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

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?