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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Teen Wolf 2x11: "Battlefield".

(Previous Teen Wolf episode reviews can be found on the Teen Wolf tag, along with Teen Wolf 101.)

This week's Teen Wolf is messing up my life in a very real, logistics/scheduling type way. I'm at the Edinburgh Festival at the moment and have a very tight timetable of work and Fringe shows, but how can I keep up with all that if I'm too busy hand-carving an Oscar statuette for Dylan O'Brien?? Seriously, let's all open up a WikiHow tab right now, look up "How to make an Oscar", and then build that shit out of tinfoil and glitter glue or whatever the hell fake Oscars are made of. THEN MAIL THEM ALL TO DYLAN O'BRIEN.
Battlefield: a disjointed episode, deserving of the disjointed review it's going to receive thanks to my overly busy schedule. We all tend to complain when one of our favourite characters (LYDIA) doesn't get enough screentime in any particular episode, but this ep proved that it's no longer possible to include everyone and set out a coherent plot at the same time. While there was just as much melodrama as any other episode of Teen Wolf, Battlefield fell into all the predictable pre-finale traps: it focused on a rather silly premise -- the portentious lacrosse game of doom -- and was mostly just setup for whatever happens in the finale. It would've been a lot better to split the multiple Lacrosse Night arcs into a two-parter because in this episode there was just way too much going on, and not in the usual "too much awesome happening at once" kind of way. So many of the main characters have gone through major life changes in the past few eps that their reactions are mostly taking place offscreen, resulting in Allison and isaac both seeming like they've had complete personality transplants during the unscreened moments between episodes.
The betas
I understand that the three betas are going through a lot right now, but wasn't Isaac a grade-A douchebag just last week? Why is he the one who is suddenly glomming onto Scott as his moral inspiration while Boyd runs around in the forest with Erica? Especially since Boyd was the only one who previously exhibited any signs of maturity or thoughtfulness, whereas now he's apparently 100% onboard with this rather baffling idea of joining a pack of complete strangers. Although I did appreciate how Boyd didn't attack Allison when she shot him, even though I'm pretty sure he'd been given ample opportunity to put a claw through her throat.
The Isaac we saw in this episode seemed totally different from the angry, dickish Isaac I remember from before. I definitely buy him (and the other betas, for obvious reasons) as a person looking for a leader/parental figure, but it just seems so unlikely that he'd pick Scott. With Boyd, I get the impression that he has a little more self-confidence than Isaac and Erica, and the reason why Boyd was OK with following Derek (for a while) was that Derek was the most practical option: he was the only person who knew how to be a werewolf. More than all that, though, the Three Betas subplot has been one of the things that's suffered most from their lack of screentime, mostly because we've seen so little on the subject of how becoming a werewolf has changed their lives. At the beginning of season 1 Scott had Stiles for backup, not to mention having several months to adjust to his werewolfhood, but Isaac, Erica and Boyd were thrust into the middle of a gang war almost as soon as they were bitten.
With Teen Wolf you can talk about the female gaze (gayze?) until the cows come home because of the way every single episode must by law have at least one gratuitous shirtless scene and/or lingering shot of Tyler Hoechlin expressing emotion via his deltoids. With this episode, though, I've just gotta talk about that very first scene. Every time I think the camera people at Teen Wolf can't possibly be caressing Dylan O'Brien's face any more, they zoom in so the entire screen is taken up by Stiles' 492 trembling eyelashes. The idea of a scene where a character a) talks explicitly and honestly about their feelings (to a school shrink!!), and b) helpfully exposits about what happened since the last episode... well, basically it rebels against everything I think of as good writing. AND YET. AND YET. Dylan O'Brien is such a talented actor that he totally carries it off.
