Teen Wolf recap: Orphaned
Scott takes on the weight of the supernatural world while the Beacon Hill body count reaches new heights, and everyone clamors for power and control. Yep, the gang's all here.
“No one else dies… I’m going to save everyone on that list.” Let’s take things one step at a time, shall we, Scotty? There are, like, 1,000 things out there trying to kill you and your 40 closest supernatural friends.
Teen Wolf has taken a lot of twists and turns in its four seasons, but one of its greatest through-lines has always been the dynamic relationship it paints between parents and their children. In a show about teens, adults with less screen time and less plot have carved out just as much of a place in the root cellar heart of this show as their kids. That’s why I spent 58 minutes of tonight’s episode living in fear that one of these already struggling offspring was about to lose the only parent they have left; because this episode wasn’t titled “Orphans,” à la the teen assassins, it was titled, “Orphaned.” Strange.
Keep your guard up, but for tonight at least, no one appears to have been orphaned. But times, they are a-changin’, and family dynamics are shifting. This season has been all about the passing of the torch and gaining control, with Liam playing the part of old Scott, Scott playing old Derek, and Derek playing… Deaton? (Or maybe just ceasing to exist altogether, but we’ll get there.) In the same theme, there seems to be a rising focus on the passing of responsibility: the time in adolescence when the burdens that parents have born in their children’s stead become shared, whether the parents wish to share those burdens or not. In addition to breaking cipher keys and managing Betas, Stiles and Scott are beginning to recognize the strain of adult responsibility. The dire financial straits that their families have come into don’t just weigh on their parents, but on them, as well.
This season has walked a more narrow line than usual between balancing human and supernatural issues side-by-side. Human issue: the morality of using stolen money you found to pay off your family’s debt. Supernatural issue: said money was stolen from a werewolf vault hidden under your high school, and then rewarded to teenage assassins being paid to kill supernaturals with lacrosse sticks by a mysterious man hosting a dead pool.
“Orphaned” forces its characters to walk that line more carefully than ever before, taking responsibility for the choices they make as people who know the difference between right and wrong, but also accepting the roles that have been thrust upon them as supernaturals and everything that comes along with that. Overcoming burdens is about deciding how to use the power at your disposal, and Beacon Hills residents like Scott and Lydia… they’ve got an excess of power, perhaps even more burdens, and only a teenage capacity to deal with it all. If Teen Wolf has taught us anything about werewolves, it’s that there is a steep learning curve to becoming an Alpha.
Scott never wanted to be an Alpha, but it’s the hand he’s been dealt, and tonight he sees the power that comes with that role doesn’t have to be all about screaming to the heavens and affecting a British accent. It can be about saving people; helping people; rescuing Beacon Hills from an anonymous reign of terror. Which brings us to… just how many baddies is Scott going to have to take down to protect his town and its supernatural inhabitants?
Aunt Kate is the burden on Beacon Hills that’s been quietly lurking behind the scenes for the last few weeks (some might say for the last few seasons). Looking like she’s still been fitting in Pilates and trips to the Italian boot store between fresh kills, the episode opens to Kate finding a cassette tape—a thing that still exists!—in her car. It plays a dated recording describing what sounds a lot like a certain aesthetically inclined werewolf family we know: “Eventually settling in a small town in Northern California, this family used their wealth to rebuild a community around them while remaining isolated from it.” Apparently, that isolation was necessary to teach control to the family’s young werewolves. Whether it’s her predisposition toward capitol-C-Crazy, or maybe it just takes werejaguars a little longer, but Kate is still incapable of controlling her shift, and it’s really starting to take a toll on her “killing and wreaking havoc upon the weak” game.
NEXT: A surprise callback to your least favorite episode from last season…
While murdering a parking lot full of assassins alongside her two gal pal Berserkers and torturing them for information about the Benefactor, Kate controls herself just long enough to find out “The Orphans” have a matching tape to complete her “Play Me” box set. But she goes full
Avatar werejaguar before she can find out what’s on the second tape. I hate how badass she looks stomping around her handiwork. That woman is truly a master class in sociopathy.
Still bearing their lawful duties, Head Dads in Charge, McCall and Stilinski, march wee assassin Violet off to jail. The tales of bolo tie homicides by smirking teen must have spread up and down the West Coast, as Scott’s dad seems to already know those two tiny nutjobs are called The Orphans, but too bad, because it only took one True Alpha to take them down. Scott’s werewolf presence might be appreciated over at the animal clinic where everyone’s favorite little enigmas—Derek, Stiles, and Deaton—are trying to use their mostly human strength to undo Garrett’s dirty wolfsbane work on Brett the Beta. Also, a Buddhist, apparently—he repeats the same mantra that we’ve heard over and over from the unfamiliar dead pool werewolves: “the sun, the moon, the truth.”
Derek, who steps further and further into his self-appointed role as Beacon Hills Historian with every new thermal Henley, thinks back to a Buddhist Alpha werewolf he’s heard of, and one that we’re we also know from last season’s Kitsune/Nogitsune flashback episode, Satomi. Figuring he’ll need help to track the other pack in the woods, Derek pulls what we call “a Derek” and sneaks into the high school to whisper Malia’s name in the halls until she escorts herself out of class to find which person is trying to confuse her today. Well, first she tells her teacher she can track the scents of her absent friends if she wants her to… then she leaves.
