[This is a review of Teen Wolf season 4, episode 1. It contains SPOILERS.]
Are you ready to return to Beacon Hills? If so, then you're going to have to wait until next week, since the Teen Wolf season 4 premiere, 'The Dark Moon,' kicks off south of the border as the gang heads to Mexico to rescue a kidnapped Derek Hale from the not-quite-dead Kate Argent.
The episode gets off to a weird start, in which the characters can't decide if they're on a rescue mission or auditioning for a L'Oréal advert. It's not the first time that clubbing scenes have been shoehorned into the show (this is MTV, after all), but it adds a dose of whiplash to an already-confusing opening as the narrative jumps between stony-eyed negotiations for the return of Derek and some rather forced homoerotic dancing between Malia and Kira. It's supposedly a tactical move to help them "blend in," but since everyone around them starts staring it might have been better to just keep dancing separately.
Scott, Kira and Malia's badass introduction, complete with dramatic turns to the camera with glowing eyes (what was that about blending in?), is somewhat derailed when they manage to get themselves knocked out and captured, apparently not having prepared for the eventuality that werewolf hunters might have the tools to deal with a werewolf attack. The person doing the kidnapping is the Calaveras matriarch, Araya, and what follows is a series of frankly baffling events.
First, Araya confronts Lydia about her banshee status and asks her to guess which of two hunters is about to die. Why Araya feels the need to make Lydia prove her banshee powers is unclear, but she does so by throwing a knife and murdering one of her own men. That might seem like a bit of a silly and pointless thing to do, but Araya quickly explains, "He stole from me." Oh... OK?
It's Scott's turn for a character assessment test next, and this time Araya straps him into a chair and hooks him up to a battery, forcing him to choose whether to let Lydia get a series of electric shocks, or whether to be self-sacrificing and receive them himself. Since only one of them has super-healing skills it's a bit of a no-brainer, but apparently Araya's ulterior motive was to force Scott to realise that Kate Argent has returned from the dead. Why couldn't Araya just tell Scott this? "You wouldn't have believed me." What? Why wouldn't he? Werejaguar or not, it seems like a pretty straight-forward explanation. Were electricity-induced flashbacks really the most efficient way to convey this information?
By this point in the episode it's starting to feel very much like the set pieces were written in advance, and that the justification for them was scribbled into the margins of the script much later. To make matters worse the choreography, editing and direction of the action sequences means that they end up being more ridiculous than cool. At one point, Scott and mercenary Braeden are searching an Aztec tomb (just go with it) when they're attacked by a skeletal creature that is shown only in a series of out-of-context close-ups and never in the same shot as Scott and Braeden.
The result is a somewhat goofy shot of Braeden wildly firing her shotgun at something that the audience can't see, before announcing that it has disappeared. Then Scott howls and scares off the undead werejaguar skeleton monster, which conveniently slashes the amount that MTV would have had to spend on special effects for this episode.
This problem isn't isolated to the Aztec tomb, either. Stiles, Malia, Kira and Lydia get stranded by the side of the road in the middle of the desert, when Malia spots something hiding behind a rock (briefly and far enough away that it could just be a crew member in a $10 Halloween costume) and runs off after it. Kira follows but only arrives after the (presumably) epic battle took place. "What's out there?" Kira asks. "I don't know," Malia replies. "But it is big and fast and it cuts deep." A little more description and this could be Teen Wolf: The Audiobook.
We could be generous and say that the reluctance to show any actual monsters in this episode of Teen Wolf is due to the old rule of creatures being scarier when left up to the audience's imagination, but in truth it comes across as being down to budget constraints more than anything else. The episode ends with the shock reveal that Derek has been... turned into a teenager! When? How? Why? We'll have to wait until next week to find out, but based on this week's episode it's probably not wise to hold out for an explanation that actually makes sense.
Teen Wolf returns next Monday with '117' @10PM on MTV. Watch the promo below.