As a television viewer I like to think I'm easy to please. All I need from m'programs are: (1) characters I continue to care about after the credits roll; (2) stories I think about long after they end; and (3) images I've never seen before and may never see again. Oh, and beautiful people. BECAUSE YOLO. (Except, honestly, that's optional. #breakingbad) I don't think these things are too much to ask from a television show. They are just the basics! So why do most shows seem to fall short? As easy to please as I think I am, it turns out I'm rarely pleased? If we're being real, a lot of television can be a chore to watch, and that's why I've become so loud/obnoxious in praising a little show called Teen Wolf. This thing is an absolute pleasure to behold. And in this just-concluded Season 2 it went from a solid show to an amazing one.
Guys, imagining the next nine months WITHOUT Teen Wolf is almost too much to bear. So let's instead celebrate all the things that made Season 2 so terrific.
Here are the 18 things I liked best:
Villains tend to bring out the best in heroes, so for this season we were going to need some really good villains to make our already-great heroes step up their games. That's why we got THREE threats! First up, Gerard Argent (Michael Hogan), angry father to deceased zealot Kate Argent:
It was no big surprise when we found out he was up to no good. What was surprising was how sad and understandable his intentions were. He simply wanted to be turned into a werewolf to help reverse his inoperable cancer. In my opinion, he probably could've made that happen in a much easier fashion than manipulating most of the citizens of Beacon Hill and also taking control of a mythological murder machine, but that's just me. You know? He could've just been like, "Hey, werewolf who's trying to build a pack of powerful allies, please bite me?" I guess he had too much pride or something. Anyway, I like when villain's plans are as ludicrous or flawed as Gerard's were; aren't they always?
Also, Gerard's "death" was pretty great:
The primary villain for the first ten episodes, however, was Sufjan Stevens lookalike Matt the photographer (Stephen Lunsford):
Usually on a TV show whenever a new character starts horning on beloved characters' dramas (think Nikki and Paolo on Lost) they feel like such an intruder. In the case of Matt, that was basically the point! He was onto Scott pretty quickly and spent much of the season infiltrating the gang via Jackson. That's like psychological stalking!
His backstory and motives were about as laughable and-over-the-top as Gerard's were: After a near drowning as a child, Matt had hate in his heart for the older swim team that failed to help him. Obviously these people had to die.
Luckily for Matt, the town's newly bitten supernatural creature was basically a revenge artist for hire. Again, I never necessarily agreed with Matt that the severity of the incident was worth a multiple-murder, but sometimes it's the insanity that makes villains scary.
Which brings us to the Kanima:
As a villain, the Kanima was genius for a couple of reasons: Its reptilian persona was a wonderful (and surprising!) contrast to the hirsute lycanthropes of the show's title. No really: Just when it was likely that a supernatural teen drama might only have ONE creature, Season 2 immediately shirked that notion with one slimy murderer. Even though the Kanima was part of the werewolf ecosystem (in addition to, I don't know, Greek folklore?), just the idea that non-werewolf creatures exist in this world was a pretty big thrill to me. At one point it even seemed like Jackson might've had superpowers of his own—he didn't, but still. Just the possibility made my brain tingle. And, of course, I loved the Kanima's ability to paralyze everyone. You can't fight paralysis! What a terrifying (and budget-friendly) tactic! So good.
If I were in charge the Emmy nominees for Best Costumes would be Teen Wolf five times. Because come on:
Often the most dazzling (and cheapest!) visual effect one can put in a television show or film is some good ol' fashioned skin. Every seedy Hollywood producer since the beginning of the industry has known this fact, but it's generally only really been applied to female actors. Teen Wolf is nothing short of trailblazing for putting men in the same position, and for those of us who actually appreciate such things, we can attest to how rare it is. Oh, Teen Wolf. It's like you KNOW us.
Over the years opening titles have become shorter and less prominent, eventually giving over to just having the show's title onscreen for a couple seconds. Indeed that's the route Teen Wolf went during Season 1, but clearly Jeff Davis, the mad genius behind this show, knew that Season 2 deserved better. Something more epic. And that's why we got this truly dazzling opening sequence:
All season long, I never NOT got chills after each episode's cold open. That music! The succinct and powerful imagery for each character. Heck, even this:
I am still not even sure what that was supposed to represent. But it still works! So yeah, it's hard to overstate just how important these opening credits were. I loved them so much.
