A Werewolf Nerd’s Reaction to the First Episode of Teen Wolf

A. Quinton — Jun. 7th 2011

There comes a point a little more than halfway through the first episode of MTV’s Teen Wolf where I was certain the show (or at least my interest in it) was slipping into a death spiral. Charming everyhunk Scott and mysterious new girl Allison, both drenched in rain and hormones, exchange uncomfortable “I got a crush on you” bon mots over an injured dog that Scott’s rescued with his capable hands and nascent wolf powers. Scott manages to arrange a date with Allison, then goes home to lay in bed and gaze dreamily out the window at a nearly-full moon. The show had built up a lot of goodwill over the first 20 minutes, balancing wry humour, earnest performances and a few genuine scares, but for me, these two connected scenes threatened to undo it all with its textbook puppy-love schmaltz.

Then Scott rolls over and his clean white sheets become the leaf-strewn floor of a forest that may or may not be a dream, and I’m hooked for the rest of the episode. From that point on I couldn’t say I was watching it just so I could say I’d seen it – I was watching because I wanted to know what would happen next. I made a few guesses, most of which turned out to be correct, but that didn’t take away from my genuine enjoyment of the episode’s second half. There was a lot to like in Teen Wolf, and a lot of the things I was afraid of were either tempered by positive elements, or were entirely absent. Let me break it down for you, list-style.

The Good

  • No dancing around the word “werewolf” or the reality of same. There’s some requisite incredulity at first, but the episode doesn’t torture the audience by making us wait ages for the main characters to catch up with what we already know: there really are werewolves in the area, and Scott’s now one of them.
  • Tyler Posey‘s Scott is way more likable than I was expecting, but I was particularly entertained by Scott’s friend Stiles, played with twitchy, wide-eyed energy by Dylan O’Brien. He’s not the life-of-the-party goofball from the film, but he’s got a manic enthusiasm that’s complimented by genuine sincerity and concern for his friend.
  • Scott’s werewolf transformation. Solid, well-executed effects that all look like they were done via practical methods (other than the yellow eye-glow, which wasn’t as cheesy as I feared), and the way the change is shot is efficient, effective and striking. I liked Scott’s werewolf form better than I thought I would.
  • Jeff Davis’s screenplay had some genuinely funny lines in it – Scott’s comment about where he gets his juice made me laugh out loud. The show is definitely a drama, not a comedy, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the moments of humour are effective.
  • Allison’s dad is a werewolf hunter is played by JR Bourne. He’s got almost no dialog so far but that guy is scary.
  • The soundtrack. What can I say? I like Deadmau5.

The Bad

  • This is supposed to be a show about high school kids, but the main players all look like college juniors. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s a little weird seeing all these decidedly adult-looking “young adults” worrying about who’s getting invited to the party this weekend.
  • The jocks/bullies. I know this is just the first episode so there’s not a lot of space to develop the lacrosse field antagonists into rounded characters, but they still seemed especially two-dimensional. We see enough of Scott’s physique to know that he’s got no real reason to fear bullies, so it’s hard to feel worried when he’s threatened.
  • Derek Hale and his leather jacket cut a very imposing figure, but his role so far seems like a borderline caricature of the Mysterious And Aloof Mentor. He even says “The bite is a gift.” Hopefully this (clearly integral) character gets a bit more nuance in later episodes.

The Ugly

  • I’m just going to come right out and say it: the romance between Scott and Allison bores me to nerdy tears. I understand why it’s part of the story, but my Lord, that scene at the animal clinic nearly did me in. This is obviously a part of the show geared towards a demographic other than my own, and that’s fine, but that scene and the (mercifully short) scene at the party both dragged the energy of the episode down like buckets of lead.

What does this all mean? Well, I liked it. It’s fair to say that I liked it a lot. I didn’t see anything revolutionary, but it’s early times yet, and I know enough about some of the later episodes to be keenly interested in how the story’s going to unfold. I’ll definitely be watching the next few episodes, and if they provide me with more of the same, I’ll be well-satisfied.

So that’s what I thought. What’d you think?

    • ShadowFang

      Well written. I have to confess, I feel slightly different about the show now reading your review than before. It may be worth giving this serious the ol’ college try.

    • A few missteps aside (and you identified most of the things I had a problem with), I enjoyed the first episode more than I was expecting to. The second one seemed to resort to a lot of wheel-spinning, though, and the manipulative hottie character is already starting to grate on me. I don’t usually root for characters to die, but I would be fine with her biting the big one at some point down the road.

    • I honestly really liked it. I might have cringed once or twice, but overall it was thoroughly entertaining. I would like to see how it turns out. There’s one scene that they offer on the website about Scott losing control. Nothing better than werewolf violence, so I’m all for that.

