Derek figures out life as a teen wolf (again); meanwhile, everyone else tries to figure out how to raise a new teen wolf when bad guys keep popping up in every Beacon Hills High breezeway

By Jodi Walker
November 18, 2016 at 04:53 PM EST
MTV
S4 E2
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After last week’s Mexican prologue, it’s good to see Scott and his ragtag team of teen wolves ‘n more getting back to basics—school, joking around, dealing with multiple killer enemies at once, fielding Banshee warning texts in history class, etc. But before Scott, Stiles, and Kira can be filled in on who’s turning who into a teen wolf today, they’ve got a classic Mr. Yukimura history lesson coming their way: “Some of history’s greatest leaders have had to endure some pretty great failures,” he tells the class. One of those great leaders endured a nervous breakdown, a failed business, and multiple political losses—including Vice President of the United States—but eventually overcame all of that to become one of the most important politicians in American history.

In case you’ve been a coyote for the last eight years, you might not know that Mr. Yukimura is referring to Abraham Lincoln. But scratch the eventual success from this Lincoln scenario, trade politics for the supernatural, and let’s consider the Journey of Failures that our very own Derek Hale has endured at the hands of Teen Wolf over the past three seasons.

Even without the dust, Aztec myths, and neon sepia tones of last week’s somewhat inconsequential premiere, this episode of Teen Wolf begs us to look to the past even more. Baby Derek is still around, stuck not only in his slightly more gangly teen physique, but in his former teenage mind as well—devoid of all of his adult memories of either royally failing or being failed all the time. Our memories, however, are called on time and time again, with callbacks to previous episodes in almost every scene: Derek on Deaton’s exam table having his arm opened up; Baby Derek handcuffed to the exact bench in the police station that saw the origin of 3B’s Derek/Chris Argent buddy flick; Stiles once again introducing Derek as his cousin, Miguel, from Mexico; and, of course, Derek slamming Stiles up against a wall for old times’ sake. Even the wink Stiles gives Scott in class as he raises his hand to correctly answer Mr. Yukimura is almost an exact replica of a Season 3 exchange in Coach’s class.

Some of those little blasts from the past could be simple fan service (you will find no complaints about teenage Derek and Stiles bickering with each other here) to balance out last week’s exciting but confusing Mexican Vacation from Were-Jaguar Aztec Hell. But as Lydia walks upon a scene out of Saw III in a gas station bathroom with little more than tremor, it seems more a reminder of what these kids have seen—and how, as more time passes, they’re becoming irrevocably, monumentally, irreparably f—ed up by all of this.

Philosopher George Santayana is credited with coining the popular quote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Santayana’s actual words, however, were “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And who has a past less worth repeating than poor, poor Derek Hale, who, coincidentally, can’t seem to remember anything after the time in his adolescence when he first met Kate—the life-changing mistake he’s doomed to repeat? Rescued from Kate’s little Aztec wolfsbane sarcophagus experiment, the gang takes Baby Derek to Dr. Deaton’s office. He helpfully reminds us that he never knows what’s going on until he does know, then decides to share (but only if he feels like it). This is not one of those moments. Derek wakes up from Deaton’s non-consensual syringing, goes all Broody McBlueEyes, and hightails it back to the Hale house—”a wolf goes back to his den”—only to discover that it’s burned to the ground.

Baby Derek hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but he’s living in a time where “everyone’s happy, except Derek, who’s never happy” (says the kid who was recently possessed by an ancient Japanese asshole and tried to kill all his friends). Scott and Stiles track down their newest teen charge at the police station after being tased for what he probably assumes is the first time in his life, where Sherriff Stilinski earns both the joke and the most reasonable question of the night: “I want you to be totally and completely honest… have you been time traveling?” When you’ve been watching this show as long as Stilinski has, you cut to the chase: Exactly what kind of tomfoolery are the writers putting within the realm of possibility today, Stiles? Oh, I’m sorry, time travel is absurd—but were-coyotes sired by werewolves, going to human high school, using a RED highlighter in a text book is on the table? Well, yes…

NEXT: A history of “ewwww…”

