Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 21: The Fox and the Wolf

We grimly open in 1943, with 2 joking American soldiers carrying a number of dead Japanese people out of a truck when, among the bodies, the bandage-wrapped nogitsune appears – it attacks, completely unaffected by gunfire and kills them both.

In the present day it’s Saturday, Mr. Yakimura is at the school – and Evil!Stiles appears. He’s looking for Mrs. Yakimura’s knives (her tails) since the last tail Mrs. Yakimura has left will be the most powerful. He then magically chokes Mr. Yakimura with a fly

Believe me, it’s way way way more menacing than it sounds.

Scott and Kira are looking for Stiles, Malia having brought them a sword and a photograph they found with the body in the wall. The photo is from 1943 and shows a woman who looks like Kira who Kira takes to be her grandmother. Kira gets a text apparently from her father and they both run to the school. They arrive to find him choking on the floor helped by Kira’s mother who takes the bottle Kira gives her (magic mushrooms apparently) to save him.

Mrs. Yakimura, Noshiko has been keeping her last Kaiken near her – and Kira finally insists that her mother talk to them. They show her the photo and she says it isn’t Kira’s grandmother – it’s Noshiko. Which would make her 90 – but that’s nothing because she’s actually around 900. (Oil of olay has nothing on this woman). Kira’s a little stunned but it’s ok, her dad’s only 43 (did I mention how much I love Mr. Yakimura?) The sword is broken – when it was used against a nogitsune in 1943 and, yes, this all happened in the Oak Creek Internment camp that Mr. Yakimura told Allison and Isaac didn’t exist. Why? Because Allison’s an Argent and her family have “a history of violence” Which is putting it mildly. After the war this camp was covered up and Mr. Yakimura has been obsessed about finding the truth. Noshiko adds a cryptic “the nogitsune came from me”. She thinks this is obvious, I think that anyone who engages in exposition on this show simply has to be cryptic, it’s a law.

Flashback to the Oak Creek internment camp where the prisoners are trying to get by smuggling some extra supplies when they’re almost caught: but one of the soldiers, Corpopral Rhys orders the others not to search, pretending (beyond naively) that it’s not a prison. His “kindness” seems to have got through to Noshiko who then has a love affair with the man; but he warns her that she’s stealing far too many supplies and will draw attention to her.

But when pneumonia hits the camp, they discover a massive shortfall in the medicine – not due to  Noshiko, but because the doctor, with some soldiers, was selling the medicine on the black market. The inmates discuss a formal complaint but don’t believe anyone will listen to them

They protest and mass around the doctor’s car (apparently Noshiko has never seen anger like it – after 900 years? I doubt it very much), refusing to let him leave; the crowd is furious especially a man who saw his son die, but he lowers his Molotov cocktail at Rhys’s look. Until one of the doctor’s fellow schemers gets out the car and brandishes a gun to drive people back – and hits an old woman (who has always advocated calm). The old woman’s eyes glow gold – she was a bitten werewolf, with the usual problems of controlling her emotions. Enraged she grabs the Molotov cocktail and throws it – at Rhys.

The soldiers open fire on the crowd and also hit Noshiko; nearly killing her despite her super kitsune healing. And Rhys died in horrendous agony from his burns – because the doctor had sold the morphine, they had no pain killers.

The 2 soldiers working with the doctor were given the task of disposing of all the bodies while the doctor was transferred; all a cover up. Injured, weakened and read to be burned with the other bodies, Noshiko wanted revenge and begged for kitsunetsuki – possession by a fox spirit, possession by a Nogitsune to get her revenge. But trickster spirits are… tricksters. It did possess someone – Rhys, her burned lover.

The Nogitsune went on to cause pain and chaos to far more than just the ones Noshiko wanted to suffer – including her fellow imprisoned inmates. She hunted him to the mental hospital where he caused an utter slaughter  and attacked him with her sword. He grabbed her – but he was attacked from behind by the old woman werewolf, giving her chance to stab him; after which her sword shattered.

During the story she and Kira work to rebuild the shattered sword – and now she needs Kira to put it back together with a bolt of lightening; Kira is a Thunder Kitsune, unlike Noshiko. She uses electricity to fuse the sword back together. She gives the katana to Kira who, of course, shows her woo-woo sword skill. Apparently Noshiko’s power is now Kira’s – and she has to stop Stiles if the Oni can’t; and she still thinks they have to kill Stiles. Scott isn’t convinced.

As they leave, Mr Yakimura is worried “history has not done well with turning children into killers.” But they’re already involved because Noshiko buried he nogitsune under the Nemeton and it was their summoning that freed it.

