Last week, Teen Wolf premiered as a new show, Teen Wolf: The Dark Moon. This new Teen Wolf is the obvious successor to the series’ third season, which introduced a greater emphasis on larger-than-life, mythology-driven arcs. Making Beacon Hills a literal beacon for mystical creatures (a Hellmouth, if you will) changed the rules of the show’s universe to the point where “mountain lion” could never again be used as a decent excuse for any of the town’s strange occurrences.
Framing the third season finale as the last chapter in a book, “The Dark Moon” would be considered the first chapter in the book’s sequel. There’s the necessary reacclimation to the world and acceptance of the changes that come along with it. So far, the book is a weak read in comparison to the previous installment, but it’s not the change itself that is bad: It’s merely the execution as it currently stands. From that first chapter alone, the book is simply not off to a good start.
With all of this in mind, “117” comes across as a step in the right direction for the story. It’s no masterpiece, and it’s not going to bring back the first two seasons of Teen Wolf, but it does a lot to really build the new world of the series, for better or worse.
For anyone worried about the young Derek storyline, it comes and goes quickly in these first two episodes of the season. It probably won’t be remembered as Teen Wolf goes on, because’s it’s not so much a storyline as it is a catalyst. It ends up being a means to push the reset button on Derek, giving him the golden yellow eyes of a newborn werewolf. Just like that, his human kill is off the table, and he’s an innocent beta. After all these years of brooding and internal torment, Derek Hale gets a do over.
More importantly, all of this is the result of an elaborate plan to steal a souvenir from a gift shop and $117 million in bearer bonds from a secret vault underneath Beacon Hills High School.
Financial loss being the driving force of any plot on Teen Wolf—or any supernatural show, to be honest—is reason for pause. It’s one thing for there to be a mystical object that can possibly prevent the ill effects of the full moon (and for that to be complete nonsense), but it really is another for Jeff Davis and company to ask the audience to care about Peter Hale’s $117 million worth of bearer bonds being stolen right from under his nose. It’s absurd, but not in that amusing Teen Wolf way. It’s honestly more frustrating than it is amusing. Those clamoring for Peter Hale stories weren’t asking for this.
Less frustrating is the episode giving Kate more to do than stand around menacingly for a moment of screentime. As expected, the creepiness of Kate reverting Derek back to the age he was when she first met him is addressed. It’s actually creepier here, with an even older Kate than before.
However, Kate Argent’s villainy has never been really rooted in her inappropriate relationship with Derek Hale. That was more a delayed reveal that truly cemented her as the bad guy in the first season, but it was never her defining trait. It’s always been her cool sociopathy and wildcard nature that make her who she is. The Kate in “117” still has that to an extent, but there are clear breaks in the character due to her affliction. Kate’s lack of control in the episode is both frightening (the gas-station scene) and troubling (every scene after), but fascinating throughout. It’s understandable why Teen Wolf would bring Jill Wagner back—outside of after-show-hosting duties and hallucinatory appearances—so hopefully she’s not squandered. Season four as the rise and fall of Kate Argent could be absolutely amazing.
The rest of what works for the episode are the very little things. Being back in Beacon Hills truly does make the show feel more like itself. Malia regularly coming into Stiles’ room in the middle of the night is understated, yet understandable given the PTSD she must be suffering from. Kira and Lydia, who spend the majority of the episode together, could make for a pretty great friendship. Sheriff Stilinski’s fear that time travel may be in play is absolutely amazing. Scott’s insistence that the truth is better in the long run is great, especially since telling characters the truth has only helped in the past.
The problem is that these very little things are still attached to much bigger problems. Stiles continues to have problems with Malia not being a “real girl.” Kira and Lydia’s friendship in this episode only serves to remind the audience that Scott and Kira really like each other, while also making it glaringly obvious that none of these characters are reacting to the things that happened to them literally 24 hours ago. At this point, time travel is absolutely not outside of the realm of possibilities for Teen Wolf. Scott only considers telling the truth to young Derek (and ultimately decides against it for no other reason than for Kate to swoop in), when he should be considering actually telling his now present father the truth.
Breaking it down in cliché form: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Teen Wolf won’t be rebuilt in two episodes. In fact, this first half of the fourth season might all be about rebuilding. The pieces are obviously being put into place, but right now, they’re still all jumbled. Who is Kate’s partner (or benefactor)? If Aztec mythology is the key to this season, then where do the Norse Berserkers come into the picture? When is anyone going to take a moment to truly process what is going on in their lives? Who are Kira and Malia anymore outside of their love interests and awkward personalities? How long is it going to be before Chris and Kate have their twisted brother-sister reunion? None of these questions need to be answered now, but there needs to be a sense of them ever being addressed. That’s what’s really missing—the sense of direction and that the show knows where it’s going.
- For the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing Teen Wolf on a trial basis. Thank you to all of you who commented, shared, and stomped your feet until this happened—especially if you disagreed with my grade for the episode. Hopefully we can keep this up (both the reviews and the episodes getting better).
- Is it possible that the show’s fight scene budget has been decreased? After seeing the club fight from “The Dark Moon” and every fight (besides Derek and the Beserkers) from this episode, it looks like an emphasis is being taken off of Teen Wolf’s typically intense fight scenes.
- The episode also puts an emphasis on the difficulty of controlling one’s were-powers that hasn’t really factored into the series since the first season. Even season two’s new werewolves had more control, and they had Derek “The Second Worst Coach Ever” Hale as their teacher. The First Worst Coach Ever is, of course, Coach Finstock.
- The flashback to young Derek in the beginning of the episode is great if only for two things: a) It includes a teen wolf on the basketball team, only without the racial implications of the ’80s version, and b) the basketball team getting hyped is reminiscent of season one’s bizarrely wonderful (or wonderfully bizarre) “State! State! State!” moment.
- How long has it been since the end of the first season in this show’s timeline? As fascinating as Kate’s situation is, how realistic (in terms of this show’s universe) is it that Kate can’t control herself during the full moon yet?
- It would keep her away from the gang more, but Malia should probably be home schooled for a bit.
- “Basically Satan in a v-neck” is the best description ever for Peter Hale.