In the distance, the unmistakable sound of a single flute.
A violin string is delicately plucked. A glockenspiel is ding-ed. A maraca is lifted into position.
Then horns: First the nigh-imperceptible hum of a trumpet, then the plaintive wail of a trombone, then smooth come-ons of the saxophone followed by allllll their friends and neighbors. The horns are building now, growing louder. Is that a tuba? Oh, the horns. The horns! They rumble! Something is coming.
Suddenly an ANGEL CHOIR sings. We didn't see THAT coming but it works. What is this tidal wave of sound? This wall of pure sensation? We can't hear anything over the music and that's the way we want it. Sing to us, angels! Rumble our ribcages, tubas!
We'd grown accustomed to silence, but now that you're here, never leave us again.
Teen Wolf is BACK.
The only good thing about a very perfect TV show going away for four months is it gives us four months to watch other TV shows and truly appreciate just how very perfect that first show really was. In the case of Teen Wolf it has never really aired at the same time as the rest of the heavy hitters in its genre, so there was a risk of forgetting its quality if we're dazzled week in and week out by Angela Bassett giving everybody the stink-eye. But I'm here to tell you that YUP. Teen Wolf stacks up. It more than stacks up. It is absolutely wonderful. Prestige television, even, if this week's artful premiere was anything to judge by. By point of comparison, The Vampire Diaries is still solid in Season 5, but it's been trapped in a repetitive story cycle (and oppressively uninteresting love triangle) for a few seasons now. American Horror Story is VERY excellent right now but it has a sort of haphazard, film student aesthetic which works, yes, but also make the visuals and overall craftsmanship of Teen Wolf feel like a luxurious vacation for the senses. But honestly, it's not even necessary to compare Teen Wolf to other TV shows. Now that it's entered its fourth batch of episodes I think the main takeaway is how fundamentally different is is from really anything we've ever seen. It's the show other shows should now be held up against. Teen Wolf used to feel like a secret, but now the secret's definitely out and it stands proudly alongside the best that in-season prime time has to offer. There's truly nothing else like it.
I'm not sure if this is even in dispute, but last summer's Teen Wolf episode "Motel California" was widely hailed as its best episode in recent memory. A nearly stand-alone episode that explored each character's psyche via Wolfsbane-induced hallucinations, it was scary and emotional and visually astonishing. It might be too soon to draw this comparison, but now it seems like we may be getting an entire SEASON of "Motel California"? This week's premiere "Anchors" was all about the psychoses that Scott, Stiles and Allison are now plagued with as a result of dying during the previous cycle's climax, and this whole episode felt like an art film. Yes, I said it. Teen Wolf is art now. It always kind of was, but now it really is.
So good. Should we talk about it? I think we should talk about it!
It honestly made sense that this cold open, surely the longest in Teen Wolf history, was allll about Stiles. Quite frankly Stiles deserved it. A long cold open, that is. Not the tons of nightmares and mental problems. Poor Stiles!
NOOOOOOOO. Okay so yeah, Stiles was having a nightmare. But then he'd wake up and be super excited that it had only been a nightmare. Except then THAT would be a nightmare. You know the drill. Just do that drill for so many times because that's what happened here. It was a nightmare fiesta, a fiesta of nightmares.
I liked that even his nightmares had nice moments, like this part where Lydia was crashing in Stiles' bed. At first I was like, WOW, a lot of time has passed in this world since the last time we were in Beacon Hills, but no, not very much time had passed. It was just a nightmare zone. And oh look, a darkened doorway, better investigate.
This show has always had very scary moments seemingly drawn directly from Italian slashers or just very good boogeyman movies. You know, with tension and unsettling music and perfect camera work and dream logic. This cold open was basically a master class in that, especially the dream logic part. We've all seen the double, even triple wake-from-nightmare fakeouts, but this whole sequence was so insane and complicated I'm still laughing about it.
Haha oh man. It was especially brutal when Stiles confided in Lydia that he'd had a dream within a dream only to then wake up from THAT dream. And then here, where he told Scott that he still wasn't sure he was even awake, and then SURE ENOUGH. Also I felt very emotional when Stiles' dad ran in and cradled his son in his bed. Those two.
New opening credits! Well, newly color-corrected opening credits (so much red!) with a few new images, like this bloody nightmare mask and Jeff Davis' name getting struck by lightning. Still my favorite opening credits on TV for sure.
But don't worry, just because the opening credits finally rolled didn't mean the nightmares had ended! First we got this cute, quick scene where Scott and Isaac finally discussed Isaac having a thing for Allison.
Oh boy, I really liked the decision to make Isaac and Scott's rivalry more playful than hateful. It's the beginning of a trend that would show up later in this episode, in which forced romance and rivalries and love triangles are downplayed in favor of friendship and self-determination. So yeah, Isaac's thing with Allison needed to be commented on somehow, and this was such a fun way to do it. (I'm still rooting for Scott and Isaac to end up together sorryyyy.)