Meanwhile, at the police station, the charges have been dropped against Chris Argent and Derek. Apparently at the behest of Sherriff Stilinski who also lets Chris keep his taser of doom which is apparently way over the legal limit. We’re leaving aside how Sherriff Stilinski managed to get a murder and organised crime charge dropped, especially since Agent McCall (why isn’t he dead yet?) was the one to bring them because he has news from LA. The brain scans of Stiles and his mother match. Exactly. Which is utterly impossible. Sherriff Stilinski (in between revealing he was a soldier) thinks it’s a psychological trick to control Stiles – by making Stiles think he has the exact same disease as his mother (which has clearly traumatised him) then it will make Stiles lose hope and leave him more vulnerable to possession. The Sherriff wants their help to trap Stiles

Which means joining up with Allison and digging out their non-lethal toys and trying to figure out how to find Stiles – before realising that last time the trapped him they walked into a trap and trying to out-fox the fox is just a bad idea. They head out – and Chris is keeping a gun for a lethal option.

The Sherriff has a really touching scene with Allison where he marvels at how strong all the kids are dealing with all this; and Allison finally cracks and starts crying, she’s terrified, she doesn’t know if Isaac is going, she doesn’t know who to trust – she just maintains an act. And of course Sheriff Stilinski is awesome through it.

This touching moment is broken by some of the most blatant product placement I’ve ever seen. Seriously, even by Teen Wolf’s “oh I tripped and dropped my phone in water – look how tough it is” or “hey I’m an unstable serial killer, let me take a picture and show off all this phone’s camera options” standards! Anyway, it’s a text informing him someone’s breaking into his house. Cameras show Stiles in his room, staring at the camera the Sherriff had installed. He waves at the camera and the creepy factor goes up tenfold.

They go to his room and find a chess set set up with little sticky notes (like how Stiles hilariously tried to explain the suprnatural to his dad). Sherriff Stilinski thinks it’s a message from real Stiles while everyone else thinks it’s a trap and a threat from the Nogitsune. But the Sherriff believes the trickster is just that – it was trickery, it wants chaos, it wants irony, it wants a joke, not necessarily death (uh… it also wants pain and suffering, remember?)

The Sheriff meets Evil Stiles at Derek’s wolf loft.

When dealing with fantasy and real world atrocities there can seem to be a difficulty for writers trying to include the supernatural in such settings, doing so is extremely difficult without making light of the situation or implying supernatural forces (on either side) were involved.

But the reality is that the victims of atrocity had no supernatural saviour or avenger nor was there any woo-woo driving the persecutors. No supernatural saviour, no devil-making-them-do-it; and it’s fine to use media to draw attention to and remind us of these atrocities that are so often forgotten – but not to take these terrible events and use them as entertainment fodder, sources of extra woo-woo and trying to add some edgy darkness.

So I was wary when Internment camps were used and still am dissatisfied because I really think there is a limit on what should be used for entertainment fodder. The plus side is there was no implication that the Internment was motivated, controlled or otherwise manipulated by the supernatural – it was human evil all through. Nor did the Japanese-American prisoners have any kind of supernatural guardian or protection – there was no indication that Noshiko being a kitsune was some kind of asset for them – but we do have the supernatural revenge trope which is a problem

On a pure world building front – 900 year old Noshiko must have been a kitsune before she prayed for kitsunetsuki – so is she a kitsune who prayed to be possessed by another kind of kitsune?

Also love affairs between prisoners and guards – it doesn’t matter how romantic you present it, unless the prison guard has telepathy he has no way of knowing if his partner actually wants the affair or feels the need to pursue it for their own protection and the protection of their fellows. Consent and such a vastly different power dynamic don’t mix. And no matter how much we say “Noshiko wants this” there is no way that her prison guard lover knows that – especially since his good will and influence comes with benefits in helping her fellow prisoner’s lives.

I was glad to see Mr. Yakimura not trust Allison and the Argents – we’ve seen every member of the Argent family be pretty brutally violent and there has been very little actual acknowledgement of that, it’s nice to finally see some consequences, even if they are ridiculously minor, of that.

I was equally happy to see Allison’s emotion – he’s brave not because she’s fearless, but because she’s terrified and upset but keeps going despite that. It’s an important moment and a reminder of the huge pressure put on these teenagers and what they’re expected to face; I like that we do see them crack on occasion now Allison but we’ve seen it with Stiles and Lydia as well. This also seems to be something the show is beginning to remember – that these are teenagers enduring all this.

And sue me, I like the exposition – and this episode.