July 2, 2013

Death Be Not Whatever




I wish I'd decided to do episode-by-episode recaps of Teen Wolf this season. If I had, I'd have come here after the second episode and gushed about how much I loved it. Instead, I'm apparently only popping my head in to talk about episodes I hated. Like the season three premiere and last night's episode, "Frayed."

My chief complaint about last night's episode is that employing flashbacks the way they did only served to make it needlessly discombobulated and confusing. The sole purpose of the wacky timeline appears to have been to let the audience spend an entire episode thinking Derek was dead. Not the first time they've led us on like that - remember in season one when Peter was all Alpha'd up and stuck his arm clean through Derek's torso before tossing him into a heap and leaving him there all dead-seeming at the end of "Heart Monitor"? Scott, Stiles and the viewers then spent all of "Night School" under the impression that Derek was a corpse.

The death fake-out is trotted out a couple of times a season (if not a couple of times an episode) on Teen Wolf which is fine. It's maybe a little lazy and it definitely loses emotional heft the more they use it but whatever, it's fine. It's less fine when they resort to cheesy gimmicks to drag it out as long as possible at the expense of making an episode enjoyable or even comprehensible. Maybe if the flashbacks had happened in order, they'd have annoyed me less but they were all over the place. Essentially, we first flashed back to Tuesday afternoon, then flashed back to Wednesday morning, then flashed back to Monday evening, then flashed back to Thursday morning before flashing back to Tuesday evening again. All. Over. The damn. Place.

In one of our first flashbacks, Scott announced to Derek, Peter, Boyd and Isaac that the Alphas' hideout is in the penthouse of the building the Argents now live in (which Derek & The Boys already knew anyway). Ten minutes later we flashed back to the full convo Scott had with Deucalion in the elevator during which the only important thing we learn is that the Alphas are staying in the penthouse of the building the Argents now live in. It's like flashing back to a flashback we already flashed back to. That kind of hacky bullshit editing should come with Dramamine.

Meanwhile in the present, we're cruising down the road with a bus full of werewolves plus Stiles and Danny, with everyone under the impression that Derek and Ennis (who? I know, I don't care either) are dead and let me tell you, the extent to which most everyone does not seem to give a flying fuck is astonishing. I am more broken up about my coworker's mother-in-law's recent passing than Isaac and Stiles were about Derek's death. Boyd didn't seem sad but he at least he had the courtesy to be a little ragey about it. Scott wasn't sad though he did feel guilty but that's just because he's better than everyone else on the show.

Wacky timelines and temporary deaths aside, this show's over-reliance on the Alpha Pack is really impeding my ability to connect with or enjoy the season as a whole. They're just always around. They're fighting, they're chasing, they're teasing, they're speechifying, they're flirting, they're riding every fucking elevator in town. They're ubiquitous. Jeff Davis needs to go watch Jaws and take a note - what's really scary is what you don't see. I am one billion times more interested in the sacrifices than I am in whatever stupid shit Alphalpha and The Rascals are getting up to. As this episode came to an end my first thought was "well, at least we only have seven more episodes until this Alpha Pack nonsense is over." Because there's no way Teen Wolf would bring Alphalpha or even a single Rascal back for the second half of the season, right? RIGHT?

I've avoided dipping my toe into the Teen Wolf shipping pool thus far but here's where I have to wade in to say that I actually like the addition of Jennifer Blake and I think her character has been used better than any other new cast member this season. I had high hopes for how Cora could help us get to know more about Derek but she's mostly been written as a first season Derek with boobs thus far and we've been there, we're past it. Jennifer Blake on the other hand, after appearing in only a handful of scenes, has allowed us to see a side of Derek we haven't really seen before. We are able to see that not only does he care about people (which he's always been reluctant to admit or display), but he likes people. He's interested in interacting with some of them. He might even want to spend time talking or connecting with someone about something that doesn't involve claws and evisceration. He has layers. He's a real boy! I ship Sterek as much as I've ever shipped anything in my life, but I ship it like I shipped Damon and Alaric on TVD; I would like to see them make out because I always want to see cute boys make out, but mostly I want to see them be allies and reluctant friends. If a Sterek relationship becomes canon someday, I'll dance and cheer and cry real tears of joy; if it doesn't, that's fine too because I have fanfic and an imagination. In the meantime, I want both Stiles and Derek to have love interests because love interests mean kissing and shirt removal and when hot people make out with their tops off on TV, we all win.

My point is that adding new characters is great if it's done in a way that serves to give the characters we already have depth or to advance the story but not when all they do is take up space. The Rascals are taking up a lot of space and getting us nowhere.  

Lest you think I hated everything about "Frayed," I'll mention that there were three scenes I really enjoyed - Scott and Allison in her room, the planning confab at Derek's loft, and Stiles dealing with an insane Coach Finstock. I even rather liked the scenes between Allison and Lydia in the car and when Allison, Lydia, and Stiles were discussing Scott's injuries in the rest stop bathroom. But it's no coincidence that the scenes I liked were all scenes between established characters. They were all scenes where people we already know and care about were dealing with shit. I'm not saying the new characters should all go away, but I think we should spend a lot less time with newbies and a lot more time with people I'm invested in so that I can muster up some interest in what's going on.

