[This is a review of Teen Wolf season 4, episode 3. It contains SPOILERS.]
When Teen Wolf first premiered on MTV back in the misty yesteryear of 2011, it managed to strike an impressive balance between the flood of supernatural nonsense in Beacon Hills and the struggles of adolescence and trying to survive in high school. It was, at the risk of being hyperbolic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the iPhone generation.
In 'Muted' the show comes full circle, as Scott and Stiles head out onto the lacrosse field for tryouts and struggle to beat the competition, in a somewhat more grounded episode that's interspersed with various romantic developments. After the somewhat insane first two episodes of season 4 - in which the gang headed to Mexico, tangled with a gang of hunters, watched Derek Hale get turned into a teenager and then de-aged again (something that remains unexplained), and battled some Aztec warriors - this snap back to relative normality creates something of a tonal whiplash.
The apparent attempt to return Teen Wolf to the spirit of its early seasons also means that certain plot threads have gone unresolved, in particular the death of Allison at the end of the last season and Daniel Sharman's (and therefore Isaac's) departure from the show. Coach Finstock mentions that Isaac is gone, though doesn't give any details, and for a guy who recently lost someone he'd considered to be the love of his life Scott seems surprisingly chipper and is back to clumsily asking out the new(ish) girl in school.
Gripes aside, 'Muted' does seem to represent something of a return to form for Teen Wolf. The episode opens with a scene that, while not being particularly scary in itself, is at least a decent homage to horror movie tropes - complete with a "what's under the bed?" moment. This is where we get a first glimpse of one of the new enemies for the season: a mysterious, pale figure who has no mouth or eyebrows, and who has decided to drop into town and murder poor, defenseless, flesh-eating wendigo Sean along with his entire family.
Sean escapes and ends up at the hospital, and he's not the only person to do so in this episode. Freshman Liam (played by new cast member Dylan Sprayberry) has ambitions of making it onto the lacrosse team and perhaps even becoming the new team captain - something that Scott and Stiles do not take at all kindly to when they realize that he might be skilled enough to actually do it. The competitive atmosphere ultimately leads to Scott lashing out and sending Liam to the emergency room with a broken foot.
After Lydia uses her banshee powers to track down a meat locker full of human bodies in Sean's house, the teenager reveals his true nature and we get a good look at some pretty decent monster make-up, which sticks to the Teen Wolf standard of giving every supernatural character funny teeth and eyes. His violent outbreak is a catalyst for an interesting plot development, as Scott is forced to bite Liam in order to save him from a fatal plunge from the roof of the hospital. On the bright side, at least the lacrosse prodigy won't have to worry about that foot injury for much longer.
The aforementioned romance comes into play in the form of some much-needed development of Stiles and Malia's relationship. At some point between their frisky mental hospital basement encounter in season 3 and the start of season 4 these two apparently started dating, and in 'Muted' they finally get a decent amount of screen time together as Stiles guides Malia through the perils of school life and helps her to catch up on all the education she missed while running around in the woods as a coyote. This leads to a moment in which he realizes that they both use the same color code system for organizing things and... well, as averse as I am to drippy romantic subplots in supernatural shows, it's hard to deny that this scene is really quite sweet.
Scott and Kira also officially seal the deal in this episode - first with a lightning-fast peck on the lips and later with a proper smooch. Meanwhile, Kira's parents are attempting to relocate back to New York, but Kira foils this plan by chopping up their house's "For Sale" sign with her sword. Silly parents; don't they know that Arden Cho is in the show's opening credits sequence now? Kira's place in Beacon Hills is cemented.
A sparsely seen subplot involving Braeden being hired by Derek and Peter Hale to hunt down Kate Argent also leads to a few more sparks of attraction as Braeden decides to change her clothes in Derek's loft (does she not have a hotel room or something?) and the two of them waggle their eyebrows suggestively at each other. Going by Derek's track record, this means that Braeden will probably end up either dead or evil by the end of the season.
Teen Wolf returns next Monday with ‘The Benefactor′ @10PM on MTV. Watch the promo below.