    • I pretty much agree with all the other reviews from werewolf fans that I’ve heard so far: it has promise. Nothing to really write home about -as of yet-, but I am trusting that will change. I have hopes that the third, nastier-than-Derrek-werewolf is completely badass, and that the story will become much more complex than the tired “boy meets girl with Twilight-esque overtones” that are prevalent right now. I would personally LOVE to see some really good character development, and some unexpected plot twists. We shall see. For now I will watch the show faithfully and hope that Hollywood doesn’t let us all down in the werewolf genre -yet again-. :P

    • Goldie: I’ve seen the “nastier-than-Derek” werewolf. It might not fit with your particular werewolf aesthetic, but it is completely badass.

    • I agree, they turned out a pretty entertaining and atmospheric hour of television. I’m happy to see you gave the show a second chance – I recall some very harsh words about this series when they first premiered the trailer. You might recall I chimed in a few months back to complain that Red Riding Hood had also been thoroughly thrashed before it even arrived in theatres – Just because critics don’t like a film or series, doesn’t make it bad. Red Riding Hood had some very good elements – Enough in my opinion to rescue it from the “Twilight Curse”… Teen Wolf has also been accused of being a Twilight cash-in, but I certainly disagree. After only two episodes, I’m very intrigued, and anxious to see where they take the series from here…

    • Komodo

      The second episode was honestly much better than the first, but honestly the series as a whole has been a mixed bag.

      Better than Twilight and the Vampire Diaries, and I honestly dig the werewolf design. Tyler Posey is a surprisingly good actor and he honestly makes the minimalist werewolf design work.

      These werewolves are certainly better than anything put on the screen by crap like Twilight and Van Helsing. I like the fact that they’re not overly wolf-like. In fact it’s my hypothesis that in order to preserve what a werewolf is it SHOULD be somewhat divorced from a true wolf.

      The series boosts a strong werewolf mythology that’s better than the by the numbers spiritual fluffywolves that we’ve been getting lately but it’s hampered by poor characterization and threadbare writing.

    • paisley

      I had bumped my stance from “probably adolescent pap” up to “cautiously optimistic” after you posted about your conversation with the producer and I have to say that after seeing the first two episodes I remain optimistic. It is packed to the gills with tropes, which I hope is mostly about laying out their werewolf credentials. I’m hoping that now that the setup is done we’ll get to see some new interesting stuff. And I am sufficiently teased by the quadruped werewolf.

      The only thing that really bugged me were the cheesy exposition bits that seemed to exist for the sole purpose of having some cheesy exposition to put into promos.

    • Doruk

      I don’t own a TV, is there a way of (legally) watching this online? Is it available on MTV’s website or anything like that?

    • Doruk

      Guess what… apparently it is!

    • “Spider Wolf.”

    • ArcLight

      The nice thing about going into a show like this with *no* expectations is that if it does *anything* right, I’m happy.

      Two episodes in and I’m happy.

    • Doruk

      Now that I have seen it, am I the only one who thinks the wolf design is quite Henry Hull?

      Also, I am not bothered by the kids being a bit too old (you either get decent actors or highschoolers, but rarely both at the same time), but aren’t those parents waaaay to young? Especially Scott’s mom!

    • Komodo

      Scott’s mom is a total milf. Waaay hotter than Allison in my opinion.

      -Cough-

      -Shifts uncomfortably.-

    • TheRedFear

      Like I said…all that bashing and whining and moaning you people did before you all ever even saw it and now you get to swallow your words. Suck it posers! Hehehehe.

      Joking aside, I am thoroughly pleased so far. A bit of cheese here and there, but go back and watch the earliest episodes of ANY show and you’ll find lotsa cheese to snack on. Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind. That first season was rough stuff compared to later seasons. If that’s any indication Teen Wolf is only gonna get better and better from here.

      Now we need to do our damnest to get the ratings for this show high. Convince friends and family to tune in. We don’t want it getting canceled anytime soon. The Teen Wolf series is a desperately needed chance to prove to big Studio suits that Werewolves are cash cow ripe to be milked. The last oppurtunity like this we got was Wolf Lake and that didn’t even make it a full season. It’s been over a decade since then. Unless you want another decade before the studios give a Werewolf show a chance, Teen Wolf needs to score and it needs to score big.

      No matter what your favorite flavor of Werewolf is…action wolves, sexy wolves, quadraped wolves, scary wolves, computer animated wolves, mutant wolves…the chances of getting it go up dramatically if we show the studio suits that werewolf-centric projects are profitable.

    • Komodo

      TheRedFear

      If this show doesn’t kick it up soon or starts to puss out it’ll be a lost cause. I don’t give a shit about your “as long as has werewolves, who cares how bad it sucks?” attitude, that’s the kind of shit that drove the Halo franchise into the ground.

    • MarkOne

      Two episodes in, and I’m willing to give the show a chance. The second episode definitely sets up some things that could play well for the remainder of the season. I agree about the cheese and the romantic scenes are a bit longer than one would like, but that’s minor compared to what’s been mentioned already.
      I do want to see what Derek looks like when he’s a werewolf and how they’re going to play out this mentor-student relationship between him and Scott, And I definitely want to see if they play up these hunters and what their role is in all of this.
      Now that they’ve set the stage, hopefully the remaining ten episodes will get things rolling.

