Teen Wolf: “Letharia Vulpira”
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Teen Wolf: “Letharia Vulpira”

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Teen Wolf

"Letharia Vulpira"

Season 3, Episode 19

One thing about Teen Wolf: Having seen the ending to the previous episode is no guarantee that you will be able to predict what the opening to the latest episode will look like. It’s not even a sure bet that you will easily recognize it as the same show. Last week, things built to a scene at the hospital, with Stiles in full “possessed” mode. Tonight, the curtain rises at the home of a gangster in Japan, who is upset about the condition of his pet wolf, who has been unusually lethargic these past 12 hours. He is awaiting the arrival of the doctor. “Why is it taking so long?” he asks his henchmen. One of them says that the doctor “comes highly recommended.” In a little riff that suggests what a Quentin Tarantino script for Community might sound like, the gangster waves his gat around while yelling, “Did I ask for a personal reference? I asked why it was taking so long! That is a question of time, not one of quality of service.”

Then the doors swing open, and in walks Doc Deaton, the mystery vet. (The gangster asks him, “Have you worked with wolves before?”) A little later in the show, when Kira is trying to explain the nature of the Nogitsune, the fox demon that has possessed Stiles, she says that, given the kind of malicious behavior it’s been engaging in, someone must have seriously offended it. Cut to Coach, glaring and seething into the camera as if he were going trick-or-treating as Michael Shannon. Just on the basis of these two scenes, this show had better have the Emmy Award for Best Editing sewn up, or else we burn the Nokia Theatre to the ground!

This episode does not lack for action—in context, Coach getting shot with an arrow barely counts as a plot point, though it’s worth seeing just for the way he delivers the line that most of us would come up with in that situation, “Oh, crap!” But it’s all so scattered that it doesn’t seem to add up to a lot. Doc Deaton has apparently gone all the way to Japan, drugged the gangster’s wolf, and then run the old “here, hold this jar that’s coated with the same paralytic agent I slipped your pet” gag on him, just so that he can get inside the man’s garden and snitch a bit of a lichen growing there, because it messes up foxes.

While he’s collecting his sample, the action cuts back to the hospital at Beacon Hills, where a power cable has been cut and is snaking all around the wet parking lot. Isaac being Isaac, he can think of nothing better to do than buffalo up into the thing and is promptly electrocuted. Teen Wolf being Teen Wolf, cars appear tearing into the lot, as if having one major character nearly killed while most of the other major characters are on the scene and in danger barely counts as sufficiently dramatic. Happily, Kira literally defuses the situation by grabbing hold of the cable and gently snuffing it with her hand. This annoys her mother, because she doesn’t want the whole town to know about Kira’s supernatural abilities, though practically the whole town is on the scene and hardly anyone even blinks. 

Isaac is taken into the hospital and laid out in a bed, and when Scott goes to visit him, he’s still unconscious and partly charbroiled; his healing powers don’t seem to be kicking in. This would seem to be indicative of something very important, but the scene has a built-in distracting element: Allison is with Scott, and when she sees the terrible shape Isaac is in, she grabs Scott’s hand and squeezes it tight. Demons, lycanthropes, magic, and a federal agent who marches into the office of a small-town West Coast sheriff and asks, “This might sound strange, but do you have any issues with yakuza?”—all these things are well and good. But grabbing your ex-boyfriend’s hand to shore yourself up because your current boyfriend is in the hospital is just weird.

The most exciting moments of last week’s episode came at the end, when Dylan O’Brien got to play sly and dangerous as the possessed Stiles, and that’s what provides the most exciting moments of this week’s episode, which also come at the end. Until he has Scott at his mercy and is playfully shish-kebabing him with a sword, Stiles has maintained that he may have been possessed earlier, but now he’s just become his lovable, harmless self again. Everyone believes him, which means that all those minutes of precious screen time devoted to explaining, repeatedly, that the Nogitsune is a “trickster” who loves to lie and mess with the minds of his prey were wasted on Scott and his fellow monster hunters—except for the Doc, who shows up in the nick of time to give Stiles a dose of lichen. I would say that it’s too bad that the Doc never gets much screen time himself, except that if he did, there might not be a show.

Stray observations:

  • In the most pointless “dramatic” exchange, Lydia goes to ask Uncle Peter for his help, gets leered at for her trouble, and then she and Allison clobber him and take their leave. This mainly serves as an inadvertent reminder that the show had once seemed to be setting Peter up to serve as this season’s Big Bad. It’s either forgotten about that entirely or is playing a long game. I have no problem with a long game, but if the idea is to have Peter become fearsome and dangerous again at some future point, it might be a better idea to keep him offscreen rather than bring him on just so that he can get beaten up by teenage girls.
  • Scott’s father is quizzing Stiles’ father about yakuza activity in his jurisdiction because “Silverfinger,” the retired gangster played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa a couple of weeks back, has apparently turned up dead. I was mighty sorry to hear it, since I had been hoping that Tagawa would get to have some more scenes and maybe figure in what’s sure to be a rip-snorting climax, but since we don’t actually see his body, maybe the show is playing a long game here, too.

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