“No one else dies… I’m going to save everyone on that list.” Let’s take things one step at a time, shall we, Scotty? There are, like, 1,000 things out there trying to kill you and your 40 closest supernatural friends.
Teen Wolf has taken a lot of twists and turns in its four seasons, but one of its greatest through-lines has always been the dynamic relationship it paints between parents and their children. In a show about teens, adults with less screen time and less plot have carved out just as much of a place in the root cellar heart of this show as their kids. That’s why I spent 58 minutes of tonight's episode living in fear that one of these already struggling offspring was about to lose the only parent they have left; because this episode wasn’t titled “Orphans,” à la the teen assassins, it was titled, “Orphaned.” Strange.
Keep your guard up, but for tonight at least, no one appears to have been orphaned. But times, they are a-changin', and family dynamics are shifting. This season has been all about the passing of the torch and gaining control, with Liam playing the part of old Scott, Scott playing old Derek, and Derek playing… Deaton? (Or maybe just ceasing to exist altogether, but we’ll get there.) In the same theme, there seems to be a rising focus on the passing of responsibility: the time in adolescence when the burdens that parents have born in their children's stead become shared, whether the parents wish to share those burdens or not. In addition to breaking cipher keys and managing Betas, Stiles and Scott are beginning to recognize the strain of adult responsibility. The dire financial straits that their families have come into don’t just weigh on their parents, but on them, as well.
This season has walked a more narrow line than usual between balancing human and supernatural issues side-by-side. Human issue: the morality of using stolen money you found to pay off your family’s debt. Supernatural issue: said money was stolen from a werewolf vault hidden under your high school, and then rewarded to teenage assassins being paid to kill supernaturals with lacrosse sticks by a mysterious man hosting a dead pool.
"Orphaned" forces its characters to walk that line more carefully than ever before, taking responsibility for the choices they make as people who know the difference between right and wrong, but also accepting the roles that have been thrust upon them as supernaturals and everything that comes along with that. Overcoming burdens is about deciding how to use the power at your disposal, and Beacon Hills residents like Scott and Lydia… they’ve got an excess of power, perhaps even more burdens, and only a teenage capacity to deal with it all. If Teen Wolf has taught us anything about werewolves, it’s that there is a steep learning curve to becoming an Alpha.
Scott never wanted to be an Alpha, but it’s the hand he’s been dealt, and tonight he sees the power that comes with that role doesn’t have to be all about screaming to the heavens and affecting a British accent. It can be about saving people; helping people; rescuing Beacon Hills from an anonymous reign of terror. Which brings us to… just how many baddies is Scott going to have to take down to protect his town and its supernatural inhabitants?
Aunt Kate is the burden on Beacon Hills that’s been quietly lurking behind the scenes for the last few weeks (some might say for the last few seasons). Looking like she’s still been fitting in Pilates and trips to the Italian boot store between fresh kills, the episode opens to Kate finding a cassette tape—a thing that still exists!—in her car. It plays a dated recording describing what sounds a lot like a certain aesthetically inclined werewolf family we know: “Eventually settling in a small town in Northern California, this family used their wealth to rebuild a community around them while remaining isolated from it.” Apparently, that isolation was necessary to teach control to the family's young werewolves. Whether it’s her predisposition toward capitol-C-Crazy, or maybe it just takes werejaguars a little longer, but Kate is still incapable of controlling her shift, and it’s really starting to take a toll on her “killing and wreaking havoc upon the weak” game.
NEXT: A surprise callback to your least favorite episode from last season...