Series 5, Episode 16
Well, I made much last week of how there's seven villains to be dealing with, a hefty number by any stretch of the imagination, especially considering that I was counting groups (such as the Dread Doctors and Theo and his pack) as one each. Now we're down to six, as one of those villains, Valack, has met with an unfortunate end. We still have, to be honest, too many villains, but that's one dealt with, at least - and we have four episodes to deal with the rest. Two of them, Gerard and Deucalion, could arguably even be put off until the next series, which would just leave us with the Doctors, the Beast of Gevaudan, Parrish-as-Hellhound, and Theo and company.
In this week's episode, with Eichen House in lockdown, the gang must find Lydia and escape. Valack has taken her and stolen away to the tunnels beneath the asylum, forcing Stiles and Theo to team up to find her; as Kira's powers go berserk, Malia is approached with an offer from two of Theo's chimeras; Scott and Liam continue to be repelled by the mountain ash, and must seek help from an unlikely source - Meredith, alive but catatonic in Eichen House.
So, we do at last find out what Valack's goal is, but it seems very last minute. Previously, he was questioning Lydia about why Theo killed his sister (or let her die, at least, it remains unclear which one it was, we'll talk about that in a moment), but apparently his actual goal is to find out the identity of the Beast by turning Lydia into the fourth Dread Doctor (apparently attaching the mask to the nurse did not take)? That's an interesting goal, and it hammers in the 'the Beast is an innocent teenager but we don't know who' storyline, but it could have been foreshadowed a bit better.
|Malia, with hands.|
(Speaking of which, that mask still fascinates me. Who was the original fourth Doctor? Valack implies that the Doctors were associates or allies of his at one point, so he presumably does know who it originally belonged to.)
I'm also now more certain than ever that Mason is the Beast. Consider: Mason gets mentioned directly after all of the talk about the Beast's identity, and while we know what Mason is doing in this episode, the Beast himself is mysteriously absent. Once again, we have it hammered in that the Beast is effectively possessing an innocent teenager, and Mason's the only teenage character it can be, at this point.
Of all the plotlines, Malia and Kira's is the weakest, unfortunately. There's not really anything to it other than reluctant team-up shenanigans, and we already get those from the (much more plot relevant) Stiles and Theo storyline. Quite possibly this is building up to the chimera pack betraying Theo - but again, we already got build-up there, in the form of Hayden's scenes with Liam and Deucalion. It feels like the writers had a plot point they needed to hurriedly attend to - that is, Kira's berserk powers and Eichen House's effect on them (was it ever explained why Eichen House makes her powers go out of control?) - and felt the need to spin a whole storyline out of it. Which is a shame, because Malia and Kira are both great characters, and kind of deserved better from this episode.
Scott and Liam's storyline is a little better, but they're also kind of under-served by this episode. The meat of their action this episode is Scott visiting Meredith and using his claws to get into her head, but the only information he gets is 'Parrish will lead you to Lydia', and while that does ultimately end up wrapping up a plot point by having Parrish use his Hellhound abilities to effectively smother Lydia's death scream, that could have happened without burning fifteen minutes on Scott and Liam finding out they need to get him and then setting him on fire.
Weirdly, with both these sets of characters, it feels like the episode didn't have enough moving parts to keep everyone occupied, and had to invent tasks and conflicts for them that weren't really necessary to the overall episode.
Stiles and Theo provide the most interesting plotline of the episode, as they search the tunnels beneath Eichen House for Lydia, with Stiles bringing up the subject of Theo's sister and Theo trying to convince him that he was just young and led astray by the Doctors. What interests me about this storyline is that when characters lie on television, they usually do The Lying Mannerisms. On a more subtle level, they alter the pitch of their voice slightly, they tend to draw out their vowels a little further, and they tend to utilise deliberately exaggerated 'honest' mannerisms, along a certain discontinuity of speech that is (perhaps paradoxically) meant to resemble how people speak in the real world more. On a less subtle level, you'll often get a musical sting or a shot of them lying. This is sometimes unintentional, often not, and serves a few purposes: One of them is that it allows the audience to home in on when an otherwise dishonest villain is being truthful, which can be key if you want some kind of dramatic revelation delivered by a villain; another is that it allows 'dishonesty' to be distinguished from 'bad acting' for the audience.
|Bad times for Lydia.|
Either intentionally or not, Cody Christian isn't doing that in this episode - instead, he's playing Theo completely straight, and everything he says is delivered with the mannerisms of honesty (at least by TVland's strange mannerism standards). He's done this before, as well, and the end result is that Theo's nearly impossible to read for the audience. That's an interesting touch.
For all of my criticisms of it, this is definitely one of the best episodes of the fifth series so far, and with only four episodes left to wrap up all of the dangling plot threads, it's going to be interesting to see if they actually manage it.