Season 2 saw the world of Beacon Hill expand a great deal. The number of werewolves alone doubled and we needed new and compelling characters to make those transitions as compelling as Scott's was. Isaac Lahey was Derek's first recruit, a troubled grave digger and lacrosse player who'd had just about enough of his abusive father's shenanigans.
As a supporting character he didn't necessarily get the MOST screen time, but it shows just how compelling Daniel Sharman's performance was that Isaac still felt fleshed out and sympathetic, even during his initial jerk phase.
But few things this season were quite as satisfying and tingle-inducing as Isaac and Scott's burgeoning bromance.
This quick moment at the rave where Scott alerted Isaac to the fact that people (and specifically Scott) actually care about Isaac a great deal... It was pretty great.
And while I'm still not sure what the significance of the pain-sucking skill will be, Isaac's sheer elation that he was capable of helping other creatures was another standout moment.
See, these were not larger-than-life spectacles but tiny, intimate exchanges, yet they somehow felt just as important. Isaac was a character I always cared about and I was legit scared for most of the season that he'd get killed off. It was a source of tension for me! Fortunately he wasn't, and even better, it looked like he was on track to becoming another hero in Season 3. Can't wait.
Isaac was the best of all the new characters, but I don't mean to sell short the other new cast. In fact, this is probably more a compliment to the casting director than anyone, but I felt there wasn't a weak link in the crew. A TV producer once told me how insanely difficult it can be to hire young actors who both look attractive AND can act. Teen Wolf managed to not only find a talented crew, but also differentiated each character so much that the crew just seemed more and more rounded out. And because everyone was well-drawn, I also never became exasperated that I was spending too much time with a new character when the old ones deserved the attention (e.g., The endless Salome scenes on True Blood Season 5).
Anyway, these people killed it:
We already knew Stiles (and specifically Dylan O'Brien) was one of the funniest people on TV. And while I didn't love some of his broader moments (like the huge present, or snoring in the waiting room), Teen Wolf Season 2 brought out a side of Stiles' personality that more than made up for those moments: His emotional side! No for real, few things were as alternately joyful or devastating as the scenes between Stiles and his father. To use a gross cliché, their relationship has become the heart of the show, a fact made even more notable by the fact that this thing was essentially conceived as a romance between Scott and Allison. Team Stilinski!
It's always been enjoyable to watch Sheriff Stilinski dote on his son while Stiles tries to wriggle out of getting in trouble. But this season we saw the Sheriff actually come to accept Stiles' help in the serial murder case, which by itself was a touching moment.
But the thing about this show is, sometimes there are actual repercussions for questionable decisionmaking, so Sheriff Stilinski ended up losing his job over it. The scene where he tried to keep this fact from Stiles was one of the more devastating moments of any show this year.
Later it seemed like the season's events were actually starting to rattle Stiles, and that led to this lovely opening scene where he laid himself bare for the school guidance counselor.
It was super well-written and inspiring, concluding with the counselor quoting Winston Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going." It honestly felt like a scene from Friday Night Lights in the best way.
And how could we forget the momentous incident when Stiles actually took to the field? And then WON the game for everyone? (Granted, 75% of the players had been sidelined by injury, but still.) But the glory was short-lived as only moments later Stiles had been abducted by Gerard!
It was downright troubling to see Sheriff Stilinski so distraught over having lost his son (he was a widower, after all), but that made their eventual reunion that much sweeter. This season Teen Wolf expanded beyond its initial premise in so many ways, but it was Stiles' journey that helped take this show out of your typical teen drama and into something much more heartfelt and and nuanced. And considering Stiles is the comic relief, it just shows how refreshingly different Teen Wolf does things.
Back to the subject of how you don't realize how rare something is unless it's important to you personally, I've never seen a mass appeal TV show be so no-big-deal about the very existence of gay people. I mean, it's 2012 and shows should be that way anyway, but I'm telling you, it's RARE. Usually gay characters are tokens, their plotlines relegated to coming out or having abusive parents, and then written off when producers realize that romantic options are limited. Teen Wolf has earned a lifetime of devotion from me for its insistence that gay people are just normal and entirely no-big-deal. I mean, can you even think of a show or movie where the jerky jock A-hole is best friends with an openly gay character, and oh yeah, that gay character is the most popular student in school? I haven't! So cool.
Anyway, this midseason jaunt to a local small town gay club totally summed up the show's attitude here: Not only did the characters not think this bar was any different than any other dimly lit dive, they—get this—didn't have gay panic!
I loved how we even revisited the best recurring joke from Season 1: Stiles' obsession with gay men not finding him attractive.
