Okay, so! We are three episodes into the season now, which means that the time for fun and games is ::officially over:: okay? Like, so officially that Gerard Argent's brutally Machiavellian big "newbie Hunter lesson" to the letter described the festering root cause of the bullshit violence in Charlottesville this past weekend: "The best way to build an army is through fear."
And, like, okay, we've seen humans be the biggest evil and worst monster on Teen Wolf before (4x09)…
Previous seasons toyed with this idea—pitting Kate's human hunter against Peter's crazed alpha in season 1; Matt & Grandpa Argent's human vendettas against the kanima's voracious need for companionship in season 2; awkward human teacher against her worst monster-druid self in season 3A—but this season has just brought the hammer down on the idea that humans, when pushed even the tiniest bit, might not have the capacity and willingness to be far more monstrous than any of the "classic" monsters embodied by our core pack. We do. To things that threaten our sense of normalcy or safety or belonging, whether reasonably or not. For love. For hate. For money. For fear. For a 117 million reasons—and none of them that we are textbook werewolves or lizard monsters or banshees or even malicious trickster fox gods. We are human, and that can be monstrous enough. We don't even have to look at history to prove it; we just have to look to the suburbs of St. Louis, or the border of Ukraine, or the mountains of Iraq.
My point is, we don't just write and read and watch monster stories to be entertained (or ogle endless abs and grief beards, in the case of TEEN WOLF). I mean, we obviously do it for those reasons, too. But we, as humans, come back to these stories because we know we live among the abstractly/facelessly/too-vastly monstrous, and putting a concrete face and name to that horror is Step One in confronting it. A tiny step, a baby step. But something. And the skill with which the TEEN WOLF writers have shone the villain light so brightly on humanity this season—brightly enough to better outline the villainy of humanity in previous seasons—is just one of the myriad reasons* I love the show.
…but after that Peter's Magical Hit List season ended and the evil took a more typically monstrous turn, I guess I had let myself tuck the evils of humanity so firmly in the past that I hadn't been prepared to be smacked anew with just how good the Teen Wolf team is at subverting this element and expectation of the monster genre. Which, fucking duh. That's how being human works. But just because any truly horrific thing has fallen into the past, that doesn't mean that all's good, we're done, everything's daisies and bunnies now, so why won't you just leave your prejudices in the past, don't ALL lives matter, can't you choose a less violent way of standing up for your "rights," we're all equal now, and anyway there WAS violence on both sides…
That's not how humanity works. That's not how any of this works.
Please enroll in this BHS history class if you need a reminder of what was wrong and democratically threatening about the events in Charlottesville/the "Presidential" "response" to them
Anyway, I'll get to actually talking teens and wolves and Tyler Posey's directorial debut in a second, I promise. But first, here is a harrowing, critically important 25-minute front-lines documentary about Charlottesville from VICE (embedded with the white supremacists) that will make you weep and rage and which I hope that at least I, if not all of you, can talk willfully ignorant acquaintances into watching, and here is a sober, illuminating, really introspective podcast series on interrogating whiteness as a historical and social construct, and as a modern identity, which I hope equally that everybody in the country could be enjoined to listen to with an open heart.
I hope I'm preaching to the choir with all of my FYA Teen Wolf fans here, but now is an acute opportunity (one of too many recently) to share resources, and to draw on what our favorite stories reflect most from our world. We make and consume monster stories because we have the monstrous in us, and we redeem those monsters not just on narrative whim, but to spark the hope that we can, IRL, redeem ourselves. So while this weekend drained my soul, and the deaths in this week's TW episode set a soul-draining tone for the rest of the season, I know that Teen Wolf at least will resolve on hope—and I plan to take that hope right back out into the real world and do the work to make it real, too.
THIS WEEK'S WOLF PACK PUPPY
Normally this is one of my favorite gentle joke categories, but AHAHAHHAHA it's the final season, Gerard is hunting our pack, and Brett and Lori, the sweet, natural-born wolves who have managed to stay out of Scott's AND Derek's AND the Argents' mess all these years, they were mowed down in cold, calculating blood.
