Control and money. Money and control. In between the Aztec mythology, the Wendigos, and the rage blackouts, that’s what this fourth season of Teen Wolf is all about. In fact, combined, they make up another focal point of the season: power. The Benefactor—whoever that may be—has all the power because he or she has the money and control of the situation. Being a big strong werewolf isn’t going to change any of this. Unless you proclaim at the end of the episode that no one else is going to do. Then it will.
“Orphaned” is a strange episode. While it’s nowhere near the level of mediocrity of the first couple of episodes of the season, it’s also not on par with the highlights. It’s as if the episode itself reaches for the brass ring, only to miss at the last second. The C+ isn’t so much an indictment of the episode as it is a statement of the middle-of-the-road nature of the episode. There are bits and pieces that work, but ultimately, it’s a lot more hollow than good Teen Wolf tends to be—instead of frustration, there’s emptiness.
It’s a more serious episode, with less humor than usual, but the stakes that are supposedly raised don’t really feel like they’re helping the season ascend to a higher level. Meredith’s suicide (assuming that it’s not staged) is eclipsed by both Lydia’s behavior toward her for two weeks in a row and the fact that Meredith has always been more of a plot device than character. The potential of the Argent sibling face-off was already squandered by the world’s most insensitive (but still, pretty funny) text message, so its presence in this episode is barely a blip on the radar. The new dynamic of Malia/Derek is more in service of the Derek Hale Farewell Tour than anything. The “teenage” assassins are disposed of all too quickly, much like The Mute. Liam literally gets stuck in a well.
Honestly, if ever there was a reason to call Liam the Scrappy-Doo of Teen Wolf, him ending up stuck in a well is No. 1 with a bullet, with his rage issues being a very close second. The episode gives Liam something to do other than be angry, but again, he also spends “Orphaned” stuck in a well. The triumph of Liam climbing up the well (and almost making it all the way, twice) would be more emotionally satisfying if it didn’t end up being another reminder that Liam is most likely supposed to be the next Scott.
In his character introduction, Liam was depicted as the perfect high-school kid, put together and always one step ahead. With every passing episode, he’s less and less put together, even with the aid of alpha Scott. While the character could possibly carry an even newer version of Teen Wolf, he is no Scott McCall. And after touching on just how dangerous Liam could end up being in last week’s review, “Orphaned” makes it clear that the writers don’t necessarily see the character that way; too much is being invested in the hero upside, even if he’s not there yet. Right now he may be powerless, but the show wants the audience to care about his hero arc. But being stuck in a well isn’t going to help that matter.
Outside of the literal well, “Orphaned” brings back the heavier focus on the financial well that the adult characters have found themselves in, this time bringing up a moral dilemma for Scott and Stiles: whether or not to use the blood money Garrett and Violet left behind. While it would be a moral compromise for the show’s heroes to keep the money (or possibly to even return it to Peter), as far as “tough choices” go, this is the type that needs to be made. On the surface, it’s an easy choice because of the dire financial straits their families are in. But this really is blood money after all, since it is the price of killing at least a dozen people on the dead pool. It’s almost an easy out, Scott finding the money when his family needs it the most, but the chances of any repercussions coming from him and Stiles using it for their families’ bills—outside of an upset Peter, who they can take down in their sleep at this point—are slim. But Scott McCall is a much better person than me.
Despite the hollow feeling of the episode, there’s no reason not to believe that this is just a temporary hiccup in the season’s current run. Again, the episode is not bad—it’s just there.
- Jill Wagner is phenomenal, and in a perfect world, Kate would never leave our screens ever again. This perfect world also features a Kate/Peter spin-off that lasts at least five seasons. Leather jackets and V-necks for all.
- “Oh no, that’s right. You don’t have any parents. That’s why they call you the orphans.” Wow, Mr. McCall. Wow.
- What are the chances that Scott simply has no idea what a cassette is? It would explain his reaction.
- Derek’s name being the third password is stop No. 7 (No. 6 is the forest excursion with Malia) on the Derek Hale Farewell Tour, no?
- Malia had two very Anya-like moments in the episode: leaving the classroom and stating, matter-of-factly, that she has no problem simply running for her life to get away from Beacon Hill’s insanity. Good girl.
- No Kira in this episode, and to be honest, her present wasn’t as missed as I’d expect it to be. If she were here, she’d probably end up in the well.