'Teen Wolf' post-mortem: Jeff Davis on those finale twists, season 5
What’s a trip to Mexico without a few berserkers, one very angry werejaguar, and a near-death experience, right? That’s the attitude Teen Wolf took in its season 4 finale, when nearly everyone headed down to Mexico to save Scott from Kate, himself, and then from Peter. One hour later, we’d said (hopefully a temporary) goodbye to Chris Argent, a hello to a more powerful version of Derek, an Eichen House goodbye to Peter, and a maybe-see-you-later to Kate. As for the others, Kira had received her first tail, Jordan Parrish was about to learn a lot more about himself, and Liam had gained a little control over his life.
We chatted with Teen Wolf showrunner, Jeff Davis, about the action-packed hour, the thought behind all the twists, and where the show will go in season 5. (Hint: It involves the desert.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There are so many things I want to talk about, so I’ve tried to organize myself. First up, the Scott vs. Peter showdown. I wanted to ask how you came up with Peter’s look. It was very Deucalion-esque.
JEFF DAVIS: Yeah. Very specifically, yes. I said to our FX makeup artist, “I want something between Deucalion, Derek, and the alpha that Peter was in the first season.” I knew we wanted to give him sort of a darker skin tone. I love that grayish look to his skin tone, but it was very much influenced by the design of Deucalion, which I loved.
I just loved the whole idea of Scott versus the one who bit him four years ago. And although I’m really glad you did not kill Peter, did you ever contemplate killing Peter?
We had talked about it quite a bit. We danced around the idea of Scott having to kill someone and to me, Scott is like Superman or like Spider-Man—he doesn’t kill people, and he’ll do anything he can to keep from doing that, so it’s like the situation in the end of 3×12 where a lot of people were angry because they didn’t kill Deucalion. I’m like, “What are they going to do? Execute him?” [Laughs] I don’t think that’s something you want to see your hero do. But Peter’s just too good. It’s very hard to kill someone like Ian Bohen. We killed him once, and then we had to bring him back because he was so good. That’s actually a testament to the actor that we don’t want to kill you off. But I also felt like we had gone so dark at the end of 3B with killing off several characters that maybe a little less bloodshed for this finale would work well for us. In a way, this season was very much a transitional season. It was sort of a rebuilding. Sometimes we felt like we were almost doing a complete reboot of the show.
Ian Bohen’s final scream was just amazing.
But I loved putting him with Dr. Valack…
[Laughs] Dr. Valack, yes. Brilliantly played by Steven Brand, who we are hoping to have back.
Well when you first introduced his character, you all introduced this mystery wing of Eichen House that’s full of supernatural creatures. Is that wing something you want to explore moving forward?
Absolutely. We call it our Arkham Asylum, basically.
And it’s hinted at by Argent during the season that he has a place that he can take Kate if necessary, so that’s part of it for us. We just loved the idea of having this lower level of Eichen House. We know Eichen House isn’t the greatest place in the world, but what if they had a wing, a sub-level where they kept people like that? And it’s very much built out of like the Batman comic book and inspired by that rogue gallery of villains that you see through the bars like The Joker and The Riddler. We love that stuff. We’re always very inspired by comic books.
Well now I’m just waiting for the episode where somebody blows a hole in the wall and they all escape and it’s just chaos.
[Laughs] That would be great!
Moving to my next bullet point, I think this might be the part of the finale that made me gasp the loudest: The moment when Derek is alive and Derek is a wolf! When he stood up and I saw the tattoo, I think I almost passed out.
I’m hoping we have that effect on a lot of fans. Did you think he was dead for real?
Honestly, I had to pause the episode and go do something right after the moment he supposedly died, and I spent a good 15 minutes thinking he was really dead before I came back and could hit play again. And it was the worst 15 minutes of my life.
[Laughs] No, we couldn’t leave him like that. I love that moment. To me, it’s the evolution of this character who, in the first season, is kind of a bad guy and is not against doing bad things. And when he says, “I was evolving,” he’s been evolving from season 1, and if he can’t be an alpha, the idea that he has to be reborn again as something greater was very appealing to us as writers that we would finally see him rise up. He would reach that level of control that could change his body so completely that he can disappear into nature, which we consider the most powerful part of being a werewolf. If you can do that, then you’ve truly reached your zenith of power.
So then how does he compare to an alpha at that point?
