Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 24: The Divine Move

We’re in the aftermath of Alison’s death - and everyone is traumatised. Chris schools Scott and everyone on the proper cover story to tell the police about what killed Alison (which is a level of professionalism that you have to respect the Argents for).

Isaac goes home with Chris while Chris assures him he’ll be fine – he can set aside his grief, all in a voice that is cracking from the strain. Before breaking down and they hug in tears. Isaac shares Alison’s last words “you have to tell my father…” which she never got to finish but he assumes was a last declaration of love (I think she’s an Argent, a professional so I doubt it. Maybe more “silver arrows kill Oni). Chris had already been told by Alison before she went into battle – it’s a tradition among the Argents. Isaac seems to get some inspiration from this – and asks to see the silver arrowhead. They go and find Alison has made 4 arrowheads – just like when Chris told them he hurt an Oni by shattering its mask – using a silver bullet. Silver kills the oni.

Stiles and Kira are with Noshiko, all equally traumatised but slight stunned by the near impossibility of Alison killing an oni. Stiles is dying – but he almost embraces it with his vast guilt over Alison’s death. They need an inspired counter move (a Divine Move in Go) – and Noshiko tells them the only way she trapped the nogitsune because she buried it under the Nemeton – they need someone who knows more about it. To Deaton! Who agrees the Nemeton had the power to hold a spirit captive – but that was when it was a tree, not a stump. There were other wooden boxes used to contain powerful objects and Lydia remembers the box that Peter had containing Talia’s claws. Deaton agrees it is Nemeton wood – because he made it.

The Twins have their poison cleansed with burning – which is unpleasant – and both intend to run and hide, hopefully convincing Lydia and Danny to do the same thing. But Danny is a bit character who has never been filled in on what’s happening so there’s no way he will – and Lydia isn’t going to stop fighting no way, no how – as Derek points out. He points out how they’ve been going about redemption all wrong – if they want to win Scott over they have to fight for his cause not just him and his cause is saving his friends.

In the police station, the Sheriff and Parish are talking about keeping the press at bay – when 2 Oni arrive. Bullets don’t seem to do much and several police are killed, Sherriff Stilinski slashed. The Oni leave – but not before slashing everyone with black-smoking wounds.

The other 2 Oni are in the hospital with Evil Stiles who is looking for Melissa – they slaughter their way through the staff and patients. (Moment of awe at how well done this scene was). Melissa is talking to Scott’s dad (who needs to be eaten) who is talking about leaving without saying goodbye to Scott and he’s sure Melissa can sell that (SOMEONE STAB THIS MAN! AGAIN!) Melissa treats him with the contempt he deserves, pointing out if he actually wants a relationship with Scott he needs to not run away after 1 fight. He pouts that Scott hates him – Melissa replies with an excellent “he wants you to try harder”. Yes, yes and again, yes. At least we got his name – Ralph.

Then the lift opens on the floor of carnage – Ralph shoots them to push them back and closes the lift doors – but Melissa has been hurt, slashed on the leg (Teen Wolf do not kill Melissa. Don’t you dare!) Melissa’s leg has odd black gas coming from it which they assume is poison and Ralph puts pressure on the wound. They should also stop her sitting upright and elevate her leg. While injured Melissa makes Ralph promise to work harder with Scott. The lift opens again to the corridor full of dead and wounded – the Oni are gone.

Scott, Deaton and Lydia hear that Derek does still have the box – and Lydia staggers – she says they’re running out of time. Repeated by Stiles who is helped into the room by Kira. They go to the school (it’s always the school) and Stiles tells Scott he wants them to go through with the plan even if it kills him – Scott counters the plan is to save him. Deal with it.

Derek and the twins, all wolfed out, go to see Stiles and his 2 oni bodyguard, carrying the wooden box (“did you bring us a present?” Oh I love Evil Stiles!) Evil Stiles isn’t that impressed by the pack of former Alphas.

