After viewing the premiere back in June, it seemed like MTV’s Teen Wolf had plenty of bark but lacked bite, but after seeing the season finale, I have a feeling that statement was made under a personal bias against the supernatural beings genre as a whole, because frankly, the finale was down right awesome.
Part of my problem with media of this type – the CW, teen friendly, I-love-you-even-though-you’re-a-monstrous-killing-machine media – is that often times it lacks substance (I know, this coming from the dude with a hard on for Michael Bay). Usually it’s a cheesy, skin deep love story that revolves around a black hole of emotionless nothingness. There’s simply no reason to care about what happens to anyone. And in the first episode, Teen Wolf did have that problem. The very quickly forming romance between Scott and Allison was everything I can’t stand, and it just left a bad taste.
But what made Teen Wolf eventually work is that the show grew beyond that romance. It offered more relationships that didn’t even revolve around its main character.
- Scott and Stiles’s buddy-buddy relationship
- Scott and his mother
- Scott and Jackson
- Scott and Allison
- Scott and Derek
- Derek and his father uncle (Peter)
- The Hunters (Allison’s relatives) and the Werewolves
- Allison and her father (Chris)
- Chris and his sister (Kate)
- Allison and Kate
- Kate and Derek
- Stiles and Lydia
I could go on like this but I would run out of finger strength. The point I’m getting at is that Teen Wolf has a lot of meat on its bones, more than your average supernatural teen, CW-esque program.
Each of those (and the host of other that weren’t mentioned) relationships has its own arc. Take Derek and Peter for example. Throughout most of the season Peter is burned and confined to a wheel chair, and then when it’s revealed that Peter is the Alpha, Derek now has to make a choice of siding with his own blood, or fighting against it. It’s a classic tale, and shows how Teen Wolf isn’t looking to re-invent the wheel, but is still trying be more than its advertising makes it out to be.
What makes the finale so gratifying is that all of these arcs come together in one scene where Derek is facing down a now broken Peter with Scott begging for Derek to spare him (so that Scott can cure himself of the Lycan curse). Peter has now taken revenge on Kate for killing his entire family six years ago during the Hale Family Fire, and Scott’s true identity has been revealed to Allison and Chris. In one cut, the entire game changes when Derek kills Peter, assuming the role of pack Alpha. It simultaneously ends 80% of the series arcs, and sets up 80% more. It’s all about the meat, and there’s plenty to chew on in that scene, the entire finale, and the series.
It helps that the show never skimped on its production value either. Every fight scene was masterfully choreographed, even appeasing the Michael Bay fan within me. Nothing feels muddled, and everyone’s progress in any given fight is clear as day (even in the dead of night). When Scott fights Derek during the full moon, his blinding, primal rage is never lost, and doesn’t feel cheap even when Derek is kicking his ass.
The last thing that helps Teen Wolf is its self-awareness. None of these characters go in without the knowledge that there are mystical creatures called werewolves. Compare that to a very critically acclaimed show like The Walking Dead. Apparently, in that world, no one has ever heard of a zombie, and that is just ridiculous.
In the second episode of Teen Wolf, Stiles spends half the episode researching Lycans and what they’re capable of. This show expects the audience to come in with some knowledge and be able to figure shit out, which is definitely refreshing for a show of its type.
This also proves that MTV really does want to grow as a network. It’s a stone cold fact that Jersey Shore isn’t going to last forever, and that gang is only going to be in their twenties for a few more years before their behavior just becomes sad (as if it isn’t already). The safe haven is in scripted drama. MTV has made a real effort in the last year to join the golden age of television we’re currently in, and Teen Wolf is the culmination of everything they’ve learned thus far.
Make it fun, and they will come.
Pilots are hard, and half the time mean nothing to the overall arc and feel of a series. It’s clear this is one of those times. The pilot of Teen Wolf lacked the depth and focus that the rest of the series gained as season 1 progressed. It was a shocker, and allowed me, someone who has never had any interest in the supernatural, to get great enjoyment out of a series that sits firmly in that genre, teeth and all.
To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.
Correction: An earlier version of this post claimed that Peter was Derek’s father when, in fact, he is his uncle. We apologize for the error.