Teen Wolf season premiere recap: Viva La Pack
Hello and welcome to EW recaps of Teen Wolf! Because when the wolves are teens, the were-jaguars are formerly dead sociopathic aunts, and there's hardly an unnaturally beautiful 17-year-old without a jewel tone set of eyes within a 20-mile radius, it seems only fair that we break down exactly who is turning into what from week to week.
The premise of Teen Wolf's television reincarnation has always seemed pretty simple: heart o' gold kid gets turned into a werewolf, tries to avoid killing anyone with the help of his precocious sidekick pal, and attempts to not die at the hands of his lady love's hunter family. But over the course of three extended seasons, things have taken on a more… complicated narrative. Most notably, that teenage werewolf recently became the most powerful Alpha in over a century due to the aforementioned heart of gold; that funny sidekick was possessed by an evil Japanese trickster spirit, basically split in two, and nearly died due to sleep deprivation and the overwhelming guilt of trying to kill his friends and most of the Beacon Hills public; and that beautiful, wonderful hunter? She died. Let's not talk about it.
Teen Wolf has taken a hit or two, some unavoidable, such as cast changes—we miss you and your man scarves, Isaac—and many due to a tendency to bite off a little more than the show can chew. But this sleepy hit is also one of the few that constantly leaves the audience with its mouths hanging open in a combination of shock and, generally, a lot of confusion, and tonight was no different. In order to stay one of the campiest, most fun shows on television, the show must unravel some of that confusion throughout the fourth season. And only one episode in: This season needs to break it down like Stiles coming out of that nasty Nogitsune gauze, because there are already a lot of questions.
Last season, while bold and, at times, spectacular, also put everyone on a one-way mental torture train for 13 episodes. It was a platform for outstanding performances—who couldn't stare at a gif of Dylan O'Brian's face transforming in that MRI machine for days—but also took place in some murky narrative waters.
For example, here are some curiosities going into the premiere: Where has Kate been hiding? Can no one stay dead on this show? Exactly how many people are still alive in Beacon Hills? Did all those flies get killed for real, for real? Something's up with Deputy Parrish, right? Is Lydia about to find a bunch of other Banshees and things are going to get real The Craft, real fast? Where is Derek? Why is he dreaming about Stiles? Is that finger-count trick real (because they're really depending a lot of their sanity on it)? Also, did Malia and Stiles really do what it kind of seemed like they did in the basement of Eichen House on that old couch while he was possessed and she had only recently become a human?
NEXT: A little less talk, and a lot more Mexico…
Perhaps Season 4 will continue to trample upon our tender human hearts, or maybe, as the creators and cast have promised, it might take a beat from Seasons 1 and 2, and let the kids have a little fun again. The premiere takes a page more from The OC handbook and ships everyone straight to Mexico, but instead of having Kira pull a Marissa Cooper (like she'd ever), the writers go full Raiders of the Lost Ark, on a search through ancient ruins to find Derek, whom the entire plot is centered around, but we don't even see until the very last 15 seconds of the episode… and even then it's only halfsies—hey, Baby Derek, we're getting to you.
But first…the premiere. Season 4's first episode opens up with strumming guitars and Team Brain (formerly Team Human) fretting that they're about to dive into their stupidest plan ever. Truly terrifying, all plans considered, and that's before even noting that they're wandering around Mexico; Lydia's Spanish has seen better days, though her Heidi braids are as fresh as ever. Luckily the doormen they're trying to get past respond better to Stiles flashing a skeleton card up toward a surveillance camera. What appears to be just your average shady building, soon becomes a sexy, shady rave, as it so often does when the Beacon Hills gang finds themselves in a wide-open space. Lydia symbol drops another skull, this time etched into a bullet, and some shady men take them back to… ah, yes Mama Huntress, how I've wondered what you've been getting up to.
Lydia and Stiles are looking for Derek, and they've come to the people who abducted him last (damn, poor Derek), the Calaveras family of hunters, a.k.a. the Argents of Mexico. And even though I'm impressed with the $50k they've brought along, Mama Calaveras is not, mocking them for coming there alone. And then, for just a moment, we're reminded that Stiles was once consumed by an evil spirit, and is no longer the kid he once was: "What makes you think we came alone?"
When did all of these kids become stone-cold badasses? I guess that's what happens when you've stared death in the face a couple dozen times—fear loses its power. "The Dark Moon" never quite becomes the revisit to Teen Wolf past that we've been promised, but the following scene is a reminder of just how silly this show is still willing to get: The camera zooms back through the crowd in the party that Stiles and Lydia walked through, revealing first, a blue-eyed, snarling Malia Tate; then a sneaky, golden-eyed Kira; and over "We brought an alpha," a truly fluorescent-red eyed Scotty-Scott McCall.