Well he’s got a great power. It is to say he may not never be an alpha again, but he’s reached a level of power that he can manipulate his body so he has that control now, he’s just not the leader of a pack. In many ways, it’s like having a very powerful second in command almost. He is Lancelot. If Scott is King Arthur, then Derek is very much Lancelot.
Let’s move to Kate and Chris. I thought it was really beautiful how you all brought it back to Allison. Was that your thinking all season, that Allison was the driving force behind Kate?
Absolutely. Part of what Kate wanted to do, and Peter says it in an earlier episode, is restore the Argents to their glory. And the reason she is so furious at Scott and so willing to put him in harm’s way is because he ruined it. He somehow decimated this family and it’s all his fault, but Allison is the figure that, she’s at the center of it all. In a way, much of this season, we wanted to keep paying homage to Allison and to her character and the idea that Kate believes they killed her, the reason she’s dead is because of them, and Argent says, “She died saving her friends. Who would you die for?” And that’s a life well-lived, even if she died at 17, so it was a very poignant scene, and I think the two actors as well, Jill [Wagner] and JR [Bourne], did some of the best work I’ve ever seen them do.
The other component of that was Chris going with the Calaveras to look for Kate. So when we come back next season, is it your intention that that’s a storyline on its own, that we follow his journey to find Kate, or are we going to see less of him?
We’ll see. Next season is very much up in the air. And to be honest, getting through this season was such an unbelievable challenge that we’re glad to just have a break and not think anymore and wait for new ideas to come to us. So we’re trying not to talk too much about season 5 until we actually sit back in the writers’ room and get to it. The funny thing is that really, when we said yes to 24 episodes for season 3, we had no idea that we’d actually have an even shorter amount of time to get on to the next 12 of season 4. We actually only had six weeks in between production cycles, and that was unbelievably challenging, so it was more like we did 36 episodes straight.
One of the things you’ve talked about and that I think made this season so great is that you all kind of simplified the mythology by having something as straightforward as assassins trying to kill supernatural beings. Is that something you’d like to continue moving forward?
Well, we have an idea for next season. We love those complicated mythologies. I’m a huge fan of Lost, and I’m the kind of person who likes a lot of mystery, the kind of mystery where not everything is always explained. I love the fact that people theorize about the show and come up with their own ideas, so we’ll see what happens. But it was fun to do a mystery that really put our main characters on their toes but also had thematic ligaments as well that they were still human beings struggling with money and struggling with what to do. And all of that tied back to Peter, because to a lot of people, money is power and money will allow you to do things, and Peter’s whole goal is power, and he, as the actual person who came up with the dead pool, you can see that he’s always had plans and these plans will never work out because it’s always about power.
The mystery I’m obsessed with, as I’m sure many fans are, is the desert wolf. I’m sure that’s one of the main things you all want to explore going forward.
We’re definitely going to be working on that storyline next season. And Shelley Hennig has turned out to be such a great addition to the cast. She’s so funny. She’s had some of my favorite funny moments this season.
Was it when she said “deer”?
Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] It’s funny because she just emailed me yesterday and said, “I just ate deer. Not kidding.” [Laughs] So she’s somewhere in New Orleans I think, or in North Carolina, enjoying a meal of venison. Venison’s deer, right? [Laughs] She said she watched it with her whole family, and everyone laughed out loud at the line.
The other character I’m loving is Parrish! And the season ended with Lydia giving him the Beastiaire, so will we learn what he is next year?
Oh yes. Yeah, you will find out, and it will be a big part of the storyline. Ryan Kelley has actually been a friend of mine for about four or five years now, and I auditioned him several times for other roles on the show including Isaac, who was played by Daniel Sharman. The thing about Ryan is he’s been in this interesting place where he’s not boyish enough to be a high schooler anymore, but he’s not quite manish enough to play the adult like seasoned cop or a dad of anyone, but as a young deputy? Perfect! So I finally found a role for him, and we’ve grown the role, and I think he’s doing awesome. In the finale, in the screencap of that shot where he’s firing the gun, I said to him, “You look like Steve McQueen in this shot!” So it’s great to see the audience embracing him. He’s such a good guy too; I’m really proud of him.
And I love that people are already shipping him and Lydia.
Yeah, me too.
What else? Oh, Kira got her first tail! I was sitting here going, “What does this mean?” I remember her mom had tails that controlled the Oni, correct?
