Has there been anything more immediately gratifying on Teen Wolf in such a long time than feasting your eyes on that lacrosse field tonight? For at least a few scenes, everything seemed as it should be at Beacon Hills High School. The actors aren’t exactly passing for 16 or 17 anymore, especially in their Teen Wolf-sponsored-by-Nike dry fits, but the kids are getting to be kids again. You know, when they’re not fighting off wendigos who are fighting off a mouthless mutant man, who's fighting for… well, that guy is definitely fighting on behalf of something.
Before he sends them out on the field for lacrosse tryouts, Coach tells the boys that this is a rebuilding season. They've lost Jackson; they've lost Lahey. We've lost Jackson; we've lost Lahey. We've lost Allison. These kids have lost their innocence, and friends, and time non-stop for the latter half of Teen Wolf’s three seasons. They're the kinds of things they can't replace, but they can work on rebuilding. Teen Wolf is in a rebuilding season. The writers can't bring back the lightheartedness of a sophomore trying not to grow claws on the lacrosse field because now that kid has seen what his claws can really do. They can't recreate what Teen Wolf first was, not even with new characters; but then, why would they?
Rebuilding Teen Wolf to the best version of itself means taking the winning components of the past three seasons and balancing this show the hell out. What began as a campy, funny series about kids whose eyebrows disappear on the full moon, turned into a show about kids getting tortured and terrorized… "to death." But there's no reason it can't be both (I mean, maybe lose the torture). These kids face terror every day; the audience can still be losing its collective mind out of fear at home, while Stiles stares at a text from his father that reads "TRIPLE HOMICIDE DEVELOPING," and at this point simply thinks, "glad it's not me this time." They've reached the fear threshold, and it's time to live a little lighter again. Stiles can figure out who's out there killing wendigo families without having to stop caring about the lacrosse team or his ever developing relationship with a were-coyote.
While the sepia tones and sweet, sweet accordion stylings of Stiles 'n Lydia's Mexican Mobster Adventure were a bit of a stylistic miss in the premiere, the mini horror film that starts episode three is a much more fitting vignette. It's so cliché it edges on silly, but then again, a show about werewolves has earned the right to be both terrifying and silly. And with the whistling wind, the creaky old house, and the found pet covered in blood, the "family murdering ax murder," is the perfect introduction to what will likely be the structure of this season: ole shiny shoes taking out one supernatural creature at a time until he gets down to our favorite heart of gold supernaturals. As long as it’s not a new creature every episode, and things don’t turn into Saw around here, this structure could work.
At this point it’s almost futile to keep a supernatural count, but Beacon Hills’ scary population is growing rapidly in Season 4, and we have to be able to remember that apparently, just because something looks exactly like that Nogitsune from the Argent flashback in 3-b, does not mean it’s that the evil fly has escaped it’s mason jar; no, this time the white-eyed, sharp-toothed monster is a wendigo, a demonic cannibal spirit. If you're counting, that’s a wendigo, were-coyote, kitsune, banshee, were-jaguar, berserkers, a speculated, but ultimately unfounded were-cheetah, a couple of werewolves, and whatever the mouthless man is. Because he has to be supernatural, right? HE DOESN’T HAVE A MOUTH. Also, there’s his new age Frankenstein WiFi neck plug… but we’ll get to that.
After poor Sean (a very impressive guest performance from Glenn McCuen, whose inner fight or flight battle is etched on his face at every moment) has his whole family tomahawked down by the mouthless man, he escapes to the hospital where Mama McCall and Sheriff Stilinski are immediately on the case, but not wanting to "involve the boys." You’ve really got to love Stilinski’s hope for an everyday ax murderer, rather than the supernatural fare he’s becoming accustomed to.
NEXT: Crosse my heart and hope to not wolf out on any freshmen...