Kira, Lydia, Scott and Stiles go to the school but when they open the school doors they see a beautiful, formal Japanese garden – snowclad in winter. The nogitsune staggers in in bandages and tells Stiles he will kill all of them – and 2 Oni appear. Scott asks where they are and the nogitsune says “between life and death” which Lydia recognises as “bardo”. The nogitsune boasts that he’s claimed nearly all the territory on the board (a Go reference), the hospital, the police station – and now the animal clinic.

To Deaton facing Oni in his vet clinic. He fights really well – but he still gets slashed. After which the oni disappear.

In bardo, the nogitsune talks about Seppuku, and the role of the kaishakunin, second, the take the samurai’s head – noting Scott is Stiles’s kaishakunin. And Scott will kill Stiles because if he doesn’t, everyone cut by an Oni’s blade will die with Stiles.

Everyone with the cuts starts to fade – and we have an awesome moment from Melissa “I told the drunk to get out of the house, not his father to get out of his life.” Because Melissa is awesome.

In bardo, Scott and Kira fight the 4 oni. While Derek and the Twins fight Evil Stiles’s bodyguard oni, realising that Scott & co aren’t there because they’re in the school.

People start losing, one of the twins is injured, there is blood on Melissa’s lips and Kira is disarmed. Stiles picks up Kira’s sword and angles it towards his stomach; Lydia rightly points out that it could be another trick (trusting the nogitsune? Not a good idea). The Nogitsune encourages him – there’s an incredibly tense moment and… Stiles sees something in the reflection on the sword blade- he turns and sees elements of the school, a desk, a book. He throws the sword to Kira – he has his Divine Move.

Outside, Derek and the Twins are joined by Chris and Isaac – and Chris has silver arrows. The Oni start dying – but the last one dies, but not before it impales Aidan in the process.

In Bardo Stiles tells everyone to stop fighting – it’s all an illusion. Scott trusts him and they all walk to the Nogitsune, walking through a gauntlet of oni that slice them – but refusing to fight back – until he can force the Nogitsune out of the doors behind him – and they all come out into the school. Uninjured.

Well until Evil Stiles attacks and knocks Scott and Kira unconscious. He’s not happy with Good Stiles thinking he can beat him at his game. Evil Stiles is very very evil. He rants and raves at how they can’t kill him – and Kira says they can change him (like the scroll said? I wondered when that would become relevant). Change the host – can’t be a fox and a wolf. Behind Evil Stiles, Scott pops up – and bites him. And then Kira stabs him. Evil Stiles falls to his knees and the fly of his soul escapes his mouth – to be caught by Isaac in the Nemeton box.

Evil Stiles shatters to dust (awwwww).

Everyone who was injured by the Oni’s blades recovers – their wounds clean and somewhat healed. But Good Stiles also collapses.

But he’s fine! He wakes up, and he’s alive! They’re all alive! Except Lydia suddenly stands up. Outside Ethan cries as he watches his brother die. Derek promises to tell Lydia he was one of the good guys and Aidan dies. Lydia runs out of the school to and holds Stiles when she realises what happened.

Mr. Yakimura and Noshiko clear off the Go board. Scott cries over the losses, held by Melissa. Kira talks to Lydia about not knowing how much space to give all the grieving people. Malia is apparently joining the school, by Coach trying to encourage her to take up track. Scott tries to teach her how to shift – and she succeeds in getting claws. Ethan says goodbye to Danny, that he can’t stay and Danny says it’s ok he didn’t think he could date a werewolf. He knows? Apparently yes – because it’s “Beacon Hills”. They kiss and Ethan walks off.

Stiles removes all his mystery investigation board, clearing his head. Deaton has some wise words for Scott – about “regression to the mean”, everything will eventually return to normal, the middle.

Derek sets up the premise for the next season, telling Stiles (why Stiles?) about his dream – of the family of hunters who attacked him and Peter, leader by a man called Severo (MATRIARCHY GUYS!), breaking into his loft, looking for the she-wolf, but they don’t mean Cora. Then the loft fills with smoke. In which an angry wolf snarls and starts taking people down – not Derek, who gets shot by a shotgun. He tells Stiles about the ways a werewolf can be turned – including by a scratch if it’s deep enough

The problem is – this is all a dream? But he doesn’t remember waking up… so how does he know if he’s still dreaming? Stiles tells him you have extra fingers in dreams – he grabs Stiles’s hand and sees 5 fingers. Cut to Derek in the smoky room with the shotgun injury gasping “it’s real” and out of the smoke comes Kate Argent… Allison’s evil Aunt – and now she’s a werewolf after being slashed by Peter’s claws in the finale of season 1… but she’s more werewolf than most.

