Except for the time I witnessed an animatronic animal band come alive and eat my stepdad, I love to be scared. I don't know what it is about the horror genre, but it really puts the the go-go juice in my scooter sometimes. Horror works differently for everybody: If your life is IRL scary, then scary movies can help exorcise that stress. If your life isn't scary at all, then scary movies can provide an experience necessary for emotional development. Most importantly, horror's got that push-pull, build-release pleasure explosion that—and I'm no brain doctor—mirrors laughter or sex or just the general sense of relief we all constantly crave. It's just fun! Obviously we are all unique snowflakes with personal preferences about what constitutes scariness, but for me the most terrifying things are the ones that are weird, abstract, unexplainable. I don't need explanations. I don't even need logic. In fact, I insist that those things stay home. I like my horror dreamy and hard to pin down. You can have your whodunnit slashers where everything's explained in the end by some detective or reporter; I want the ambiguity and loose ends of Halloween, Hellraiser, Suspiria. I don't need to know what's happening at all times, because that knowledge just makes things too understandable and hence less scary. I want to be confused. Confusion is scary! And so, therefore, was this week's episode of Teen Wolf.
Whereas last week's episode was basically Teen Wolf's version of Picnic at Hanging Rock, "Motel California" was like this show's take on Italian horror. Just so much dream logic, colorful imagery, psychological terror, beautiful camera work, ambient music. It didn't move the main story along so much; instead it was more of a stopoff, a midseason "bottle episode" meant to check in on and then disturb our favorite characters' mental states. And I don't know about you guys, but I thought it was effective as H.
I really hate "Hotel California" but I REALLY LOVED "Motel California." Let's talk about it!
Everything started, as everything since the beginning of time ever has, at a crappy motel in
Glendale the middle of the desert. A wounded and bleeding man hobbled out of his old-timey pickup truck and rented a room. The only thing was, it was VERY unclear when EXACTLY this was all going down.
I can't be sure, but I'm guessing it was happening sometime in the 1970s? The only reason I know this is that the newspaper we saw looked tattered and yellowed, which is how all newspapers in the 1970s looked even when they were hot off the presses. So yes, anyway, we were in FLASHBACK territory, folks.
So then the dude didn't even bother unpacking his duffel bag! Nope, his first order of business was to look at his bleeding torso in the mirror, gaze forlornly at the full moon, sorta turn into a werewolf, and—
Oh man. Oh jeez, oh man. I really hope he left a tip for the maid on the dresser first. Shotgun suicides are NOT very respectful to the housekeeping staff, you know? Unfortunately we will never know who this mysterious man was.
All we know is, he took a fantastic driver's license photo. Rest in peace, stranger.
So flash forward tons of years later and the Beacon Hills cross country team (and several hangers-on) exited their school bus, I guess because the driver didn't want to do his job and drive everyone back to school? This was the same day one of the students practically died in a rest stop bathroom and another one puked all over everything and another student nearly beat another one to death, so yeah, maybe everyone needed a restful night's sleep in a desolate, depressing motel in the middle of nowhere.
Obviously Lydia had a baaaaaad feeling about this place, which, fair enough. Living in Beacon Hills will do that to you. I'm guessing she also has bad feelings about burnt-down houses, ice rinks, hospitals, her own house, high school, forests, and Blockbuster Video.
Obviously Stiles and Scott shared a motel room (aw, Isaac) and while Scott sort of, I guess, continued healing from the time earlier in the day when he almost died from sadness, Stiles went over all the possible culprits behind the druidic murders, a list that included the creepy vet, Lydia, the now-dead Mr. Harris, and Derek "twice." I liked this conversation also because they reminisced about Matt the Season 2 mini-hunk who tried to murder everybody via a shapeshifting adonis-lizard-slave because he almost drowned at a pool party. It was a nice little stroll down memory lane. (I bet the ghost of Matt is so bummed that he's basically the only villain who's ever legit died on this show.)
So, right off the bat, strange stuff was going down. For example:
Uh, what's going on Teen Wolf? Forget something?
Here, I fixed it:
But also strange things were happening to all our favorite wolf boys! Boyd destroyed a vending machine so that he could eat peanut-butter crackers, and also Scott walked into Allison's motel room bathroom while she was taking a shower.
He snapped out of it, but still. WHAT was going on?
Oh THIS LADY was going on. The front desk lady with the rattling tracheotomy hole explained to Lydia pridefully that this motel had the all-time record for in-room suicides!
So yeah, not that we needed more reason to be creeped out by this joint, but the front desk kept a legit, framed tally of how many people had committed suicide in their establishment. It wasn't clear how many of those 198 suicides were werewolves, but after someone mysteriously changed the tally to 201, it seemed like at least three wolfboys were marked for death. Or at least marked for staring at broken TVs, Poltergeist-style.
