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Teen Wolf S03E19: "Letharia Vulpina"

If you want to make a horror villain less scary, give him or her a complicated backstory, an understandable motivation, a clear goal, and the singular intent of harming a specific person. As audience members we can mentally handle those things... "Oh, phew, at least *I'm* safe." But if you randomize things, making the villain unknowable, their methods unfathomable, with goals hazier than a pirate ghost-infused fog, that's when entertainment gets harmful and horrifying. That's why The Dark Knight worked so well: The Joker subverted every expectation or assumption we had, making him that much more disturbing. Random victims? No real purpose behind his madness? It's hard to feel safe and secure from something like that. It's also why Halloween's original conception of Michael Myers will always be superior to Halloween II's ret-conned-to-add-motivation version (and don't get me started about the horrendous remake's mystique-eradicating backstory). The second we found out he was simply going after his own sister it took away the boogeyman mystique, the idea that he would randomly stalk people for no apparent reason. As a horror fan I need that uncertainty, that fear of coincidence, that anxiety of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That kind of thing will always work on me better than a ham-fisted revenge motivation.

Now that we know the Nogitsune's true purpose (CHAOS!), it's officially my favorite villain of the series so far. Like, sorry, but in retrospect both the Kanima and the Darach had very specific revenge-based hit lists, meaning that our heroes were more or less safe so long as they didn't put themselves directly in harm's way. But the Nogitsune wants to inflict random pain on anybody it can. That randomness is the true root of any good nightmare scenario. How could one possibly hope to escape from or remain safe from something they can't predict or understand? You can't, and that's when the horror seeps in. A lot of viewers simply won't accept chaos as a motivating factor and will mistake that subconscious discomfort for a negative critical opinion ("the killer didn't make any sense!"). But make no mistake: Randomness is the most disturbing horror element possible and any writer who wields it deserves credit for taking that risk. Long story short, Teen Wolf remains next-level.

Hey let me stop spewing horror theory at you and let's talk about "Letharia Vulpina"!

We began--THANK GOD--at the Yakuza headquarters again. At this point any episode of Teen Wolf (or any TV show in general) that doesn't begin with a Yakuza crime boss shouting at his gang will be sort of a let down. But instead of a big gun-vs.-sword fight with ghost demons in the '90s, this Yakuza scene was set in the present day and the boss was super mad at everybody because his doggie was sick. Look at the poor girl just lying on that red circle cushion like that. Luckily the vet had arrived!

Haha of course. Classic Deaton!!!

He examined the dog and determined it had been poisoned and suspected it had eaten a bright green moss called "Letharia Vulpina." All the Yakuza dudes were too scared to take him to the locked garden, so when the boss finally took him down we learned why: That was where the the Yakuza flashback had happened! The previous Nogitsune had been stabbed by Oni and then bled over the fountain and then moss grew on it. That is one of the most common ways for moss to grow, just FYI. 

But it turned out this entire thing was a textbook druid ruse! 

Deaton had poisoned the dog himself and then paralyzed the Yakuza boss, all so he could get a sample of this moss, which I guess he could use to poison the Nogitsune inside Stiles. Forget mythological Japanese fox spirits... Deaton is a capital-T TRICKSTER.

Meanwhile back in America in California in Beacon Hills in the Beacon Hills Hospital parking lot, this was still going on:

Not only was there a livewire running around trying to warn everybody about a livewire, an ambulance crashed and made a puddle and then basically everybody SPRINTED to go stand in that puddle and get electrocuted!

Including, OH NO, Isaac! I was very upset. Our poor Isaac's streak of getting severely harmed in every episode remained intact! Sure, he probably should have known better than to step into that water for basically no reason, but at least he pushed Allison out of the way first. Isaac was a hero, but also he was a fried-to-a-crisp hero now. Ugh, I really hate that Nogitsune now. I mean he seemed like a jerk before, but harming Isaac is my trigger and now I REALLY don't like that ghost dog.

It was enough to make Kira do a backflip off a Jetta and then steal all the juice out of that livewire!

So good. I loved seeing her eyes glow. This was the episode where Kira officially became a b*dass. Welcome, girl.

Then suddenly it was two days later and everybody was bummed. Isaac was in the ICU still and Stiles was missing.

Sheriff Stilinski had received a text message from Stiles commanding him not to look for him, so that was probably pretty tough. But then Agent McCall came in and started yammering something about the Yakuza and Sheriff Stilinski was NOT that interested.

