After “Type 4,” “The Pack” is comparatively disappointing. There are a few aspects of tonight’s episode that are conceptually a little too easy, even if the show’s sense of humor and the cast’s typically exceptional and more than comfortable bonhomie makes it easy to adopt a wait-and-see policy. Nevertheless, the way Mitchell and Annie’s romance hits a brick wall, an inevitable scenario that had to hit some turbulence before the season’s “wolf-shaped” finale, is a bit of a letdown (Side note: is there a reason that they keep rubbing this line in viewers’ faces beyond the fact that the final episode is called “Wolf-Shaped Bullet?” Because if not, yumpin’ yiminy, they have got to quit regurgitating that catchphrase in the “Previously On” segment). The way that that story begins to get complicated in “The Pack” is understandable but just a little too neat. That having been said, “The Pack” is a largely enjoyable but mostly unremarkable episode.
In the wake of “Type 4,” both couples are looking to take their relationships to the next level. The secretive nature of that progression is nicely sent up in one scene where the two couples come together in the living room and try to hide the fact that they’re respectively trying out new sex maneuvers and figuring out how a werewolf pregnancy would work. A scene like this is where the show’s over-arching narrative frame, which I think of as a Three’s Company meets The Monster Squad kind of thing, really pays off. The common area of their home is the place where the show’s interweaving stories most often come together to great comedic effect, as when Annie tells George that she and Mitchell are trying out ventriloquism to hide the fact that they were testing out different ways of getting each other off (the sex list scene is so good and a welcome reminder of how talented a comedienne Lenora Chrichlow can be: “I can’t read my own writing...”).
But that scene in the living room also reminds us that season three largely gravitates around Mitchell’s impending death, making a large part of the episode necessarily all about him. For example, Annie is the one that has to try so to get Mitchell excited while he just sits back incredulously and lets her do her thing. This makes sense given what winds up happening when he finally does get excited, which is probably symptomatic of the limitations of any romantic subplot featuring a vampire lover. But still, it’s frustrating to see episode writer John Jackson unambitiously make Annie, the fairly innocent non-vampire half of their relationship, try so hard to please him unreservedly. Jackson has her make light of the fact that all of her previous boyfriends were more than a little scuzzy and/or dangerous so it makes sense that doesn’t but doesn’t make watching her dive blindly into this role of the willfully naive, subservient girl that should know better but doesn’t any easier to watch. As mentioned earlier, a wait and see policy is probably warranted but for now, it’s a cliched and frustrating power dynamic.
Mitchell’s story in “The Pack” felt generally a little rushed, which is largely due to the way that Jackson tries to establish a wobbly kind of continuity with the events and characters from both “Lia” and “Adam’s Family.” Bear with me a moment, because this plot line takes a little unpacking.
MacNair, the werewolf that’s abducted and used as a pit fighter in “Lia,” and his son Thomas, are back and so are Emma and Richard, the snobby, older vampire couple that almost adopted Adam in “Adam’s Family.” MacNair returns because George and Nina seek him out to try to find out what they can expect for their were-pregnancy. Which puts MacNair, one of the more attractive of the show’s episode du jour supporting characters, all up in Mitchell’s face seeing as how his experience in “Lia” permanently tainted the way he looks at vampires. This in turn puts Mitchell on edge and brings out the darker, more conniving side of his character, the side that I much prefer to the perpetually fretful and freshly chastened Mitchell of season three. He encourages George and Emma, who apparently have ties with the pit-fighting group from “Lia,” to abduct MacNair. His one condition is that they stay away from Thomas, Nina and George.
The more you think about Mitchell’s offer, the less sense it makes. Why would Emma and George want to help Mitchell given that A) he’s pissed off the Old Vampires by now by not disappearing from the UK for a bit and B) they know he’s friends with George and Nina, who ruined their plans for raising Adam. Both factors contribute to the episode’s chaotic and uninspired melee climax, which is especially cluttered considering that it posits that Emma and Richard, elitists that they are, are now organizing the pit fights. (Spoiler) This is all just a very round-about way of getting us to check MacNair off the list of werewolves that might want to kill Mitchell later. But I’m hoping MacNair comes back because Robson Green does a much better job of projecting an air of “I’ve seen it all before” than Aidan Turner does. It’s a bit disappointing to growl something as cheesy as, “We may be square but someday, somebody’s going to get you. Bang.” But nevertheless, Green makes it work, which is further proof of the show’s knack for picking just the right character actors to suit any given episode’s needs.
Not much to report when it comes to Nina and George’s story, unfortunately. The way that they question Thomas and MacNair to find out if Thomas was actually born a werewolf or not didn’t effectively bring the story back to Nina and George as much as it could have. But again, that just signals how “The Pack” is a transitional episode, one that will hopefully be the bridge from the exceptional “Type 4” to next week. “The Pack” doesn’t take too many risks and hence doesn’t gain a lot of ground in terms of developing the characters’ relationships but it’s more than adequate as a bridge narrative.