[This is a review for Teen Wolf season 3, episode 13. It contains SPOILERS.]
It's safe to say that last year's midseason finale of Teen Wolf felt more like a full season finale, which might be why this week's midseason premiere "Anchors" felt like the start of something new. Though the focus of the show has been steadily drifting away from werewolves to a more broad field of supernatural tomfoolery, this strong opening doesn't feel like the writers are running out of ideas, but instead like they're eager to explore new ones.
The show's third season took a break after Scott (Tyler Posey), Stiles (Dylan O'Brien) and Allison (Crystal Reed) sacrificed themselves to a temporary death in order to find the Nemoton, where their parents were being held by the Darach. The villains of the first half of the season have now all been tidily swept off the table, but the teenagers are left to deal with the fallout of their actions and the "darkness around their hearts" caused by their lengthy ice water baths. How does this darkness manifest itself? Well, they all go a little bit loopy.
What's particularly interesting about each character's personal brand of madness is the way that it targets their weaknesses and fears. Scott struggles to control his own transformations and has visions of his shadow morphing into that of an enormous wolf. Allison, who once prided herself on her marksmanship, suffers tremors in her hands and is haunted by the spectre of her dead aunt, Kate Argent (Jill Wagner). Meanwhile, Stiles finds his researching skills hampered by an acute case of dyslexia and is terrorized by nightmares and sleep paralysis.
All this insanity makes for a very visually striking episode that brings out a lot of Teen Wolf's horror elements, as well as setting up a new story arc for the second half of the season. While the horrible, creepy, crawly things that go bump in the night that were portended last season as being drawn to Beacon Hills don't yet make an appearance, "Anchors" serves as an effective opening act to foreshadow their arrival.
The sacrificed teens aren't alone in their troubles. Sheriff Stilinski, having had his eyes opened to the existence of werewolves, druids and lizard people, goes digging into his cold cases so that he can view them from a new perspective, and enlists Scott and Stiles' help in tracking down the body of a small girl who was dragged from a car wreck by what was assumed to be a coyote (spoiler: it probably wasn't a coyote). Best of all, the Sheriff now has a board in his office that's covered with photos that are connected by bits of colored string. Every office should have one of those.
Finally, for those who feared that Derek's (Tyler Hoechlin) decision to leave Beacon Hills behind and head for greener pastures at the end of the midseason finale might have meant his permanent disappearance from the series, rest assured that he does make a comeback in "Anchors" - though it's not exactly triumphant.
The romance subplots in Teen Wolf have so far been (mercifully) kept mostly as background radiation to the far more interesting plots involving large, toothed monsters, but "Anchors" does have some new stirrings of the heart to act as a counterbalance to all the doom and terror. The Isaac-Allison-Scott love triangle is still somewhat in effect, but is derailed by the arrival of a new girl, Kira (Arden Cho), whom Scott has one of his Disney love-at-first-sight moments with. Kira also provides some helpful, if not exactly uplifting, exposition regarding Scott, Allison and Stiles' rapidly unraveling sanity.
"Anchors" is all about setting up a series of new problems rather than resolving any of them, but manages to accomplish a lot in its running time and puts all the pieces in place for what looks like a gripping second half of season three. The writing for this episode is as strong as the series has ever been, blending its customary wit with sincere and touching character moments, as well as continuing to build up the supernatural mythos that is one of Teen Wolf's main attractions.
Teen Wolf returns next Monday with 'More Bad Than Good' @10pm on MTV. You can check out a preview of next week's episode below: