Friday, June 1, 2012

"Teen Wolf" Season 1 Recap

I wanted to like Teen Wolf. On paper, the idea sounded good: take the campy '80s Michael J. Fox movie and modernize slash serialize it. Substitute the comedy of the original with teen angst. And sometimes, just sometimes, Teen Wolf manages to surprisingly work, but more often than not it falls flat on its face. Let's blame that brat blowing on the dog whistle from the original movie. He obviously grew up and had a hand in the current show's derailing.

But, jokes aside, the main problem with Wolf is its star, the admittedly adorable Tyler Posey. You might remember him as J-Lo's sassy wise-beyond-his-years pre-teen son in Maid in Manhattan. Then again, you might not. Posey really hasn't had a big gig before this and it painfully shows. He's clumsy as Scott, the show's lead protagonist who is - you guessed it! - transformed into a werewolf in the series' first episode. One assumes Posey was cast because he spend his post-Maid years working out and never EVER touching carbs. And look good with his shirt off he does, but not nearly enough to save his terrible acting which is just so, so terrible.

It’s not all horrible, though, so let’s take a bit of time to focus on the good. We’ll get back to the much, much bad later. One saving grace of the show is the adorkable Dylan O’Brien, the cutey patatootie who plays Scott’s best friend Stiles (Ugh, I know. Characters have terrible names often in this show). Stiles, which is a nickname - to clarrify how even further I don’t like his name - was there the night Scott fell victim to the werewolf. Essentially, he pretty much knows everything that's happening with Scott when the others characters don't. This is also because Posey's Scott is often incapable of internalizing emotions, so he makes a lot of stupid faces and blurts out dialogue to Stiles with the subtlety of a jackhammer. O’Brien makes dumb faces, too, but he somehow makes it work. He’s often put in the position where, because of bad writing, he needs to recap the basic plot of an episode 3 or 4 times in that same episode. But true to Stiles demeanor, O’Brien seems to take it in stride, and you’re left with the sense that he’s just happy to be there. There’s something oddly comforting about that. He also had a particularly great scene with Posey in one of the early episodes when Scott is beginning to wolf out, so he’s becoming a lot more aggressive. Stiles decides to lock his friend up so he won’t hurt anyone, obviously for his own good. And you get the sense that Stiles is really torn up about it. In a show that is overacted in nearly every act, Stiles is a grounding force that makes you actually care. And the show spends nearly as much time with Stiles as it does with Scott and thankgawd because I probably would have stopped watching immediately if that wasn’t the case.

And since I’m on a roll with things I like, let’s talk about my two other favorite characters, who HAFTA be Jackson and Lydia. Colton Haynes, who plays Jackson, would have been a clear choice as the show’s lead, so eff you casting director for not making that decision. He’s already been a werewolf on The Gates (didn’t see it, so I can’t really comment) and was one of the few members of the cast that had actually been in something people watched before this show started airing. And as Posey’s inability to act keeps making us all want to barf, Colton is surprisingly dastardly as jerkwad Jackson. When he begins a subplot about being posioned by a werewolf fingernail (Guys, I’m not making this up. Read plot synopsis of this show. They all sound made up), you sort of get interested to see what’s going to happen. And 10 minutes of him walking around in a towel, which is the REAL appeal of any Teen Wolf episode. In a show of Attractive Young Men, Colton is the Most Attractive. Does he even have any body fat? When you talk about abs you can grate cheese on, it’s the abs of Colton Haynes. Even his name kind of gives me a boner. Scott’s okay, he’s got that vaguely ethnic thing going on, but it also feels like he’s still developing. Stiles is hot, but relegated to dorky comic relief a lot. Jackson starts stealing every scene he’s in. He’s fun, because he’s conflict for Scott and Stiles that not entirely about the former being a werewolf (they talk about it SO MUCH!), and I always took him a breath of fresh air. I already talked about the abs... right?