Well that has set up the next season and wonderfully finished this one with all kinds of epic. Lots of epic. Did I mention epic? Because epic.

Teen Wolf has transformed. It went from the fluff, campy joy in season 1 to what it has finally become – epic, dark, with lots of emotion and lots of incredibly powerful scenes against a really great story that is far more than just fluff and fun. And the actors – all of the actors – have stepped up and really sold it with some truly epic talent. This has been an incredible transformation and turned Teen Wolf from a good show to one of the best shows we watch – if not the best. This is the show I look forward to every week because it is awesome – and it has never been better than the latter half of season 3

And Evil Stiles? I cannot even begin to say what an excellent character he has been – by far and away the best villain. Not just for power and unknown, but for sheer conniving genius and, of course, acting that has been superlative.

The characters, the world, the story – I really can do little more than lavish layers and layers of gooey praise all over everything. Both this episode and this season.

But among the gooey praise, I need some criticisms. First of all – while the female characters have vastly improved from what we’ve written about previously, now being far stronger, with more agency and more intelligence, we still have a problem with disposability. Hopefully with Kate returning and the latest crop of good female characters that may be averted, but there needs to be less female character death – and less of Lydia kidnapped, tormented and screaming. We now have Kira, Lydia, Noshiko, Kate, Melissa, Malia and, possibly, Meredith with Ms. Morrell and Braeden occasionally appearing. Work with them, use them and try to keep most of them alive

For a show that gets a lot of praise for GBLT inclusion, we could do with the LGBT characters actually having a little more presence than a bit line every 3 episodes, which I’ve spoken about before. Ethan is leaving, to be replaced by a new character – fine, but he and Danny need to have some role in the next season. Bit parts as inclusion won’t cut it. And I have to say I’m ANNOYED by Danny knowing the truth because it means there was no reason to exclude him all this time and it makes NO SENSE. Coach? Doesn’t know about the supernatural. Sheriff Stilinski didn’t know about the supernatural until it was explained (and he has seen far more than Danny has), Melissa didn’t know about the supernatural, despite working in a hospital. Don’t play the “hah it’s common knowledge” card when it clearly isn’t – this is just a damn excuse to not bother developing a revelation scene with Danny, because that might actually involve him getting more than 2 lines every 3 episodes.

And on to POC. Firstly Kira and her family are an interesting conflict. They are excellent characters, they have layers, I love Mr. Yakimura as a father and, while I think Noshiko’s 900 years of life need more work and expanding, I like her story and her conflicts. Kira is also pretty damn awesome and likely to be a mainstay character to come. I like that they have a sense of their culture with them and that is incorporated into the story (even using a Go analogy rather than a more western-centric Chess one). The research and mythology used suggests some considerable work has gone into their characterisation and world building rather than just grabbing random woo-woo. But then we have things like Kira being a random martial artist, the yakuza and random references to seppuku that reak of exoticism and a whole range of Japanese tropes thrown in quite unnecessarily. It’s an uncomfortable balance of good representation surrounded by a swirl of exoticism and a seeming check list of Japanese setting tropes.

We also have a severe underuseage of most of the other POC on the show. Scott is Latino and it has finally been overtly labelled as such on the show – but only in one brief moment. I’ve already mentioned how Danny is hardly there and we have Deaton, Ms. Morrell and Braeden who are similarly neglected. While I’m glad the latter two aren’t part of the original litany of dead women as we suspected, all three are horrendously underused, Dr. Deaton floating around being the very definition of a Magical Black Person, and the other two appearing completely unexplained for a couple of episodes to help move the plot along before disappearing. These characters are sorely under-represented and needs fleshing out and giving a role beyond oracle consulted once every 3 episodes when they need something.