And I know this was just a throwaway joke, but the idea that Stiles kept in touch with the drag queens from the gay bar and invited them to Lydia's birthday party? Hilarious. But also, you know, awesome. Wake me when something like this happens in Mystic Falls.
Season 1 concluded with Mr. Argent turning on his own sister when he found out she'd violated the Hunter Honor Code. The consistency of his morals has been one of the best things about Teen Wolf; even when Mr. Argent has actively worked against our heroes, we know he's a principled foe and therefore it's hard not to like him. Season 2 hit the reset switch a bit and Mr. Argent spent spent most of the season hating Scott and being a dick to everybody.
But he took an interesting turn when he began actively training Allison to be a Hunter.
The thing was, he already had earned some credibility with us during Season 1, so when he explained to Allison all the reasons their family had this duty to protect humanity, it was believable!
Also it turned out he was surprisingly ripped?
In a nice parallel to Season 1, Season 2 also featured a crucial third act reversal from Mr. Argent. But this time he turned against his father! I am a major sucker for character reversals, and Mr. Argent teaming up with Scott was just lovely.
And remember when he SHOT a bow and arrow out of Allison's hands? Holy moly, this guy is the best. Anyway, now that we know that werewolves are safe from Mr. Argent so long as they don't murder anybody, it's hard to imagine how he'll keep butting heads with Scott. Especially now that Scott and Allison are officially broken up, I wonder if we might see Scott and Mr. Argent becoming something akin to friends? Or like a surrogate dad situation? I don't know. Anything's possible, and that means this is just good writing.
One of the things that really binds the disparate elements of Teen Wolf together is its touching devotion to HORROR. From cold opens that evoke classic horror films to jump scares and slow-burn suspense, Teen Wolf gets a lot of mileage from scaring us. Here were but a few of the bigger scares and/or grossout moments of Season 2:
The less said about that snake incident the better. BECAUSE HOLY GOD!!!
Of all the unexpected places Season 2 went, for me one of the most surprising was how Alpha Derek was nowhere near the CGI monstrosity I feared he'd become. Instead he turned into a camp counselor, or maybe an overburdened but still cool older brother to a pack of baby werewolves. And the thing was, he seemed to really love his new family members. It was very charming!
I loved how we originally were supposed to fear his need to procreate, but in the end he just wanted some chill teens to hang out with him in his abandoned subway station. I mean, let's be real. As far as cool older brothers go, Derek's kind of perfect. For one thing, he's definitely not cool. If you are in your 20s but hang out with teenagers exclusively then you are not cool. But he's cool to teenagers, you know?
The scene where he offered the bite to an epileptic Erica was our first hint that Derek's just a big-hearted hero deep down. It was truly touching and did a lot to make me like Erica's character even after she got her mean-tramp makeover.
I also enjoyed his proactive spirit in trying to kill the Kanima! I mean, yeah, it was Jackson and we can't have HIM die. But still. Derek's heart was in the right place.
And I loved that Derek knew when to give people their propers. Like when Isaac overcame his werewolf instincts to restrain his out of control siblings. Also when Derek seemed downright proud of Scott for having his own posse. Aw, Derek.
[Fun fact about Tyler Hoechlin: When I spoke to him at Comic-Con, he lamented that he'd stayed super in-shape all year in anticipation of doing shirtless scenes, but then they never happened. (In case you were wondering about that insanely gratuitous near-death experience moment, that was probably just the producers trying to work it in somehow.) But yeah, keep your actors happier, producers!]
Lydia's plotline ranged from frightening to baffling to confusing, but in the end it all made sense: Her non-lethal bite had connected her spiritually to Peter Hale and in death he was able to enlist her to resurrect him.
The best part about Peter's return is that we never really knew him very well up until that point. Remember, we only learned he was the alpha at the end of Season 1, and after that it was all just glowering and stalking and general villainy. But now that he was back and much less threatening, we got to see much more of his personality. And it turns out he's kind of amazing? He's really funny! And clever! And makes good plans. I'm sure Season 3 will find him trying to regain his villainy, but personally I'm hoping he'll take his time. Smart-ass Peter is the best. He could easily become this show's Spike.
It can be a real problem when important characters are simply uninformed about the basic principles of the show they're on. While she was always likable, it seemed like Mrs. McCall would forever be the last to know what her son was up to and we'd therefore be treated to dozens of scenes of him stammering out bad excuses to cover up his supernatural whereabouts. But that's where Season 2 tricked us again: Mrs. McCall found out about her son, and there's no amount of glamoring or compelling that will make her forget her son is now a monster.
