Teen Wolf sure does love its double entendre episode titles. The word “heartless” refers, of course, to Theo’s murder of his sister and his own personal hell. But it also could refer to his character, or to Peter’s, or to the show’s roster of amoral baddies. It could characterize the Wild Hunt, which, like every force of nature, has no emotional core or connections. It just…is.
Now, that “heartless” quality is all well and good for a villain like the nogitsune. That chaotic evil, with its Joker-like fascination for suffering and strangely magnetic sadism. It was chilling and effective. But, eventually, you start to long for a more personal touch. Has any all-powerful foe matched the emotional intensity of the all-too-human Kate Argent? Is the capture of an entire town really a better mine of drama than the emotional devastation of interpersonal conflict?
What Teen Wolf needs now is an arc in the vein of Buffy season two, or even–dare I say it–Buffy season five. Indeed, what it really needs is a story arc that derives its intensity neither from an all-encompassing evil nor the threat of widespread destruction, but the highly specific pain of individuals losing each other. Because, as Buffy Summers wisely told us, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. The greatest struggle of human existence isn’t saving the world or averting cosmic cataclysm; it’s surviving the prosaic torture of living in an imperfect world.
But, hey, that’s enough philosophy for now. Let’s talk about some adolescent lycanthropes, shall we?
The episode begins, aptly, with Theo stuck in a torturous cycle of repetition. Killed, brought back, and killed again. Metaphorically speaking, it’s not unlike the journey of Theo himself, and that of so many other Teen Wolf villains that came before him–namely, Peter, Kate, and (to an extent) Gerard. Still, if we’re going to be slogging through a narrative samjiva/tōkatsu jigoku, at least Theo is, too. Welcome to Dante Alighieri’s Groundhog Day, my friends.
Malia’s reaction to Theo is perfection. When Hayden asks Malia why she needs a minute alone with him, Malia pins her with a look. Full of exasperation, she says, “So I can kill him.” Delightful. And seeing her interact with Melissa McCall is, truly, the greatest pleasure this show is currently capable of delivering.
As the two of them force Peter through a painful but immediately effective treatment for third-degree burns, it feels strange that no one asks the obvious question: could this nine-herb panacea have cured him after the Hale house fire? What if the hunters had shared their Celtic concoction with the supernatural community? Would the trajectory of events in the first season (and, by extension, the whole show) have gone differently?
Unsurprisingly, none of this comes up. (Also, why would a detox herb mixture that flushes out supernatural toxins also work on third-degree burns? Whatever–we have other stuff to deal with.)
So, while Lydia and her mother contemplate the possibility that Claudia Stilinski isn’t real, conjured for Sheriff Stilinski’s needs like an emotional golem, Scott and the second string wolfies implement a risky–but surprisingly logical!–plan to capture a ghost rider by way of a makeshift Faraday cage. Parrish comes in as supernatural translator so they can interrogate the ghost rider, but they get no answers. Why is Parrish’s status as a hellhound relevant to the Wild Hunt, you may ask? That question receives no explanation for now. But then, his storyline is one of the least-explained plots on a show that adores skimming over explanations, so there you go.
For me, personally, Jordan Parrish is one of many characters I find myself always wishing were Steve Rogers (and yes, Will Simpson, I am looking at you). All square-jawed, blond supersoldiers should be Steve Rogers. And that goes double for one that will probably have to go up against a Nazi Wolf in the near future.
Speaking of that Belle et la Bête-looking bro, why did his German accent return once he made his proper debut as villain? That’s not how accents work.
Bringing in Mr. Douglas as a secondary villain represents yet another example of Teen Wolf‘s M.O. It uses a one-two punch of bad guys in just about every season arc, then brings them together as the season comes to a close. But narrative complication and narrative complexity are not always the same thing. A simple plotline can be emotionally complex, and an intricate storyline can be thematically shallow. As ever, Teen Wolf insists on striving for the latter. O Teen Wolf, my Teen Wolf.
You know what? Let’s break that down. Season one featured Peter as the A villain and Kate as the B villain. The second season gave us the kanima (and Matt, its original master) as the A villain and Gerard as the B villain. Season 3A had the alpha pack and the Darach. Season 3B used the Oni and the nogitsune. Four involved Peter, again, and the kill list…and, secondarily, Kate. Again. And finally, last season was the Dread Doctors and Theo.
However, it’s not even as simple as a villain binary. The storylines have gotten more unnecessarily tangled over time. Season four wove Kate, the Berserkers, Peter, the deadpool, Meredith, the assassins, the Calaveras, and Dr. Valack into one bizarre cluster of a plot. Season five had Theo, the Dread Doctors, the Beast of Gévaudan, the Desert Wolf, Kira’s uncontrollable fox spirit, and a procession of volatile chimeras. And this season is shaping up to follow the same overcomplicated pattern, with the Wild Hunt, the return of Theo, and a high school-teaching Wolf Nazi all contending for precious screentime. Not to mention the single-episode antagonists like Lenore the banshee.
Don’t forget, “Heartless” is barely halfway through the season. If you think that it won’t get messier from here, then you are Scott McCall In Season One levels of naive. Yeah, I went there.
Author: Kate Colvin
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