So much of this week’s episode of Teen Wolf, “Condition Terminal,” is frustratingly inconsequential. For the first ten minutes or so I was led to believe that the following hour would come with some real narrative punches because it started off strong. However, by its end, it seemed like a whole lot of nothing happened, just for a split second of something to happen before the episode’s credits rolled.
Surely the show could have spent more time with characters like Malia and Stiles instead of following Mason and Liam as they go to a gay club where underage girls are allowed to serve drinks and tweens can enter with little care at all?
After last week’s fantastic ending, rather than continue with Malia’s frustration over being unable to save an innocent life, the show instead sidetracks to Parrish and a flashback to inappropriate flirtation between him and Lydia. I am curious about what Parrish is, although it seems highly unlikely that he could be anything other than a phoenix at this point, but seeing him walking shirtless and on fire, carrying dead bodies to the nemeton tree, seems like a pointless deviation from what should be the main story this week.
Of course, none of the main storylines this week seem to have any purpose at all. Lydia wakes after undergoing surgery to tell Parrish that she wants to learn how to fight, and Liam and Mason have fun times and a dance club where a young man has been surgically enhanced with scorpion venom. Stiles, meanwhile, is trying to figure out who these Dread Doctors are and what their game plan is, while Malia is allowed one scene to herself where she contemplates what happened when she faced off with them.
With Donovan on the periphery, and the show finally being upfront and showing us that Theo is in fact working with the Doctors, it seems like the episode could have been doing so much more to move the plot forward, but instead we got an episode that meandered, that even stalled in order to have a cliffhanger ending with Donovan (seeking revenge against his father) grabbing Stiles, who’s been left alone at the high school.
We’re being told that the world our characters inhabit is growing increasingly frightening, that being able to create supernatural creatures who can’t be contained is a massive threat–so why is it that the only time we actually sense that threat is in those last ten seconds?
It’s because it’s Stiles, and because we as an audience care for that character.
A large problem that Teen Wolf has had since the start of season four is that it’s lost focus on why it had the audience it did. We cared about the characters and we cared about the relationships they built and tried desperately to sustain, and, try as he might, Jeff Davis cannot bottle that same chemistry twice. As much as Liam has grown on me and as much as Mason works as a secondary character, I’m never going to prefer to watch the two of them over Scott and Stiles. Similarly, part of the reason why season one worked despite its obvious setbacks was due to the tangibly sweet chemistry that Tyler Posey and Crystal Reed shared as Scott and Allison. Posey and Arden Cho don’t share that same chemistry, and despite what we’re being told (and the show is telling rather than showing us a lot in this episode), I don’t believe that Scott loves Kira, so most of the scenes land flat.
The show believes that is can carry on with its next-gen sensibilities and that people tune in to the show for the big spectacle of it all. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as demonstrated this week. “Condition Terminal” sports lazy writing, some convoluted ideas, and not nearly enough of the humor, warmth, and characters that have made this show worthwhile in the past.
Hopefully the conclusion of Stiles’ attack is given more room to breathe than any of the conclusions of last week’s storylines.