In this season, or in this latter half of its third season, the pressure has been on Teen Wolf to prove that it could play in the winter months—that it can stand alongside the big boys, the Walking Deads and the Girls, and work when the viewers haven’t spent the day sweating their brains out before collapsing in front of the TV for some relaxing, low-brain-activity summer fun. The show can take pride in the fact that it didn’t choke, though I think there have been times when it worked hard at Concept at the expense of thrills. It went all-out for the big finale, though.
While Argent and Isaac are still reeling from Allison’s death, Nogitsune-Stiles and his posse of demon ninjas attack on all fronts, bum-rushing the hospital, the sheriff’s office, and the animal clinic. Scott’s mother, Doc Deaton, Sheriff Stilinski, and—no!—Deputy Parrish sustain heavy damage. In the episode’s high point of stylistic flair, the Oni rampage down a hospital corridor in slow-motion, while the Mourning Ritual’s Leonard Cohen-esque interpretation of “Bad Moon Rising”—the one that was used in a recent Walking Dead season trailer—lumbers across the sidewalk like a lizard slowly skittering across sunbaked asphalt. One extra whose back is to the camera takes a sword to the midsection, where she’s wearing a blood bag that, judging from the crimson spray, could have kept Dracula fed for a week. The bad Stiles follows them, seeming to enjoy the show, with his tousled hair unfurling and with such huge discolored bags under his eyes that he seems likely to start singing “Friday, I’m In Love” at any moment.
The magical MacGuffins necessary to take down the monster include a box, made by wood taken from the Nemeton—you remember, the malignant and all-powerful tree stump that figured so heavily in the first half of this season, and which has continued to make cameo appearances in Stiles’ nightmares—that contains Talia Hale’s claws. Derek deputizes the formerly-Alpha twins to take the fight to Bad Stiles, giving them a version of the Saint Crispin’s Day speech that builds to the words, “You want to earn a place in [Scott’s] pack? You want redemption? Find another way to stand and fight.” You can tell that this was a turn of phrase that the writers were especially proud of, because the hashtag “#StandAndFight” appears in a lower corner of the screen. The fact that I will never get used to this instant translating of selected lines of dialogue into hashtags probably just proves that I am not this show’s ideal viewer. Still, I do prefer the line that gets hashtagged later in the episode, when Danny informs Ethan that he knows he’s a werewolf, and Ethan wonders how he could have figured it out. “Dude,” says Danny, “it’s Beacon Hills.”
While all the fighting and massacring are going on all over town, Scott, Stiles, Lydia, and Kira go to the high school, walk through a door and enter—well, the Nogitsune says that they’re in a place “between life and death,” but it looks as if they’re in the last scene of Kill Bill: Volume 1. It’s a lovely Japanese garden covered in snow, and with Kira and the Oni facing off with swords, it’s hard not to think of Lucy Liu standing there, looking very unprotected from the elements in her kimono and with the top of her head sliced off, perhaps thinking that it might not be the worst thing in the world if she could return to series television.
The Nogitsune is there too, in his Fluke-Mummy form, moving about in a torso-twisted walk and talking a blue streak, in a Bane voice. He tells the assembled guests that he’d outflanked them at every point on the board and now means to “win the game” by inducing Stiles to commit seppeku. Just when things look hopeless, Scott thinks to play the oldest card in the deck—the old “This isn’t really happening, it’s just a trick, so we can get slaughtered and still be alive at the end of the scene” gag. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a perennial if it didn’t usually work, though just once, I’d kind of like to see the hero announce that there’s nothing the bad guy can really do to him so long as he remembers that this is all an illusion, and then end up with his head mounted on the villain’s wall.
In this case, refusing to accept that the blows the villain has administered are “real” saves everyone who’s been carved up, including Scott’s mother, who has been taking advantage of appearing near death to call her ex-husband 18 kinds of asshole. Considering how few opportunities the show gives her to assert herself, her scenes may be the most stirring high points of the episode. (I especially liked her telling Dad, who’s about to sneak out of town with his tail between his legs, because Scott refused to accept his apology, “He’s a teenage boy. He doesn’t care about apologies. He wants you to do better! And he probably wants you to suffer a little.”)
The late-blooming bromance of Derek and Argent is consummated when Argent appears and fires silver-headed arrows at the Oni, saving Derek from having his ass handed to him one more humiliating time. Oh, and Aiden achieves that redemption he wanted by dying tragically, with so much dark fake blood on his chin that he looks as if he fell asleep in the hot sun with a Milky Way bar sticking out of his mouth. The wounds he sustained in battle with the Oni proved insufficiently imaginary for him to survive them, which is what he gets for being the kind of guy who sits on his hands when Peter Pan implores the audience to clap to show that they do believe in fairies.
It’s a little surprising how much that’s been hinted at since before the midseason break is still up in the air, such as Peter’s potential emergence as the next Big Bad; the cliffhanger at the end of tonight’s episode brings back another villain from the show’s past, so he might have to take another number and get back in line. And unrequited, or half-requited, hookups are still all over the place—though in the case of Scott and Kira, that may be because the show, and the characters, feel the need to pay proper respects to Allison’s memory before anyone can move on. (There’s a strange moment at the end when Stiles expresses wonderment that “We’re all alive.” The line seems meant to give Scott a chance to tear up, but it doesn’t ring true, given that just a few scenes earlier, Stiles had been ragging on himself for being to blame for Allison’s death.)
In the meantime, the finale left some high points and nice moments to hang onto, along with the loose ends. Not the least of these was the scene with the Oni attacking the cops in the police station, with the camera panning away from the battle to show a sheet of paper pinned to the wall: A drawing of an Oni, in its MF Doom headgear, with the word “WANTED” printed at the top. The fact that I honestly couldn’t tell whether this was supposed to be a joke didn’t make it any less funny.
- Also funny, but probably not intended as a joke: Argent returning to his house after giving Scott instructions on how to cover up the nature of his daughter’s death, and telling Isaac that he appreciates him following him home, but he doesn’t have to worry about him, he’ll be all right, when it’s Isaac whom a regular viewer would expect to be on the verge of falling apart. Sure enough, that’s just what he does. I wouldn’t want JR Bourne to disappear from the show that he no longer has a daughter to keep an eye on, and has lost his thirst for killing werewolves. On the other hand, I’m not really turned on by the prospect of seeing him take Isaac under his wing.
- If you haven’t already checked out Carrie Raisler’s overview of the past half-season, be sure and do so. It rocks!