Also, having Scott's mom yell at the boys for rough-housing while being supernatural creatures was also so good. I truly think shows like this get good when the peripheral characters start getting informed about the monsters, so to have Scott's mom be such a MOM to these werewolves was just so charming. Scott's Mom is the best. Remember when she got burned alive on The Walking Dead? (Spoiler.) That seemed way harsh. I hope that doesn't happen here.
Anyway, then Allison tried to ride the elevator down from her penthouse apartment but instead wound up in the Beacon Hills hospital where she was followed by herself (?) holding two daggers. And then, because this is horror movie dream logic we're dealing with here, she walked down the dilapidated hallway, entered the morgue, and investigated a strange noise coming from one of the lockers. AS ONE DOES.
Kate Argent! Now my first instinct was to ask why Allison was being haunted by her dead aunt when HER MOTHER would have been so much cooler. But I guess we'd already seen Mrs. Argent show up in a hallucination last season (and she was kinda helpful even), so that would have been inconsistent. And I guess I do think it's cool to see one of the Season 1 big bads back in action. So, no complaints!
I have to say, this kind of freaked me out. Allison just snapped out of her trance and she was already at school! So did that mean she left her apartment and drove to school, the whole time hallucinating she was somewhere else? See, that kind of thing really unsettles me. Lost time, doing things in a trance, not being able to read. Allison and Stiles were having a rough go of it. By comparison Scott's issue was downright AMAZING.
Oh man, I could not have loved this shadow stuff more. First of all, just this imagery is so good, right? And here I thought Teen Wolf had disavowed the original Alpha form, but nope! It's back! It's definitely too much to wish for Scott to eventually morph into this form for real, but still. I just loved the threat of it.
Oh, hello new Asian student! Did you happen to bring any relevant folklore with you?
So yeah, looks like Scott has a new love interest? This girl's name was Kira and her dad is also a new teacher at the school. She seems fine, who knows.
Then Scott started morphing in the hallway and Stiles' padlock looked like gibberish so they both ran into a classroom and commiserated over how much their lives sucked now.
This is neither here nor there but is it lacrosse season yet in this world? Please let it be lacrosse season. These boys need an outlet.
Meanwhile Lydia was outside trying to help Allison get her archery mojo back but then it turned into nighttime all of the sudden and Kate came running out of the bushes to scream at Allison.
But WHOOPS! She nearly murdered Lydia! That is because it was actually still daytime and Lydia was standing where Kate was. But fortunately Allison was being stalked by an angelface dreamboat statue of David come-to-life werewolf who arrived just in time to catch an arrow with his bare hand and thus preserve Lydia's face and head. Allison felt super bad about it, but if we're being real this is just the sort of thing that banshees have to deal with, so Lydia shouldn't have been surprised.
Meanwhile Sheriff Stilinski was going through all of his old folders and taking another look at all his cold cases (which were all of them, all of his cases were cold cases) because now he knew that monsters were real and had probably eaten most of the people. Again, I am so glad that Sheriff Stilinski is "in the know" because it makes him so much cooler and more competent.
For some reason he seemed extra-eager to solve this 8-year-old case of a girl named Malia whose family had died in a car crash but her body was never found. Had this girl been murdered by monsters? Was this girl a monster herself? Did this girl grow up to look like Shelley Hennig? Nobody knows for sure, least of all Sheriff Stilinski.
Then there was this scene where the clinically insane P.E. teacher started throwing gang signs at Stiles and then everybody shouted at him in sign language.
But then he "woke up" in class and everything was normal, except then Scott was like, "You weren't sleeping." So yeah, life is hard now for Stiles. Just very annoying in general.
This part was great: The whole gang got together to discuss their mental problems and the new girl walked up having overheard them and she started telling them all about Tibetan lore involving trickster coyotes and also dream states that can lead to DEATH.
None of it sounded very chill or fun, so Stiles and Scott decided to go talk to a druid for a second opinion.
Deaton basically just confirmed Kira's yammerings, but he added that the three of them would continue to be insane until they "closed the doors" in their brains that were allowing the crazy in. He didn't actually know how to go about that, but it was a start.
Then Sheriff Stilinski recruited the boys to help him go sniff the dead girl's toys so that Scott could track her scent in the woods. And look who her dad was!
The priest from The Originals! In my opinion this was an example of when casting is a spoiler. Like, come on, you're not going to cast this guy for just a tiny role. So yeah, I'm guessing he probably has a couple of half-naked hunks chained up in his cellar, just my opinion.
This was a funny moment, though: As the Sheriff distracted the man (by telling him that the greatest tragedy of his life was still happening), the boys were upstairs sneaking around and had a run-in with the family guard dog.
Then the dog barked and then stopped barking and then ran away. Phew!
