A Short Lecture on Teen Wolf – “Radio Silence” Review

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Hello fellow betas.  It’s been awhile since I’ve ranted wrote about Teen Wolf but instead of my usual review/recap I’ve decided to change it up a bit.  So pull a chair up and get ready for a little education…and by education I mean a 3 part lesson on why “Radio Silence” brought me out of my Ghost Rider Train Station coma to write something new.

Lesson #1: The Ever-Improving Narrative

From an outside perspective Teen Wolf sounds like cheesy teen drama with over-actors and under whelming plotlines.  But the key word here is “sounds”.  The most unfortunate thing about this show is its title. The use of “teen” is far too obvious and conjures up thoughts of ignorance and unbridled pubescent emotions.  On top of this, Teen Wolf was one of the first MTV Originals – a music channel making a show about werewolves? How could you not suspect failure?  Admittedly, Teen Wolf began as many suspected; it was immature and lacked any true uniqueness in 2011’s sea of supernatural dramas (The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, not to mention The Twilight Saga at its peak).  But its sophomore season provided hope for a more developed series with the expansion of the show’s mythology and above all the more realistic dark tone.  Rather than servicing the weak hearts of the teen demographic by following every frightful moment with a comedic one, season 2 drew out the thrilling nature of a true supernatural story.  With each season the show improved and evolved in every way: stories became stronger, more enticing, the acting went from sporadic and awkward to affecting performances worth watching regardless of strength of the story (Okay- there are a few bad actors lingering *cough* Victoria Morales *cough*).  As I said in a post from last year

The creative minds behind the show took advantage of [the passage of time and adolescent growth] (whether they realize it or not) and made the ever evolving landscape of the show believable as teenagers themselves evolve drastically. Think about yourself, if you compared your freshman self to your senior self would they not appear strikingly different? It could be merely the surface appearing taller, slimmer, thicker, more confident, less enthused, revitalized, or worn out. Or it could be that the way you saw the world, the way you perceived it changed within those 4 years. You may have had more experiences, learned more, became worldlier, more open minded, possibly more cynical or pessimistic because of trying times.

The fact of the matter is that much like an average teenager transforms over the course of their adolescence, Teen Wolf mirrored this (with a supernatural twist have you) going from a goofy, innocent show about werewolves to the mature dissection of human relationships, delving into the dark sometimes haunting parts of ones mind all the while dealing with the power struggle between those with greater ability and those with only their righteousness to defend themselves.

The final season centers around the loss of Stiles and with the past 5 seasons as undeniable evidence, he is the center of the universe – but more on that bit later in Lesson #3.  The disconnect and sense of indescribable loss felt by Scott and Lydia is portrayed fascinatingly by leads Tyler Posey and Holland Roden who prove their strength as performers, holding the show steady with the elimination of it’s strongest pillar (Dylan O’Brien/Stiles).

These words could not be said six years ago. Five years ago they became believable. Four years ago they felt like a obvious prediction.  And since season 3*, these words have been fact.  Their narrative, tone, and performances have evolved beautifully and if not for it’s eye-roll causing title, larger audiences would know and appreciate their ascension.

*The Season 3 Nogistsune arc was a vital turning point for the show, combining the artistry of American Horror Story with the engaging group dynamics of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  

Lesson #2: Peter Hale Comes Full Circle (And Ian Bohen Wows)

Peter Hale started this whole journey in Beacon Hills some 6 years ago when he, as the mysterious unnamed Alpha, bit our adorable asthmatic Scott McCall in the woods.  Yes, take a moment to let that sink in: Peter Hale got us here.  He was formally introduced as Derek’s severely burnt (sound familiar?) catatonic uncle.  But once that catatonia wore off he quickly established himself as the primary antagonist as the vengeful fire within him became explosive.  Remember he bit Lydia and plagued her mind with instructions on how to resurrect him? Ahhh the good ole days.

What makes Peter Hale such a fascinating antagonist is that he is might just be a hero.  The Anti-Hero is an extremely popular device in TV (Walter White, Dexter Morgan, etc.) as it parallels the modern world: good people being tested in times of struggle, having to live by the belief that the ends justify the means.  Peter Hale represents the flip side of this archetype; the villain who begrudgingly wants to be good.  He may not be parading around trying to prove he’s a good person now (as OUAT’s Regina Mills does) but “Radio Silence” proposed to us the idea that this power hungry “antagonist” might just be a hero after all.

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Much of this character development is attributed to Ian Bohen who in a short amount of time and concise dialogue managed to evolve Peter into a human being.  For 6 seasons this character was seen as, to put it bluntly, an asshole,  who’s sole purpose was to be the daunting and psychotic elder werewolf.  Even with the revelation of him having a daughter, Peter never seemed to diverge from his diabolical nature.  What drove this character to humanity, to emotion (portrayed beautifully by Bohen) was the realization that with all that hunger for power, that jealousy of Scott’s alpha status, he would still be forgotten.  In an uncharacteristically though believably ruthless assertion, Stiles fires back at Peter…

“Somebody’s gonna remember me.  Lydia, Scott, Malia, they’re gonna find me. They’ll come for me. No one would ever come for you.

