“Shape Shifted” S2 / E2
- B Community Grade
The second episode of the new season of Teen Wolf, or the second half of the two-part season premiere, or whatever the hell this is supposed to be, gets off to a pretty good start. In an unusually slow, tense domestic scene, we are introduced to Isaac, the teenage gravedigger, and his father, who, it turns out, is clinically batshit. Having dragged the information out of Isaac that his grades are not all they could be, Dad says something about how he’ll have to punish the boy for this. Not that he relishes it, you understand, but whether he likes it or not, a parent has certain… responsibilities. (Mwhha-hah-hah-ha!!) Oh, it doesn’t have to be anything too severe; hell, there’s blood on the leather strap that hasn’t even dried yet, and as for that cage that he sometimes attaches to the lad’s torso, it’s been so overused that the rats inside have begun to lose their taste for human flesh. So maybe Isaac can just do the dishes and clean the kitchen. Phew, huh? And of course, it’ll have to be… spotless! Spotless! Spotless, do you hear? Naturally, at this point, Dad starts smashing the cups and plates on the floor. Hey, who are the real monsters in our society, can I get an "amen"? I was waiting for Dad to take a whiz on the table when Isaac decides that he can’t take it anymore and flees the house on a bicycle, with Dad following him in the car.
The showdown comes in a dark, rainswept alley, where Dad sees the abandoned bike lying on the ground and then, adjusting his glasses, thinks he sees something bent over and hairy and feral on the periphery. It’s a pretty good monster scene, hurt not at all by the fact that it’s hard to mind seeing Father Dearest get it, and I might have been tempted to write an angry letter if he’d survived. I might write one anyway, complaining that the scene cut away when he probably had several more minutes of good screaming left in him, but at least there’s a good effect at the end of the sequence, with Dad sealing himself up safely inside the car, just before we get to see the car door being torn off and casually flung away. Still, seeing this dude torn limb from limb in slow-motion, preferably to the accompaniment of one of those jangly pop ballads the show is always sticking onto the action, would have been a much better use of the half hour than some of what filled the time instead.
Derek, the self-appointed traffic manager of werewolf activity and Amway representative for the area, has his hands full, with a plethora of lycanthropic newbies threatening to make trouble. Like our hero, Scott, Isaac is a reluctant werewolf, who doesn’t want to hurt anyone and who, after a certain amount of teasing, of the audience, will almost certainly be revealed to have not hurt anyone. On the other end of the scale, there’s Jackson, the insufferable rich douchebag who badly wants to be a werewolf but who, sadly, probably isn’t one. (He suffers a crushing disappointment when he fails to transform after setting up a camera to record himself all night long. When this narcissistic jackass strips to his shorts and lies back atop his bed with the camera pointed at him, he looks as if he’s making a solo sex tape.)
There’s also some kind of reptilian creature slithering around after dark. This is probably Lydia, whose activities when she was alone in the woods for nine days are officially still a mystery. The monster is pretty gross-looking, which though it’s easier on the eyes than the scene when Lydia goes back to the school for the first time, and just as she’s assuring Allison that nobody will be treating her any different just because of her strange disappearance, we see half the student body frozen in space, staring right at her. It’s a joke, and once again, the director, Russell Mulcahy, really shouldn’t be messing with those. (There is a decent small joke when Scott and Stiles need to get sent to the principal’s office so they can eavesdrop on Jackson, so one of them bounces a balled-up sheet of paper off the back of the teacher’s head, and then they both rat each other out.)
In the end, Derek shows up in time to save the day by helping to disarm a would-be werewolf killer—a killer of werewolves, that is—turned loose by the Argents, and then jolts the raving, hairy-faced Isaac back into human form by snarling at him. “How did you do that?” asks Stiles. “I’m the Alpha,” says Derek, thus indicating that they’re going to keep the exact extent of his powers frustratingly vague, so they can extend as far as they need them to, in order to serve the plot. A similar mystery exists regarding the powers of the Argents, who abduct and rendition the school principal out of the vicinity and immediately replace him with Michael Hogan’s character. That’s pretty neat, but it would be good to know whether, if it served their purposes, they could just as easily have slipped him into the position previously occupied by the CEO of the local bank, the head of the fire station, the Employee of the Month at the nearest Arby’s.
At one point, while Hogan is lecturing his subordinates on the need to wipe out the blight that is the werewolf population, he chugs a fistful of pills, which may be a stealth plot point: Is he taking lycanthropy suppression medication, to conceal the fact that he himself is the thing he loathes? Maybe, or maybe the mind just wants to go there when the new anti-werewolf Savonarola in town used to play Colonel Tigh on Battlestar Galactica. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound likely that any of the bands whose music is used on this show could pull off a decent cover of “All Along The Watchtower” to save their lives.
- A sweet romantic touch: Allison getting into her car and blowing on her frosted-over window, whereupon her warm breath reveals a message from Scott, asking her to meet him that night. It’s a letdown that, when she shows up, all he wants to do is talk about her crazy family, instead of making out.
- Not so much of the running on all fours tonight, which is a good thing. Instead, there are too many well-lit close-ups of Scott in semi-transformation mode, so that we can confirm that his makeup still makes him look like Eddie Munster.
- There are lacrosse scenes in this episode, which means there are moments when the camera is pointed at the lacrosse coach, who even has some lines to deliver. I can’t believe that, two episodes into the second season, this dude is still around; in the first season, I assumed, on the basis of his performance, that he was trying to make sure it would be non-traumatic on the viewers when he finally got his head ripped off.