How hard can it be to assign letter grades to episodes of Teen Wolf? Harder than you’d think. Take tonight’s episode. It is almost consistently entertaining, at least in the sense that something’s always going on that holds your attention, and you can’t guess what the next something might be. Parts of it are thrilling, and parts of it are creepy, and some moments are actually frightening. Then there are some brief, mostly Stiles-related moments that seem intended to be funny, which range from the drab to the painful. There are also some moments that are very, very funny, but it should be conceded that they aren’t meant to be. I’m not the person to discount the value of unintentional comedy, given that I own two bootleg DVD copies of The Oscar, just in case the Beagle Boys break in and make off with one of them. It is a movie I love unconditionally, the way one might love a cat that has a tendency to overreach and try for jumps that it can’t stick, so that it ends up sliding off the table. But if I had to give The Oscar a letter grade, should it be an F, or an A minus with an explanation? I don’t even want to think about what I’d do if I had to grade the cat.
The prime comedy in this episode comes from the plight of Allison’s parents. Last week, her terrifying, dominatrix robot mother played with fire and got burned, or to be more specific, tried to kill her daughter’s werewolf boyfriend and got bitten. The Argents are keeping the news from Allison, but given their strong anti-werewolf views, they understand that Mom will have to snuff it before the coming of the full moon, lest she transform into what she herself most loathes. So Chris and Victoria spend her last day on Earth hanging around the house acting vaguely moony, while the uber-patriarch Gerard stands around glowering at them for making such a big deal out of what he sees as the natural order of things. Back in his day, wives who got bitten by werewolves would cook supper for the family, give their husbands a peck on the check, then walk to the highway and step in front of the first 18-wheeler that came barreling through, and that was that, no muss, no fuss. He tells Chris that his wife is already dead: “That thing over there is just a cocoon waiting to hatch.” It’s hard to imagine why it took them so long before asking him to come visit.
Then there’s Matt, whom Scott encouraged Allison to pretend to date so that Allison’s mother wouldn’t suspect that she and Scott were still an item, and how’s that working out? Presumably, Scott and Allison agreed to this master plan because they figured Matt was harmless. So after their big fake date, the high point of which came when Matt leaned in to try for a kiss and Allison practically beaned him with a skillet, Allison drives him home, and after he’s gotten out of the car, she notices that he somehow forgot his bigass bag. She could call out to him, but then she’d be missing her golden opportunity to dig inside it, find his camera, and start going through the photos he’s taken, so that she can see that he’s done several studies of her, Body Double style. While she’s staring at these voyeuristic photos and wondering if the lighting makes her thighs look fat, Matt reappears to ask for his stuff back and to assure her that… despite whatever you might think… he isn’t really… the least bit… creeeeeepy and stalkerish, heh heh heh. Allison, unconvinced, asks him how he can take pictures like this. “Telephoto lens,” says Matt, the boy with all the answers. “Photographers call them ‘candids.’”
Meanwhile, Derek has chained up his werewolves-in-training inside his abandoned subway car—even using a Bloodsucking Freaks-style forehead harness on Erica, explaining that she gets the honor of wearing it because she can handle pain better than the guys—so they don’t get dangerously frisky when the full moon hits. He ends up battling the whole slew of them when his chains prove inadequate to the task, and even he’s having a better evening than the luckless lost souls who show up at Lydia’s birthday party. The “social event of the season” is full of weirdoes and losers who Stiles, in what’s meant to be a charitable gesture, has pulled in to make up for the fact that nobody is coming, now that Lydia has gone from popularity queen to the town crazy. Before the crowd scene begins in earnest, there’s actually a nagging sadness, and eeriness to the early scenes of Lydia dragging her feet around the empty house, her head someplace else because of her inability to come to terms with the change in her social status.
Once the party does kick into gear, Lydia starts dispensing drinks that cause those who swig them to suffer hallucinations based on their deepest private fears. At least, that’s how I interpret the scenes of Scott seeing the reptile shapeshifter ravishing Allison, and of Allison being shot by an archer who turns out to be herself, who then taunts her for being weak and helpless and needing a man to rescue her, and what show has she been watching? The best and most disturbing moment actually comes when Stiles sees his father, who turns on him, calling him “the hyperactive little bastard who keeps ruining my life,” then adding “You killed your mother, and you are killing me.” For this scene—hell, maybe just for the awesome degree of sarcastic contempt with which he drags out the name “Stiiiiiles”—Linden Ashby takes him this week’s coveted Teen Wolf Most Valuable Player trophy.
- This Week’s Dialogue Exchange That Best Illustrates Stiles’ Essential Uselessness—Stiles: “Anyone who drank that crap is freaking out!” Scott: “I can see that.”