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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Teen Wolf S6E7: Heartless

Teen Wolf
Series 6, Episode 7

Let's talk (again) about Teen Wolf's pacing problems, because they are really what kills the show for me. Because it's easy to see where they come from: The writers plan out the series in advance, but they never develop enough material to actually spread out over the course of an entire series, and that, combined with a need to set up suspense that often means that more time is set trying to establish a vague tone of menace than actually progressing the plot, results in episodes that are slow and where it feels like nothing happens.

This is why I say that the Nogitsune arc was the best arc in the show. Every episode not only built suspense, they also pushed the plot forward in concrete, quantifiable ways, meaning that the pace of the show moved forward at a constant, decent clip. While the arc had other elements that helped to make it what it was, its real strength came in a command of pacing, as it knew when to slow the pacing right down, while also being able to usually keep a pretty quick pace.

It's also what every series since has been missing. The fourth series would see a shift from the very serialised storytelling of the third series into a much more episodic story with the Benefactor plotline, and episode storytelling just does not work for this show. From there, the pacing just got worse and worse with every series, with this one having undoubtedly the worst pacing of all, because nothing is ever happening. So much time is spent on fluff and atmosphere that the result is that every episode has about five minutes or relevant material and thirty-five minutes of sheer nothing.

Please leave, Parrish.

I bring this up largely because this episode actually does manage to break that trend some, having several genuinely important plot developments. We get to see the team pull off their 'capture a Rider' plan, get some stuff about why Claudia's now around, and even get the group finding out that Mr. Douglas is the Nazi Alpha, complete with his accent shifting to a laughably bad German one. Plot developments! I'd forgotten what those felt like.

But I also know it's not going to last. With three episodes left in this chunk of the series, we'll likely see slightly better pacing for a few episodes more, but after that, I expect the pacing will slow to a crawl once again, and that's a depressing thought.

Anyway, this week's episode sees Scott, Liam, Theo, and Hayden trap a Ghost Rider, using a combination of a lightning rod, a cage, a transformer, and mountain ash to keep it prisoner. As they attempt to communicate with it, the Rider gives them very little information, simply telling them that those who hunt will hunt forever -- but the plan very swiftly goes wrong when Parrish attacks the group, and Mr. Douglas takes advantage of the chaos to force his way into the cage and devour the Rider's pineal gland. Meanwhile, Lydia surmises that the Sheriff conjured Claudia to fill the void left by Stiles' disappearance, and attempts to make him remember Stiles. Malia enlists Melissa's help in healing Peter, so that he can help her find a way into the ghostly train station, only for the arrival of several Ghost Riders to interrupt them.

Yeah, I've caved and started calling them Ghost Riders, it was time.

You may stay, Liam.

This actually isn't a bad episode, all told. While it certainly made me roll my eyes at a few points -- can we honestly just work Parrish, the Human Plot Device, out of the show -- it was an episode were things happened, and even an episode with a lot of genuine tension. It's obvious that something's going to go wrong, but the show manages to ramp up suspense as to exactly what how it'll go wrong, and even actually surprise us by making the Nazi Werewolf a genuine threat at the end.

We also get to find out what happened to Theo while he was underground, which is always nice.

Most importantly, though, we get movement on the Claudia plot, via a surprisingly emotional and well done scene with Lydia and the Sheriff. It suffers some from happening in pitch darkness where we can barely see any of the character's faces, but that's a problem with every Teen Wolf scene, so there you go.

If the show can keep this pace up, the rest of the series should be pretty enjoyable, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Still, the next episode will apparently involve an all out assault by the Wild Hunt, along with the Sheriff making some realisations and talking to Claudia, and presumably more stuff with the Nazi Alpha, so that should all be interesting, at least.

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