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Teen Wolf: “Frayed” 

B-

Teen Wolf

“Frayed” 

Season 3, Episode 5
B-

Teen Wolf

“Frayed” 

Season 3, Episode 5

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Tonight’s episode begins with Scott and Stiles packed into a school bus, headed for a cross-country meet. Both are in characteristic form: Stiles is twitchy and anxious and busy noticing things to wonder and worry about, the better to burn off what brain cells he has left; Scott is demonstrating his heroic stoicism by listening to him and also by insisting that the jagged, gaping black hole in his torso is no big deal. His healing power will kick in soon, probably around the time Stiles is shooing the flies away from his face so he can set pennies on his eyes. It’s just taking longer than usual, because he got messed up by an alpha. It’s not even the most important thing on his mind. “I can’t believe he’s dead,” he mutters. “I can’t believe that Derek’s dead.” If this was any other show, I’d think that I’d slept for a week and missed something.

A lot of things that are probably important happen in this episode, but this is Teen Wolf’s fling at Tarantino-style shattered-time-sequence storytelling. It begins in media res and then starts flashing backward and forward and sideways, so that it counts as a major feat of self-restraint that the editing doesn’t cut from one person who’s engaged in one conversation to someone who’s in a totally different conversation saying something that sort of fits, as in an old Alan Moore comic, or a new Venture Bros. episode. I don’t want to discourage innovative narrative techniques, but Teen Wolf may be the last show I’d have suggested for this kind of juicing up. It often has an “I think I might have skipped a page” quality even when it’s trying to be completely straightforward and easy to parse. Maybe this is a tribute to its headlong pace. Maybe, whether it’s intentional or not, it serves the hallucinatory, waking-dream quality that the show often shoots for. All I know for sure is that the show and I had a breakthrough in our relationship when I decided that, so long as I found most of the scenes in a given episode to be entertaining, I no longer minded much whether they seemed to be in the right order.

At the center of the episode is a big fight scene with all lycanthropic hands on deck, plus Allison, doing her Katniss act. It’s not the best-staged action scene in the show’s history, and everyone involved seems to have agreed to take a voluntary I.Q. cut just to get it going. First, Scott and Isaac have to go meet Deucalion, without guessing that Derek will follow them; then, all three of them will have to have failed to expect that Deucalion, who hasn’t started a fair fight since he was introduced, will have his full gang waiting in the wings. It all builds to a Sophie’s Choice number, with Derek being presented with a cruel, impossible choice—which he doesn’t have to make in the end, though it would have been more dramatic than what happens instead. At the end of the hour, it’s revealed that Derek isn’t really dead, which is a relief, especially since they’ve finally gotten the opening credits sequence just right. The most baffling thing about the whole episode is why, given his past history, anyone would have presumed that Derek was dead. The real point of this seems to be to show that Scott really does have the potential to step in and fill the void in the pack leadership—he orders Isaac, who’s whaling on one of the twins, to stop, and Isaac obeys. The writers just couldn’t find a plausible way to get Derek out of the picture and provide the chance for that moment. Maybe they thought that non-sequential storytelling would make it less obvious that the moment isn’t honestly arrived at.

The best thing about this episode is that it features the first sexy scene between Scott and Allison since the season began. It begins Allison and Scott taking turns listing all the reasons that they each think he or she could take the other in physical combat, and you get a good taste of everything that’s pleasing about their romance when she tells him that she’s smarter than he is, and he doesn’t disagree. Elsewhere, the scenes between them are dragged down by more heavy-handed, over-explicit writing, including a scene in which Allison has to vanquish the nagging voice of her dead mother in her head before she can successfully thread a needle and tend to Scott’s wounds; then, there’s a flashback to her father telling her that he doesn’t want her getting mixed up in Scott’s business again: “There’s a name for these kind of situations, the kind you have to navigate carefully. It’s called ‘threading the needle.’” The good news is that, by the end, the two of them are reconciled and once again committed to playing Fred and Daphne together. Maybe, for the second half of this season, we can have a little more kiss kiss with our bang bang.

Stray observations:

  • Due to technical difficulties that may or may not have something to do with the placement of my head inside my posterior, there’s been a problem with the listing of the episode titles on the reviews this past season. This has been corrected; thanks to everyone who brought it to our attention.
  • The perfect Coach line: “I might throw up on you just to make a point!” Actually, that might be too perfect, since it’s sort of how I feel every time Coach delivers a line.

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