Kiddos, you deserved better.
BEST REACTION TO SOMETHING SUPERNATURALLY RIDICULOUS
Corey (a supernatural), in the chemistry classroom, with the pushing of the perpetual motion beads (reacting)(in boredom) to Lydia (also a supernatural)(Every reaction to the supernatural is officially scary as f*ck now, so roll with me as I think outside the box.)
My dude!!! I have never seen a more believable teenager on the Music Television Network.
WEEKLY REMINDER THAT BEACON HILLS IS ON A HELLMOUTH
"It's a dead body, right?" "Mostly." "Mostly?"
Hi please kill me and then store my dead body in any morgue but this one
I truly can't imagine working in the Beacon Hills Hospital, let alone the Beacon Hills morgue. What a genuine, actual nightmare. However…this nightmare did lead to Chris and Melissa finally landing in the same room as one another, after apparently both being too chicken to call the other after their wild Wild Hunt smooch sesh, so DE-SP-ITE the fact that the skinless body triggers terror and is not actually a biological body at all and COOL COOL THAT'S FINE TOTALLY COOL, they are probably spending the night together, so, that's a kind of win!
REIGNING PRESIDENT OF THE SCOTT MCCALL FAN CLUB
I don't NOT buy that these two will be good together, but also it feels like there must have been things that happened over the three months of summer that we didn't get to see that might make this otherwise lovely and nuanced interaction mean a bit more.
BEST PRODUCT PLACEMENT
Well, OFFICIALLY it was Mason's ultrasmart iPhone, so amazing it can translate Chinese numbers from a single snap more easily than Lydia's brain can translate numbers into every language and symbology BUT numbers. But then I watched the After After Show (always a baffling, uncomfortable, glorious joy, even though I rarely remember to queue it up), and was reminded that this week's episode ALSO featured the prime product placement of LIAM'S VERTICAL LEAP.
Whyyyyyyyyy is this show so darkly lit, ugh
Also, and because this will fit nowhere else, this is a still from the start of what proved to be the last ~*~solid minute~*~ of the After After Show:
Those balloons are tied to a bundle of cotton spit swabs of the Season 4 cast. I…have no other information for you. Man am I going to miss the sheer baffling weirdness of this show's entire brand when it's all over.
PREVIOUSLY ON TEEN WOLF
Scott, Lydia and Malia realized something SUPER BAD came back from the Wild Hunt with Stiles and so have collectively put off their post-high school plans to investigate/protect Beacon Hills. They have not called Stiles, who is, they are convinced, joyously living a non-supernatural life off at his FBI internship in Virginia (narrator: he's not). The guidance counselor at Beacon Hills High—no, not Lydia's willfully ignorant mom, she's the principal—no, not Deacon's voluntarily Alpha Pack-supporting druidic sister, Marin, she is maybe dead?—but the one who replaced both of them, SHE'S a freelancing newbie Hunter. And she trapped and wounded Brett, and then was adopted by a wild Gerard Argent after the second time Brett got the jump on her. Great! Cool! The worst person this show has ever starred! So glad to have his hateful human supremacist ass back in town!!!! Oh, also Liam, Mason and Corey found a skinless, faceless body dead ("dead") on the floor of the locker room showers, surrounded by a shed BHS lacrosse uniform, and despite hours of frantically checking in on every one of their team members before stumbling on the one actively ignoring their calls, sitting alone in a dark classroom at night waiting for the next day's history test on fear baiting, they did not put one and one together. It's probably fine!!!
Scary Movie MCMXVII
Brett Talbot, alone and poisoned and pierced through the chest by an effing arrow, is racing through the woods, still healthy enough to be mostly faster than Tamora and Gerard, but not to beat them to the edge of the Preserve. He realizes the arrow is poisoned and, stopping, tries to yank it out of chest from the front, but he's too weak. And so he does the next best and most obvious (and baller) thing: he rams the butt end of it into the massive tree he's hiding behind and pushes it through his body. Then footsteps sound in the woods nearby, so, despite putting himself through all that trauma, he has no choice but to set off again running.
