Series 5, Episode 5
A Novel Approach.
I had high hopes for this episode, I really did. As anyone who read my review of the last episode would know, I was fairly convinced that this episode would see the plot kick into a (relatively) higher gear. Doctor Whatshisface with the three eyes was coming back, Donovan was finally going to do something and not just scream at people about how he was going to kill them, everybody had clocked that someone was stealing the bodies, it was all looking pretty good.
The problem, really, is that the preview showed almost the entirety of this week's plot development, and the rest was - well, we'll talk about the rest in a moment.
In this week's episode, we see Donovan, now a wendigo chimera who can manifest mouths anywhere on his body, attack Stiles, who narrowly escapes by impaling him - a grisly fate that Donovan nevertheless pretty easily survives. Meanwhile, Malia's discovery of an old novel, 'The Dread Doctors' sends the gang to Eichen House to talk with Doctor Valack, and straight into a trap set by the Doctors.
The episode gets off to a pretty strong start with Donovan chasing Stiles - Donovan is a pretty scary monster (mouths, mouths everywhere), clearly unhinged, and his stated goal of eating Stiles' legs is a lot more grisly and terrifying than if he wanted to kill Stiles. To be honest, I feel like this episode would have gotten more mileage out of being mostly Donovan and Stiles playing cat and mouse, but instead that portion of the episode is over in ten minutes, and we move on to a vastly inferior plot involving a novel that leads the characters to Eichen House.
|Ah, wendigos. Underused, but very creepy.|
By 'vastly inferior', what I really mean is 'fanfiction-esque'. The plot device of 'something which appears to be commercial fiction was actually a recounting of real events' always reeks of fanfic no matter where it turns up, and Teen Wolf is no different. Add to that that you have such things as Scott and Kira talking about Stiles having feelings for Lydia (bleck, no, they do not make a good couple, stop that), and the episode seems oddly like it was originally penned for fanfiction.net and then clumsily adapted to the screen.
The saving grace of that plotline is that Steven Brand, playing Valack, puts on the stand-out performance of the episode, equal parts charisma and menace, and I am genuinely fascinated to know more about his character. Clearly, he was a teenager when the Doctors last came to Beacon Hills, and clearly he knows a lot about them. They seem to at least somewhat fear him, as they arrange events so that they can access him in Eichen House and take his third eye. That's a plot line I'd like to see explored more.
(A plot line I don't care for as much is the Malia learning to drive subplot, which seems to be driving (heh) at her not having been responsible for her family's demise after all, it instead having been the work of her mercenary mother, the Desert Wolf.)
|But we do have more of Lydia being ominous, so that's a thing.|
But we didn't get as much movement on the plot as I would have liked. Exposition a-plenty, mostly about how the Doctors have been in Beacon Hills before and were drawn back by the Nemeton, and that their powers come (very vaguely) from electromagnetism, somehow. Instead, the episode is mostly set-up for the next episode, where the characters will apparently be reading the novel and having suppressed memories of the Doctors resurfacing. Lydia, we know, has memories of them, so if the show wants to take this opportunity to throw a curveball at us, somebody other than Lydia is also going to have to remember them.
It's weird that this is even a thing, since we've had characters encounter the Doctors before - Malia and Scott, just to start - and remember them just fine. Loathe as I am to say it, if they want to do a 'you can't remember them' plotline, the Teen Wolf writers could do worse than look up a few episodes of Moffat's Doctor Who. While I generally think that he's an appallingly bad writer, Moffat is actually surprisingly good at doing plots that play with the perceptions of both the audience and the characters, and the techniques he uses could very easily be adapted for Teen Wolf.
I am keeping hope alive for later episodes, though. Much as these last five have failed to impress me, I don't currently find myself exhausted with Teen Wolf or wishing that it would just end already. It still has the ability to make me enthusiastic, so I'm more than happy to stick with it and see what happens there.
I still don't find the Doctors scary.