True life: Teen Wolf has ruined me. A few times during "Lunar Ellipse" I considered calling 911 because why wouldn't my head, neck, and brain stop tingling?? After three years of being in love with this show I began to suspect that maaaybe I had mental probs, but now that I've just experienced 42 straight minutes of CHILLS I might be having actual medical issues as well? Or, you know, Occam's Razor: Teen Wolf is incredible. Or maybe it's both things. Either way.
Look, I realize it's possibly against the law to express unqualified positive opinions on the internet, particularly if it's my actual JOB to criticize TV. And I will admit that there was a touch of contrarianism in me when I decided I wanted to give this show a chance a few years back. (You know, because liking a teen drama is so punk rock.) But in order to understand just how terrific Teen Wolf circa 2013 is, let's pay homage to "Lunar Ellipse"'s astonishing cold open and go back to the beginning. At its inception Teen Wolf wasn't so much a real show as it was a lightning rod for every self-styled critic's anger toward remakes, reboots, reimaginings, youth culture, MTV as a network, and a certain franchise of bluish-gray, PG-rated, Mormon-influenced wet dreams. I mean, with that title, that source material, and that genre, Teen Wolf was the easiest of easy targets; everybody was just so eager to be angry about this abomination about abominations.
But something happened around the beginning of Season 2. People, especially critics, showed up excited for what was about to unfold. Like all hype, the anti-hype couldn't hold forever and critical consensus had apparently lowered its guard enough to appreciate Season 1's twisty storytelling, refreshing characters, and the male-focused beauty that still feels both transgressive and long overdue. So Teen Wolf had proved itself as a show people could no longer discount, but what exactly would it bring to the table to position itself as better than not-terrible, particularly in a genre where titans loom large? Buffy the Vampire Slayer had more or less shut the door on the monsters-as-metaphors conceit and The Vampire Diaries was at the height of its powers, blazing new trails in dizzying storytelling (though often to the detriment of smaller character moments).
Anyone with doubts about Teen Wolf's future potential would have those doubts quickly erased when Season 2 found the show busting out of its chrysalis to reveal what it really wanted be: An epic, stylized, weird, highly cinematic superhero saga. The music, effects, cinematography, and setpieces all brought a golden age, silver-screen scope to television that we didn't know we needed. In a literal sense, our TVs are just BIGGER now and Teen Wolf knows how to fill out a frame with beauty (be it a landscape or a locker room scene). But it also infuses its teenage archetypes with bravely sincere motivations and earnest intelligence. In an age of gritty, conflicted heroes, it's nothing short of refreshing to see a show that lionizes white-hat heroism as much as Teen Wolf. This show features no fewer than a dozen characters who'd drop anything to save someone else's life, and this vibe enriches every scene, raises every stake, and generally appeals to our better instincts. We're talking about a literally dark show that revolves around literal monsters, but for the past three months it's been the show that's made me most genuinely happy. Guys, I could obviously go on and on about Teen Wolf's technical excellence or unnecessarily clever dialogue or frequently knee-weakening performances, but really, I ultimately just like how I FEEL when I watch it. And if we're being honest that is the only compliment that really matters anymore. Teen Wolf is excellent and never more so than this season.
Anyway, I'm sure if you're here and reading this you already knew all this stuff, because duh, Teen Wolf is amazing, let's walk about the Season 3A finale already. Okay then! "Lunar Ellipse" was absolutely wonderful. Perfect, basically. A perfect hour of entertainment, and a perfect finale for Teen Wolf's best season yet. Let's talk about it.
Everything began in the afterlife. Which is a hilarious way for anything to start, but that's just how it was. The three leads had drowned themselves so that their conscious minds could travel through other dimensions and discover where that darn root cellar was. Just FYI the afterlife looked like like that secret skyscraper bunker where Bruce Wayne keeps his Batmobile. Oh, except for this main difference:
Stump'd! This white-room sequence was a stunner because it was silent (no music or dialogue) and very beautifully filmed, but also everybody was wet, including Stiles who finally came out of the closet as sorrrrrta buff. You know? Like we all kinda suspected he was, but now it was undeniable. Sorry Stiles, we're onto you!
Anyway, the whole point of this otherworldly imagery was to set up one of the cooler scenarios this show has ever attempted: Each person was then whisked backwards in time where they witnessed an earlier version of themselves (in or around the pilot) standing beside the tree stump without even knowing it.
The re-use of original footage from the pilot was so fun, like in this scene where Scott had the exact same slack-jawed expression as his younger self, and then watched himself get bitten by the cartoon version of Peter Hale.
Miss u, cartoon Peter Hale. Come back soon?? (I just foreshadowed!)
