Alysha Boynton ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
After a brief three month hiatus, Teen Wolf returned to television screens this week, bringing with it a host of new reasons to both rejoice and despair at the state of the campy MTV show. The first episode of season 4, “The Dark Moon,” was meant as a way to wipe the slate clean and go back to basics, setting a more comedic/adventurous tone as opposed to last season’s psychological thriller/total bummer tone. After the loss of many main cast members at the end of season 3, there wasn’t much of a choice but to fast forward a few months to give the characters some time to grieve off-screen, but it was alarming just how little they seemed to be affected by the trauma of losing so many friends that they dealt with not too long ago.
The episode begins in Mexico, showing Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) and Lydia (Holland Roden) engaging in some refreshingly platonic banter as they attempt to locate the club where they hope to negotiate for the return of their friend Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) who ended last season being abducted by the evil, and previously presumed dead, werewolf hunter Kate Argent (Jill Wagner). The rest of the gang is there too, of course, the teen wolf himself Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) along with the two newer additions to the group, Scott’s almost girlfriend Kira (Arden Cho) and recently humanized were-coyote Malia (Shelley Hennig). They’ve somehow managed to obtain $50,000 and have tracked down a family of Mexican hunters who they believe kidnapped Derek. The scenes in the club are deliciously over the top and a treat to watch after the doom and gloom of last season, despite being a bit ridiculous at times.
As the episode goes on, though, the cheesiness and trademark nonsensical nature of pretty much everything that’s happening on screen starts to become tiresome, and the plot drags as they learn the Calaveras family did not take Derek, and in fact they’ve been searching for him as well. The rest of the plot could be summed up by simply saying that killer-for-hire Braeden (Meagan Tandy) returns at the request of the Calaveras matriarch to take the Beacon Hills gang to where Derek is being held by Kate, and their trip there is interrupted by Stiles’ jeep breaking down in the desert.
The episode would have at least been enjoyable overall if it weren’t for the continued persistence of the Teen Wolf writers to do what they do worst: force romantic relationships and make everyone watching uncomfortable. Malia and Stiles have shared an odd and extremely rushed relationship consisting so far of meeting, and then meeting again in a mental hospital where they had sex in the basement. Most people were willing to keep an open mind about the relationship and about Malia herself until this season aired, but it’s safe to say this episode only made matters worse.
Malia Tate is a sloppy attempt at achieving the cute and humorous social ineptitude of someone adjusting to the modern human world that can be seen in such characters as Anya Jenkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow, but she falls so short it’s almost laughable. She comes off instead as rude and irritating, and Stiles in return seems to just be treating her like a child. It’s not sweet, it’s not romantic, it’s not even fun, it’s just awkward, and knowing that we have a whole season of this pairing to deal with (and possibly more) is daunting to say the least.
The strongest scenes come at the tail end of the episode, when Scott and Braeden finally arrive at the ruins of a place called La Iglesia. As they walk through the dark and ominous halls of the abandoned stone buildings, it evokes a wonderful Indiana Jones feel, and the suspense of watching them almost get killed by a Berserker (a new creature this season) is very well done. It’s the last minute of the episode that gives it most of its value, when they finally find Derek and drag his unconscious body outside to where the rest of the group has finally arrived in the jeep. [BIG SPOILER ALERT] It’s clear something is amiss when the camera angles pointedly don’t show Derek’s face, and when Malia asks Stiles, “Is that Derek?” and he manages through his amazement and confusion to respond “Sort of,” the camera finally reveals that the Derek before them is not the Derek they know, but the teenage version that the audience has only seen in flashbacks.
The cliffhanger has received mixed reactions so far from fans, some thinking it’s brilliant and utterly unlike anything that’s ever been done before, and some thinking it’s stupid and crazy. Perhaps it’s so crazy it just might work? As long as we eventually get Tyler Hoechlin back on our screens, it seems like a plotline that will at least be fascinating enough to keep people tuning in.
Overall Episode Grade: B