Scott's friends try to save him from the life of a Berserker, and Peter battles it out for the ultimate werewolf power... but there can only be one True Alpha, and word on the street, he's got a heart of gold.

By Jodi Walker
March 11, 2015 at 05:16 PM EDT
S4 E12
  • TV Show

Don’t you ever, tame your demons

But always keep them on a leash

Those are kind of confusing instructions there from Hozier, whose “Arsonist’s Lullaby” underscores the final scene of tonight’s season finale of Teen Wolf. But what is Beacon Hills if not full of hormone-ridden confusion over keeping your supernaturally enhanced demons on a leash?

Following a couple of disjointed episodes, Teen Wolf returned for its season 4 finale feeling more focused, if not in the typical format you would expect of a finale. If you were unhappy with the answers provided for the story lines that shaped the season…well, that went out the window when Peter and Meredith split a hospital room. But in an odd move for a Teen Wolf finale, there weren’t really any season-long questions left to be cleared up tonight. Yes, Kate and Peter are still hanging around, but we left last week knowing exactly what they were up to: Peter wants Scott dead in order to steal his power, and Kate is helping him out by turning Scott into a Berserker so that his friends will kill him without knowing it. This week just gives us a few more details, a few more death scares, and a whole lot of fight sequences.

Most fans know that closure isn’t Teen Wolf’s specialty; for every Teen Wolf finale there’s at least one former Big Bad who we never technically saw die; that trend does not end here. But this finale felt almost more like a beginning for it’s characters than an end, which considering all that they’ve been through in the past couple of months, seems a kind gesture. It would be easy to discredit this finale altogether, as it’s lack of resolution makes the rest of the season seem a little inconsequential, upon reflection; but this is Teen Wolf, and the surplus of action, heartbreaking Chris/Kate scenes, and full wolf-itude kind of override that…”Smoke and Mirrors,” indeed. If Peter had to be the Benefactor without actually being aware of it, I’m glad that’s not the note we ended on. I much preferred his imprisoned scream of terror.

The werewolf world proves to have its own system of checks and balances regarding humanity and power, as Scott and Peter battle it out for both, respectively, in this episode. If you don’t overestimate your own power and seek to use it for noble purposes, you might get an upgrade. Say, turning into a full wolf (Derek), or if you’re just good-hearted enough, a werewolf Jesus True Alpha (Scott). And if you’re a power hungry maniac who thinks you can take on a True Alpha when your eyes are clearly still Beta blue (Peter), then you just might find yourself pumped full of yellow flowers, waking up in the Special Supernaturals Unit of Eichen House. But first… Mexico!

If I were to make a drinking game for “Smoke and Mirrors”—which I wouldn’t because the wolves are teens—but if I did, I might write the rules thusly:

–Drink every time someone screams, “SCOTT!” to try to keep him from going full-Berserker

–Drink every time someone just want to save their friends

–Drink every time Peter says “Buh-suuuur-KUR”

–Drink every time you’re confused… J/K, I don’t want you to die.

“Smoke and Mirrors” opens up in the now traditional horror style with Kira still trapped in a dungeon of bones in La Iglesia. But now she’s being guarded by a Berserker, and as that Berserker beats her mercilessly, she realizes it’s sporting a two-ring bicep tattoo… you know, like the one Derek burned into Scott’s skin in Season 3. Kate saunters over to spill a little exposition as only Jill Wagner can and tell Kira that seeing as Scott has risen to ultimate werewolf power without ever killing anybody, making him kill his girlfriend will be an excellent test of his Berserker loyalty. And Berserker Scott is down to party… he stabs Kira right in the heart.

Back in Beacon Hills, everyone is preparing to head to Mexico to save Kira and Scott and somehow, some way, they have let Peter back on their team. Even after finding out that he technically created the dead pool, even after he’s most definitely tried to kill each and every one of them at some point in the past, they just can’t resist all of that fresh Berserker knowledge he brings to the table. He says to kill a Berserker, you need to break the animal spirit from the human: “You might see humanity behind those eyes, but do not assume there is any humanity left.”