Stiles also found the tree stump, because duh, he and his buzz cut had definitely been there that night too.
By the way, it made me laugh that they'd grown up in the area and had been in those woods a lot but this particular enormous, beautiful, moss-covered tree stump and accompanying cellar door just sorta slipped their minds. I don't know, I like to think I would remember something like that, not judging though.
THIS was a nice surprise:
During Allison's quick little flashback-nugget, we learned that she and the late great Mrs. Argent were in the car that almost hit a post-bitten Scott and they went back to go investigate and Allison found Scott's old asthma inhaler on the forest floor.
It was like a part of her KNEW that she'd be having so much sex with a wolf creature in the near future. My memory and brain have become very addled from being alive too long, but if I'm not mistaken we first met Allison the next day at school when she transferred into Scott's classroom, so this bit was a new (and highly serendipitous) piece of information. (I really liked later on when Allison described almost hitting a boy in the road and Scott was like, "That was me!" I don't know, it was just a fun, goofy moment between them.)
So yeah, armed with the knowledge of where that tree stump was, the three jumped out of their bathtubs (and Stiles flexed a little) and demanded to jump right into action. That's when they got some weird news.
They'd been dead for 16 hours! Uh, was that part of Deaton's plan, because that seems excessive. Good thing the Darach was in no particular hurry to make her final sacrifices, right? Anyway, in case you were wondering, 16 hours of constant exposure to cold water without blood flow did not end up desiccating or deteriorating our heroes' bodies in any way, so no harm done!
That was when they received a surprise visitor:
It was Ethan! (I'm pretty sure.) He wanted to help the gang help themselves help Derek not get killed by Kali. He just wanted to be helpful basically.
Back at the werewolf loft, Derek was still recovering from giving most of his mojo to Cora in order to save her life. But his deadline with Kali was drawing near and he seemed very apprehensive about having to fight her now that he wasn't an Alpha anymore. Luckily Peter Hale had some sage advice for him:
Typical Peter Hale.
Meanwhile the 'rents were still all tied up in that root cellar and considering it had been well over a day now, they were starting to get antsy:
These poor people. If they survived this they should all have a fun night out at Sizzler or Dave & Busters or something.
So then the gang at the veterinarian hospital split up and Lydia headed for the loft to go warn Derek that Kali was coming. Peter Hale was like, 'Hey you're a death sniffer, do you sniff death?' And her response was amazing.
"I feel like I'm standing in a graveyard."
CHILLS. I loved this moment so much. Plus it proved sort of accurate!
Meanwhile these other three went to Allison's place so that the dog-boys could sniff Mr. Argent's personal items and better track him in the woods. Or something. I don't know why that was necessary now they knew where the stump was, but anyway, that's when they found out that Scott's FBI agent dad was VERY nosy and also NOT above breaking and entering in order to get the scoops.
Haha Isaac openly joked about being an orphan. [Sadface] But yeah, Agent McCall basically just wanted to know where everyone's parents were, which, fair enough. It was clear the kids had decided that involving the authorities was too much trouble, so they mostly just lied and made up stories about what was going on. And then Allison lit off a smoke bomb and they ran out.
Then Kali arrived at Derek's loft to murder him but he'd already hit the road leaving nothing behind but a faint whisper of Drakkar Noir and a cagey Lydia.
Fortunately for Lydia both of the twins had her back (because in this town being a good person is sometimes a sexually transmitted disease) and also because it wasn't long before the Darach showed up to GET WILD.
The Alphas immediately shifted into gear, as Alphas are wont to do.
But to her credit the Darach was super good at brawls!
Especially when she just dispensed with all the kick-flips and got down and dirty with some good old-fashioned ESP:
And THAT'S how Kali died. A thousand shards of glass right in the face. R.I.P. you nasty-footed weirdo!
But the Darach wasn't done murdering Alphas!
Aw no! And just when the twunks had turned good too.
Then the Darach needed to make a long distance call, specifically she needed a banshee to summon a hunk. So Lydia screamed and all the werewolves heard it, including the Hales who apparently had not yet left the city limits because they had stopped off at Wendy's maybe.
Lydia screaming was all it took for Derek to return to his loft. I guess he was cool with the idea of skipping town and letting all his friends fend for themselves and possibly allow their parents to be killed, but now that a girl he admittedly didn't know very well screamed super loud, that was just too much. He had to go back.
For her part the Darach really pled her case. Basically she really just wanted to kill THE DEMON WOLF, so she either required Derek as her bodyguard or else she'd just murder the three parents in order to get a little boost of energy. You know, like a little cup of espresso but with the murder of innocents.
