[This is a review of Teen Wolf season 4, episode 4. It contains SPOILERS.]
It's a bright new day in Beacon Hills, and as with most days it brings a new supernatural creature, a little more mayhem and yet another wild teen party. Apparently intent on returning to the show's roots (perhaps anticipating the day when Scott, Stiles and co. eventually go off to college), the latest episode of Teen Wolf has a distinct feeling of deja vu as newly-created werewolf Liam struggles to handle his hairy side on the full moon. It doesn't help that Scott repeatedly fumbles his way through explaining the situation.
Although Teen Wolf continues to steadily improve from the dip at the beginning of the season, there were two moments in 'The Benefactor' where there was a distinct sense that the audience missed out on something. The first is a showdown between Peter Hale and the strange, silent assassin who is attacking the supernatural citizens of Beacon Hills. The opening blow of this fight is shown, as Peter gets hit in the chest with a tomahawk, but the rest of it happens off screen. Despite the wolfsbane-laden tomahawk in his chest, Peter somehow was able to fight off his attacker and even steal his Power Glove, but this fight was apparently not worth showing. We do, however, get a scene in which Ian Bohen writhes around on the floor without a shirt on, which says a great deal about Teen Wolf's priorities.
Valuable exposition was held back a second time due to some technical difficulties. During an emotional scene between Lydia and one of the freshman characters, Mason, an audio snafu meant that the dialogue was inaudible, which is a real shame considering that Holland Roden looked like she was giving it her all. According to fans who had closed captions on, Lydia was explaining that her family is going through some financial difficulties, though specifics will have to wait until MTV releases a fixed version of the episode.
There is a running theme of anger issues in 'The Benefactor'. Liam, it is revealed, got kicked out of his last school for violently defacing a teacher's car and scrawling "THIS IS YOUR FAULT" on it with a crowbar. This struggle to control his temper doesn't lend itself well to handling his new status as werewolf, and Scott's methods of helping - which mainly involving kidnapping Liam and tying him up - aren't all that helpful.
Meanwhile, Stiles has his hands full (no jokes, please) with Malia, who is still used to running wild and free as a coyote and is struggling to keep her transformation in check. This leads to a bit of awkwardness as Malia tells Stiles through clenched fangs how much she'd love to crush his bones, which probably isn't the most romantic statement ever made. The plot thread culminates in some much-needed aftercare for the events of season 3, which also helps to retroactively explain why Stiles and Malia have become so close in such a short amount of (screen) time.
Finally, Peter takes an opportunity to remind us all that just because he's not the series' main antagonist any more, it doesn't mean that he's settled down and become all cuddly and sweet. Sheriff Stilinski and Derek Hale track the mysterious mute assassin to Beacon Hills High School (where he's lurking because... reasons) and the Sheriff manages to get in one fantastically cheesy one-liner ("You have the right to remain silent!") before Peter shows up and steals his thunder by tearing the assassin into bite-sized chunks.
Despite remaining something of a patchwork effort, with plot threads that re-emerge and disappear on whim, Teen Wolf is slowly clawing its way back up towards the high points of earlier seasons. There was a renewed effort in 'The Benefactor' to bring back the show's trademark creepy imagery as well, specifically in terms of what happens after Lydia plays a creepy vinyl record to get the key to unlock the Benefactor's code.
This leads to the most intriguing detail of the episode: the keyword to unlock the code is "Allison," which suggests that whoever put out the hitlist might be taking a twisted kind of revenge. The Benefactor's identity remains a mystery for now, though it has been a while since we last heard from Gerard Argent...
Teen Wolf returns next Monday with ‘I.E.D.′ @10PM on MTV. Watch the promo below.