Depicted consistently as heartless and selfish,  in that moment Peter became fully formed, truly realized and no longer a one-sided villain.  The emotional distress on this usually stone cold face was palpable and quite heavy no less. Without relaying these emotions verbally, Bohen portrays it all.  Stiles’ prodding felt like an unnecessary adage with Bohen’s performance making it loud and clear that Peter desperately wants to know his daughter.  His risk of death exiting the Train Station was an act not only for his daughter but to prove a human lied beneath his werewolf exterior.  In truth, call this utter conjecture though: Peter has a connection with and honest respect for Stiles.  Stiles is the embodiment of humanity on this show and for Peter to hear this wake up call from him not only struck him emotionally, but his desire to be as wanted and integral as Stiles gave Peter the push to do what is right – what not only a hero but a human would do.

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Now I’m not denying he’s done some less than gallant things, which is why unfortunately him coming “full circle” is also him receiving his overdue karma.  This karmic retribution however felt like a cleansing, and if The Powers of Teen Wolf are going where I hope and believe they are, this idea of “cleansing” will allow Peter to have a fresh start.    But back to the full circle aspect.  We met Peter Hale badly burnt and alone with his thoughts.  He had nothing but aspirations for revenge and alpha status.  After his sacrifice crossing the threshold of the Train Station, he was left so burnt and bloody he couldn’t speak.  He began burnt and had come to the end of story burnt once more.  But the beauty of being the flip-side of the anti-hero archetype is, unlike the heroes with questionable motives who inevitably fall, the villain who redeems themselves will deservedly rise. His thoughts as he laid burnt and powerless were anything but vengeful but that of completing his heroic mission: delivering Stiles’ keys and connecting with his daughter.

Lesson #3: For The Love of Stiles

 

“Radio Silence” brought our beloved Stiles back into the spotlight.  The fortunate for Dylan/unfortunate for Teen Wolf fans ascension into movie stardom causes his character to be far less featured than in past seasons.  As a result, a storyline was concocted to make this scheduling mess work – enter the Ghost Riders.  The final season was given the tagline “Remember” which works on a multitude of levels (major props to the MTV Publicity dept.).  Thanks to the (honestly terrifying) Ghost Riders, one member of the pack is taken from everyone’s memory.  The loss of Stiles, while at first is gone unnoticed, slowly begins to be recognized, to be remembered.  The message “Remember” stands as a theme of realizing, appreciating, and honoring the past.  For now that past is boiled down to a single person, Stiles (but on a broader scale, this is all about Senior Year and looking back, remembering your past 4 year of growth).  One creative choice I have the utmost respect for is, rather than highlighting the relatively new characters as was done in season 5, the final season bases the drama on the core three character: Scott, Stiles and Lydia.  Yes, yes, Malia is a part of it too but the emotional strain caused by Stiles’ absence is shown especially through Scott and Lydia.

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Final seasons can be a tricky thing, no matter the genre, no matter the amount of time you’ve had leading up to it.  There are only so many routes a final season can take.  You could look forward to the future, build up to a final showdown, go out in a blaze of glory, or conclude with a happy series affirming ending, to name a few.  In my opinion, looking forward to the future never fares well on television.  Thankfully Teen Wolf seems to be heading more towards a final showdown or a happy ending rather than looking forward to the future.  Had they gone the latter route we would have seen an emphasis on the lives of Liam, Mason and Hayden.  Instead we are zeroing in on our original family, allowing for us to enjoy the broader scale of things, remembering the past 6 years of which we have grown together.

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The love planted, nurtured, and evolved between Scott, Stiles and Lydia has been a beautifully entertaining thing to watch.  The fluid and cared for story of Stiles and Lydia is/was particularly engaging.  Their love began one sided, with Stiles’ schoolboy crush and developed slowly over time, from a mutually respectful friendship now finally blossomed into a relationship born of true love.  The tragedy there however is timing, with Stiles outwardly affirming to Lydia (and audiences) that he still loves her and her response, while unsaid, confirmed her love for him as well.

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“Radio Silence” allowed for this tragedy to not go unresolved as the pack’s noble steed, Roscoe, forged a connection between our plain of existence and that of the Ghost Rider’s purgatory.  The scene in the Jeep was one of the greatest moments of the series 6 year run for a number of reasons.  We were introduced to Scott, Stiles and Lydia (and Allison *single tear*) as naive, slightly wacky and lovestruck kids and have watched them grow, quite literally, into strong, capable, and mindful adults.  Within the Jeep we watched as these three characters reached their final lap.  The love they share for each other, centered on their love for Stiles, was anything but naive or childish.  The sheer joy and relief portrayed by Roden and Posey spoke volumes to not only their characters but their own journey’s as respectable actors.  My heart filled with a sense of peace alongside Scott and Lydia affirming not only the strong hold Stiles has on both the characters and audience’s hearts but also the strength of the narrative.

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As I said earlier, this “ever-improving narrative” was made clear by the expert execution of this 5th episode of our final season.  I’m so proud to call this show one of my favorites.  It has been a blessing watching it evolve as I have along with it.  Thats all I say for now, I’ll leave my sappy goodbye speech for the end of the season.

Check back next week for another lecture.  Class dismissed.

**wait! two final thoughts:

  1. The pairing of Stiles and Peter was excellent.  The two have had a witty back and forth since the first season but to bring these two polar opposite characters (both are very sarcastic people but rooted from very different upbringings) together in a serious circumstance made for some serious TV goodness.
  2. “I’m better than you, I’ll heal” -Peter, this line is a combination of a callback, throwback, thematic payoff, and character development all wrapped into 6 words and I love it.

{Scott/Lydia Gif Set Credit: http://starkandsnow.tumblr.com}

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