Unfortunately, the eyes behind one of those skulls are Scott’s (and two other poor souls we’ll never know), and it seems that Peter and Kate’s plan to keep that knowledge hidden is to strap some sort of bone-armor armband over that tattoo, and more importantly, to keep Banshee Lydia trapped in Beacon Hills so she won’t be able to tell anyone that Scott is about to die. Good thing there’s an extra Berserker on hand to trap her in the school with Mason, another guy who just wants to save his friends, even when he doesn’t realize quite how much saving they actually need… like, all the time.

NEXT: Father/daughter bonding, discussions about humanity… the usual

Malia gets to take the car ride across the border with dear old dad because Stiles and Derek are too busy in the other car trying to help Liam control his full moon shift. As Malia cowers at the moon and attempts to control her claws as well, Peter tells her the problem with Scott’s pack parenting techniques: “Scott has you thinking that control and humanity are the same for us.” But the fight for Scott’s humanity that’s about to go down at La Iglesia kind of proves that they’re both wrong. Control isn’t power and control isn’t humanity… control is just control. It’s what they each choose to do with that control that defines the kind of human—or monster—they are.

Unfortunately, the second Very Human Derek gets out of the car in Mexico, he is attacked by the non-Scott Berserker and stabbed in the stomach. But as it has seemed this whole season, Derek is fine with dying if it means saving Scott. The pack aren’t fighting for their lives anymore, they’re fighting for each other. As everyone stares at Derek not knowing how to save him, he tells them to go find Scott and Kira instead, and it’s Stiles’ horrified look of realization that this is almost definitely the end of Derek that makes it feel like it could actually be real this time. (Ha. Ha.)

After the rest head inside to find Scott and Kira, and Braeden goes after Kate and the other Berserker, the cavalry rolls in; well, the Calaveras do at least, led by the truly handsome new duo of Argent and Parrish. Bullets fly, beards and leather jackets abound, and the fight to kill the basically un-kill-able Berserkers is on. Just keep shooting, you guys. Or clawing, as it were. Inside the church, Malia, Liam and Peter unknowingly find Berserker-Scott and begin to battle. Luckily, Stiles finds Kira, who has been busy teaching herself how to heal, and they return to tell the others that Scott is the Berserker just as he starts to choke Littlest Beta Liam out on a wall. Liam, who’s fresh off figuring out how to keep his own demons on a leash, looks Scott dead in the eye and tells him, “You’re not a monster—you’re a werewolf, like me.” Only Scott could be talked out of being a Norse warrior.

Oh speaking of werewolves, DEREK LIVES AND HE IS A WOLF. It’s too crazy to beat around the bush. Just as Kate is about to truly unleash her were-jaguar terror on everyone outside, a black wolf jumps out of the ruins, flashes its eyes blue, and attacks her. As the wolf shifts back, there’s an excellent shot of a human back rising up over Kate with a triskele tattoo between the shoulder blades. Apparently Derek hasn’t been dying all this time, he’s been “evolving.” It doesn’t make total sense, but Derek is alive and can turn into a full wolf now, and well, there are some things for which you can make allowances—for me, Derek’s livelihood is one of them.

Argent takes the opportunity to load up a yellow wolfsbane bullet and shoots it into Kate, and Derek skull-crushes the other Berserker, but the Sheriff has a different tactic back in Beacon Hills, and simply shows up, hands the Berserker keeping Lydia and Mason trapped a land mine, and hits the “Explode” button. It does the trick, and suddenly, all of this hand-to-hand combat feels a little unnecessary.

Except for Scott and Peter, who have always been destined to face off, Harry-Potter-prophecy style: “You were my Beta first, Scott. It was my bite that changed your life, and my bite that can end it.” Once Scott sheds his Berserker armor, he tells Peter he knows he’s there to steal his power. But Peter considers Scott’s power stolen in the first place, usurped from his family “by some idiot teenage boy so incorruptible he wouldn’t shed the blood of his enemies even when justified.” Peter thinks Scott doesn’t deserve his power because he’s not willing to kill for it; but Scott earned his power precisely because he doesn’t think he’s entitled to it. To be fair to Peter—because for some reason, people are always trying to be fair to Peter—Teen Wolf hasn’t done a lot to show that Scott knows how to wield his power. Maybe they haven’t intended to. But the universe has deemed it his by right, and part of his True Alpha journey is figuring out how to harness and use this untouchable power he supposedly deserves.