Derek agreed to help her murder THE DEMON WOLF. But he was NOT happy about it. Derek had never been happy in his life, but especially not in this circumstance.
Then Stiles drove into a windstorm and crashed his car! But to be honest he looked very peaceful lying there behind the wheel, so I was happy for him to finally get some rest.
Meanwhile Isaac and Allison found the stump and they ran into the basement just in time for it to start collapsing in on them!
But, you know, typical Isaac he held the ceiling up with his bare hands. Swoontown population everybody.
Oh, and by the way, the twins didn't actually die permanently. Their mega-body died, sure, but then it popped apart (with a really cute noise) and Lydia and Cora scooped up their hunky bodies and took them to the vet. That building should have a sign in the front that says "Hunk E.R." because that's where all the hunks go to be repaired! It is the town's most thriving business now.
So, okay, then we got to the title bout: THE DEMON WOLF vs. THE DARACH, each assisted by their boy apprentices.
The one thing that I love about this season and in particular this endgame was just how emotionally complicated it was. A lot of people I've talked to have mentioned that Season 3 has been confusing because of how many moving parts and relationships were at play, but personally I loved it. Our heroes had basically been caught up in a war between two seriously dickish villains and we the viewers have had to constantly change our minds about who we'd like to see win out. Obviously the Darach had an understandable grievance, but she lost a lot of sympathy when she went after the kids' parents. But then there was this dude:
I mean, get real. Nobody wants this nightmare creature hanging around town, throw him in a dumpster! So yeah, ideally we wanted BOTH of them to get killed at the same time, but the fact that Derek and Scott were now involved made things more complicated.
Derek sort of half-heartedly tried to fight THE DEMON WOLF but THE DEMON WOLF sort of tossed Derek off to the side a few times (as if he wasn't even interested in hurting Derek in the first place), and it wasn't long before THE DEMON WOLF had the Darach cornered.
But then THE DEMON WOLF made the mistake of turning this opportunity into a teachable moment and tried to get Scott to deliver the fatal blow. Scott was obviously reluctant to murder anybody, even with the knowledge that at that very moment the Darach was collapsing the root cellar in on his mom (via a storm, because apparently strangling & slitting the throats of sacrifices was an optional thing). So that's when Scott changed the subject by busting out some of Allison's flash grenades!
Haha take THAT everybody! But wait, uh-oh, then this happened:
The lunar eclipse! Which was yellow! Because okay!
All the werewolves lost their power, which freaked Scott out because now they had to face this thing:
The Darach marched right into that warehouse with her gnarled head and cleavage and leather outfit (looking very Cenobite chic) and the whole thing was set to a weirdly heroic theme song. And that's when she grabbed THE DEMON WOLF and bashed his head nearly to pieces on the concrete.
But then Derek convinced her to, I guess, heal THE DEMON WOLF's blindness before he died so that he could get a good, long look at her real face. We all know the Darach is ALL ABOUT making her face the #1 topic of conversation, so of course she took Derek's suggestion.
But the joke was on her (well, all jokes were on her due to that face) because it turned out she'd used up too much of her go-go juice and now her magic was weaksauce.
Then Derek grabbed her roughly and she looked super butt-hurt about his betrayal and then she started tearing him UP sort of like that time Boyd and Cora tore him up in a basement and just sorta just had to take it.
Back in the collapsing pit, everybody was still trying to not get crushed to death. Fortunately a scrappy, secretly buff hunk with an aluminum bat saved the day!
At first I was glad that Stiles arrived just in time, but then I was like, hey how did Stiles get down there without stairs? He must've scurried into a hole in the forest floor like a rascally potato bug. You know what, it's fine.
Then the lunar eclipse went away! Which meant the wolves could now heal and were super pissed and the Darach had no choice but to protect herself in a ring of magic.
But it was all building to this: Scott GOT REAL.
That's right, his eyes turned all red and he mustered the full strength of his True Alpha nature to hopefully and finally kill this lady. And you know what? He busted right on through that mountain ash! Because werewolf rules were meant to be werewolf broken.
Fortunately he didn't have to murder her because THE DEMON WOLF was on top of it.
Next thing we knew she was gurgling on the floor looking a mess. Goodbye you terrible demon wizard! And congratulations to Scott for being an official Alpha now! (But seriously, it looks like a sucky job, good luck.)
Then as the sun began to rise, Derek and Scott told THE DEMON WOLF to scram.
And I guess he was so touched to have been given his vision back that he saw the errors of his ways in having been such a bully and happily agreed to leave. Guys, I don't mean to be controversial but this was probably not the last we'll see of THE DEMON WOLF.
