In the opening of tonight’s episode, a werewolf and the Kanima—the humanoid lizard thing that Jackson has been unknowingly turning into, the big ninny—are slugging it out while Daddy and Grandpa Argent converge on the scene. At one point, the werewolf throws a punch that fails to connect, and his fist casually passes through a brick wall. Yes, Russell “Razorback” Mulcahy is back in the director’s chair, freely bestowing those little spritzes of comic-book hyperbole that are known in the business as “the Mulcahy touch.” Happily, Mulcahy seems to have developed a sense of humor since the last time he was credited with an episode on this show. The fight leaps from excess to excess, but the real topper comes when everybody scatters and then, with monsters running willy-nilly all over the place, we see Michael Hogan, cool as a cucumber, standing stock still, looking as if he’s the school crossing guard for the greater Hellmouth area.
Having found the right pitch for this teen-angst monster show—absurdly high, but in a self-aware way—this episode manages to stay there for most of the hour. Ridiculous things keep happening, but they fit together well enough into a tonally consistent whole that nothing seems too ridiculous to take with a straight face. A scene in the principal’s office with Hogan playing human lie detector with Allison—he places his fingers on her neck to gauge her pulse while asking her questions, after they’ve had a pleasant exchange about the wisdom of Sun Tzu—is no more heightened, or unreal, than the in-your-face product placement for Pandora that appears in a scene with two kids making out together in a parked car. In my favorite scene, Allison comes home from a long night of smooching with her teen-wolf boyfriend out in the middle of scary nowhere to get a scare when she switches on the light and discovers that Lydia is sitting on her bed, waiting for her. Of course she is; it doesn’t pay to be alone for a minute on this show.
Allison mentions that she and her pals are trying to crack a passage in “archaic Latin” that will tell them something about the Kanima. Turns out Lydia can read archaic Latin: “I got bored with classical Latin.” “Just how smart are you?” asks Allison. The answer is, just as book-smart as she has to be to keep this sucker moving uphill, and just as dumb as she has to be in every other way to serve the same purpose by getting into trouble or failing to put two and two together. Lydia and Allison also have a good scene early on, when they’re in a car together but, sadly perhaps, not making out together. Allison urges Lydia, who was present for Jackson’s latest transformation, to not tell anyone what’s happening; Lydia promises that she won’t, and assures Allison that she’ll be really good at that, since she has no idea what’s happening.
Then Allison launches into an aria about the specialness of her love for Scott. She says she’s trying to connect with Lydia, by asking her to remember the last time she herself felt that way about a guy. Lydia, her eyes almost as wide as her lips, tells her that she can’t connect with her over this because she herself has never felt that way about a guy, which must be what every love-struck girl would most like to hear from any one-time holder of the “most popular girl in the school” title. Holland Roden plays this scene as if Lydia is in shock, though it’s just as likely that she’s simply being way Lydia. Roden’s face is the perfect representative image for this show at its most overripe, because everyone persists in acting as if it were just the face of a typical beautiful teenage girl, even though, with each new big scene, she inches closer and closer toward the realm of Claymation. She must have her head shots overseen by Aardman Studios.
Everything Teen Wolf wants to be snaps together nicely here in a suspense set piece set in a gay club, with Scott and Stiles, having observed the lizard shape-shifter slithering inside, settle in at the bar and wait to see what kind of hell is going to break loose. (“I’m 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone,” says Stiles when Scott gets fed up with his smart-ass remarks. “Sarcasm is my only defense.”) But even that’s not as welcome as the romantic scenes when Scott and Allison suddenly remember that they’re young, hot, and in love, and decide, for once, to do something about it. This sexy interlude is allowed to occupy a decent amount of screentime before it’s broken up by the discovery that Jackson has once again gone all reptilian and blown the coop. Is there a connection being made here? Is sexual energy part of the trigger for Jackson’s transformations? (And is that why he’s now spending as much time with his shirt off as the two male leads on True Blood combined?) Since it’s a waste whenever this show keeps its central love story on the shelf, and since he’s going to keep transforming either way, we can only hope.