Meanwhile, Liam and Mason are playing videogames! And I really want to poke more fun at the chill evening they are having while Brett is out in the forest, dying, but the reason that Mason is over at Liam's at all is that, in a plot/episode title point that really isn't followed through with at all this week, so expect it to come back again, he is suffering legit daymare "after images" of the skinless body they found in the locker room showers, and is finding it hard to be alone.
This is fine everything is fine
This is super scary! But also the fact that they don't make any mention of the weird connection to their teammate, Aaron, is a frustratingly loose thread! Still, we know by now not to take plot (holes) seriously, so I guess just roll with it.
Hunting the Hunters
In a shot that gruesomely foreshadows the episode's final minutes, Lori is nearly run over by Stiles' Jeep as Scott starts to back it down his driveway. She was just at BHS looking for Brett, and found his car abandoned with that jagged half of a lacrosse stick Tamora stabbed him with laying bloody nearby. Scott has a lot of faith in Brett's proven ability to keep himself safe, so doesn't immediately leap into action at Lori's fears, but she is unwavering: she knows her brother's blood, and she knows he is in trouble. And Scott does not back away from trouble, so off on a rescue mission the whole crew goes!
Crew #1 is Mason, Corey and Lydia, who gather in one of the chemistry classrooms at the high school—where the entire student body is having another late night library study session—to use one of the bunsen burners to try and trigger one of Lydia's premonitions and find Brett that way. It is a slow process, not least because Corey and Mason ::will not shut up:: as they sit across the workbench waiting impatiently for Lydia's Banshee powers to work. Eventually, and despite #Morey's best efforts, the do kick in, and Tyler Posey, director, employs loopy, looping cinematography to show Lydia spinning into her trance state. What she comes up with? A whole dang page of scribbles that all amount to the number 68 (except, of course, the actual number 68 in traditional arabic digits).
68 WHAT, that's the million dollar question, and while Lydia takes to the halls to retrace the steps she took the first time she fell into the spiderweb vision, Mason and Corey decamp to the library to discuss further/study.
I include this not because it is a uniquely interesting or descriptive gif of Lydia this episode, but because as far as I can tell, it is the *only* gif of Lydia this episode. For all she is a self-made BAMF Banshee, genius and independent woman, tumblr's obsession with ships mean that any episodes that both lack Stiles AND include any other highly "shippable" moment will result in no Lydia gifs and ALL other-ship gifs (this week: Scalia in the tunnels). NOT A GOOD LOOK, TUMBLR.
Up in the lofted stacks, that squirrelly, unblinking lacrosse teammate, Nolan, starts awake from a nap, and immediately walks to the balcony railing to stare down at Mason and Corey, who are talking quietly and literally do nothing suspicious at all. "I've seen it, too," a voice says from Nolan's shoulder, and surprise!!!! it is Aaron, or rather, "Aaron," who immediately sets to pushing every one of Nolan's fear buttons in relation to Corey's historic strangeness.
He suggests that Nolan could easily PROVE his suspicions one way or the other, if only he committed to it, and that's it, that's the push Nolan needed: he brings his books down to Mason and Corey's table, tosses them down, starts a very tense dialogue with the boys about organism evolution (caught in a series of super claustrophobic off-center solo close-up shots of each kid in turn), then BAM—stabs Corey in the back of his hand with a pen.
Blood geysers, Corey jumps back and grabs his hand, and all totally normal late night library activity comes to a deafening halt. As Corey's hand is revealed, moments later, to be completely unharmed, Nolan is loudly vindicated, and no alternative facts Mason and Corey muster can undo the public damage Nolan's outburst has wrought.
Racing to escape the library, Nolan bumps into Lydia, at which point she sees that his lacrosse jersey is #68. She stops him to demand information on Brett, still thinking that's what her forced premonition was about, but her cryptic intensity only serves to prove to Nolan that she's "one of them, too." And now Lydia understands what her spiderweb premoniton about people turning on each other actually meant: not the pack turning on themselves, but the un-powered, endangered human population of Beacon Hills finally turning on the pack.
