Season four of Teen Wolf created plenty questions about where everything was going and why (and sometimes how), and sadly, those questions were either answered poorly or not at all. Sure, the cast and crew would answer (or try to answer) questions the viewers had in interviews or Wolf Watch or whatever third party sources cared to know the answers, but none of that actually translated into the material itself. You’ve probably grown tired of this acknowledgement, but that season had lofty goals that is simply did not live up to.
Season five appears to be another season with such lofty goals, and right now, it remains to be seen how that will all pan out. The framing device of Lydia in Eichen House in the season premiere—what is presumably the “end game” of the season or at least what a major part of it all is building up to—fell flat, instead highlighting the show’s use of the character as a constant punching bag. The bad guy in the episode—who we still know very, very little about—was a bomb. It made the introduction of the Big Bad of the season, the Dread Doctors (another piece of information known only because of third party explanation), much less terrifying (or even as interesting) than it possibly could have been unde different circumstances. Episode two did much to rectify those problems (working far better as an introduction to the season), and episode three, “Dreamcatchers,” continues that, though with slightly lesser success as an episode.
A big bit of good in “Dreamcatchers” comes from the fact that it’s an episode that actually makes the audience wonder why, in the sense of genuine intrigue. Why are the Dread Doctors choosing these people? And to what end? Taking the name Dread Doctors at face value, the reason why they’re coming for Tracy appears obvious. Her night terrors, manifested into a constant state of sleep and (obviously) terror, makes for her transformation into an amazingly intense killing machine. Last week’s introduction of Tracy was heartbreaking, and even Kira points out just how much of a shame this all is for the poor girl when she tells Lydia that “this is beyond depressing.” It’s Tracy’s weakness being turned into her “strength,” or at least something that is greatly manipulated for mass destruction.
On the flip side, a big bit of bad in “Dreamcatchers” comes from the fact that it’s an episode that actually makes the audience wonder why, in the sense of it potentially not making any sense. Why are the Dread Doctors choosing these people? And to what end? For all of the premiere’s failings with regards to the villain-of-the-week (whose introduction in a wall still remains to be explained), his goal being to kill Scott and take his abilities made plenty of sense. It’s basically the purpose of the entire series, and with Beacon Hills being a literal beacon for the supernatural, it’s strange that’s not more of an occurrence. But it appears to not be the Dread Doctors actual goal, as nothing right now appears to be their actual goal.
With Tracy, she ends up killing the people who have tried to help her, which does not include Scott. (Although, as the kanima’s masters, the Dread Doctors easily could have made Scott her target if they wanted him.) With Donovan, the criminal we’re supposed to believe is old enough to become a deputy and who is crazy enough to think constant public murder threats are alright, we’re not yet privy to what his task is. (Fine, it’s probably to kill Sheriff Stilinski, especially if you consider his rage to be his weakness.) But why? There’s the wait and see approach, especially as the season has just begun, but the introduction of characters who are “changing the rules” of the monster world with Frankensteinian abandon appears to already suffer from not having a reason for this changing of the rules. The slippery slope that season four created makes it difficult to give Teen Wolf the benefit of the doubt now, but even without that, there still currently feels like the idea of making something look cool takes priority over making something make sense. The fact that Scott is not the target after the first makeshift monster is the part that really makes this all questionable.
But outside of the Big Bad situation, “Dreamcatchers” is an episode that actually does pretty well to incorporate all of the main characters, which has definitely been one of Teen Wolf’s problems since the respective introductions of newer characters like Kira, Malia, and Liam. Everyone has a job to do this week, and that even includes Mason, who reacts with the appropriate amount of shock and awe (and “oh, this is kind of cool how every thing’s always in slow motion”) you imagine a 16-year-old boy would in such a dangerous situation, even after experiencing a Berserker or falling in a hole.
Scott and Stiles are actually even sent to the sidelines in order for the supporting ladies to take over, and it’s really one of the better choices Teen Wolf has made in recent memory. Kira, especially, is often short-shrifted when it comes to the fight scenes or even being a productive member of team, despite the fact that she’s supposed to be this powerful mythological creature that—as this episode reminds us all—no one even knows anything about. She has a sword belt (or a belt sword), flails the sword around a bit, and then gets knocked on her ass. That’s even expected in this episode, so it’s pleasantly surprising when Kira’s sword flailing leads to her going into full-on kitsune mode against the kanima Tracy and actually getting the upper hand.
