Stars: Tyler Posey, Crystal Reed, Dylan O’Brien, Tyler Hoechlin, Holland Roden, Colton Haynes, Linden Ashby, JR Bourne
Writer: Jeff Flaming
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Network: MTV, Mondays @ 10 PM
Airdate: June 13, 2011
The TEEN WOLF episode “Pack Mentality” has a good enough plot for us to forgive some of its shortcomings. The tension and romance is good, the makeup effects are less so, and there is a werewolf-on-werewolf fight that indicates a serious lack of imagination, albeit broadcast standards may have created some issues.
The episode kicks off with Scott (Tyler Posey) having a terrifyingly vivid dream in which he transforms and attacks his girlfriend Allison (Crystal Reed) in a school bus. The next day, Allison is just fine – but the school bus is wrecked and its driver has been mauled. Scott has a respite from his worries on a double-date with Allison and frenemies Lydia (Holland Roden), who flirts with Scott, and Jackson (Colton Haynes), who privately confronts Scott and says he’s sure Scott is hiding some kind of secret.
Meanwhile, Allison’s father, werewolf hunter Argent (JR Bourne) confronts Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) at a gas station and taunts him, apparently trying to get him to change, but Derek doesn’t lose control. Scott goes to Derek for answers. The two transform, fight, go back to human form – and Derek finally tells Scott that neither of them killed the bus driver, nor was Derek the werewolf who bit Scott. This was an Alpha, a more powerful and animalistic werewolf, who has claimed Scott as a member of his pack. The Alpha is in fact in the woods, listening in on the conversation from a great distance.
We’re right with Scott, wondering whether he’ll lose control at a terrible moment, endangering himself by transforming in public and/or doing harm to another. Posey plays this concern very effectively and he and Reed are charming in their characters’ mutual attraction and appreciation. The banter in this episode is a lot of fun, too, and once again, director Russell Mulcahy brings suspense to the stalking sequences.
But please forget everything this reviewer said earlier in praise of the werewolf transformation. This was based on what has turned out to be fleeting glimpses of the Alpha, and the mistaken belief that we were seeing Scott only partially transformed. If what we see of Scott’s and Derek’s transformation when they fight is as far as it goes, it frankly looks almost more like vampires from BUFFY and ANGEL than anything lycanthropic. It’s understandable that the production team simply doesn’t have time or budget to do full facial hair on the transformations, but surely something could have been done in the design to make the creatures look more wolf-like.
This leads to an episode-specific complaint. We’re watching two werewolves go at it and they attack each other by … picking up and throwing each other and using weapons? Maybe it’s time for the show’s chief research character Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) to say, “Good news, Scott, you’re just turning into some kind of supernatural being with short fangs and yellow eyes, but you’re not a werewolf, because wolves bite and scratch when they attack, and you’re still pretty much fighting like a human – and hey, so is Derek.” Again, there are production constraints and perhaps censorship issues (this is basic cable, not the anything-goes premium kind), so toning things down is understandable, but this is so counter to the idea that Scott and Derek are turning into anything actually animalistic, as opposed to just essentially hulking out, that it feels like the core concept isn’t what is being advertised.
The characters are good, the banter is fun, the stakes are high and we’re invested. Now if only TEEN WOLF had werewolves that were recognizable as werewolves.
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Click on link: for AX’s review of the series 1 premiere of TEEN WOLF – “Wolf Moon”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Second Chance At First Line”
Click on link: for AX’s review of TEEN WOLF – “Magic Bullet”