The interesting idea I had for reviewing the new DVD release of Teen Wolf: Season 2 was that the last show from MTV that I watched was either Daria or The Tom Green Show. The other interesting challenges to reviewing the second season of the show was that I was familiar with the 1985 film by the same name but I had not watched even a second of the first season. Instead of becoming a more informed reviewer and at least sampling the first season or reading a general synopsis, I chose to attack the new season with no background.
"Omega" (Ep.1). The challenge with dropping into any dramatic series at the start of a new season is to quickly find the nuances of the show. I had a base level of expectation from my memory of the film. The first test is learning the characters. The series initially reminded me of the high school setting of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There appear to be six to eight main characters and another handful of eight or so that make appearances almost every episode. Later episodes would confirm that the core story boils down to three main characters.
Our lead is Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) as the titular werewolf. His basic character bears only a slim resemblance to the characters of Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) and Todd Howard (Jason Bateman) in the two films. In both of those, the lead werewolf characters find popularity and success in their sports (basketball and then wrestling) based on the confidence they feel from becoming a werewolf. The suffering of the werewolf as portrayed in the Universal films is turned on its head by these characters. Scott faces many more challenges outside of school but as a nod to the films he also finds success at a sport (lacrosse).
Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) is Scott's love interest. The casting of Reed is a nice nod to the tradition of actors who look in their mid to late twenties playing high school students. It's easy to quickly figure out that the couple meets many obstacles in their relationship because Allison is from a werewolf-hunting family and she's training to hunt werewolves. The forbidden love angle is played up from the very beginning of this episode and any Romeo and Juliet recall in a show about teenagers is love is an easy call.
Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) sets up as the main villain for this season. He's a new Alpha wolf that's off recruiting a pack, which isn't a pleasant experience for new recruits. This is where I start off initially confused about the relationship of Derek to the two heroes. As the season begins, his Uncle Peter was the previous Alpha who was killed the previous season.
Once I had the basics of the main trio in mind, it was easier to place the remaining supporting characters - friends like Stiles and his love interest Lydia, Jackson from the lacrosse team, and Erica and Boyd from Derek's pack.
Back to the first episode of the season and I've spent a majority of it just trying to place characters in more major stereotypes of other high school shows and films that I've seen and it oddly has worked. The hardest part of this initial episode is learning the werewolf rules. Much like vampire rules in every vampire show, there are rules for how the packs are formed, how you feed, and how others are turned into werewolves. This series doesn't follow all of the traditional rules and that made it harder to feel like I could just pay attention to what was happening. This episode proves that the show will have very little thematically with any of the films. There's a much darker and violent tone that surprised me for a MTV show. The episode was also very Derek-centric. For someone unfamiliar with the first season, I thought this was a good way to set up Derek as a ruthless character for the rest of the season.
"Ice Pick" (Ep.3). This is the first time the show started to find a groove for me. All of the characters get roughly even time in the story. Learning more about Allison as she trains at hunting werewolves ups the ante of the drama. Good dramatic series keep closing circles within circles. And the writers here understand that each character must have a connection to both Scott and Derek. There is a good balance of plot exposition and fights in this episode. The extra revelations about Jackson start to expand the mysteries hinted at in the first episode of the season.
"Raving" (Ep.8). This episode combined the worst aspects of Buffy and mixed it with a good dose of Scooby-Doo. Normally, calling upon Scooby-Doo would be a good thing, but this was the worst episode of the season for me. Pretty much any show that is going to use a "secret rave" as a plot point has already lost me. By this point in the season, the Jackson storyline should have been more interesting but it just didn't deserve as much screen time as it was receiving here. The story tries to relieve the Scott and Derek rivalry even just for a moment before throwing it back into chaos. But that is so transparent that the whole episode backfires.
"Master Plan" (Ep.12). The Master Plan of the title has to do with a poorly thought-out plan by Allison's grandfather, Gerard, who becomes a bigger player as the season unfolds. This final episode of the season feels like it's a compilation of about three episodes because there is so much information in it. I was a little disappointed that the final battle of the season came down to the characters that it did. The last few scenes were crammed together to set the stage for next season with Allison and Scott in shambles and the sudden appearance of a pack of Alpha werewolves.
Television has trained us to watch our dramas from the beginning until the very end. It's hard to jump into a series at the beginning of a season two and know the small things in relationships that make following a series so rewarding. I feel like it took me at least a full three episodes just to get the vibe of how this Teen Wolf universe worked. The characters then fell into place and I was able to generally enjoy how much plot is packed into each episode.
The show doesn't have the same light tone as the films. And the more serious tone of the show surprised me for a show on MTV. I don't know even what to expect from a show on this network; it doesn't have the identity that it once had. Is the audience for Teen Mom and Jersey Shore watching shows about werewolves? The 12-episode arc of the season feels like a comic book story. The fact that it's based on a screenplay by Jeph Loeb explains some of the Heroes influences. I would like to have seen more of a traditional high school show with werewolves. What I got was a genre werewolf show that happens to be set around a high school.
The three-disc set is an upgrade from any online viewing experience. There are alternate, deleted and extended scenes, and a gag reel. The biggest attraction would be audio commentary on three episodes that does provide some insight to the show but was a little too much CGI and behind the production for me.
The show falls somewhere in-between being a horror show and a teen show. That's probably a good thing but too often I found the balance of the two to be off. I'd like to go back now and watch season one and see if being more aware of the previous plots and characters will help me see more to this season. I do walk away more impressed with the quality of show that MTV can put on the air when not doing another reality program. It's got an undeniable fun factor.