I've been trying to work out how Teen Wolf fits into the post-Buffy TV world, and I still haven't quite worked it out. Joss Whedon's writing is 100% genre-savvy, with the characters in things like Buffy, Firefly and Cabin In The Woods all either subverting or directly challenging genre tropes. Buffy and Xander especially were very aware of their respective roles as stereotypes of characters found in teen horror movies, and acted accordingly. Teen Wolf, on the other hand, has a full cast of people who act like horror movie idiots. Stiles is the only really genre-savvy one, although that might not so much be a geek-culture thing (ie, like Xander or Peter Parker) so much as the fact that he has excellent intuition. Stiles just knows stuff, and not in the sense that he "just knows", which definitely would be bad writing -- it's more like he's the only character who pays attention to everything going on around him, and then at some point a Sherlock Holmes moment happens at the back of his mind and he realises Oh shit, this is what's been happening all along. Not only is Stiles the "smart" one, the researcher; he has this impressive faculty for finding the truth without actively looking for it. Which is kind of what happened throughout this episode, producing a very effective feeling of foreboding.
Five solid minutes of Stiles having a breakdown is horrible to watch for two reasons: Dylan O'Brien SELLS IT, and seeing Stiles upset is like seeing your mother upset. I mean, yeah, Stiles Is The Pack Mom is funny because it's true, but the scene with the school counsellor was one of those moments where you realise that Stiles really doesn't have a support base of his own. He is the support base. He's going through hell; he's the only kid in the show who is reacting "normally" to the horrors they've all experienced (probably because he's the only character who is mature and thoughtful enough to process it all), but he's also the only one who has literally no one to turn to. For that reason I can believe that he might speak to the school counsellor, plus the fact that this scene works on another level that acknowledges the audience and allows us to share his feeling of nameless dread. Right from the beginning he clearly knows that something is going to happen to him, and because we're genre-savvy (and we know that Stiles Is Always Right) we start freaking out along with him. But the thing is? For once, Stiles doesn't "know" anything -- because his perceptions are totally skewed by trauma -- but that doesn't stop us knowing, especially when we see Stiles more-or-less saying goodbye to Scott before the lacrosse game. By the time Stiles does the unthinkable and actually participates in the game, I knew that something was going to go horribly wrong. My only consolation is that there is zero chance of Stiles being killed off because he's the fan favourite and the entire Teen Wolf production team are 100% aware that Dylan O'Brien is a future superstar. 
Fans like us, the ones who spend too much time on Tumblr and write and/or read review blogs like this one -- we've probably thought quite a lot about why Allison acts the way she does. But what about the average 16-year-old watching this show? I'm not so sure that they're going follow such a swift transition from the relatively peace-loving Allison of three or four episodes ago, and the Allison we just saw remorselessly shoot a teenage boy in the chest. I don't mean that to be patronising, rather than just to point out that you really have to think about Allison's backstory and family relationships to even remotely legitimise such a swift turnaround. Yes, Gerard is a psycho and an expert manipulator and, basically, a lifelong cult-leader, and yes, Allison is a vulnerable teenage girl whose mother just died, but have we really seen much of either of those things in conjunction with one another? I don't think so. Given the extended time of a two-part episode I believe this issue could've been solved, but as it stands I found it quite out of character for Allison to shoot Boyd. Of all the hunters, surely Allison is the most equipped to cut through the anti-werewolf bigotry that made Gerard and Kate so evil, so why does her murderous rampage include harmless highschool students rather than just Derek? Allison's drastic step towards hardline anti-werewolf violence also makes me concerned for the future of the show's writing in a more general sense, because Scott can't be the "good guy" and be in a relationship with someone who is willing to kill an innocent person in cold blood, and Allison can't be redeemed over a short stretch of time. We're meant to believe that grief has sent her over the edge into the kind of unhinged violence that Kate loved, but that's just a reason, not an excuse.
Anyway, the TL;DR version of this is that I can't judge yet whether Allison's characterisation is inconsistent or not, but whatever happens the show will need to acknowledge that she is Doing Bad Things. At some point I want to write a whole post all about the Argents, when I have time for writing again.

