Teen Wolf is really not great when it comes to its season premieres or finales. Season four proved that case—strongly—and last night’s season premiere in this two-night event confirmed it. For all of Teen Wolf’s “big ideas,” the introduction and conclusion of said really ideas don’t work all that well. It’s typically within the season where you‘re able to look for and find the good, but it all kind of gets bungled when you think of it as a whole, with a beginning, middle, and end. The fact that the series has these problems beginning and ending—problems where the show appears to forget what it is—isn’t one to take lightly at all, but it is easier to think less about when it has a solid episode in between. Again, that’s what kept season four afloat before the knowledge that it was kind of a wash of a season. Teen Wolf isn’t necessarily a lost cause at this point (though that might be becoming less and less true), but for all the introduction of new characters and concepts this show done, it’s amazing it hasn’t mastered how to do that in the beginning yet.
“Parasomnia” is a much better episode than “Creatures Of The Night,” and honestly if not for those “little things” like the introduction of the Big Bad and Theo, the premiere would kind of be an unnecessary episode. Teen Wolf has come to believe that the way to catch everyone up with what’s happened in the hiatus is to start with things outside of the show’s comfort zone, but that’s clearly been backfiring. Sometimes the status quo is just that—the status quo—for good reason, and the setting of the first day of school (in addition to some quality Scott/Deaton time) here instantly changes the complexion of the season . It also helps that the horror opening for this episode is genuinely terrifying without given into baser urges to push the envelope like the premiere’s opening.
More importantly, there’s an urgency and action to this episode that was simply lacking the night before. The fuel for the episode is the combination of Stiles’ obsessive investigation of Theo and the waking nightmares new character Tracy’s (Kelsey Chow) experiences (which ties to the Big Bad, in an episode that better explains their motivation), and it turns out that is a powerful fuel.
Season five is being billed as the season that drives Stiles and Scott apart, and as Stiles’ fervor in the premiere proved, part of that stems from the fact the Stiles is deeply afraid of that separation in the first place. But “Parasomnia” also addresses one of the bigger problems the Stiles/Scott relationship has already sort of had to face: Scott is an optimist who trusts everyone, while Stiles is a pragmatist (though he can go about that in the most intense ways) who is wary of most. And you know what? Stiles is right more often than not (and Scott). He ends up being right about Theo too, and if nothing else, that leads to a twistedly horrifying scene of the new old kid in town—who, at the very least, wants to Single White Female Scott McCall—menacing his impostor family.
But the key to this whole episode is Tracy, a messed up girl who in just one episode of mental anguish inspires genuine interest in herself, her struggle, and even the gallery of Banes that make up this season’s Big Bad. The episode opening with her speaking to Mrs. Martin about her intense night terrors and sleep walking, only to be followed by her spewing out that black sludge from the premiere and a raven (also key in the premiere, probably because the opposite of a pack could be considered an unkindness) feather, is how you open a Teen Wolf episode. But the continued breakdown of her fragile character is how you make the audience care about and ache for someone they don’t even know.
As much as Teen Wolf has made waves with its male eye candy, that really is no substitute for genuine quality and characterization. I like male abs as much as the next person, but I’d trade them on this show for consistent characterization and, better yet, acting. For the majority of the episode, all we know about Tracy is that her name is Tracy, but what ever is happening to her isn’t fastfoward material. Not even when Teen Wolf continues to abuse the slow motion. And the final twist of her being the one torturing herself in her sleep and being a part of the gallery of Banes’ Frankensteinian experiments (turning her into a werewolf and who knows what else) gives this Big Bad a kick that wasn’t there in the premiere. Simply put, I like it.
On a less exciting note, Liam’s transition into Stiles 2.0 is still very jarring, especially as the reconnaissance mission on (and stalking of) Theo plays like a game of duelling Stiles. Obviously, it’s easy to explain away that joining a pack and making these friends has loosened him up, but it’s not as though Liam didn’t have friends last season, and at no point was he this hyper, for lack of a better word. That’s even keeping in mind that I would often call him Scrappy-Doo. He had Mason, and before they turned out to be assassins, he had the Orphans. There’s something interesting to be found if this is a David Silver-esque case of just being stoked to hang with the older, cooler kids, but on its own, it comes across as an odd example of an otherwise interesting character being molded for what ever the plot or scene requests.
But I can’t say I didn’t smile as he fell into a hole, which is probably the closest we’ll get to him falling down a well again. And it was okay to smile, because the episode remembered how to balance the humor with all the chaos, which makes it even harder to believe Jeff Davis wrote these first two episodes; they’re like night and day. That’s good in the case of this episode.
- Kira and Scott are getting hot and bothered—instead of studying for their AP Bio exam that is tomorrow—and Kira messes up a light bulb. Youths. Supernatural youths.
- By the way, I like that Scott isn’t just constantly saying he’s getting more serious about school and that he actually is. I’m rooting for Dr. McCall, which is why it stresses me out that he and Kira weren’t studying.
- Lydia and Parrish spent three weeks researching his “condition” and didn’t come across phoenix? I can’t possibly believe that. At this point, if the show calls him something other than a phoenix, that’s fine, but I can’t believe they never came across it with his symptoms.
- Sheriff’s no longer wearing his wedding ring, but I thought the change Stiles sensed was that his dad had been having sex. Baby steps.
- This episode introduced another new girl, Hayden (Victoria Moroles), and she led to the biggest awkward Liam moments of the episode. They have grade school beef. No thank you, we don’t need to make grade school memories the new “no one has money.”
- Oh hey, Mason knows Liam is a werewolf! Thanks, Theo, you crazy evolved (?) werewolf. We can talk about that more later.
- Fine, the gallery of Banes are apparently called “the Dread Doctors.” They look more like Dread Cybermen.