Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Teen Wolf. To catch up on previous coverage, click here .
Teen Wolf seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut in terms of its storytelling momentum, choosing to stall, have their characters make out of character and often downright dumb decisions, simply to slow down the main action of the season. Considering the best parts of season five come tonight in three separate vignettes, all of which have to do with our main big bad (that isn’t smug, shirtless Theo), you’d think the show would have found its focus and stuck with it, but no. In this week’s episode, “Required Reading,” we get both examples of “I love this show” and also “why I hate it.”
I’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer concerning the series as of late, so to move quickly through what I didn’t like and don’t foresee liking in the near future: Liam and Hayden. There isn’t anything about this storyline that is compelling which is a shame since the show dedicated so much crucial time to their relationship, one that is defined by an issue they had in the sixth grade. The sixth grade! No one, and I mean no one, holds grudges from the sixth grade. It is such an inconsequential moment to base an entire character on that it’s become ludicrous, a punch line in the series. I don’t know about you, but any scenes they’re in are awful, especially that scene where the two flirt, apparently, through practicing lacrosse and soccer. Because why the hell not.
That and the scene with Malia and Theo (and please, Jeff Davis, don’t ruin Malia’s characterization by having her fall for Theo, especially as you continue to pretend that Stiles is wholly unmatched in terms of appeal, because come on) in the gym proves the show still loves its shallow, gratuitous moments. At the very least, we got to see that Malia can overpower Theo, which is awesome.
The Hayden and Liam nonsense leads up to Liam learning that Hayden is a chimera which, okay, cool but considering I’ve only just begun to remember Hayden’s name, I still can’t say I give a shit. Theo and Malia are on the other end, on a more worrisome note, as Malia wants Theo to stay quiet about what she saw in her flashback, giving Theo a leveraging tool to gain access into Scott’s pack.
The positives, though, are pretty great, as the group sits to read The Dread Doctors to gain insight to the baddies and the way they operate. It turns out that they’ve bitten off more than they bargained for when rather that obtaining information of the Doctors themselves, they’ve instead opened a door to opressed memories that were better off staying buried.
In maybe the most confusing dream sequence, Scott succumbs to his old asthma attacks, something he hasn’t experienced since becoming a werewolf, and remembers being rushed to the hospital as a child due to one with some flashes of dogs fighting violently. The way it’s shot is cinematic, and it gives it an alluring tone, but I do wish it had been given some more clarity, since Lydia and Stiles both receive more straightforward story treatment.
Lydia’s flashback is the most aesthetically pleasing, with her dress and hair being a shock of color as she’s transported back to the drab and gray eichen house. She comes across her grandmother, plagued by voices in her head (unbeknownst of her banshee nature) having just drilled a hole into her head. The blood from her self-inflicted wound on the colorless tiles of the bathroom add another cinematic element, creating an otherworldly void for Lydia to climb out of. However, Lydia is convinced that this isn’t what she was meant to see and realizes that her seeing the Dread Doctors before going into surgery wasn’t her actual memory. She recruits Stiles and the two go to the hospital to try and trigger that misplaced memory again.
This all leads to a horrific flashback for Stiles, as he’s transported back into a likely better off suppressed memory, of his mother in the peak of her illness. Claudia Stilinski gets quite the introduction as a woman dealing with debilitating dementia who believes her own son (a ten year old Stiles) is trying to kill her. The beginning of the sequence feels like a horror film, as elevator doors close and he sees her reflection in the door. The lights get brighter and his surroundings become foggy. To see what he does is an emotional wallop, with Dylan O’Brien putting in some excellent work playing the trauma of reliving the experience of his mother attacking him.
At first I was worried this episode would turn into a rehash of season two’s strong “Party Guessed,” but instead it further illuminated characteristics of our leads.
This leads to a nasty wake up call when his mother transforms into another chimera, and Theo arrives just in time to save Stiles by ripping out the chimera’s throat and then blackmailing Stiles into keeping it a secret, since Theo knows about Donovan.
Overall a strong episode with some unnecessary Hayden and Liam highlights. If Davis could keep an eye on the strength of this episode being in the heads of the three leads, and pull back on them all lying to one another and making contrived poor decisions for the sake of a plot, season five could turn quickly into something truly thrilling.