Teen Wolf set up connections between characters that didn’t always pay off. One of those was the connection between Stiles and Lydia. While Stiles admired Lydia from afar in the early days of the show, they didn’t become friends until season two—and more until much later.
It wasn’t always clear if Stiles and Lydia would foster a romantic relationship or a deep friendship. Both proved to be true by the time the Ghost Riders came for Stiles in season six. While much of their relationship was the stuff of a teen television fairy tale, there were also plenty of times the two simply weren’t relationship goals.
Initially, Stiles expressed interest in Lydia to everyone around him except Lydia. When he finally told her about their “unspoken connection,” he poured his heart out to her. Unfortunately, she wasn’t even listening, but was having a conversation on her phone the whole time. Moments like that happened repeatedly, with Lydia completely ambivalent toward his presence in her life.
That didn’t deter him from thinking she was amazing, or from becoming her friend. Though she didn’t pay much attention to him, he was intent on bringing her into the supernatural friend group. It wasn’t just about romance then though; it was about keeping her safe from the threats of Beacon Hills.
There were plenty of Teen Wolf fans who would rather Stiles and Lydia didn’t end up together because of just how much Stiles kept track of her. He didn’t carry around a camera and photograph her like Matt did Allison, but the fact still remains that Stiles paid an awful lot of attention to someone who wasn’t even friends with him for a long time.
Stiles knew Lydia’s schedule, bought gifts for her for parties he wasn’t even sure he would attend, and more. Through a certain lens, it could be creepy.
Of course, the flip side of Stiles paying so much attention to Lydia was that he understood her better than most. Like Allison, Stiles was aware Lydia hid how smart she was from everyone around her.
Stiles was the first one to recognize just how great Lydia was at math and science. As a result, he didn’t treat her the same way others did - as if she was pretty, but didn’t understand anything said to her. The two could have real conversations once she dropped her act and realized he knew her.
Despite Lydia spending a lot of time pretending to be bad at certain sports or lack knowledge in certain subjects, she still appreciated it when a guy fed her ego. That meant when Stiles revealed he was sure she’d win a prestigious award for her work in math, she ate it up.
He made the observation to her after she’d agreed to take him to a school dance as a favor to Allison. His observation was the only reason Lydia got up and danced with him instead of pouting at a table. Lydia not initially wanting to give him a chance meant she probably shouldn’t have taken the pity date route at all.
Once Stiles and Lydia felt comfortable around one another, they discovered they had similar curious minds. Both of them couldn’t let a point go once they became interested in it. While that might have driven their friends crazy, it made them the perfect people to investigate the strange happenings in Beacon Hills.
The longer the series continued, the more often Stiles and Lydia teamed up. Lydia sometimes used her banshee skills to help. Most of the time, however, they used good old fashioned detective work. Stiles even kept a bulletin board on his wall for them to keep track of what they were chasing.
One of the worst aspects of their burgeoning relationship is that they didn’t understand just how much the other person cared. That meant they often put themselves in harm’s way, or protected each other at the expense of their own lives.
That might have worked out okay for Lydia. After all, she did have a few superhuman skills up her sleeves. Most of the time, however, Stiles was armed with little more than his sarcastic quips and a baseball bat, and he was the one doing the saving. It meant one, or both, of them constantly put themselves in danger and created a whole lot of stress on their relationship long before they were ever a couple.
Teen Wolf presented Stiles as an anxious person from the beginning. Not only did he take medication for attention deficit disorder, but he also spirals when thinking of the worst possible outcomes of a situation.
Over the course of the series, that anxiety grew into nightmares, obsessively worrying about his friends, and panic attacks. Lydia was present for a panic attack at school in season three. When Stiles flipped out, unsure how to handle it beyond hyperventilating on the locker room floor, Lydia stepped in. She had to make him hold his breath to get himself under control, so she did the one thing she was sure would make him do that: she kissed him.
For some fans, this was teasing the audience with the possibility of a relationship, but it was more than that. It showed how comfortable the two had grown with one another that the situation didn’t become awkward after the fact. Instead, Stiles was grateful for her help, and he didn’t try to pursue a romantic angle.
When the series introduced Malia, she gravitated to Stiles immediately. Stiles was her anchor as she adjusted to the human world. While dating Malia, however, Stiles’ feelings for Lydia were still pretty evident.
What made this awkward for the show was that fans liked Malia and Stiles together just as much as they wanted Lydia and Stiles to be together. It never felt like Stiles was intentionally stringing Malia along, but it was a slippery slope for the show to walk as Stiles was always willing to go after Lydia and let Malia take care of herself.
During the years of Teen Wolf, the characters on the series often had to split up and send a fight in different directions. Stiles wasn’t above using someone as bait to get an enemy out in the open. Even when Scott first became a werewolf, Stiles proclaimed if Derek caught them digging on his property, they would just run in different directions and let Derek catch whoever he got to first. That was never the case with Lydia and Stiles.
Whenever the two were involved in the fight, they never turned their backs on one another or left each other to fend for themselves. Even though Lydia made fun of Stiles for carrying a bat to supernatural confrontations, she still stuck with him. That’s loyalty.
Fans got to spend six seasons watching Lydia and Stiles grow into two people who could actually be in a relationship. That doesn’t change the imbalance that it began with: Stiles clearly cared more for her than she did for him.
Stiles admitted early on in the series to having a crush on Lydia since third grade. Lydia’s response when Stiles came to check on her then: “What’s a Stiles?” That line became iconic because of the delivery from Holland Roden, and was even revisited in season six when all memory of Stiles was gone. It doesn’t excuse the fact that Lydia didn’t even know the name of the boy willing to risk his life for her early in the series because she thought she was better than most of the other teenagers at Beacon Hills High.