Meanwhile Scott and his mom decided to go pay Isaac a visit, and look who had spent the night in the waiting room!

This was very heartbreaking to me: Allison wasn't even allowed to see Isaac on account of not being family, so she opted to just sit there in the waiting room by herself. Look, you can have your epic kisses or sexy love scenes, but to me there is nothing more romantic than someone sleeping in a hospital waiting room for someone else. THIS is love. If there was any remaining doubt about the depth of Allison and Isaac's feelings for each other, there should be none now. 

Also, I loved when Melissa corrected Allison that Isaac DID have family (them), and better yet, she had a key card. It was a simple joke but man it hit me in my heartbones. I just really love all these people.

Even though it had been two days, Isaac still looked like a fried beef patty and was NOT healing like a werewolf should. Both Allison and Scott seemed very sad about it and held hands.

In my opinion this did not constitute a back-slide into their old relationship, but more a showing that they will always be friends. Or at least I think so? I was really touched by this, either way.

But Isaac was still in tons of pain, so Scott sucked a lot of it out of him. I'd forgotten that was one of Scott's abilities! Such a cool ability. Obviously it doesn't heal people necessarily, but it clearly brings them a measure of relief, and that is straight-up heroic on Scott's part. He's like a reverse vampire or something which believe me is REFRESHING.

Later on at school, the coach was yelling at everybody to fill out a card for Isaac (Danny was the first to run up and snatch the card out of Coach's hand, obviously), but the trio of werewolves heard a high-pitched frequency and followed it into the basement. Guess what they found?

THIS GUY. 

Before the twins could rip Stiles/Nogitsune to shreds, Scott stopped them and it seemed like Stiles had returned to his former self anyway. 

Not only that, but he was bringing to their attention that his alter-ego had been up to no good in the previous two days and he had the maps and dirty tools to prove it. Uh-oh!

Speaking of up to no good:

Peter Hale was at the high school flirting with Lydia's mom! I loved when Lydia's mom protested to a concerned Lydia that he was only a health inspector and he'd given her his card and everything, except the card was just a scrap of paper with his digits on it.

I also love that Peter Hale is working through Beacon Hills' population of hot single moms. Obviously things didn't work out with Melissa back in Season 1, but is anybody else hoping he starts dating Lydia's mom now? That would be kind of amazing in my opinion. Sure, Lydia had mixed emotions about it considering Peter Hale had nearly mauled her to death and then tricked her into resurrecting him via moon voodoo with the help of a cute teen ghost Peter Hale, but still. This is the kind of romance that would heat a fire, trust me.

Then Mr. Argent arrived home to discover that somebody had broken in and stabbed an emitter stake into his desk! But nevermind, it was only Derek.

Derek was mad that somebody else had left the emitter stake in his loft, so he immediately assumed it had been Mr. Argent so this made an ass out of him and he. Then Mr. Argent noticed there was an unexpected briefcase in his cabinet:

Whoops! It was the money that Isaac had attempted to get from the Yakuza guy a few episodes back. Somebody had planted evidence in Argent's house and McCall had discovered that Silverfinger had been murdered, which meant that Mr. Argent and Derek had been framed for murdering a Yakuza. A classic Nogitsune prank. The Nogitsune had done it again!

Meanwhile at school everybody was enjoying a time-honored P.E. activity:

All the monsters were super fast at running and then some of them started finding their lovers and making out in the leaves. Danny was mouth attacked by Ethan, so good for them I guess. But Scott was more freaked out because he suspected that Stiles' evil alter ego had planted booby traps in the area.

And he had! Because then this happened:

WHOOPS. The coach got an arrow to the gut! 

It seemed like Stiles felt super bad about it, and of course Scott went and did his pain-sucking thing. 

That seemed to do the trick. Then coach was taken away by an ambulance and Sheriff Stilinski was reunited with his son. A happy ending! Just kidding, this was not even close to the end of the episode sorry to get your hopes up.

Then Lydia decided to finally go figure out what the deal was with her banshee powers. And it stood to reason that maybe the man who'd sorta created her would know the 411 on that stuff. 

But of course Peter Hale wouldn't help unless he got something out of it also, so the next thing we knew he was tossing a Yahtzee cup full of werewolf fingernails on the glasstop dinner table. Apparently his sister (Derek's mom) had erased an important memory from his head before she died and then the memory had been stored in the fingernails because werewolf fingernails are little flash drives basically, and he needed Lydia to tell him what was in that stolen memory.