Then there’s Malia, who ends up being the hero of the episode, for the most part. Again, Kira’s “this is beyond depressing” is the most resonant line of the episode, as it of course refers to Tracy (who really gets the short end of the stick in these two episodes), but it also applies greatly to Malia (particularly in the final scene of the episode). The reminder of the Desert Wolf (who Braeden is tracking, meaning that Braeden thankfully still exists) in this episode is also a reminder of Teen Wolf’s poorly-handled plot with regards to Malia’s family. Seriously, Teen Wolf has to knock the Desert Wolf stuff out of the park, because it did an abysmal job when it came to Peter Hale and the absolute lack of Mr. Tate last season.
Malia’s reaction to the death and destruction her mother leaves behind is what informs her final moments in the episode. As Stiles shows her the picture Braeden took, all Malia can let out is a “she must be good at her job,” and it’s not the typical fish out of water one-liner. In fact, it’s the only thing keeping her from thinking about what it means for her that her mother is what she is. This is the same episode where Malia’s go-to decision for what they should do with Tracy is ”kill her,” and it’s the same episode where Malia has the most focus of anyone to fight off the kanima’s venom. Malia beats Tracy in one-on-one combat and almost kills her, and she still ends up having the focus and control to pull back (having also woken up Tracy from her deep sleep) and following through on Scott’s request to “save her.”
Then the Doctors terminate Tracy, and everything Malia has done and proved up to this point ends up amounting to nothing.
Shelley Hennig plays how absolutely gutted Malia is in doing everything good and right, only to end up failing, perfectly, allowing the episode to end in a poignant way you don’t typically get when there are cyber doctors involved. It’s easy to forget how good Hennig can be outside the more humorous bits of the character, but even last season, she always played Malia’s more serious moments well, to the point where the humor actually made it all hurt more. Here, she’s all alone and that loneliness is felt completely in that moment, not just in the literal sense. The fact that Malia is the first one of the pack to see the Dread Doctors isn’t even the focus, because it’s not the important part right now. That’s what Teen Wolf needs to remember: characters first.
Strangely enough, “Dreamcatchers” ends up being the ladies’ night of Teen Wolf, and it’s so much better for it. As great as Scott and Stiles are, Malia, Kira, and Lydia needed this episode (and could stand to have a lot more episodes), especially after the season premiere. All of the obscure, convoluted monsters in the world can’t take away the fact that the show works best when it’s working for all (or at least most) of its characters.
- As for Liam, Mason, and Brett the giant wolf lacrosse player from last season, they’re digging up (I’m sorry) some clues of their own. There’s more than one hole around the woods, and the assumption is that people like Tracy were buried in those holes. The plot thickens.
- Younger characters on Teen Wolf falling into holes will always be funny to me.
- I’ve never found it fair to compare Mason to Danny, but I will say I appreciated how every other line out of Danny’s mouth (or simple reaction from him), was not a reminder that he was gay or that him being gay was the only thing he cared out. Sorry, Mason.
- The opening teaser of the episode, for the most part, is a competently shot thriller/horror scene once it gets to the transport van, but it’s also an example of Teen Wolf’s habit of sometimes making scenes go on much longer than they need to. By the time the Dread Doctors show up to drill into Donovan’s head, the scene’s already gone on way too long, making the anxiety created by the scene more about when the opening credits would finally start.
- Sheriff Stilinski’s date being with Lydia’s mom is actually the biggest shock of the episode and is sure to tear the fandom apart. Then again, it’s kind of funny how Peter Hale is the most action Melissa McCall has gotten in this series, and even then, it was barely any action and pre-V-neck enthusiasm.
- Knowing that Tracy was a kanima (a twist I did very much like) and Hayden’s wound healed (and she was not paralyzed), what exactly are we supposed to think about that? Disclaimer: I’m not interested in either her or Theo’s stories yet. “No New Friends” plays in my mind whenever I see these two, and it’s not just because Theo doesn’t understand no one has any obligation to someone they were friends with in the fourth grade.
- The Malia driving scene was supposed to be funny on some level and also relate to the infamous car accident on another, but really, it was all product placement (the scene is very much in service of that) that comes across as poorly-conceived. Also, it’s probably best not to learn how to drive (especially with Malia’s less human tendencies) at night.
- I realize they were in a police station, but I’m pretty sure Kira didn’t call 911 for Lydia. Come on, Kira, you were just a fricken fox. Think faster on your feet.