Meanwhile, Stiles told Scott exactly what their dads were up to. Apparently Scott's dad was attempting to get Stiles' dad fired as sheriff and that's why Stiles' dad was trying to solve this one last case. For old time's sake! But Scott was so hella mad at his dad for being a jerk and he was NOT shy about telling him.
Yeah, Scott's dad definitely sucks. And a lot of that might be because just when it looked like all the parents were fully clued-in about their monster children, in walks this dummy with zero knowledge and 100% 'tude. Get out of here, b-hole.
Scott got so mad at him that he started turning into a werewolf right then and there, but luckily his mom whisked him out of the room and helped him through it. And it was so touching!
This was only a tiny moment in the show but it was very, very important not only to the series but also to the whole genre of young adult thrillers in general? Basically the gist was that in the past Scott had used his love for Allison as his anchor to keep control over his transmogrification, but now that they were broken up, how was he supposed to stay anchored? So his incredible mother told him that he can be his own anchor. Which seems so simple but that is a very sophisticated concept for a show that originally positioned itself as a Twilight descendant. Usually these serials have very soppy romances and love triangles at their core, but this scene has Teen Wolf outright demolishing that notion and therefore severing ties entirely with all its forebears. As Scott's mom told him, he will fall in love again later in life, don't worry. WHICH IS RIGHT. Teen Wolf is directly exposing the #1 lie of all teen drama, that your first love is somehow your best and only love, by saying that nope, it isn't actually. It's merely the first. Better and richer love comes later, after you've figured out who you are as a person. I really and truly loved this moment. It felt weirdly transgressive too. Anyway, yeah. Well done.
Then Allison had a sex dream about Isaac because her brain isn't ALL bad.
But whoops! Just when he'd finally removed his shirt Aunt Kate had to murder him!
But it was just a dream of course. Because oh yeah, Isaac and Allison hadn't even kissed yet let alone shirtless hugged. But in my opinion this meant that Allison definitely wanted to do those things with him. Allison is a VERY sympathetic character. (Also, is she an orphan now?)
Then Stiles and Scott went into the woods to find that missing girl, if only to show up Scott's dumb dad. First Scott dropped his phone into a mud puddle and it didn't break (which I THINK was supposed to be a product placement but it was so weird and who cares), and then they found the original crashed car that the girl had disappeared from. And sure enough, tons of werewolf marks were on it.
But then something growled at them from the woods and Scott chased it!
It was THIS thing! But it wasn't like the normal werewolves we'd seen on the show. It was more like the one Derek's mom had turned into (a.k.a. an actual wolf a.k.a. my least favorite kind of werewolf a.k.a. ugh).
In Scott's opinion this wolf was actually Malia, the missing girl. We'll see about that! If so, she's been living in the woods for eight years and also can turn when it's not a full-moon. Now it's only a matter of how long it takes for Shelley Hennig to enroll in the high school, right?
I only am posting this freeze-frame because I am a jerk and now I know what day this scene was filmed. How's your summer going, everybody??
HAHAHA the final twist was the best of all possible twists. Derek and Peter Hale shirtless and flexing against a chain link fence with tons of torture tools nearby. WHAT was going ON?
The point is we DIDN'T know what was going on, just that Derek was super mad at Peter about it. Remember, the last time we saw Peter he had successfully manipulated Derek into giving up his Alpha powers in exchange for saving the life of Mary Queen of Scots and then Peter Hale ran up to the Nematon and yelled at the sky about being an Alpha or whatever. Look, who cares. The main thing to know is that both of them had been doing A LOT of CrossFit and now somebody was zapping them on a chain link fence.
In my opinion it was the priest from The Originals doing it. Who would our other options be? Allison's dad? Kira's dad? Kendra from Buffy? I don't know. Don't ask me, why are you even asking me? I said I don't know. But holy moly, those Hales.
YOU KNOW HOW THIS WORKS. This premiere was basically the overture, the opening salvo, the introduction to a 12-episode saga. It wasn't totally plot-heavy and there was next-to-no satisfying conclusions to be had. That's the point! What we got was a wonderful setup with tons of intrigue and some astonishingly filmed horror sequences. I usually hate dream sequences in horror because they are a stakes-free zone, but Teen Wolf has cracked the code on making them both interesting and important to the story. Yes, it helped that this show has always felt pretty dreamlike, but this season already feels like "Motel California" writ large and I am EXCITED about that. Let's see how it plays out though! At the very least there promises to be a black-light makeout rave, so if that's not reason to live, I don't know what is.
So excited Teen Wolf is back. TOO excited.
... Who is shocking those Hales?
... Should people stop physically abusing Isaac?
... Is Scott's dad the worst?
... Who had the worst mental problems: Stiles, Scott, or Allison?
AIRED ON 3/8/2016
Season 5 : Episode 20