The way Teen Wolf interprets a dark moon, it’s a time of reflection and grief. So before we begin, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past three seasons of Teen Wolf and to grieve the loss of characters, both from character deaths or actors leaving the show for greener pastures. It’s the cathartic moment we all need.
Now let’s make it official and call this fourth season of Teen Wolf a brand new series, completely separate from those first three seasons. We can even call it Teen Wolf: The Dark Moon; it can be the Scrubs: Med School version of Teen Wolf. (Scrubs: Med School wasn’t even as bad as everyone says, after all.)
Teen Wolf’s third season brought forth a few pretty major changes to series. The heroic death of Allison and the loss of Daniel Sharman to The Originals worked as a one-two punch in hurting the show in a greater way than Jackson’s departure ever did. In their wake, Kate Argent returned from the dead as a were-jaguar hellbent on whatever it is that ever motivates Kate Argent. Scott and Stiles found new love interests in Kira and Malia, while Lydia proceeded to have nothing to do besides be confused by her banshee powers. That last one wasn’t a change, but it’s still worth mentioning. Season three of Teen Wolf was the end of an era.
Now Teen Wolf is all about new characters and trips to Mexico that don’t end in overdoses in back alleys.
On a more positive note, the opening credits also reflect the changes. There’s a new color scheme and Mexican desert pattern in this version, as well as the inclusion of Shelley Hennig and Arden Cho as new regulars. Tyler Posey’s stance changes, and Dylan O’Brien has Stiles connecting strings of crazy as his new introduction, instead of the show CGI-ing hair onto his head as he walks in front of his Jeep. However, Tyler Hoechlin and Holland Roden’s character introductions in the credits remain the same, despite everything else about the credits being changed. It might feel like a little thing, but it really comes across like the show isn’t even trying anymore with these two. The episode only reflects that.
The biggest reason why Teen Wolf season four needs to be classified as a brand new series of its own is because, with the exception of there still being lycanthropes who are plagued by their youth, it’s simply a completely different show. MTV just had the same problem with Awkward., so there is cause for alarm. Optimism is certainly acceptable, but caution is simply practical.
For starters, there is no Beacon Hills in this episode, unless you count the briefest of flashbacks. The series doesn’t need to entirely take place in this small town, and episodes like “Motel California” prove that, but from the beginning of the episode, no case is to be made for why these characters are in Mexico. When Araya asks Stiles point blank why they’re risking their lives to save Derek Hale, of all people, Stiles replies with “‘Cause we don’t like to lose.” It’s a line that’s supposed to come across as indicative of these characters’ heroism, but instead, it’s just a reminder that these characters have no other reason to save Derek (other than the fact that Tyler Hoechlin somehow hasn’t left the show yet).
So from the jump, with these teenagers assuming the roles of hostage negotiators and practically throwing around $50,000 like it’s nothing, it really begins to set in that they’re not in Beacon Hills anymore. Not in the metaphorical sense either. There are no parents in this episode. There is no one of note to tell either side of this supposed hostage situation to calm down, especially when it comes the the blatant torture of teenagers. Ultimately and uncharacteristically for Teen Wolf, it is all for nothing. Araya knows who has Derek and only refuses to tell them because she wants a peek at Scott’s eyes.
Wouldn’t asking to see Scott’s eyes—and skipping the tasering and forcing Lydia to watch her murder a man—suffice?
Seriously, the majority of this episode is adults torturing youths simply because they’re not 100 percent sure that the lead youth is not a murder (and as we all know, he’s not). Teen Wolf has featured a lot of ridiculous things that require suspension of disbelief—see the majority of season three, especially the Yakuza bits—but to spend an entire episode of the show in Mexico, with someone who is technically a good guy mentally and physically torturing teenagers who are also technically on the same side as her, for no reason at all, is not a good start to the season. Neither is not hearing a peep from anyone’s parents (especially Scott’s mom) or hearing about the mysterious investor who provided these teenagers with $50,000. None of this is Teen Wolf.
A prevalent question in an episode of a show called Teen Wolf should not be “Where are all of the adults?” But after how last season ended in comparison to how this season has begun, someone over the age of 25 needs to be taking charge. The next (even more important) question is “Why is this so boring?” Even in its more basic season-one days, Teen Wolf always knew what it was doing when it came to its pacing. That’s one of the reasons the extended season orders have really worked for the show—it knows what to do and when to do it, and then it knows how to move on to the next plot.