She obviously didn't take it well at first, as illustrated by this heartbreaking near-rejection in the jailhouse. But like all things her acceptance came at the end of a journey, and that journey involved getting pinned to the ceiling by a reptilian abomination.
But because Mrs. McCall is a bit of a scrapper (single mom stuff), it wasn't long before she was totally Team Werewolf and even helping the kids deal with the Kanima situation.
See how much more likable she is now? Rather than the sweet-natured collateral damage on two legs, she was now informed and able to take care of herself. Better!
Few characters experienced the fall from grace that Allison did this year, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Rather than continuing to hint that Allison was capable of being a bloodthirsty archer extraordinaire, Season 2 actually forced her to become that!
It all started so innocently with Allison and Scott being very much in love and having tons of secret shirtless hugs like normal happy teens do.
But it wasn't long before she became suspicious of her own grandfather and what her family intended to do about the town's werewolves (one of whom gave great shirtless hugs).
But then Mr. Argent forced Allison into training mode, reasoning that she was the future leader of the family. Like any good daughter, she took her dad seriously. Unfortunately it wasn't long before her relationship with Scott hit the rocks in a big way.
Add to the fact that a werewolf kinda-sorta was involved in the death of her mother, and Allison snapped! Pretty soon she was firing arrows at all the werewolves she could find!
Seriously, her whole attitude changed. Who WAS this lady? Even Mr. Argent was like, "Relax, girl." The transformation was all the more remarkable in that this girl was the show's romantic lead.
Obviously Scott and Allison had to break up, if only so that their relationship had somewhere to go for Season 3. But still, I did not expect it to implode so thoroughly as it did. I also can't believe how unlikable she became by the season's end and I definitely respect that! I love surprises. I'm sure she'll be redeemed somehow, but this new dynamic is definitely one worth exploring.
Jackson was the big surprise of Season 1. Not just because of those legendary towel scenes, but because Colton Haynes' occasionally crazed line deliveries perfectly suited a character who was as effed up inside as he was perfect on the outside. But this season essentially revolved around Jackson and it just flat-out wouldn't have worked without him being such a good character.
I remain slightly baffled about just what he knew about what was happening to him throughout the season. Like, he definitely knew he'd been bitten by a werewolf and then started oozing black fluid from his orifices. Yet it still seemed like he had no idea that he'd been transforming into a lizard and murdering Matt's enemies.
But just because the logistics were hazy didn't mean it wasn't SCARY! Plus the Jekyll & Hyde aspect meant that the Kanima could do all sorts of horrific things and we wouldn't necessarily hold it against Jackson.
Also, I'm not 100% sold that Lydia's love for him (1) existed, or (2) would've made any difference, but that's okay too. Teenagers are dramatic! Ultimately Jackson had to be killed a couple of times in order to return to normal. And by normal I mean werewolf.
Haha remember when Scott first turned into a werewolf but he was just lying in a pile of mud and leaves? That seemed appropriate. THIS DID TOO.
Note: Before reading on, please press play...
By far my favorite thing about this season was the unexpected prominence of Mrs. Argent. Her part in Season 1 was so small, but it always grabbed my attention. Who WAS this lady with the hunky husband, Tilda Swinton hair, and white hot stare? I can't help but think a lot of Mrs. Argent's Season 2 amazingness had to do with Jeff Davis realizing what he had in Eaddy Mays and just giving her crazier and crazier things to do. A truly singular presence in television, Mays stepped up to the challenge every time. Dangerous, hilarious, mysterious, and eventually tragic, Mrs. Argent kept my synapses firing just constantly wondering what her DEAL was. And like I said, that's what I want from a show. I don't want everything spelled out. I don't want it all to be easy and understandable. I want mystery. I want questions. I want to wonder. For me Mrs. Argent was like the walking thesis statement that the rest of Teen Wolf sets out to prove: Fun comes from the strangest places.
Now, let's enjoy some of her best moments.
As my favorite character, Mrs. Argent's death was the LAST one I wanted to see. But at the same time, her death made tons of sense from a story perspective and personally I'm glad she died at the height of her powers. As far as I'm concerned her spirit will continue to live on just as it always did, staring intensely through windows.
Goodbye, sweet angel of mayhem!
Well, I dug Season 2 a whole lot. It did so many of the things I wanted from this show, but still found ways to surprise me. The only thing better than getting to write about it week after week has been to share the experience with you guys. Thanks for being here and let's do it again next June!
What was YOUR favorite Season 2 moment?