Derek and Peter
Derek vs Peter = eternal torment because Peter Hale is an expert at feelings and power-struggles and Derek has the social skills and self-awareness of a breezeblock. To be honest, picking Peter up and throwing him against stuff  is the only workable solution because there's no way in hell that Derek is every going to defeat him in a battle of wits. Of course, violence doesn't really work either because in addition to having precisely zero ethical qualms about killing people to get what he wants, Peter doesn't seem to care if you try to kill him. He's like the Joker in that respect. His only flaw in this episode was that since his return to the land of the living, he's decided to grow a goatee and buy some douchebag jeans. Change out of the douchebag jeans, Peter! You're like forty years old! You don't want to look like a Coldplay dad.

Like the showrunners of Revenge, Jeff Davis likes to luxuriate in his ridiculous supervillain dialogue. Here are some of my favourite Peter Hale lines from this episode:
  1. "I'm out of commission for a few weeks and suddenly there's lizard people, geriatric psychopaths, and you're cooking up werewolves out of every self-esteem-deprived adolescent in town." <--- accurate.
  2. "I'm not a total psycho." 
  3. "Right now, Jackson's identity is disappearing beneath a reptilian skin." <--- SERIOUSLY. Can you even imagine him and Gerard having a conversation with each other? I can't.

Misc. (See, I told you this review would be pretty disjointed.)
One thing that didn't ring true for me was Peter's claim that only one person can sway Jackson through the Power Of Love, and that's Lydia. I mean, really? Firstly -- and perhaps this is just down to the nature of a fast-moving show like Teen Wolf, where it's easy to forget which characters know each other on a personal level -- how does Peter knows this? I would've thought that most of what he knows about Jackson was originally viewed through the lens of Lydia's own perceptions. Lydia and Jackson are both lonely, but it's never really been clear whether they actually love each other or not, particularly Jackson. The "she's his kryptonite!" thing works with Scott and Allison because it's so patently obvious, but the only person Jackson ever interacts with in a positive manner is Danny. In fact, before the game he was warning Danny to stay safe, not texting Lydia or anyone else. The best thing about Jackson as a person is his friendship with Danny, a friendship that seems astonishingly functional, affectionate and trusting considering how much of a dick Jackson can be in every other facet of his life.
DOES ANYONE NOT SHIP THIS?? Although really, my OTP is Parents/More Screentime. They both delight me because they seem to exist on a different, slightly more realistic plane than the younger generation of characters, a fact that is particularly entertaining during moments like the locker-room scene when Scott's mother is the only person who notices how incredibly weird Coach Finstock can be.

Teen Wolf realism rating: Can someone please explain to me how Scott leaves the messages on Allison's car window? Because that's been bugging me ever since it first appeared on the show, and I suspect I may just be idiotically missing something? Like, how are the messages on the inside of the window? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to be on the outside?? My other minor logistical qualm is about the Hale house, whose state of disrepair seems to vary with every episode. I don't think we've seen anyone actually stand on the stairs yet because everyone tends to jump or get thrown all the way over them, but in this episode we saw Peter get flung against some wooden balustrades that would surely have been burned down years ago. (No, I don't know why I noticed that, either.)


  1. Interesting that no one has commented on the fact that Jackson sufficiently snapped out of his Kanima fugue to warn Danny only after Danny called his name.

  2. This is pure conjecture, but given that Jeff Davis has talked about Sinqua Walls working on getting into a pilot, and the scheduling problems that came up there, I sincerely believe that Isaac's role in this episode was originally planned for Boyd.

    Like, presumably Davis knew going into the season that one of the betas would need to Step Up and Become Second In Command, and I really suspect he had pegged Boyd for that role because obviously Boyd is perfect for it. But if Boyd has to be written off the show so that he can go to a new project, then Davis would have had to re-sort that shit out, hence Inexplicable Isaac. Also: hence lack of Boyd story lines and hence clear setup for either Boyd or Erica to die at the hands of the Argents, because there is definitely no way that Stiles will die but Davis might decide that this show needs Consequences beyond "my dad lost his job due to my idiotic behavior only then he got it back two episodes later." And honestly if one of the betas has to die I'd prefer it was Isaac because how about we don't fridge any more ladies or characters of color seeing as we don't have that many of either, but if Boyd is being written out at Walls request...?
    TL;DR: I'm actually really worried about Boyd and I wish he'd gotten the Isaac plot line instead because damn that would make so much more sense.

  3. The same thing happened when Lydia was inviting him to her birthday party and touched him but that might be because she's immune.

  4. So yeah, Stiles' speech at the beginning totally worked for me. Actually, it worked so well that I actually dreamt about it right after I watched the episode. Yep, apparently our sweet Dylan is so good even my subconscient is in love with him.
    As for the whole Isaac's "personnality switch" thing, I'm not that sure it came totally out of the blue. In this case, I don't think Isaac is looking for a paternal figure. He's just looking for a friend. And since Scott is the only one who ever showed any kind of interest towards him (pack aside, obviously, but it's not the same thing) it seems pretty logic to me that he turns to him when he needs some advice. He trusts him. I don't see it happening with Boyd, or even Erica, for that matter. (Then again, I may be a bit partial on this particular topic, since we got to see Daniel Sharman's amazing smile and that counts for something :P )
    And YES, I ship Mama!McCall/Papa!Stilinski. Always have. I mean, c'mon, it's obvious.

