“This is a rebuilding season, people!”
On the plus side, this is easily the best episode of Teen Wolf’s season so far. On the minus side, if you’re tired of reading about how much this season of Teen Wolf is a completely different show from the first three seasons, you’re probably dreading the rest of this review.
Rest assured that the comparisons between past and present won’t actually control the entire review, but having manic Coach Finstock yell about how this current (lacrosse) season is a building one only helps confirm the theory that, if nothing else, Teen Wolf season four is starting essentially from scratch. It’s difficult to argue against at least that when a good portion of the previouslies for this week’s episode are from the series’ first season—as though the audience who is watching the fourth season of an established serialized supernatural teen drama are just hopping in now.
But that assumption is actually what works about the episode: It’s more of a back-to-basics take on the season than the two introductory episodes were. In fact, the title, “Muted,” describes the episode in a way. It’s not a showboating episode like the past two; it’s more of a quiet episode, concentrating on the smaller aspects of the show before really expanding them to that larger-than-life level. “The Dark Moon” and “117” went for epic, yet unearned, stories early on this season, instead of focusing on the aftermath and fallout of last season’s storylines. “Muted,” however, slows it all down to remind us what makes the Teen Wolf pack compelling characters and—more importantly—heroes.
Remembering the first word in the series’ title, Scott and company actually spend a good chunk of the episode dealing with their lives outside the context of the supernatural world. Kira has to deal with her parents’ plan to move the family back to New York, Malia continues to struggle in school despite her efforts, Scott and Stiles have no job security as far as the lacrosse team goes, and Scott and Kira also don’t know how to define their relationship. Lydia, as usual, gets roped into the case of the week with her banshee powers taking the wheel, but that creates an interesting (and potentially illegal) dynamic in her interactions with Deputy Parrish. But as far as the gang is concerned for most of the episode, the adults in their lives can handle the case of the week, because it’s supposedly a real homicide, not a supernatural one.
I am of two minds in regards to newly introduced Mute and his relationship to the greater story this season. On the one hand, The Mute is one of the more genuinely terrifying monster characters on the show, perhaps since the beginnings of the Kanima arc in season two—especially because of his assassin role being more grounded in reality. (While the Stiles/Nogitsune arc worked because of Dylan O’Brien’s terrific acting, the majority of that was hindered by the convoluted nature of the storyline.) The opening sequence with The Mute and Sean (who is a highlight of the episode in his own right) plays upon a suspense of the truly unknown without any presumptions about what either character could be. Sean’s transition from victim and survivor to monster himself makes for an interesting turn in the episode and brings real intrigue to the season for the first time, other than in ways that are just the questioning of plot holes.
On the other hand, if The Mute is downloading supernatural computer code into his body, or if he is The Benefactor, then he (and the wendigo introduction) has been sucked into the boring part of the season. Derek and Braedan are adamant that The Mute is connected to Kate, and while their brooding flirtation (or flirtatious brooding, depending on which character you think is the alpha here) does its best to slip that connection in there, it could be frustrating if everything—especially this refreshing introduction—goes back to the established plots of Aztec mythology (somehow mixed with Norse Berserkers) and bearer bonds (thankfully mixed with Peter Hale’s patented v-necks). It’s not like Wendigos are native to Central America, after all.
“Muted” also brings up the obvious, in a good way: In a show all about shirtless male specimens (and also some supernatural stuff), it’s completely understandable that the main characters would feel threatened by newer, younger models. Liam (Man Of Steel’s Dylan Sprayberry) is so good at lacrosse that Scott and Stiles—who are still terrible at the sport, even with the former having lycanthrophic advantages and the latter having Dylan O’Brien’s arms—would naturally assume he’s a were-creature of some sort before they ever even think that maybe he’s genuinely good (or even before asking him where he’s getting his juice). Teenagers get jealous, petty, and competitive, so watching Scott and Stiles do so in “Muted” is simultaneously amusing while frustrating (also like a teenager). Scott not using any of his wolf-given ability to play lacrosse says a lot about his character, but so does his eventual “choice” to turn Liam.
Would the Scott we’ve watched for seasons, knowing that this kid he barely knows is going to plummet to his possible death, really bite him to save his life? Or would he attempt to go for a Plan B? Having Scott feel an immense amount of guilt over the injury that his and Stiles’ assumptions (which really make an ass out of just them) about Liam eventually cause adds to what Scott’s ultimate decision is, but there’s still a question of whether or not Scott would instantly go with that decision or if it’s out of character.
Scott’s decision-making has been a minor subject of all of these reviews so far, including his decisions to go to Mexico and also lie to young Derek, but the fact that these questions are coming from these episodes is actually a positive about season four. These are the tough questions a leader should be faced with, and to compare the Scott McCall of season one to the Scott McCall of now, these questions would never really be asked for the former, who is simpler than the current version has any opportunity to ever be again. If there’s one real strength of season four, it’s being able to ask these types of questions about the established characters without coming to the conclusion that they’re out of character. There are arguments to be made on both sides, and it’s the discussion that keeps things interesting even if the episodes themselves are not.
- Another discussion to be had: Scott texts Chris Argent about the Kate situation. It’s so very much Scott-like but also so very much frustrating that this is how Chris would find out.
- I never got a chance to really say it with the last two episodes, but Shelley Hennig on Teen Wolf was and continues to be an excellent casting choice. Malia may still (or always) be Anya Jr., but she’s also got what made Anya such a likable character—humor and heart.
- Speaking of Malia’s heart, her explanation of her highlighter system is heartbreaking. Can someone please hire her multiple tutors?
- Lacrosse is back, but Danny is not. That’s what separates the B episodes from the B+ episodes. Well, that and the fact that this episode also has trouble maintaining its balancing act of dueling tones; though it is to a lesser extent than the first two episodes.
- Todd Williams (aka The Vampire Diaries’ Hot Hunter Connor) being Liam’s stepdad is a throwaway twist for now, but the biggest part of that whole reveal is the fact that it means he wasn’t hitting on Melissa McCall early in the episode.
- Teen Wolf decided to cast a real life teenager in the role of Liam, as Dylan Sprayberry is 16 years old. That’s strange, right?
- Less strange is Stiles getting homicide alerts sent to his phone. He really needs a lot more therapy.
- As far as television depictions of the wendigo go, for the short bit of what we see, Sean at least is better than Charmed’s werewolf-like version. However, he came across as closer to Supernatural’s versions of either the rougarou or the vampire, so it will be interesting to see how Teen Wolf puts its spin on this once it goes into info dump mode.
- It’s probably safe to assume that Kira joining the lacrosse team is what keeps her family in Beacon Hills, even though Mrs. Yukimura brings up the great question about why they would even stay in that terrible town. I’m not sure how high school life was for the rest of you, but my family moved around a lot growing up, and me joining a sports team (and potentially being the star) would never have had any effect on that.