Oh, Isaac. Go find Scott.
Because Lydia is officially some kind of psychic when it comes to death and trauma, basically anytime she approached a grate of any kind she heard the voices of people from the past as they geared up to commit so much suicide. Like in this scene, when she heard two people openly discussing their murder-suicide through an A/C vent followed by GUNSHOTS.
Lydia and Allison ran next door to check on that room but it was uninhabited and under renovation. There was a nice moment when Allison, who hadn't heard those noises, told Lydia sincerely that she believed her. It was really nice and made me like Allison so much. At some point when you live in this kind of world, skepticism seems more and more forced. Like, duh, pretty much anything was possible at this point, so why not actually be there for your friend?
Oh, but this was a nice and creepy touch:
The room had WOOD PANELING! Yucky! No wonder they were renovating. Haha just kidding, I don't know anything about modern decor, I live in my car.
Meanwhile Boyd just cannot stay away from ice. I'm guessing he was missing his Zamboni. Anyway, that's when this happened:
Get out of that ice, girl!
Also Isaac was plagued by mental drama of his own. He found himself all alone in his motel room (where was Scott?) and suddenly he was reenacting both sides of a particularly hurtful argument with his abusive dad who had been eaten by a lizard last season. Yes it was sad and distressing (and really good acting), but mostly this scene meant that we got to see Isaac's face from so many angles!
And then he imagined that he was locked in the unplugged freezer again! And now my blood was boiling again! Can Isaac's dad be resurrected Peter Hale-style so that he can be eaten by a lizard again? Ugh, Isaac's dad was the worst. Rot in heck, jerk.
Obviously Scott was physically and emotionally neglecting his bedmate, but he had a good excuse:
Just kidding, it was just a hallucination! Scott's mom did not die in the parking lot of a bad motel during a mid-season episode. Still, Scott did not enjoy seeing that.
Then this happened:
Ethan and Danny took their shirts off and made out on the bed! Obviously Ethan has so far been an evil villain, but it was pretty charming when he discovered that Danny had had some health problems and basically offered to turn him into a werewolf. And it was even charming in a sinister way when he responded to Danny's statement of feeling like a survivor with "I hope you will be." Dang, WHAT is gonna be going down, Ethan? But he didn't elaborate, there was too much making out to be done.
That is, until Ethan's insides started churning and he had to go look in the bathroom mirror:
WHAT THE? Amazing. It was obvious that all the werewolves were experiencing their worst fears or something, but what exactly is Ethan's worst fear? Did he swallow Freddy Krueger? Whatever the case, I felt I could relate. A lot of the time there is a man in my tummy yelling at me to eat Starburst.
In any good horror movie, there's always some out-of-nowhere and totally unnecessary scene where the characters discover old newspaper clippings of pertinent events. Usually it's the main lady going to the library and scrolling through microfiche, and sometimes it's just someone walking into a killer's lair and seeing tons of newspaper articles pinned to the dude's corkboards. In this case the motel helpfully kept newspaper clippings of every in-room suicide in the respective rooms' Bibles. FINALLY, a good use for those things! So yeah, it was nothing we didn't already know. We get it. Welcome to Suicide Town.
Meanwhile Ethan was tired of getting yelled at by the man ruining his abs.
Stiles and Allison saved Ethan's life by pushing him onto a hot stove (?) which made him snap out of his suicide trance. Phew!
But it was all getting to be too much for Stiles, who suddenly recalled the incident during Season 2 when Lydia poisoned everybody at her party with Wolfsbane and all the werewolves started hallucinating hurtful things.
Lydia was pretty sure she hadn't done it this time, but she also didn't look TOO upset at the accusation. She probably still feels a little bit burned by the time she thought she was falling in love with a saucer-eyed hunk and he ended up being the ghost of Peter Hale. As Allison had said, anything was possible at this point.
Oh, I forgot to mention, Derek was alive and chillin' in his loft with that one teacher. She dragged his pretty ass in there and ogled him for what must have been hours.
And guess what? Despite being at death's doorstep, Derek was still very boner-capable!
That's right, they did so much sex! What does it say about this lady that she'll roll around in the sheets with someone who has multiple open wounds seeping with black ooze? She a freak, basically. Anyway, Derek got some good, good lovin' and his wounds started closing up. So this is an official thing now: Werewolves can die of sadness. Much like I will do if this show ever goes off the air.
So then a clock radio started hassling Boyd about the time he let his sister drown (while ice skating, which OKAY, that explains it) and he decided to commit suicide in the weirdest manner since Will Smith hugged a jellyfish in Seven Pounds.
The logic being that, I guess, Boyd would be strong enough to carry a safe across the property and into the bathroom, but would not be strong enough to lift it off of himself while under water. Okay fine, that works. Anyway, at that moment Lydia had been listening to a sewer grate in the parking lot which told her that someone was about to drown and she correctly guessed it was Boyd!