  5. I think the big switch for Isaac came in episode 9, when he found his Thing. The thing that lets him control the wolfy side. The idea seems to be that once you can control it, you start being a Real Person again, not just an out of control loony. And Erica and Boyd haven't been shown to have found that yet.

    Why Scott? Because really, the potato is the only viable other option. There's Derek, who has a face, but is pretty terrible at everything ever, or Scott, who is also terrible at everything and a potato, but at least has Stiles to point him in the right direction.

    Regarding the Lydia/Jackson Twue Wuv thing, I think it's more that Jackson trusts Lydia to death. She's possibly the only one he trusts out of everyone, including his parents, and the closest thing to an identity that he has. The feelings are fairly obviously not mutual, but my theory is that Jackson got told to murder Lydia by Gerard, and Jackson went "NOPE. That's my identity. I will stab myself instead. Fuck youuuuu."

    As for the Hale house being in states of disrepair, my theory is that Derek has very little to do other than work out and rebuild the house. Followed by destroying the house by throwing people into things. Because otherwise it would be built, and he'd be bored.

  6. Teen Wolf is quickly losing me thanks to how they've been handling Allison's characterisation.

    I also found it entirely ridiculous that Gerard spent the episode saying "Give me Derek Hale! Where is Derek Hale?" when the whole time Derek Hale was the Hale house. Considering how often Derek seems to end up back there despite having a super secret hangout, you'd think the Argents would have set up a security camera or motion sensor to alert them to mediocre werewolfing. They could afford those quad bikes.

    I also can't believe that Gerard's plan was to use a lizard boy to kill someone in public - in a situation where half the people there would have mobile phones and cameras in their hands - in order to find out where Derek is. It's bad enough that our heroes have terrible plans - can't our villains be somewhat competent to merit the threat they pose?

  7. Oh, I always assumed the thing on the car window was Allison's dad telling her when she had to be home. Whoops.

  8. I agree with you entirely, regarding Isaac's Thing (wow, that sounds dirty...). Scott was also kind of out of control until he realized that Allison was his Thing, and Derek's thing seems to be his anger, which - is very odd, really. Since presumably he must have had another Thing to begin with, unless he was a very very angry small child.

    I think the only reason Isaac is bonding with Scott is because Scott apparently cares whether he lives or dies for no particularly selfish motivation of his own. Derek needs Isaac; Scott just wants him to be careful (as seen in the episode with all the sexy dancing and murder). Which I think is in keeping with Scott's character - sweet as marshmallow fluff, dumb as a box of rocks. And also, they obviously both love puppies! (I almost fell off my couch laughing during that scene, I really did.)

    Re: Lydia/Jackson = TRUE TRUE LOVE - isn't Derek the one who said Lydia when Peter said anchor? I could be wrong, but I seem to remember being completely bewildered by Derek's in-depth knowledge of the relationship woes of ~six teenagers. Clearly he has nothing whatsoever to do, because that shit is boring unless you are actually one of the teenagers. Anyway, if I am right about this, which is possibly not true, then Peter was just rolling with the Lydia idea, which I can buy because while not a total psycho (now), he's definitely psycho. And we've already seen Derek draw immensely incorrect conclusions when suggestions were made about people and what he should do about them. (Deaton: You aren't trusting the one you should trust the most! Derek: Scott! Deaton: are stupid, but let's go with that. We can just pretend that whole conversation about trust in the swimming pool didn't happen.) And I think that Jackson, finally inescapably confronted/accepting his identity as the kanima, used some agency and stabbed himself in the stomach rather than kill any more, no matter who he was being told to kill.

    ...that may be giving Jackson too much credit.

    Clearly you are right about the Hale house's disrepair. He works out, he rebuilds the house, he throws people through the house, he fixes it again. It distracts him from his abandoned career in fashion back in New York.

    Oh. And. Does anyone else remember Peter talking about how Derek's power was heart?


  9. Ugh, this show seemed to go right off the rails after the rave episode. Wildly inconsistent characterization, huge plot holes, manipulative storytelling of the ~tell not show~ variety. I'm sad I got invested because it ended up sucking so much. ;___;

  10. Really like your re-caps and meta's. Can you please do one for episode 12? I keep poping in hoping you've written it. *hopeful smile*