[This is a review of the Teen Wolf season 3 finale. It contains SPOILERS.]
As Teen Wolf‘s third season winds down to a close, the nogitsune gets very busy, dividing not only his small army of Oni but also splitting his own attention all over again. This means that some of the good guys face off against Dylan O’Brien’s version of the nogitsune while others are left with the bandaged, Bane-voiced version. Ironically this particular spirit is actually much creepier when it has a human face than it is when it has fangs, though that might be because the bandaged nogitsune still comes across as a little bit too goofy to be scary.
Luckily it’s the Stiles clone that occupies much of the nogitsune’s face time in this episode, starting with a brutal march through Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital and a cover of “Bad Moon Rising” playing as the Oni cut down innocent nurses and doctors in slow-mo. The potentially mortal wounds inflicted on Melissa McCall, Sheriff Stilinski, Dr. Deaton and the mysterious Deputy Parrish do effectively ramp up the stakes for the fight with the nogitsune, but the actual character death of this episode feels more like housekeeping than anything: cleaning out the two remaining dregs of the Alpha pack so that the season 4 cast doesn’t feel too crowded.
Speaking of season 4, the tie between Peter Hale and Malia Tate that was expected to come into play in this finale instead is nowhere to be found, leaving that particular plot thread drifting vaguely in the breeze. Malia does make an appearance at the end of the episode, since despite missing out on eight years of education she’s apparently ready to be dropped into a high school class with the rest of the characters, but the Peter-Malia connection will have to be added to the list of things that will get picked up again next season.
The finale is set up as two players making their final moves in the last stages of a board game, an ambitious approach that is only partially successful. The nogitsune’s three-pronged attack on the “ports” of Beacon Hills – the hospital, the sheriff’s station and the animal clinic – does feel like the very aggressive moves of a dominating player eager to finish off their opponent. On the other hand, the “divine move” that’s built up so much – even giving its name to the title of the episode – essentially amounts to Stiles figuring out that they haven’t actually all been magically teleported to Japan, and the nogitsune subsequently getting chomped on and stabbed because the only way to defeat a nogitsune is, conveniently, a werewolf bite.
In fact, “convenient” is probably the best word to describe everything about this conclusion. The hardest dilemmas that have been set up this season and made for its stronger moments were all solved in such a way that none of the characters have to make any difficult decisions or face up to terrifying truths. Stiles being diagnosed with dementia – which would have been a fascinating and hard-hitting character arc to explore – was resolved easily by the reveal that it was just a nogitsune trick, and Scott’s challenge of being forced to kill his best friend got neatly side-stepped by the nogitsune separating itself from Stiles. A season that could have been shocking and fearless has instead been disappointingly defanged.
The swift despatch of this season’s villain leaves time to set up next season’s villain, which is… Kate Argent again. Except now she’s got a blue face because of that little-known werewolf subclause where sometimes people turn into lizard creatures or coyotes instead of wolves. Does Kate transform into some kind of iridescent tree frog? We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out.
Despite officially being the first half of a season, the way that ‘The Divine Move’ ends makes the entire nogitsune arc feel a lot more like the first half of season 4. It builds up far more for the future than the Jennifer Blake/Alpha pack storyline did, since the major fallout that was supposed to ensue from that storyline’s conclusion was largely abandoned in favor of pursuing Japanese folklore for the remainder of season 3.
For example, the sacrifice made by Scott, Stiles and Allison was supposed to create a darkness around their hearts that they would feel for the rest of their lives, but Scott and Allison shook it off in a single episode like it was nothing more than a bad cold. Stiles, meanwhile, has had an entertainingly dark character arc, but only because of the nogitsune’s influence. The nogitsune itself wasn’t drawn to Beacon Hills as Dr. Deaton warned, but was already in the Nemeton and was simply set free. All of the other beasties who were supposed to come pouring in must have either been politely waiting outside town, or got lost along the way.
What ‘The Divine Move’ lacks is a larger sense of resolution. The second half of the season has failed to pay off much of what was set up in the first half, and it also fails to wrap up the new plot threads that it created. With a finale lacking so much finality, season 4 is going to have a whole lot of paperwork to take care of.
Teen Wolf returns to MTV on June 23, 2014.