The problem in “The Dark Moon,” however, is that even if the show knows what it’s about to do next, nothing about that matters to the episode as a whole, because as it currently stands, it’s all boring. The Teen Wolf pack are a group of heroes, and that’s been stated time and time again, but nothing about the search for Derek Hale (a character who should really be better at evading capture at this point anyway) is interesting. That’s why questions about the existence of parents and sources of money are brought into the picture; the meat of the plot just isn’t appetizing.
Also marking its territory as a completely new series independent from the first three seasons, “The Dark Moon” manages to throw in a bunch of exposition about the first season of the series to the newbies of the group and anyone who maybe decided to start watching now, perhaps due to Shelley Hennig’s Secret Circle following. Sadly, the exposition doesn’t do as well to display Kate Argent’s personality, but Lydia’s proclamations of Kate being a “sociopathic bitch” work for the CliffsNotes version of it all. Never mind that Lydia was too busy finding Papa Argent sexy and working through all of her Jackson relationship issues to even notice Kate’s sociopathic bitchiness at the time; history is written by the victors, after all.
As the new additions to the regular cast, Kira and Malia have varying levels of success in this episode. Kira really fit into Teen Wolf (what it was and what it started to become) last season, so to see her as a regular, even though she doesn’t have much to do in this episode, is rewarding on some level. It’s almost worth it for her nunchuk display in the bar. Promoting Malia to series-regular status feel premature, but if The Secret Circle taught us anything, it’s that Shelley Hennig can really make the best out of mediocre genre conditions (and that The Originals and The Vampire Diaries have never really known what to do with Phoebe Tonkin). “The Dark Moon” constantly pairs these two characters up, making it a bit like a face-off between old school Teen Wolf team (Scott, Stiles, and Lydia) and new school Teen Wolf team at times, but the possible friendship between the two is a stealth highlight of the episode.
Unfortunately, the not-so-stealth lowlight is the faux lesbian dance scene that really gets all the straight guys (inside of the episode) going. Teen Wolf has always pandered to its fandom when it comes to homoeroticism, but it’s never really been in the female-female form. Turnabout is fairplay, but this scene honestly comes across as lecherous, especially if that’s what the entire Kira/Malia friendship is going to be based on—the faintest possibility of them ever getting together (with more of a chance than Derek and Stiles ever getting together, yet still no chance).
Then again, it doesn’t really matter, because at this point, Malia’s character is essentially a retread of a much better one: Anya from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. At first, it looks like Teen Wolf is going with weak, human Stiles being unnecessarily worried about Malia getting hurt in a fight and wanting to help her, only to constantly fail because she’s a mystical creature and he is not. It ends with him just not wanting her to leave, but somewhere in between all of that is Stiles and Malia playing pre-“Hell’s Bells” Xander and Anya. Malia has no understanding of tact and how to be a real human girl, and Stiles constantly shames her for living “by the rules of the wild kingdom” and calls her out in front of everyone about how her behavior and reactions are wrong.
Malia (to Stiles): “I wouldn’t leave without you… I would never leave without you. Them, I would leave.”
The “them” in question are Kira and Lydia, and if none of this leads to Malia being money-obsessed, then what is any of this for other than for the “humor” of Stiles being ashamed of her?
Really, what is any of this for? One episode in, and there’s already a lack of direction in this season that really doesn’t bode well. As fun of a villain as Kate Argent could possibly be, what made her great in the first season was the absolute lack of effort on her part to think calmly or rationally. That will most likely only end up becoming frustrating as a whole unfolding season-long, were-jaguar situation, especially with chances of Papa Argent being front and center in this whole plot (as he should be, in Allison’s absence and Derek’s age regression) being very slim. Teen Wolf has changed, but not for the better. Hopefully it can find its way back home.
- It looks like we’re no longer doing regular coverage on Teen Wolf, so in a way, I’m glad I got to write about the show at least once. I was not expecting or hoping to write such a negative review coming in, and I really do hope the season doesn’t go the way of Awkward.’s latest season.
- Ian Bohen got credited for being in the episode solely because of those season-one flashbacks. That’s actually the stealth highlight of the episode.
- Tyler Hoechlin has been rumored to be leaving the series every season since the first one, but with the re-introduction of young Derek, now’s as good a time as any for normal Derek Hale to go and stay gone before this gets any more ridiculous.
- Braedan the motorcycle mercenary is back, and she’s lived to fight another day. At least some things never change.
- Oh, speaking of Malia, there’s absolutely no mention of her whole Peter Hale biodad situation. Seriously, where are all the parents?
- Stiles promises to never abandon his Jeep, which probably speaks to the character’s more obsessive tendencies and will probably suggest another mental breakdown this season. Or it was just a bit of fanservice.