But Lydia didn't really know how to do that so he started harassing her about whatever and Allison got out a cattle prod and threatened to shove it up his b*tt.

All the bickering was too much for Lydia to handle, so she hushed them both up by throwing the werewolf fingernails at a wall and then listening to their whispers.

And GUESS WHAT THEY SAID? Peter Hale's sister's werewolf fingernails said that he "wasn't just an uncle." Meaning...

HAHA YESSSSS. Malia the coyote girl who looks like Shelley Hennig is PETER HALE'S BIOLOGICAL DAUGHTER. Oh thank goodness. I was starting to feel like a real horse's patoot for proclaiming Malia was a new character only to see her disappear entirely. But it looks like she's coming back in a significant way? Phew! (I think?) But yeah, I'm very into this idea. Also that makes sense that she's a Hale and not just some other rando were-animal. What were the chances of THAT? Now I need to know who Peter Hale knocked up though. I'm sensing another flashback episode starring Young Peter Hale, which nobody would be mad about. But yes, I LOVED this reveal. Loved, loved, loved.

Anyway, then Aiden discovered some wrapping paper in Stiles' backpack which of course meant that he'd planted a gift-wrapped bomb on a school bus like Doug Jones had done that one time. That meant that the crazy-young deputy put on a shrapnel jacket and had to go pay a visit to that one student who kept vomiting on the school trip during Season 3A.

But it was all a red herring! 

Then it became clear why the Nogitsune had arranged for Derek and Argent to get arrested:

The sheriff's department exploded! But don't worry, Mr. Argent and Derek were fine except for a few pieces of shrapnel. Then Scott arrived and sucked the pain out of a dying sheriff and then Kira went back to the high school to see her parents all up in a classroom being shady.

Oh, so THAT's how Kira's mom conjured the Oni. By snapping some plastic swords that were hidden in a textbook. Now we know. But that meant that three more, even more powerful Oni were back on the warpath, which was inconvenient to our heroes in that they were trying to keep Stiles alive.

But to be honest these Oni seemed just as weirdly weak as the previous ones. They kept reminding me of Lord Zedd's putties from Power Rangers. Just punch their Z's! Anyway, then Kira picked up a pipe and REALLY went wild.

She beat up those ghost warriors so bad, but then one stabbed Scott CLEAN THROUGH.

Fortunately Kira bopped the dude with a pipe and then took Scott inside to try and yank out the ghost sword.

BUT WHOOPS! Stiles had only been PRETENDING to be Regular Stiles and was actually the evil, scheming, chaos-addicted Nogitsune the whole time! This whole episode he'd arranged for everyone to be in harm's way and now here he was, banging Kira's head against a table and then twisting a sword into Scott's tum-tum.

Oh and it turned out that even though the Nogitsune is an agent of chaos much like the Joker, he did crave ONE thing: All that black pain juice that Scott had been sucking out of people all day!

Dang, that's some dark stuff. Luckily Deaton had just gotten back from his red-eye flight from Tokyo and he snuck up and took care of business! (In this case "business" meant he stabbed a Japanese ghost-infected teen with a serum made from moss made from the blood of a slain Nogitsune. Business 101 basically.)

Nogitsune: Neutralized! Of course Scott was very upset to see Stiles lying prone on the floor, but Deaton assured him he was merely unconscious "for now." Personally I do not think that Stiles will be killed off of Teen Wolf so I'm not super concerned about that happening, but it seems the rest of the characters are VERY concerned that Stiles will die along with the Nogitsune. Fair enough! But there are still, what, like five episodes to go? So yeah, if Stiles WERE to die, then that's probably a season finale type thing. Just kidding, there is literally no chance Stiles will die, get real. 

Hey guess what? I really loved this episode. What's NOT to love? Stressful emotions, a villain's terrifying (lack of) motivations, newer characters coming into their own, old characters coming together in unexpected ways. Peter Hale's illegitimate daughter! The Yakuza's sick doggie. I mean come on, this was just a great episode of television. Zero complaints, very into it, if this episode had arms I would hug it long and hard because it's like Teen Wolf is all I have anymore? 

OKAY BYE NOW

(BYE.)


QUESTIONS

... Does the Nogitsune seem like a bit of a jerk to you?

... Are you upset about Isaac's coma?

... Are Kira's parents doing more harm than good?

... Should Peter Hale take Malia to a mall food court so they can bond?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/8/2014

Season 4 : Episode 12

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