Yeah, exactly. It’s a symbolic connection. In the myth, kitsune gather tails. They grow more tails as they get more powerful, and the most powerful is nine-tailed kitsune, although there’s legends of the thousand-tailed kitsune. But this is a way for us to visualize her tail and give it significance and meaning, because she faces possible death in the catacombs of La Iglesia and she comes back in time to warn Stiles what they’re about to do, which is kill Scott. I think we pulled back a little bit on Kira; we gave her fun stuff to do this season, but since 3B was essentially her story, we had three characters we really wanted to concentrate on this season which was Derek, Lydia, and Scott, and returning the show to [putting] our lead star, our lead actor, back the spotlight. And Dylan [O’Brien] did so phenomenally well in 3B, and that was part of what we wanted. But we love Arden Cho and she’s so good and it’s so nice to have her as a series regular now.
I love the idea of her exploring her power further.
I love it too. Actually, there was something funny on, somebody showed me something on Twitter where it said, “Why didn’t Kira electrify the chains when she fought the berserker?” And I thought to myself, “Damn, that’s a really good idea! Why didn’t she do that?” [Laughs]
I thought she was going to in that moment!
I’m like, “Why didn’t any of us writers have that idea?” To be honest though, we constantly have these discussions where a writer will pitch something about her using electricity and I say, “Look, do we want to get to the point where she’s shooting Star Wars-force lightning out of her fingertips?” And we all agree, no we don’t want to do that. [Laughs] So, it’s a balance. I don’t want to turn her into Electro.
Yeah, although it would be kind of cool, but I think you’re right.
It would be pretty cool. Wait, if she gets a spinoff, if we have Kira, a Yukomura family spinoff, she’ll definitely learn to master her electric powers. You could see the lighting bolts fly out of her fingertips.
I would watch that immediately!
So would I. [Laughs]
OK, we have to talk about Liam. I was watching that scene with Scott as a berserker wondering if you’d have Kira bring him back or maybe Stiles, but I love that you all had Liam be the one to pull him back. What was your thinking behind that?
It was partly the theme of the season: Not all monsters do monstrous things. The whole idea of our assassins in the dead pool was that the monsters this year were all human, and the monsters were the good guys, a very sort of Clive Barker-style look at the genre where the monsters get to be the heroes. With Liam recalling that line, I think it made it a very touching moment because we were very certain that we wanted to give Scott and Stiles a little brother this season. I love those relationships, and I think Tyler Posey and Dylan Sprayberry really took to it, and the funny thing is, they really like each other in real life and you can see that come across on screen, you can see that protectiveness of Tyler because Dylan Sprayberry is very new to TV; he’s never worked a schedule like this, and Tyler Posey and Dylan O’Brien have both been awesome with him, kind of showing him the ropes and making sure he’s doing a great job alongside them. It’s just been a very good relationship. So I knew I wanted a call-back to that line—”You’re not a monster; you’re a werewolf, like me”—and I was really happy with the way it turned out. That kid’s a good little actor.
He is! OK, the last thing I want to ask you is about Braeden. I think having such a badass human element to the show is so great, so is she going to continue to be a part of the pack more or less?
I’d love her to come back, and that’s kind of why we tied her into the whole desert wolf mystery. I love Meagan Tandy so much; she’s such an awesome girl. I think she’s really stepped up this season. It’s funny. We just had her finale screening on Saturday night, and I got to meet her parents and her parents were so proud. So Braeden’s definitely going to play a bigger part. It was great to have an actor who was there really just to show up for one episode in 301 and to have her come back and become a much bigger role. She did nine episodes out of 12 this season, and that’s a testament to an actor who, they bring it on the day and you just want to write more for them.
And Derek finally has a good relationship.
Yes! [Laughs] Well he’s evolving, so it was about time for him to find someone good. So maybe not necessarily the relationship some of the fandom want [laughs], but I loved their romance scenes this season. I thought the scene where she shows him how to use a gun and keeps taking it out of his hands was so good. That was written by Alyssa Clark, that scene, and she did such a good job with it.
The two of them getting up out of bed half-naked with guns when Lydia was at the door was my favorite visual of the season.
[Laughs] That was great, wasn’t it? I think they were really happy to do it too. It’s sexy.
Not to promote gun use or anything, but those two are sexy.