Lydia, though... well she might be my favorite. She’s a plucky little thing, and the show is kind of smart to relegate her in the background most of the time. She’s Jackson’s popular girlfriend, but she’s also opportunistic, and at one point sort of sluts out and starts making out with Scott in one of the show’s most fun and unrealistic moments. She keeps up with Jackson, who as the show’s resident dick, is often not very nice to her. Their pairing, the two popular kids in a relationship of convenience, is one of the show’s more surprisingly realistic elements for me. I knew kids like that in high school, and I suspect you did, too. They’re dating, but when you spend 5 minutes in their company, you wonder if they even like each other. Lydia also has A Secret, and it turns out to be maybe lame for you but I got into it: She’s really smart, but hides it to be popular. And anyone smart and pretty will know (just caught myself looking in the mirror), you sometimes have to dumb yourself down to fit in. Lydia’s intelligence is brought up intermittadly throughout the show, never in a super overt way, and it’s an element that kind of works for me. I can believe Lydia is smart and weirdly ashamed of that a lot more than I can believe Scott is a werewolf. The show never switches focus to Lydia as it does to Jackson, and Jackson is much more magnetic maybe, but I like their scenes of snark together. Lydia also kind of has something crazy and ill-defined supernatural style happen to her at the end, and that crazy Carrie like scene of her in the hospital gave me the appropriate Stephen King chills it was supposed to. I’m excited for Lydia in Season 2.

Am I making this show sound good? Let’s get back to some of its more shitty elements then. First up, Derek Hale. Where do Abercrombie models go after they outlived their usefulness? One shows up on Teen Wolf, with No Acting Skills Whatsoever. At least that half smile thing Posey does gets you on his side as he stumbles through an episode, but Derek is one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen on a genre show (and there are A LOT of just bad examples). His presence just often makes no sense. He shows up to “help” Scott in his transition (which, you know, he’s already a werewolf, so... these Mr. Miyagi moments tend to make little sense to me), but then provides little to no information that would be useful. Scott even often outright asks him why he’s being vague, and Derek predictably doesn’t give him an answer. But there’s No. Reason. When we learn more about the Hale family, there’s also no real reason for this. We kind of know Derek didn’t kill his family, but he’s not interesting us enough for us to care about him or his dead loved ones. He shows up, takes his shirt off, and proves to everyone he works out the most. He’s the creepy uncle, and there’s an odd rapist-like vibe in his scenes with Scott that often make me uncomfortable. Posey looks good acting off him, because who wouldn’t? The real tragedy of the first season is that it didn’t end with Derek’s death. It should of, to release him and THE REST OF US from his curse.

Scott’s girlfriend doesn’t work, either, and she’s so forgetable that I can’t for the life of me remember her name. She’s basically a faux Katniss, so she will be known as Fauxniss because that now fills me with childlike glee. It’s obvious the writers slash producers knew that The Hunger Games was in production, and Scott’s girlfriend becomes such a blatant ripoff at times that it makes me cringe. Her scenes with Posey never work, and as the show’s central love story (which it really, really doesn’t need) you never get invested in them dating, breaking up, and then getting back together. It is admittedly cool when she discovers he’s a werewolf towards the end in that school bus scene, but it is overshadowed by the revelation that her entire family are werewolf hunters and have been lying to her about it. What threw me for a loop was when Jackson started flirting with her, which ostensibly lasts for several episodes, and she and him have real chemistry together. You get the sense that Fauxniss might have real potential, but it never even comes close to being realized. She also could have died in the first season finale and it would have been more dramatically interesting. I would have mourned her passing more than Derek’s (I really don’t care about his character at all), but I think that given her position in the show, the characters all would have had strong, interesting reactions to losing her. Posey’s acting would have messed it up, of course, but interesting nonetheless.


  • Scott's girlfriend is named "Allison Argent" and played by actress Crystal Reed. Yup, I still don't care.
  • For fans of The Vampire Diaries, it was both weird and wonderful seeing Tyler Lockwood's parents as one of Jackson's and Lydia's parents, respectively. I feel like that was some sort of inside joke, since Tyler (played by Michael Trevino) is TVD's resident werewolf.
  • On second thought, I wish this was just a Tyler Lockwood spinoff. I probably qualitatively compare Teen Wolf to The Vampire Diaries without realizing it, and that's not fair. Teen Wolf is so baaaaaaaaaad.
  • Dylan O'Brien was apparently discovered via YouTube, a fact I read then promptly forgot. I never tracked down any of his videos. They're probably all down now, but damn. I would like to watch those.

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