After last week's Mexican prologue, it's good to see Scott and his ragtag team of teen wolves 'n more getting back to basics—school, joking around, dealing with multiple killer enemies at once, fielding Banshee warning texts in history class, etc. But before Scott, Stiles, and Kira can be filled in on who's turning who into a teen wolf today, they've got a classic Mr. Yukimura history lesson coming their way: "Some of history’s greatest leaders have had to endure some pretty great failures," he tells the class. One of those great leaders endured a nervous breakdown, a failed business, and multiple political losses—including Vice President of the United States—but eventually overcame all of that to become one of the most important politicians in American history.
In case you've been a coyote for the last eight years, you might not know that Mr. Yukimura is referring to Abraham Lincoln. But scratch the eventual success from this Lincoln scenario, trade politics for the supernatural, and let’s consider the Journey of Failures that our very own Derek Hale has endured at the hands of Teen Wolf over the past three seasons.
Even without the dust, Aztec myths, and neon sepia tones of last week’s somewhat inconsequential premiere, this episode of Teen Wolf begs us to look to the past even more. Baby Derek is still around, stuck not only in his slightly more gangly teen physique, but in his former teenage mind as well—devoid of all of his adult memories of either royally failing or being failed all the time. Our memories, however, are called on time and time again, with callbacks to previous episodes in almost every scene: Derek on Deaton’s exam table having his arm opened up; Baby Derek handcuffed to the exact bench in the police station that saw the origin of 3B's Derek/Chris Argent buddy flick; Stiles once again introducing Derek as his cousin, Miguel, from Mexico; and, of course, Derek slamming Stiles up against a wall for old times' sake. Even the wink Stiles gives Scott in class as he raises his hand to correctly answer Mr. Yukimura is almost an exact replica of a Season 3 exchange in Coach’s class.
Some of those little blasts from the past could be simple fan service (you will find no complaints about teenage Derek and Stiles bickering with each other here) to balance out last week’s exciting but confusing Mexican Vacation from Were-Jaguar Aztec Hell. But as Lydia walks upon a scene out of Saw III in a gas station bathroom with little more than tremor, it seems more a reminder of what these kids have seen—and how, as more time passes, they’re becoming irrevocably, monumentally, irreparably f---ed up by all of this.
Philosopher George Santayana is credited with coining the popular quote "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Santayana’s actual words, however, were "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And who has a past less worth repeating than poor, poor Derek Hale, who, coincidentally, can’t seem to remember anything after the time in his adolescence when he first met Kate—the life-changing mistake he's doomed to repeat? Rescued from Kate’s little Aztec wolfsbane sarcophagus experiment, the gang takes Baby Derek to Dr. Deaton’s office. He helpfully reminds us that he never knows what’s going on until he does know, then decides to share (but only if he feels like it). This is not one of those moments. Derek wakes up from Deaton's non-consensual syringing, goes all Broody McBlueEyes, and hightails it back to the Hale house—"a wolf goes back to his den"—only to discover that it's burned to the ground.
Baby Derek hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but he’s living in a time where "everyone’s happy, except Derek, who’s never happy" (says the kid who was recently possessed by an ancient Japanese asshole and tried to kill all his friends). Scott and Stiles track down their newest teen charge at the police station after being tased for what he probably assumes is the first time in his life, where Sherriff Stilinski earns both the joke and the most reasonable question of the night: "I want you to be totally and completely honest... have you been time traveling?" When you’ve been watching this show as long as Stilinski has, you cut to the chase: Exactly what kind of tomfoolery are the writers putting within the realm of possibility today, Stiles? Oh, I'm sorry, time travel is absurd—but were-coyotes sired by werewolves, going to human high school, using a RED highlighter in a text book is on the table? Well, yes…
NEXT: A history of "ewwww..."