If Teen Wolf has an auteur, creator and head writer Jeff Davis has to split the honor with Russell Mulcahy, who has directed about half of each season. Davis’ writing calls for a high-pitched, semi-hallucinatory style of filmmaking, a tone that’s hormonal and unapologetically hyperbolic. For good or bad, that’s been what Mulcahy had been reaching for since the days when he was making horror movies about Dr. “Gonzo” Gates from Trapper John, M.D. battling giant wild pigs. Few professional directors have devoted so much time to calculating how to go ten miles over the top and come down right on your mark. Tonight’s episode was directed by Tim Andrews, who has directed more of the series than anyone except Mulcahy. He’s had a lot of practice at aping Mulcahy’s style. But he’s not the master himself, and he’s been entrusted with a script that goes from one big dramatic moment to another, building to a couple of titanic-scaled revelations. It’s conceived as one big multiple climax of an episode, and the results will be especially appealing to those who get a big kick out of unintentional self-parody.
Don’t get me wrong: Parts of it are pretty funny on purpose. In the opening scenes, a sheriff’s deputy is butchered on school grounds, in the dead of night, by the dark druid. When the Scott and Stiles and the usual suspects arrive on the scene, summoned by Lydia, Stiles is miffed to learn that she hasn’t actually found a dead body; that mysterious force guiding her just told her there’d be one waiting. “You’re supposed to call us after you find the dead body,” Stiles sniffs. “I’m not doing that again,” says Lydia. “You find the dead body.” (Doodly-doodly-doodly, Scott finds the dead body.) Stiles’ dad is miffed to see that the victim is “one of our own”; like any TV cop, he can summon up a fatalistic shrug when the apocalypse rolls through his son’s school every couple of months, but when somebody kills a cop, it’s go time. Stiles proves himself to be his father’s boy when he fumbles for a way to make the latest murder all about him, and comes up with this beaut: “How many times had she helped me with my math homework while I waited at the station for you?” Set it to music and sell it to Hallmark, Stiles!
Later, Cora reads the riot act to the Scooby gang, telling them that they ought to spend less time focused on finding dead bodies and be more committed to seeing to it that innocent people aren’t killed in the first place. This is her big dramatic moment of the night, and it is one of many. Cora has already attacked one of the alpha brothers and gotten konked in the head with a barbell for her trouble, but it’s Allison who’s acting as if she has brain damage; she decides that her father must be the murderer, an implausible leap that mainly serves to help set up a scene in which Dad gets to make an entrance out of a John Woo movie, striding manfully toward the camera while firing guns with both hands and cross-crossing his arms; all that’s missing are doves flapping around him in slow motion. The alpha twin who isn’t gay warns the one who is to not get emotionally attached to Danny, though he himself can’t resist Lydia’s charms, what with him not being gay and all. Somewhere in the middle of all this, with dead bodies and exposition piling up like cordwood, Stiles suddenly decides it’s vitally important that his father be made to believe in the supernatural. This story thread, which is a non-starter from the word go, devolves into a Smothers Brothers routine when Stiles turns all pouty and whines that his mom woulda believed in werewolves if he’d told her they were real!
The biggest revelations, and also the biggest unintentional laughs, center around Lydia and Jennifer, the hot English teacher who is revealed to be—ta-da!—the dark druid serial murderer, and I will freely confess that I did not see that coming. The episode starts to spin off the tracks when Lydia, who is more than usually preoccupied by the question of just what the hell she is, walks into an empty classroom, sees what looks like a Spirograph design on the blackboard, draws a “2” on it, and then screams right into the camera. Apparently this is the universe’s way of telling her that the teacher who was at the blackboard minutes before has come to a harsh and sinister fate. Later, Jennifer, who looks like Rawhead Rex’s sister when her hot-druid-teacher energy is running low, ties Lydia to a chair and coos at her menacingly while the cameraman fixates on their eff-me footwear.
Just when Jennifer is about to kill Lydia so she cannot interfere with her evil plan, which involves staging a nighttime concert at the school where an orchestra is honoring the dead students’ memory by performing what sounds like the score of The Omen, Lydia unleashes a trilling scream so loud that everyone in the vicinity can hear it, thus proving that she is in fact—Black Canary? No, Jennifer explains, she is “the weeping woman, a banshee!” I didn’t see that coming either, though I probably would have if I’d rewatched all of True Blood and tried to figure out what supernatural species weren’t already taken. There’s never a dull moment in this episode, but sometimes, I’d gladly swap a non-dull moment for a sane one.
- The price of having so much going on seems to be that Scott has practically nothing to do, besides get his ass kicked a time or two and investigate the possibility that Ms. Morrell may be the dark druid. He investigates this possibility by walking into her office, pulling up a chair, and asking if she’s the dark druid. She gives him the smile of a woman who has a soft spot for idiots, then tells him that, no, she’s not, and to prove it, instructs him to use his wolf-hearing to confirm that her heartbeat remains steady and regular. I’m glad the writers didn’t have the nerve to try that “Yeah, but that might just prove what a good liar!” shit again a second time.
- For all the mad sprawl of action and characters tonight, there’s no sign of Dr. Deaton, Uncle Peter, Gerard Argent, or the Duke. They are missed.