Crew #2 is Scott, Malia, Liam and Lori, who follow Brett's tracks to the woods, losing it at the precise spot Tamora and Gerard realized he was trying to misdirect them. "Don't think like a teenager," Gerard had told Tamora, "think like an animal." And where do animals go to hide? Underground.
Scott et al don't have the prejudicial intensity to make that logical leap, but they do have Lori, and Lori and Brett both had Satomi's "always hide" forest training, and so are able to notice the very, VERY obvious bloody cairn like two feet away which Brett built to show Lori where he went—which was, of course, the tunnels. The fucking tunnels! Wall 'em all up, my Beacon Hills dudes and ladies and sheriffs—they are just no good at all.
Despite getting this far in their search, the foursome is not working successfully as a cohesive unit. Liam is still working through a lot of capital-F Feelings about needing to take up the mantle of leadership once Scott leaves, and so keeps jumping to rash decisions (very Season 1/2/3/whatever season Scott bit then panicked and kidnapped him of him tbh), while Malia keeps snapping down.
Lori, not having ever been a working member of the pack, has no loyalty to any of their styles and no skin in maintaining a specific dynamic apart from anyone except Brett, and thus makes clear once they are down in the tunnels and arguing about whether or not the silence that came back after Liam's roar to alert Brett to their presence that she will be pressing forward as recklessly as needs be as long as she knows her brother is still out there and alive. This, of course, sends her racing straight into a Hunter's trip wire, which sends a spiked and poisoned bolt straight into Scott's gut, which puts the foursome right back into disagreement about next steps. They know, by now, that it is two Hunters they are tailing, and that one of them is more experienced than they anticipated, and so Scott urges caution. But Lori is still ready to be reckless, and Liam is still caught up by Scott's "we protect our own" hero's idiocy, and so Malia and Scott stop arguing.
Hunters are the white supremacists of the supernatural world so EFF THEM UP LIAM EFF THEM UP HARD
Scott wants Malia to go with them and help keep them safe, but she can't bring herself to leave his side. He's not healing like he should, which worries her. It also worries him, but less for his own sake than for the realization that this trap had been set long before that night, and by someone who knew how to do a specific kind of non-lethal damage. And who knows both those tunnels and how to set up such traps? Gerard fucking Argent. COOL. Well, at least now they know!
A thing they also know: that something is blossoming between them that is more than pack friendship, which Scott's delirium and Malia's panic at not being able to take his pain bring to light as they are ostensibly bickering over whether or not they were wrong "not to tell Stiles." "I think he would be okay with it," Scott tries to reassure her, "and with us." And then he passes out, which is very inconvenient for Malia as she does not actually know what they are talking about (her emotional acuity is still pretty nascent).
But that irritation turns to success, as she finally is able to take his pain! He wakes, they smile at each other, and then they are off to track down Liam and Lori.
Who…have found a nearly-dead Brett, but gotten themselves trapped by Gerard's meticulous planning. Smoke and light bombs go off in the tunnel to their back, and so Liam sends Lori and Brett while he stays behind to take on whatever appears through the haze. Only, no one appears, at which point Liam immediately realizes means he's made a huge mistake. He races back down the tunnel Lori and Brett took, but even though they safely made it to a ladder up to the streets of the city, he's too late: the moment they climb into freedom, a waiting SUV rams them head-on. Realizing what has happened, Liam wolfs out and leaps vertically out of the manhole to try to help them, but, again, he is just too damn late. Brett is dead, Lori dies trying to take his pain, and the remaining townspeople who aren't suspiciously eyeing Corey at the high school are suddenly all around the intersection, staring at Liam's full wolfishness.
And there is Gerard and Tamora, off in the bushes, glorying in the army of fear they have just put on the gameboard.
Okay, now that we've got that grimness over, have some Tylers!
That's sure a lot of facial hair choices happening there.
The hunt is on, and Chris and Gerard come face to face.