submission. Luckily Stiles is on hand to bail him out, and take him back to Scott’s place where the boys are confronted by Scott’s FBI agent father, Rafael.
The interplay between these three is one of the nicest moments of the episode, with Stiles claiming Baby Derek is his Mexican cousin. He doesn’t bank on Rafael speaking Spanish, and is even more surprised when Derek answers in perfect Spanish himself. While the rest of the cast do a perfectly good job, Dylan O’Brien acts circles around most of them (a notable exception being Melissa Ponzio whose scenes with O’Brien last season were among the most moving of the entire show). Equally at home with comedy and drama, O’Brien is sure to have a big career in film, especially after his leading man debut in the movie adaptation of YA bestseller, The Maze Runner.
While Stiles and Derek are leading Agent McCall a merry dance, Scott decides Peter might be able to shed some light on Derek’s condition. Unlike Deaton, Peter never has any qualms about speculating insanely and yet somehow accurately. Sure enough it transpires that Aunt Kate wants to dupe Derek into thinking they are still in love so she can get her claws on his wood. Of course, I’m talking about the Triskelion, but Kate is definitely more cougar than wolf if you know what I mean…
Kate lures Baby Derek away from Stiles, and he leads her to the Hale family vault beneath the high school (where else?). Scott, Peter, Malia and Kira go to confront Kate, but run into the scary bone-armour men from Mexico. Peter identifies them as Berserkers. In Mexico…yeah, why not at this point? Peter runs, leaving Scott and the girls to fight. He finds Kate & Derek in the vault, and explains to Kate that the Triskelion is powerless – it was just a placebo for Derek. During the ensuing fight, a strange figure ambushes the vault and makes away with $117 million in bonds from the safe.
In Episode 3 we are introduced to Sean who appears to be the only surviving victim of crazed axe-man who slaughters his entire family. However, on further investigation by Lydia and Deputy Parrish, it seems Sean’s house contains a meat locker full of dead people. Because I’m a long-standing Supernatural fan, I immediately shout WENDIGO! at the TV and then sit back feeling pleased with myself.
Meanwhile, Scott gets his ass handed to him on the lacrosse field by a new freshman called Liam. He wolfs out and lands Liam in the hospital with a fractured leg. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt after three and a bit years, it’s that you don’t want to end up in Beacon Hills’ A&E department under any circumstances. This episode gives us our first Mama McCall and Sheriff Stilinski interaction. This pair are always a joy to watch. I love that they haven’t made it a romantic relationship because that would seem a little too convenient, but there is definite tenderness there which gives me the warm and fuzzies. They decide to keep the boys out of the murders of Sean’s family as there doesn’t seem to be a supernatural element to the killings. Big mistake.
Mama M is immediately attacked by Sean who it turns out is a WENDIGO (YAY! 10 POINTS TO ME!), but Scott arrives in time to save her. Sean takes Liam as a hostage and Scott tracks them to the roof (they always end up on the roof – Health and Safety should really look into having it cordoned off or something). In possibly one of the most bizarre and contrived scenes in the history of Teen Wolf, Scott ends up having to stop Liam slipping off the roof by biting him on the arm. Seriously, I’ve watched it frame by frame about twelve times, and I still don’t know what happened. Either way, this is not good news for Liam, a boy later revealed to have extreme anger issues. Oh dear.
A mysterious man with no mouth (a nice flip of the Nogitsune of last season who was all mouth) shows up on the roof and kills Sean, presumably finishing what he started when he killed the rest of the family at the start of the episode.
Episode 4 sees Derek and the sheriff team up to examine the wendigo (called it!) corpse. While it’s not as enjoyable as Derek’s snarky banter with Papa Argent last year, it’s nice to see characters interact outside their established relationships. Also, can we get Derek a tight-fit uniform and a nightstick? But while Derek is out playing cops with Stilinski, Peter is attacked by the Mute, and Liam escapes Scott and Stiles.
With the full moon approaching, the gang decide to lure Liam to Lydia’s lake house under the pretence of throwing a party. It works, but both Liam and Malia begin to lose control as the moon rises, and Liam has invited the whole school to the ‘party’. Bless. Stiles keeps Malia in the basement while Scott and Kira take Liam to the boatshed.
Derek and the sheriff discover that the man with no mouth is a hired assassin (although a shit one as he’s failed to kill two of his targets so far), working for someone called ‘The Benefactor’. They find the Mute at the school (of course) and manage to trap him, but Peter – true to form – rushes in and kills him before they can get any useful intel from him. Derek admonishes him, saying they’ve learnt a better way, which is rich considering Derek once killed Peter.
During the party at Lydia’s lake house, a young, hitherto unseen werewolf is beheaded by one of the new freshman intake, Violet, and she appears to have connections to The Benefactor as well. Liam heads into the woods with Scott in hot pursuit. Scott runs into Papa Argent (hooray!) who received Scott’s text (he’s down with the kids, is Papa Argent) and assures him he will get through to Liam.
Back at the house, Lydia experiences a freaky vision of faces in a wall and hears voices which decrypt a code she channelled previously while trying to help Malia with her maths studies. Confused yet? You’re not alone. Lydia taps some random keys into a computer (I’m not sure what kind which means it probably wasn’t a clunky bit of product placement for once) and unlocks a ‘dead pool’ of all the supernatural beings in Beacon Hills. Urm…that will be literally everyone then.
So, a fairly strong and pacey start for season 4. Certainly a lot going on with the werejaguars, berserkers, wendigoes and mouthless assassins. However, I’ve always felt the show was strongest when it followed one thread of mythology and a more fully formed narrative arc as it did in the opening season and the second half of season 3. Only a fool would dwell on the myriad plot holes and inconsistencies in this show, but it’s much easier to forgive all that if we can engage with the human core of each story: Scott comforting Stiles when it looked like he was suffering from the disease which killed his mother. Ethan cradling his dead twin brother. The death of Allison and the impact on her father and Scott and Isaac, the two boys who loved her.
The trouble with Teen Wolf is that it’s often the tonal equivalent of whiplash. There have been moments of perfectly pitched horror. It’s capable of both brilliant comic moments and real emotional punch, but much of the time we are wrenched from one to the other with no time to catch our breath. The death of Allison has barely been addressed so far, and Isaac disappeared with no mention of what happened to him. While the cursory reference to Jackson having moved to London when Colton Haynes left the show made me laugh, it’s odd to assume the audience will simply forget about Isaac. And while we’re at it, where the fuck is Danny? Doesn’t he know it’s a school night?