In case you were wondering, cell phone reception is VERY good in Beacon Hills:
What a day!
So then an undetermined amount of time passed and everyone got back to life a little bit. I loved this moment: Allison alerted her father to the fact due to her group suicide, monsters would now be pouring into Beacon Hills like obese Midwesterners through a County Fair turnstile. They would need to arm up, in other words.
Then she busted out her best French and rewrote the Argent Family code to something along the lines of "Protect those who can't protect themselves." Something fierce like that. And again, in French! Man, the Argents are cool.
Again, I wish the camera would've cut away to the ghost of Mrs. Argent just proudly spyin' on them from an air conditioning vent, all "That's m'girl." Oh well. Maybe in Season 3B.
Then we got a closing montage with a voiceover from Scott (speaking to Deaton) about what was happening with everyone and what the future held. Surprisingly enough Derek and Cora moved out of his loft! Where were they going? I'm guessing they were going to go somehow get accidentally entangled with international monster species that they could bring back to Beacon Hills. Or maybe go chill with their mom somewhere? No idea.
But yeah, this last little montage was really wonderful. Scott reiterated that the only pack he needed was his circle of friends, and we got brief glimpses of the kids looking like carefree teenagers again:
Oh, hey Danny!
And this got me. Because first of all, Isaac. But look how happy Allison looked. Even Scott had a goofy grin on his face when he saw his ex-girlfriend and bedmate palling around. I don't know, I guess I just love that this possible love triangle doesn't feel forced into angsty territory. Scott's pretty cool with two of his loved ones finding happiness together, and that makes me happy too.
But if we're being real, THIS will always be the main love story:
Yeah, I don't really need some kind of boring romance on this show. Almost nothing will compare to the subtle and great connection these two kids have with each other. As wild as the storytelling gets, as big as the cast swells, as much as events might keep these two apart, it all comes down to THIS friendship. Scott and Stiles' friendship is where the show began and IS the show basically. Man, I love these guys.
Oh, but were you ready for this little teaser?
Scott casually mentioned in the voiceover that the Darach's body had disappeared. Which, WHOOPS? Maybe be more careful with the supposedly dead bodies of undead villains? But anyway she definitely survived her throat slashing and somehow dragged herself across town to the tree stump where she attempted to suckle one last gulp of magic. Unfortunately she was intercepted by and fully 100% murdered by a once and future CGI cartoon.
And with this tease we got confirmation that Peter Hale was indeed scheming to steal back his Alpha status from Scott. Which was a pretty cool tease! On the other hand it was like, sure, Peter Hale. Scott just survived the dismantling of an entire pack of Alphas. Give it your best shot. (And again, being an Alpha seems very overrated at this point). But I am being honest, I am truly hoping for a return to Peter Hale's CGI beast form. Yes it was silly, but it was also terrifying and sometimes rubber masks just don't do the trick. (Let's not even bring up live wolves. Ugh, I'm so mad about that still.)
I can't even for a second dwell on the idea that this is (temporarily) goodbye. I just can't. I don't have the strenf. For me Teen Wolf Season 3 has been nothing less than savior of my summer. I can't remember the last show I've looked forward to week in and week out like this one. This season was ambitious and surprising and terrifying and confusing and arrestingly artful. But you knew these things already. We all did. I'll save the proselytizing for any unlucky soul who happens to cross my path for the foreseeable future.
Thank you all for hanging out with me, reading these recaps, and keeping the conversation going all these months. See you in January? Rhetorical question! See you in January.
... Where is Derek going?
... Should this season have featured more romance or did you appreciate how back-burnered it all seemed?
... Which monster did you prefer: The Darach or The Kanima?
... Share these peanut butter cups with me?
IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM...
Teen Wolf S03E01 "Tattoo" Review: The Madness Continues
Teen Wolf S03E02 "Chaos Rising" Review: Random Access Memories
Teen Wolf S03E03 "Fireflies" Review: The Virgin Homicides
Teen Wolf S03E04 "Unleashed" Review: BEHOLD the Demonwolf!
Teen Wolf S03E05 "Frayed" Review: Big Time Sensuality
Teen Wolf S03E06 "Motel California" Review: Suicide Boys
Teen Wolf S03E07 "Currents" Review: Black Moth Super Pain Bro
Teen Wolf S03E08 "Visionary" Review: Ex-Men Origins
Teen Wolf S03E09 "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" Review: Kissing the Lipless
Teen Wolf S03E10 "The Overlooked" Review: Mistletoe Up!
Teen Wolf S03E11 "Alpha Pact" Review: The Trouble With Triples
Previous photo recaps
AIRED ON 3/8/2016
Season 5 : Episode 20