The following montage of Kira and Malia lady-dancing is probably longer than it needs to be, especially considering Malia's grinding skills should by all means be a little rusty, but I'm glad those two endearing outcasts are getting along… oh, and they're in The Pack! This season, more than ever before, especially considering last season's losses, there needs to be an emphasis on pack. And as if on cue, Mama Calaveras asks why, after all of the grief they've suffered, they'd risk it all again on Derek Hale. Stiles says it's because they don't like to lose, but we all know it's because they looooove him.
The Calaveras boys start closing in on Malia, Kira, and Scott, and while they put up a valiant nunchaku effort, there's only so much you can do in the face of a hunter's "light saber" to the gut. They take Scott, Lydia, and Kira to a dungeon of torture for—you guessed it—some good old-fashioned electric shock. Because the Calaveras don't know where Derek is either, and Mama has a suspicion that if she makes sweet Kira turn the electricity dial up to Back to the Future levels, Scott will somehow remember.
She is exactly right because she and her orthopedic shoes are terrifying; while he's getting fried to an alpha crisp, Scott flashes back to Chris Argent telling Kate that if it goes deep enough, a werewolf scratch can turn someone. Which tells Scott what we already know: Kate is back, she's looking hella blue, and she's got Derek… again.
Meanwhile, in romance news, in an attempt to harness her coyote powers to hear what's happening from their locker room confines, Malia kisses Stiles, because of course. Malia was thrust upon us pretty suddenly, and she's looking maybe a little too good for having just recently been a coyote, but her inability to understand human emotions gives her character some great moments this episode. She's constantly wanting to leave everyone but Stiles behind, which is super not-pack, but can't even fathom leaving Stiles, which is sweet, especially for this pairing.
NEXT: Excuse me, might you have directions to the nearest were-jaguar ruins?
That whole electric chair thing was apparently some sort of character test, and Scott passed, because Mama Calaveras says now she knows what kind of alpha he is, but quickly follows up with, "but the second you bite some kid in the woods, I'mma be on ya ass, buddy." For now though, besties. She even hires them a guide to go find Kate and Derek: It's kick-ass mercenary, Braeden (Meagan Tandy), who probably deserves a whole spin-off show. A supernatural lady mercenary in leather pants who is constantly tired of all these teenagers' bullshit? Where is The CW on this?
In an excellent deployment of this cast's most reliable member, everybody piles in Stiles' blue Jeep to follow Braeden to the place where Kate has been spotted: La Iglesia, a village leveled by an earthquake, except for the church, which still stands because it was built over an Aztec temple of the Nagual people… better known as were-jaguars.
For those of you keeping score at home: That's werewolves, were-coyotes, were-jaguars, kitsunes, (no more) nogitsunes, and banshees… the gang's all here!
And the gang's all hanging out with the jeep after it breaks down, while Scott continues on with Braeden to find Derek, who's shown in a flashback of sorts sleeping like Dracula with his arms crossed under a bunch of cobwebs (still looks good). Scott and Braeden make their way down to the crypts of the church while exchanging pleasantries about how easy it would be for them to kill each other, but there's no time for that, because there are, like, six different other things down there trying to kill them. One of those things flashes us a glimpse of his creepy, bony hand before the teen wolf, himself, lets out his fiercest Alpha Katy Perry roar, and scares everything that isn't Derek off.
The Jeep crew are dealing with their own Big Bads, who also remain off-camera, making them even more foreboding as something that will likely come back to haunt us, especially since one of those somethings gave Malia a gnarly scratch and smelled, "like rotting… like death." No time to linger on smells though, because the Jeep is working now, and when they pull up to the church, they find Braeden and Scott carrying out Derek… wait for it… 15-year-old Derek (Ian Nelson).
Maybe I should have seen that reveal coming because there were so many excellent filter-heavy scenes in this episode, but I… Did… NOT. Until that moment of reveal, this premiere felt like an odd little film—just a new setting to showcase these kids' ever-noble quest for vengeance, even when they're woefully unprepared. But the Baby Derek callback to 3A's flashback episode, and even further back to the still lingering questions of what went down with Kate and young Derek in a time before we even knew them is an excellent reminder that this world is so much bigger than one story. But the tightness of this episode forecasts a cautiously hopeful outlook for Season 4 being able to take the huge world this little show has somehow managed to create, and focus on its parts—even when those parts are in Mexico sometimes.
So… what are your thoughts on Baby Derek? Why would Kate just let Scott walk right out of there with him? Are you accepting Kira and Malia into your pack hearts? Let's not talk about how much we missed Allison… still can't talk about it. And what did you like better? Lydia talking about Kate: "What kind of shape is sociopathic bitch?"; or Stiles talking about Derek: "You don't want him anyway. Haven't you noticed what a downer he is? Poor conversationalist, no sense of humor…"?