[This is a review of Teen Wolf season 3, episode 21. It contains SPOILERS.]
After having an epic showdown teased in the season-end promos, it's difficult not to feel like this week's episode of Teen Wolf, 'The Fox and the Wolf,' was designed as a delaying tactic. It's a flashback episode, in which Kira's mother tells her the story of how the nogitsune first arrived in California over seventy years ago, in the hope that her daughter will be able to learn from the past and not repeat it.
She may be over-estimating the strategic abilities of our heroes. Those characters not participating in story time continue to try and figure out what the nogitsune wants and how they might be able to find Stiles and take him down - lethally or non-lethally. Eventually, by way of a helpful chessboard hint, they deduce that the nogitsune wants them to go to Derek's left. This is obviously a trap, and they briefly discuss how much of a trap it is. After spending three seconds wondering if there might be a way to outsmart the trickster spirit they all decide to just walk into the trap anyway. Good plan.
Back in 1943, it turns out that Kira's mother, Noshiko, is 900 years old and in her 1940s youth (apparently she did a lot of ageing during the 20th century - blame the sixties) she looked exactly like Kira. This gives Arden Cho an opportunity to take center stage in a tale of doomed love between Noshiko and one of the American soldiers charged with keeping her imprisoned in a "Relocation Camp" during the Second World War.
As with last week's rather shallow take on life inside a mental institute, Teen Wolf demonstrates this week that addressing a major topic like Japanese American internment is a task that can't really be accomplished effectively within a single short episode. There's not really enough time to get attached to the characters or invested in the love story, so far the most part 'The Fox and the Wolf' is an exposition dump about where the nogitsune came from, who the bandaged manifestation that Stiles keeps seeing is, and how Kira can win the upcoming fight. A simple "stab it with this sword" would probably have sufficed, but that's parents for you.
After getting last week's episode largely to himself, Stiles takes a back seat in this episode and only appears at brief intervals to be ominous at people. He also seems to have taken a back seat in his own body, with the nogitsune now fully in control and no doubt planning all sorts of havoc. One of the major advancements with this arc of the story, however, is the reveal that Stiles may not actually be suffering from dementia at all, since his MRI results were simply another manifestation of the nogitsune's duplicity.
This half of the season has been a nice slow build up to next week's climax, with the stakes climbing steadily and only two possible options laid out for exorcising the nogitsune: killing Stiles, or turning him into a werewolf. Either one would be a big step that could mean radical changes ahead in season 4, but is writer Jeff Davis really ready to say goodbye to one of his characters for good?
The downside of this much build-up is that next week's showdown now really needs to be something special. In 'The Fox and the Wolf', the ultimate crux of the nogitsune's cunning and trickery was to... kill a bunch of people. What's made the villain of this season interesting so far is the fact that its motivations seem to extend beyond the usual simple goals of mindless slaughter, but for a trickster it hasn't really done anything impressively tricky yet. Let's hope it's planning to bring out the big guns next week.
Teen Wolf returns next Monday with ‘De Void’ on MTV @10pm. Watch the promo below.