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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Teen Wolf S6E14+E15: Face to Faceless & Pressure Test.

Teen Wolf
Series 6
Episode 14+Episode 15
Face to Faceless & Pressure Test.

Well, the show is certainly making this easy on me. Getting an eight-hundred word review out of two whole episodes, aired back to back, should be ridiculously easy, even given Teen Wolf's tendency to be heavy on ominous hand-waving and light on anything of actual substance.

In the aftermath of the death of two young werewolves, Scott meets with Gerard and Tamora, hoping to come to a peace agreement -- only for it to become clear that Tamora is uninterested in peace, and for the meeting to go sharply sideways when the faceless fear creature appears in the tunnels, driving Tamora's hunters mad with panic. Meanwhile, Liam is cornered by the now radicalised lacrosse team, who publicly beat him in an effort to make him shift. Afterwards, two werewolves, accused of the murder of several of Tamora's hunters, take shelter in the Sheriff's station, only for it to be swiftly blockaded by Tamora and her hunters. As the clock ticks down to Tamora storming the station and a traitor amidst the sheriff's deputies causes trouble, the fear creature appears, driving two deputies to take their own lives. Elsewhere, Deaton, Cody, and Mason discover the identity of the fear creature: An Anukite, a double-faced shapeshifter that drives people mad with horror.

So, my views on these episodes are largely positive, but we're going to have to address the elephant in the room: Having several heroic white law enforcement officials being threatened by a villainous, gun-toting black woman.

Look. There is no doubt in my mind that this was not intended to be any kind of political statement -- that the scripts were written long before Sibongile Mlambo (who is, incidentally, managing to outshine nearly the entire cast) was cast, and that at no point did anyone involved go 'hey, we could make a totally radical political statement here,' apart from a statement that 'mobs with guns are bad.'

But that entire set-up suddenly becomes very loaded when you have a white, male law enforcement officer lecturing a black woman on how lynching people is wrong. Like, I shouldn't be sitting here writing about how incredibly uncomfortable it is that, in an environment and culture where black women and black people in general are routinely murdered by law enforcement officers, we are now sitting here watching a violent black woman threaten some sheriffs. Someone should have caught that before the episode was even filmed. Script rewrites should have been done.

Because the thing is, the politicised message of 'law enforcement are really the ones under threat here' is there regardless of whether it was intended. Once you make something, once it's out in the world, it takes on a life of its own, and that life is influenced by the context it's released in.

(Actually, while we're talking about politicised messages, having your current evil duo being Tamora, a black woman, and Nolan, a mentally ill boy who's literally described as 'sick in the head,' facing off against a band of heroic, mentally well, predominantly white people is definitely going to send a message I don't think anyone was planning on.)

So, that massive issue out of the way: It is, at least, refreshing to see two Teen Wolf episodes where things actually happen. There are tense, solidly structured arcs with an appropriate build of suspense and tension that eventually culminates in a pay-off; there's actual movement on the main plot, with one of the faceless fear creature avatars being killed, and with the identity of the fear creature being discovered; there are shocking moments, and character development moments, and thematic moments on the nature of innocence, guilt, and fear.

(Regrettably for all of us, I was wrong about the fear creature being Iktomi. Or was I? There's time yet for a plot twist, and the fact that Iktomi is a Lakota deity, and the Anukite is a Lakota shapeshifter does rather invite comparisons, especially since Anukite are associated with deer, not spiders.)

I admit to being rather unsure of Parrish's point in the story, however. His only contribution to this series so far has been as a deus ex machina to destroy one of the Anukite's faceless avatar things, and otherwise he's just sort of been there. Functioning vaguely as Stilinski's sidekick. 

But then, this series is positively teeming with unnecessary characters, to the point where apart from Tamora and Nolan -- who are simultaneously driving the plot along and acting everyone else into the ground -- I'm not sure why any of these cast members are here. I'm not convinced that anything would change if you swapped Scott and company out for literally any other set of characters from any other television shows.

That's a problem, because it means that everything that happens feels rather detached from the characters. I don't buy that they have real personal stakes in what's happening -- I don't even buy that it's personally affecting them in a major way. They come across as pieces on a board more than they do parts of the story.

Still, as far as pacing, plotting, and structure goes, these episodes represent a vast improvement, and I'd be happy to see the remainder of the show's episodes demonstrate that same kind of quality. I'm just not going to be holding my breath. You know how it is.

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