    • @Doruk:

      Yeah, I get a distinct Henry Hull vibe off him as well. I can’t wait to get a better look at some more, shall we say, developed werewolves, though.

    • Just Me

      Jury is still out. I like elements but I really dont like other elements. The “romance”, the comic sidekick who delves into the lore to help his friend, the popularity contest, even the hunter father and the minimal transformation all extremely predictable/dissapointing as was the win for the “big game”. There are still far too many formula elements and they may get better as the series progresses but not entirely sure. Given the audience it is aiming for some of my dislikes may be irrelevant other than wether I will still watch it but still more originality is needed. Twilight fans will probably like it but the more they do the faster I will be changing the channel.

    • TheRedFear

      Komodo

      And that’s the attitude that leads to the great big fat wad of nothing we’ve had for years. Unless you consider all the many shows and movies in which Werewolves play second fiddle for vampires to be something.

      Of course, the moment you said the Halo franchise was driven into the ground, I think I have a rough idea of the type of fan I am talking to. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with the Halo franchise. At least nothing that isn’t wrong with EVERY franchise.

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess you’re the type who thinks Lucas totally butchered the Star Wars franchise with his prequel trilogy, yes?

      There are people who just want something to complain about. Trashing something everybody else likes is a quick and easy way to make yourself stand out from the crowd, but it lacks depth.

      As it is right now Teen Wolf is a good, solid, enjoyable show. It can stay exactly as it is right now…even get slightly worse…and still be an enjoyable watch. Sadly there are people out there who just WANT to hate it and nothing anybody says, nothing the show does will change that.

      While those kind of “fans” are in the minority, they’re a very loud minority who are often way too succesful at discouraging others from giving a show(or movie, game, etc) a fair chance. This is why excellent shows like Firefly, or Human Target get canned in one or two seasons.

    • rcarp

      As of the third episode, I’m still watching. It’s really bothering me that the cool kid characters seem to have no redeeming qualities at all. Nobody in my high school was that ridiculous. Also, Derek irritates the crap out of me. Why can’t he ever just tell Scott what’s going on?! Like in the third episode, rather than just tell him some other werewolf mauled the bus driver, he had to push him down the steps, then have a little (really cheesy) werewolf fight, where they hit each other with boat paddles. Then he tells him, oh by the way, it wasn’t me. The show is good enough to watch, but it’s very unsophisticated and could be a lot better.

    • @Doruk I felt the same way you did, which put me on the fence with the werewolf makeup. Not to say I didn’t like the Henry Hull look, I just expected something maybe a little more modern, perhaps an updated Teen Wolf look. And am hoping that as time goes on he may wolf out a bit more.

      That being said I still like it better than the look of the US Being Human werewolf, although I am becoming more acceptant of that.

      Other than that and a couple other minor things I am actually enjoying the show which surprised me.

    • TheRedFear

      I have a growing suspicion that Lydia is the alpha. The long meaningful glances at scott at the game, and when she was making out with her boyfriend at the hospital. Her obvious attraction to “Dominant Alpha Male” types. Her agressive but casual confidence/arrogance.

      The next episode teasers show her being attacked but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The episode three teasers showed Scott attacking Allison and look how that turned out.

    • Komodo

      TheRedFear

      Dismissing anyone who has anything critical to say about the show as hating the show just to hate it is a coward’s tactic. Most of the criticism for the show is totally fair.

      Are you really so starved for content that you’ll jump on the bandwagon for such a mediocre show and act like such a little snot whenever someone calls it out on its flaws?

    • TheRedFear

      You took the time to craft a reply comprised of nothing but personal insults directed at me as a person, but i’m the one utilizing “cowardly tactics” huh?

      You could have attempted to intelligently and reasonably argue your counterpoints. Explained PRECISELY what makes it so mediocre…

      But you can’t do that. Because it’s a solid, enjoyable show. So you’ll stubbornly insist again and again that it’s not, but you’ll never delve into the specifics of why for fear that people will see just how weak and flimsy your argument really is.

      That good sir, is the definition of somebody who hates for the sake of hate.

      Oh and notice how you also completely twisted my argument around? Typical strawman tactic. I never said anybody who criticises the show hates it just to hate it. I said YOU hate it just to hate it, based on your baseLESS accusations of mediocrity against a show that is far from mediocre. Very far.

      I have criticisms too. The show is hardly perfect. But it is good. When did we get to a point where “good” is simply no longer good enough?

      I said what kind of fan I “suspected” you to be, and your childish retort has confirmed that is precisely what kind of fan you are. People like you have two modes. Spectaculicious, and Sucktacular. If it’s not spectaculicious, then by definition it must be sucktacular.

      Well, sorry but Teen Wolf rests somewhere in that nebulous void in the middle…and while there remains plenty of room for improvement(which is true of EVERYTHING on TV) it’s way closer to spectaculicious than it is to sucktacular.

    • Automatically close comments on articles older than 14 days checkbox: activated. Be nice to each other or I swear I’ll turn this site into a fucking Twilight forum.