NEXT: Who would you die for… who would you kill for?

As Peter and Scott battle it out, Scott’s powers still don’t seem particularly special… until Peter takes a swipe (er, throws a pew) at Littlest Beta Liam. Without any physical indication other than an “aw hell naw” face, Liam is fine, but it forces Scott to go True Alpha; not the monster we saw almost come out in the final battle with the assassins, but the True Alpha he earned from his strength of character. Peter tells Scott, “If you want to beat me, you’re going to have to kill me,””but he’s wrong again. Scott takes Peter down with a couple of cat-like swipes and a swift blow to the temple to knock him out. Even a monster can’t beat a True Alpha.

Born or bitten, controlling the monster that lurks inside them effects all of Beacon Hills’ supernaturals differently. For Scott, it heightens his best qualities: loyalty, protection, and leadership, when he’s able to harness them. For Peter, it’s always been an insatiable thirst for power that he doesn’t deserve. And for Kate, she could never quite control the creature she became; she was a monster as a human, and a monster as a were-jaguar. When brother and sister finally face off, Chris tells her that he doesn’t want to kill her, but he doesn’t want to save her anymore either. She says his little pack buddies aren’t really as heroic as he thinks either—they killed Allison, after all. Daggers. To. The. Heart. Kate has always thought that it was Scott’s pack that brought down the Argent family, but Chris tells her no, they didn’t kill Allison: “Allison died. She died saving her friends. Who would you die for?”

In the end, there is only one thing that makes you definitively human: death. No one died tonight, but plenty of people saved each other. Scott might not be willing to kill for his friends, but he is willing to die for them, and we’re led to believe that’s what makes him deserving of his power. But without the propensity to kill, is death our main character’s only real obstacle from here on out? It’s novel, but a little disconcerting, that Teen Wolf has never aimed to make it’s pack particularly competent. They’re not a band of supernatural heroes; at their core, they’re just friends saving friends… teenagers at the whims of the monsters who hunt them. The best they can do is prepare themselves to survive. Hopefully, after what has turned out to be a rebuilding season, that story will continue to grow in complexity.

But for now, Season 4 ends on a scene that mirrors the finale of Season 3-A: Everyone goes back to high school and tries to figure out their place within their own broken lives. Kira earns her first Kitsune tail; Malia finds a bit of a family in the Stilinskis; and Stiles, Scott, and Liam get some solid advice from the mage who is Coach Finstock (even if he is just “protecting his investment” in Liam, as they say): “You boys are gonna stick together, you’re going to look out for each other, and you’re going to have each other’s backs.” Of that much you can be sure, Coach.

Best line: Derek screaming, “DO YOU KNOW ANY OTHER MANTRAS?!” at Stiles, because mantras are the number one go-to for out of control teen wolves. Who knew?

And all the doors left open…

–Peter and Kate still aren’t dead; those two are like were-cockroaches. Chris is heading off with the Calaveras to officially put a stop to Kate, but Peter has been sent to the Very Special wing of Eichen House. Specifically, he finds himself sharing a mountain ash Magneto-cell with the third-eye guy who Deaton visited last episode, Dr. Valack. That eye does not get less gross the second time you see it, and I have a feeling we’ll get to keep testing that threshold with many more viewings of it in the future.

–Did anyone else think when Derek’s wolf first emerged from the shadows and flashed its blue eyes that it was Malia’s supposed mother, the mysterious Desert Wolf? Still no word on who she is, but Braeden ensured we’d be checking back in on her next season by telling Derek that the Desert Wolf was the reason she stopped being a U.S. Marshall. Uh, how old is Braeden?

–Those money problems are just… finished? Transitioning to next season? Who gets Peter’s duffel bag of money now?

–So Mason is all clued in on the supernatural now, then? This should be a pleasant addition to his teenage life.

–Parrish. Still probably a phoenix, still not sure. But Lydia is prepared to spend many late nights pouring over the bestiary with him to figure it out.

–What did you think of the finale? Do you wish it had related more to the season as a whole, or was all the action enough to make the crisscrossing storylines worth it? And, is Scott your kind of noble True Alpha, or were you ready for someone to actually pull the metaphorical trigger on ridding Beacon Hills of Peter forever?

–Thank you for reading and watching along with me—until 2015!

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