This episode is like one of those martial-arts movies that are structured to fit in and space out the big action set pieces that someone devised and choreographed before there was a story to go with them. (Yes, when I said “one of those martial-arts movies dot dot dot,” I was actually referring to all of them.) The exposition and other dramatic scenes are shoved into the spaces in between like foam peanuts, but that doesn’t mean that the big action set pieces aren’t worth waiting for. There’s a dilly of a balletic, lightning-fast duel between Deucalion and Tyler Posey’s stunt double, who keeps trying to snatch the blind alpha’s cane, even as he wields it as a weapon. (The Duke has promised Scott that if he can take the cane away from him, he will share some valuable information. Can Scott even spell “sucker bet”?)
I actually enjoyed that scene more than the huge, climactic number that everything is building to: Derek, with Isaac and Boyd on the sidelines, fighting the talon-toenailed Kali in a basement room flooded with water, with an electric cable stretched across the floor. (The juice has been turned off, but you know that, at some point, someone will turn it back on. When they do, it makes so little difference to the outcome that it raises the question of why anyone bothered.) While Derek and Kali are scrapping, the Alpha pack twins are holding onto the hot English teacher, threatening to rip her in half if Derek’s minions try anything funny. Although the hot English teacher was technically in damsel-in-distress mode when she and Derek met, I think this is the first time that a villain has counted on there being something between the two of them and put her in jeopardy for the specific purpose of gaining leverage over Derek. If I remember the rules of the Saturday matinee serial correctly, it counts as an important step in their relationship.
Because this is a TV series, and more specifically, because this is Teen Wolf, there aren’t just action scenes sunk into the episode like tent posts. There are also startling and vitally important revelations. For instance, when Dr. Deaton, the mystery vet, goes missing, Ms. Morrell shows up at the police station to report the disappearance, and almost in passing, happens to let it slip that she’s his sister. This episode was followed by the irregularly scheduled “chat with the cast” show Teen Wolf Revelations, which gave the actors a chance to plug their appearance at Comic-Con. I’ll admit to being grateful when the host, Jill Wagner, who played Kate in the first season, confirmed that Dr. Deaton and Ms. Morrell's sibling bond was news and I wasn’t supposed to know it already.
The big news comes at the end, and it’s plainly presented as a huge “Whoa!” moment, though I’m not sure what the full ramifications are meant to be. Scott finds Dr. Denton hanging by his wrists inside some kind of magical werewolf-proof circle in the abandoned bank vault and throws himself against the barrier again and again, to no avail. The doc is finally rescued by Stiles’ dad, but not before Scott, at the height of his futile heroism, hits some kind of adrenaline peak where his eyes grow bright red. Doc explains that once every hundred years, or once in a great while—you know, whenever—there comes along a “pure Alpha” who attains the highest level of werewolfery not by killing anyone, but “purely on the strength of character, by virtue, by sheer force of will.” This comes after a scene in which Scott and Allison hide together in her bedroom closet and he makes wisecracks about what their enforced close proximity is doing to his penis—Hashtag: “#SomethingCameUp”—so I guess that rules out strength of character. Virtue I don’t claim to be an expert on.
- The revelation that Scott is a pure Alpha reshuffles the deck; it now seems that it’s really him, not Derek, whom Deucalion has in his cross-hairs. This doesn’t prevent the bad guys from not only challenging Derek in that basement, but killing Boyd, who winds up impaled on Derek’s claws. He appears to be meant to be dead for real, which is a change of pace. The gang assembled for the post-game show were quite somber on the matter.
- That closet scene is the closest thing to a sitcom directed by David Lynch that I ever hope to see. (Yes, I do know that David Lynch actually made a sitcom, the short-lived and little-loved On The Air, in 1992. Thanks.) Interestingly, it’s the music, more than anything else, that really gives it that Blue Velvet/ Twin Peaks feeling.
- I know that nobody scans my byline looking for fashion tips, but I sure do approve of Holland Roden’s look here, especially in the scene with Stiles trying to tap into her weird, undefined occult powers. With her hair pulled back and her eyes and her mouth made up to look huge and round, she’s a Laurie Petrie for our times.
- Perhaps jealous of her look, Derek’s sister spends a fair amount of her screen time giving Lydia shit about her affair with whichever one of the twins isn’t gay. Lydia rises to the occasion, with the best line of the night: “Sweetheart, my last boyfriend was a homicidal lizard. I think I can handle a werewolf.”