But Stiles remembered that a source of heat can snap a suicidal werewolf out of his trance and the next thing we knew he was rummaging around on the school bus for a road flare.
And it worked! But part of me wonders whether Boyd was even IN a trance or if he'd been pretty much ready to commit suicide for a while now. I mean, what is his life even like these days? Even Isaac has a terrific new roommate situation to fall back on, but with Boyd, man, I don't know. Anyway, welcome back and hang in there, Boyd.
This was amazing: Look who had been hiding under his bed the whole time!
And then this happened:
HAHAHA. OH MY G. So, just to recap, there are only two things that Isaac will respond to anymore: Scott's calming voice/touch and also an OPEN FLAME TO THE FACE.
But the gang's troubles weren't entirely over. Because lo, standing in the parking lot doused in gasoline and holding a lit flare, was Scott. And he was NOT well.
If you are a human being with a heart and a brain and a soul then you probably got kind of emotional during this part. I have some of those things also and I got VERY emotional. Scott gave a really heartbreaking monologue about how much his life has gotten worse since becoming a werewolf, how he'd indirectly ruined the lives of his friends, how there was no hope for any of them so long as he was still alive. Devastating. And that was BEFORE Stiles started crying real tears and stepped into the puddle of gasoline with him.
It was just, I mean. It was just so good. So good all around.
Stiles was able to break through to Scott and toss the flare out of harm's way. Unfortunately he didn't factor in that there was some kind of evil presence nearby which, I guess, kicked the flare back into the pool of gasoline! Fortunately Lydia saw it go down and tackled the entire gang to safety before the fireball exploded.
And that's when things got WEIRD.
WHAT WAS THAT THING?? GET OUT OF HERE!!
Yeah, so the kids slept in the bus that night and nobody ended up committing suicide. Well, maybe Jordan the vomiting kid did, but none of the main characters did, so overall it was a victory. Ethan even thanked Scott for saving his life (but as Stiles pointed out, HE had been the one to do so) and offered a free bonus tidbit that Derek was alive and his friends would probably be murdering him soon. Cool, thanks, guy!
I really thought this was so dumb, but here it was: The reason the werewolves had been hallucinating was that someone had put Wolfsbane in the coach's whistle and so every time he had blown it the day before, he'd been accidentally poisoning the werewolves. So yeah. That was the explanation. See what I'm saying? Aren't explanations the worst sometimes? I mean, I guess there was some other supernatural thing going on with the motel itself, but according to this episode, the druids needed to sacrifice three werewolves, and their plan was to wait until there was a cross-country field trip, place Wolfsbane in the excitable coach's whistle, conspire to get the whole group to stay overnight at a very specific motel where at least three of them would definitely commit suicide, and then... I'm not sure? Yeah, see what I'm saying? Useless. Couldn't this have just been a standalone thing where the werewolves had the misfortune of visiting a hotel where there was Wolfsbane in the paint and it wasn't some larger conspiracy? I don't know. Look, I am nothing if not an apologist for this show (though I make no apologies about how good this season is overall), but I could have done without this lame explanation. Everything is way less scary now! That's just me, though.
Oh, but this was a pretty killer ending. Earlier we'd seen Mr. Argent investigating the brokedown mall, using his tracking skills to clearly recognize that his daughter was back in the mix, werewolf-wise. Also he recalled that his uncle (the dude from the opening scene) had committed suicide in the same motel where Allison had been staying. So where did he go to find out who'd bitten his uncle in the first place?
Hahaha! He went to the werewolf retirement home! Oh man, I wish this reveal hadn't been spoiled by the 'guest star' listings at the beginning of the episode, but still, it was great to see Gerard again! Just chillin' in a wheelchair dabbing black ooze from his nose and mouth. Anyway, he confirmed that his brother had been bitten by THE DEMON WOLF, and that meant that Mr. Argent was more than likely switching back into vengeance mode. As much as he'd been enjoying sitting up in his apartment doing paperwork, it was clear he'd be back in the game in no time. That time has come.
Guys, I really, really liked "Motel California." Yes, it was much more of a standalone episode than what we've come to expect from Teen Wolf (I might've preferred if it were entirely standalone), but if more standalone episodes were straight-up horror hours I'd be happy. This thing was scary! And emotional! And well-done in general. I would watch it again in a heartbeat and I think I will do that RIGHT NOW.
... Is an open wound a sexual dealbreaker for you?
... What is the best terminology to describe what exactly Lydia is?
... Does Scott need to be more careful about leaving Isaac unattended?
... How excited are you about the Druid villain now?
AIRED ON 3/8/2016
Season 5 : Episode 20