A Rare Form of Wolfbane
MTV, Mondays, 6 PM
Written by Daniel Sinclair
Directed by Toby Wilkins
“Would I look hot with a gun?” – Allison Argent
Boy, that was quick. From a smart, sassy, self-aware teen drama to a clumsy, uneven comedy in one week. I don’t expect every episode to be a home run, but this one was a real letdown after three well-produced episodes. Almost everything was off on this one—most of all the plot. It made no sense whatsoever. On the upside, though, we gains a new, kick-ass female character and had a genuinely funny teenage-embarrassment scene. So I guess it’s a wash, though there is a lingering aftertaste of disappointment.
“I give him 48 hours. If that.” – Kate Argent
Here’s a scene out of so many horror movies: a woman driving alone, late at night, looking nervous. She is distracted, looks away from the road, is nearly creamed by a truck that speeds away. Alone and shaking on the side of the road, she looks around – she is in a lonely, deserted place. She reaches behind her just as she hears a mysterious thump on the top of her car. A hairy arm shatters the driver’s window, reaching in for her. She screams and fights. We’ve seen this scenario a hundred times. But this time, the woman hauls out a shotgun and blasts a hole in her own roof. The arm lets go of her. She vaults out of the car, mad as hell, pumping the shotgun. She screams a challenge to the night: “Come on!” and fires off another round, pumps the shotgun again. She’s mad, she’s blond, she’s wearing black. I think I’m in love. Meet Kate Argent (Jill Wagner, Splinter), sister of Allison’s father Chris and my new favorite character on this show. Not only is she not intimidated by the werewolf (the shadowy “alpha”) who attacked her, she turns the tables on it. Popping her trunk, she loads a sniper rifle with a special bullet taken from a box stamped with the image of a leaf. At this point, the alpha’s howls have attracted two witnesses: Derek and Scott. Derek chases the alpha and Kate, mistaking him for the alpha, shoots him in the arm. When Chris arrives, Scott overhears her assessment that whoever she shot will be dead in 48 hours.
“It was a different kind of bullet.” — Derek
Derek rapidly falls ill and his arm begins to look gangrenous. He goes looking for Scott, somehow gets on campus – a good trick in this post-Columbine, security-conscious public school culture – and uses his special hearing to eavesdrop on random conversations. He learns what we’ve already learned: that Scott is going over to Allison’s to study. He doesn’t actually do anything with this information, since he almost immediately falls over in the parking lot in front of Stiles’ jeep. Derek and Scott put two and two together, and figure out who shot Derek and where she is. Scott sees that Derek is fighting the change to werewolf and gets Stiles to drive him away. And that’s about it for Derek and Stiles in this episode; they spend most of it driving aimlessly around, frantically texting Scott, and snarling at one another. Scott is tasked with finding another of the bullets that Derek was shot with. At which point, I have to ask: why? Why is the cure for one gunshot another copy of the same bullet? What’s the reasoning behind this? Even sympathetic magic has rules, and I can’t see any rule that would make sense here. One bullet will kill you, two will cure you? What kind of logic is that?
“What is going on with you today? You’re acting all kinds of bizarre.” — Allison
Scott knows that Derek has only 48 hours. He knows he needs to search the Argent house for the bullet. But he spends most of the next few hours dallying with Allison, going through her childhood memories, and dining with her family. He acts as if he has all the time in the world. I had to keep reminding myself that Scott, even now, only half believes he’s a werewolf, and is still fighting his denial. He does stupid things not just because he’s young and naïve, but because he’s psychologically ill-equipped for the seriousness of his situation. Trapped in the infantilizing culture of high school, he is unprepared for something as real as death, even when he’s none too fond of the victim. That’s the only reason I can imagine for him abandoning his quest for the magic bullet by making out with Allison. Granted, hormones trump everything at that age, but must he really be this jejune? When interrupted by yet another frenetic text from Stiles, Allison pulls away and starts showing Scott her collection of bad poetry. One thing leads to another (gotta watch those poets) and soon they’re in the basement, checking out her archery equipment. And her dad’s arsenal. Dad comes home in the middle of a make out session and catches them. Chris is sending Scott home, but Kate invites Scott to dinner. So strong is her character it took me a moment to remember that, hello, it’s not her house. But she prevails anyway, which says something about the Argent household.
“Do you eat meat?” – Chris Argent
Follows one of the more deliciously awkward dinners in the history of awkward dinners, as Allison later puts it. Chris puts Scott through the most intense let’s-embarrass-the-boyfriend grilling ever – sneering at his athletic abilities, wondering if he uses drugs or alcohol, scaring him with gruesome stories about rabid dogs. His cold green eyes assess Scott unrelentingly, or exchange coded messages at the table with his sister. Scott squirms under this survey, of course, but when his super-senses detect Allison’s discomfiture, he deflates the tension with a joke. More frantic text messages from Stiles remind him that he has a larger purpose here, so he makes an excuse to search Kate’s room. He finds the box with the bullets, pockets one, and reaches for his smartphone to use a translation app to translate the inscription on the box. I love it when werewolves get all wired up with the latest tech, no? The bullet apparently is filled with a rare form of wolfbane. As Scott is leaving, however, Kate heads him off and demands to know what he took from her bag. At the point where she’s ready to strip-search him, Allison confesses that it was her going through the bag – and holds up a condom. I had to laugh out loud at this punchline. Scott’s shocked reaction is priceless – he literally does not know where to look; later, as he’s leaving, the implications dawn on him and he grins from ear to ear. But I’m glad we didn’t see the conversation that followed Scott’s departure from Maison Argent.
“Try not to bleed out on my seats, okay?” — Stiles
Meanwhile, Derek is seeking help at the animal clinic by fighting his way out of his shirt. What is it with the shaved chests on this show? Are the producers trying to make the Tylers look younger than they are? Or is the hairlessness somehow supposed to emphasize their hairiness when they transform? Except they don’t get hairier when they transform, so I’m confused. Anyway, while Scott lollygags his way through dinner and conversation, Derek resolves on a desperate measure: he wants Stiles to cut off his arm before the infection reaches his heart. As they are on the point of amputation, Scott arrives with the bullet. When it gets dropped, we have our Werewolf Skills Test – Scott must learn to control the emergence of his claws well enough to retrieve the bullet from a floor grate. Derek cures himself by burning the wolfbane-laced gunpowder and slapping it to the bullet wound. I suppose there might be some part of the old battlefield cauterization technique somewhere in there, but frankly I find the whole idea baffling. It’s like counteracting a poison by drinking more of the same.
“You may yet survive the night.” — Kate
There was one thrill in this show – meeting Kate, who kicks butt and takes names – and one funny scene, with the condom. Stiles was a big disappointment; he went from being the funny wingman last week to a nagging idiot, one stupid enough to snarl at a pissed-off, hurting werewolf. Not smart. I found the plot unconvincing and the pacing slow. The CGI for the alpha werewolf in the initial sequence was unconvincing and amateurish. As this series progresses, I find myself more and more fascinated by the werewolf hunters, not the too-pretty, not-very-smart werewolves themselves. I don’t know if Papa Argent has figured out who and what Scott is, or if he’s just normally a creepy guy with scary eyes, but I like him either way. And his sister rocks, so there’s that. Teen Wolf held steady from last week at 1.8 million, with a 0.7 rating in its target audience. I reckon it’s here for the summer, until Twilight fans get tired of it.