Peter might have the weirdest paternal instincts in the world. After Stiles accidentally gives Kate the opportunity to swoop in on her favorite teenager, Scott decides to bring Peter into this equation, either because he’s looking to bring a dramatic, occasionally teetering on British cadence into his everyday speaking habits, or because Peter might be the only guy in the world who can get on Kate’s level, re: manipulating Derek. Malia comes along to help Scott out against “Satan in a V-neck.” (Can we even call those V-necks anymore? Peter is basically wearing a cotton version of J.Lo’s dress at the 2000 Grammys at all times.) Malia doesn’t realize that she’s meeting her potential papa, but that’s probably because he’s creeping the crap out of her, talking about her beautiful eyes.

And Derek doesn’t realize that he’s being manipulated to divulge Hale family secrets to Kate for the second time in his life. At least this time, his family can’t die in a grisly fire set by his creepy old girlfriend all over again. (Let’s just leave that kiss and all the “biblical” knowing alone, shall we?) No, this time, she wants him to show her how to control her shift with the triskele token that his mother used to teach him. This episode really has a lot going for it when it comes to revisiting the past that shaped these characters, but it officially reaches the threshold for unnecessary coincidences when Baby Derek sticks his baby claws in the BHHS sign to open the Hale family underground vault. It could have been anywhere!

This really is a fun, fast-paced hour, though. Despite the dark overtones of Derek never being able to win, ever, even when he’s just a kid, it’s also one of the funniest episodes in at least the last dozen, on a joke-for-joke basis. It’s important that Teen Wolf soften us up all episode with Stiles versus Baby Derek, and Sherriff Stilinski constantly being too old for this s—, because—get readywe’re about to be asked to accept two more supernatural beasts as our Lord and Big Bads, in addition to the blue-faced, teen-tonguing monster down in the high school gym vault we’re already dealing with.

First came the Berserkers in all their enraged, animal-skull-faced Norse warrior glory, successfully taking True Alpha Scott, nearly feral Malia, and punk Power Ranger Kira down to the ground. But they’re no match for Baby Derek, who has already formed a protective attachment to Scott to rival his future self—who, speaking of, he begins to transform back into just as the Berserkers turn tail and leave. That’s right: Adult Derek Hale won his first fight with the precious assistance of Baby Derek Hale. And only a true Hale would have the bone structure and dramatic stylings to pull off the slow head-turn that Adult Derek does to reveal his re-aged self and newly minted golden eyes to the rest of the pack.

I have absolutely no idea what the change in Derek’s eye color means, but I’m hopeful that Beta-gold lends itself to a more promising and less painful future for Derek than guilty-murderer-blue. Because an episode so rooted in the past suggests that the future of Teen Wolf can go in one of two directions. These kids could continue throwing themselves into the unforgiving hands of the supernatural with less and less consideration for their humanity, doomed to become the next generation of Dereks, strung out by guilt and anger, unable to recover from a past that wronged them. Or Derek blazes a more Lincoln-like path, learning from his many, many, many mistakes and hardships, and using them to become the leader Beacon Hills and Scott need him to be.

Perhaps we’ll find out more next episode…or perhaps we’ll just learn what that mouth-less guy is up to in his shiny shoes.

A few questions to consider, and plot points not to forget:

–The other big bad showing up tonight is mostly introduced by his shoes, expert work with tear gas, and ability to walk away with $117 million of the Hales’ secret high school vault money. Where did the Hales get so many dollars, and were bearer bonds the best way to invest all 117 million of them?

–Why exactly did Kate need to go through all of this trouble to learn to control her shift—doesn’t she know Scott will do literally anything if you convince him it’s for a good cause?

–Is the triskele really as valueless as Satan in a V-neck claims?

–That second notice from Eichen House on Sheriff Stilinski’s desk looks ominous.

–What is a Berserker’s function, and why is its name so much sillier than its terrifying appearance?

–Deputy Parrish is such a sweetheart. Hope he doesn’t kill everybody or whatever!

–Credit where credit is due: Ian Nelson looks even more like Tyler Hoechlin than he did in Season 3’s flashback episode, seemingly due to an extensive study of Derek’s expressive eyebrow scowling.

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