Seems to me like Teen Wolf is hitting it's "sophomore slump" a season late and that's fine. Most shows have slumps and I've stuck around through a lot of them so I'll be here through 3A while they work out a shitty Big Bad and I'll look forward to a few bright spot episodes in an otherwise depressing, muddled season. But I sure as hell hope 3B is an improvement over this mess.

4 comments:

onlymystory said...

I thought I'd be nice & comment instead of just sharing the link. I too am wishing that I'd chosen to do episodic recaps. I like the round table but we haven't done it enough for me to get all my thoughts out. (I still may post something about this ep and might reference you if you don't mind).
Obviously I agree with everything you said on the flashbacks. I don't mind the death fake-out that much either. It happens, we deal, moving on. But spoilers have made it clear that Hoechlin was on the show past the filming of this episode and is coming back for 3B. So making it clear to us that he's alive but that the pack/kids think otherwise? That could have had some emotional heft. Instead we're all stuck feeling seasick by the way those flashbacks tossed us around. And yes, "hacky bullshit editing" is the perfect description.
Also, yes, like if they really think Derek's dead, I would think that the others would be a bit more upset about it. I mean, if Scott's gotten to a point that his connection with Derek is strong enough that his guilt won't let him heal (& I wish we'd seen some of that on screen), then surely the others might have a few tears.
I'm sure you've seen my thoughts on Jennifer already and you know we're pretty much on the same page. I do find the similarities between her & Stiles so far a bit annoying, just because I think they can do better with her. But mostly I think I'm just worried that she'll be bad because they insist Derek doesn't get nice things and I'm gonna be furious if they pull a Kate on him again. (And I don't put it past this show to do that). Still, maybe next week will provide some better insight into her as a character & this bond that seems to have formed between her & Derek.

I liked all the same stuff you did though. All for more scenes with the original characters. And you're right, every show hits a bit of a slump. TVD took until S4 to hit it (imo), TW seems to be hitting it right now. But we've been told the Alpha pack is only for this half of the season and I dearly hope that's true.

Melissa said...

Feel free to reference me if you do your own write up, Melissa. I'm not too surprised that we agree on most points on this episode because that's our way.

I am likewise worried that they're going to either kill Jennifer or make her evil because they will stop at nothing to make Derek suffer but the optimistic part of me is just really enjoying having her around so SOMEONE can behave in a way that I understand and make out with Derek.

The only shows that ever really avoid slumps are the ones that are cancelled too soon so I'm hopeful for 3B. Until then, lets get these boys out of their shirts! (If it can't be a good story, at least it can be a naked story.)

Zakko said...

This has been a trying season so far. I share your thoughts on many points, particularly shoddy character development, bizarre narrative "structure," and plotting problems. However, my core issue is with the character arcs of Derek and Scott.
Few things drive me up a wall faster than writerly writing: accept this and support this because the writers wrote it. Davis & Co. made it very clear that this season is about Scott becoming an Alpha. It doesn't matter that they've spent two seasons reminding us over and over again how dim Scott's bulb is, how he's largely incapable of making good decisions, and is at best a bumbling puppy, not an Alpha wolf.
Last season we got to know Derek better, to see the horror of his backstory, and watch him blindly trying to be an Alpha. He made his fair share of bad choices, but he seemed to learn from them, and we started seeing his ability to lead, to make self-sacrificing choices. Scott spent the second season being Gerard's patsy, putting everyone at risk so he could "keep" Allison. Let me be clear: the "resolution" of the Gerard story line was one of the worst displays of deus ex machina to come across my TV in some time. Scott forcing Derek to bite Gerard made not one lick of sense, and that he would keep everyone in the dark and in danger for such selfish reasons should have had consequences. The terrible things that happened to his "friends," Scott enabled. In short, he has not demonstrated a single trait that might remotely be considered leadership.
And that would be okay if the writers just let him be a stupid teenager. Spend some time allowing him to grow up. However, every episode of this season so far has been the writers shoving Scott as Alpha down our throats.
And if this isn't bad enough, they decided to assassinate Derek's character to build up the ersatz hero. I had enough when Derek threw Isaac out, literally, in the rain. Not only that, but he used abuse as a trigger. Nothing we have seen indicates that Derek would do something like that. I don't care about the Highlander there-can-be-only-one powergrab stupidity of Deucalion. But the ick doesn't stop there. Every episode, save the premiere, has turned into tortured!Derek porn. Every. Last. Episode.
Highlander Deucalion keeps making anvil references to "vision," the Alpha pack is composed of people too stupid to see that their boss will gladly kill them so only one remains. So. Much. Stupid. The only thing that is working for me this season is, unsurprising, Dylan O'Brien's performance.
I'm not asking for Teen Wolf to work at the same level of quality as Six Feet Under or West Wing. I'm asking for it to at least make some semblance of sense. Sci fi, horror and fantasy require us all to suspend our disbelief, but good fiction has to be somewhat plausible, has to at least hang together.
I always get offended when a show/book/video game/etc. tries to force me to agree with the text and where it's going. Teen Wolf is going straight down the middle of that highway, and I am not inclined to go with it.

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