But surely Scott’s most complex new responsibility is Liam: his brother, his pack, his Beta… who is 15, has an anger problem, a tendency toward the impulsive, and can’t stay out of trouble. That’s how he finds himself getting mowed down in a car by Garrett—in full Children of the Corn mode—stabbed with a wolfsbane-poisoned barbecue fork and thrown into a well. The kid literally gets trapped in a well.
Citing his inclusion on the dead pool, Lydia and Stiles convince Parrish to take them to Eichen House to see Meredith and once more grill her for a the next cipher key. But on this episode of Believe in Your Banshee, someone else has gotten to Meredith first. That someone is the Benefactor, and either he’s talking to Meredith through walls or he’s made his way into Eichen House: “Things have changed; I can’t! He doesn’t want me to.” After Lydia goes way too heavy on the peer pressure for the second week in a row, Meredith has a nervous breakdown (no “almost” this time) and Banshee wails “I DON’T KNOOOOOW!” It’s a truly unhinged performance from Maya Eshet and enough for Stiles to realize that maybe the third cipher isn’t someone who already died, but someone who’s going to. Lydia closes her eyes and types out the name: DEREK.
Oh, you mean the same Derek who just discovered that a whole pack of werewolves has been poisoned and killed in the woods that his family—also mass murdered—once protected? That guy… cannot catch a break, re: life.
But it’s not Derek’s turn to go just yet; tonight, it’s Meredith who dies, not by the will of the Benefactor (it seems), but by her own. It’s long seemed that Lydia’s supernatural load weighs the heaviest on her, and Banshee is a skin Meredith has been wearing for much longer than Lydia. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to know Meredith as someone more than just a fascinating shortcut; now, she’s just a grim warning.
The prospect of death is everywhere in Beacon Hills, starkly outlined by the McCall/Stilinski Sr. heap that Scott and Garrett come upon on the road. Violet’s transport vehicle was overtaken by Berserkers that then immediately take Garrett out because he is a human child with a stick and they are Norse warriors. Oddly, they don’t put up much of a fight with Scott, just a stab that he overcomes on Deaton’s lab table in time to sniff out Auntie Kate’s hideout with Chris, to not much avail, and go find Liam in his well of personal growth.
NEXT: If Liam falls in a well in the woods, would you hear him?
Scott catches Liam before he falls from his second climb up the wall, and it turns out it’s much more fulfilling to watch Dylan Sprayberry play earnestly fearful, then relieved, than it is to watch him growl his way through a transformation. Scott may not have a lot of tallies in his “fights won” column, but his greatest strength will always be that his compassion quickly earns him trust. The hug they share outside of the well is touching, and a clear message that these two are family now, and begrudgingly or not, family takes responsibility for each other.
After finding the dead pack in the woods Malia says to Derek, “Maybe we should all be running from Beacon Hills—running for our lives, as fast as we can.” That’s a valid suggestion, and one that it’s difficult as an audience member not to consider every single episode as the body counts rise and the reveal of the Benefactor and his true intentions looms closer. Why has Stilinski stayed all this time in a town that has constant gruesome deaths, threatens his son, saw the death of his wife? Because Scott and Stilinski aren’t the type of men who can see death and do nothing. When Scott tells Deaton he doesn’t want to see another person killed, Deaton tells him that’s a lot of burden to carry. It certainly is. But it’s the burden of Beacon Hills and the one that Scott was asked to bear when he transformed into a True Alpha, when he stopped his heart to find the Nemeton, and when Peter turned him.
Surely Peter didn’t know what he was creating that night in the woods; that he was biting a werewolf with an aptitude for power that he could only ever dream of, simply because Scott is willing to give to others more than he takes. When Peter tracks down Kate, he tells her what helped him control himself during a shift as a child: “I realized, why break your own toys when you can break someone else’s?” Peter is willing to help Kate learn control so she can “ruhtuhrn the Aaaahgents to their glohhhrius pow’r,” if she’s willing to help him get his money back. But Kate knows what Peter really wants. It’s what he’s always wanted: power. Or as Ian Boen says, “PAHHHHHR!”
Best Quotes: “I’m worth five dollars?!” “Five million.” “I only make $40,000 a year… maybe I should kill myself.” Parrish’s line was a bright spot in a pretty dark episode. If Stiles approves—”You. You, I like!”—surely we can trust him.
And a few lingering questions
–What are Scott and Stiles going to do with the Benefactor money Scott swiped from Garrett’s locker, other than count it? That’s a hard thing to resist, especially when you’ve got the weight of saving an entire town on your not-even-yet-fully-grown shoulders. Couldn’t they simply… ask Derek if they can have it? He’s been super chill and paternal lately. Also, what’s on that tape, and do those boys have access to a tape player? Or know what a cassette tape is?
–I’m finding it difficult to really care about Peter as a villain. He’s proven time and time again that he’s not really capable of keeping power or wielding it with any sort of authority. I feel like he’s the weak link in the Big Bad trifecta of this season. What is he bringing to the table?
–I don’t usually celebrate children being attacked by Berserkers, but I’m making an exception for Violet and Garrett.
–Did anyone else think for one heart-stopping second that Deaton was the Benefactor when Scott awoke to him standing over him after the Berserker attack?
–And finally, what was Braeden doing in the woods with that poisoned werewolf pack? How long will her recovery period take before she and Derek inevitably start making out?