“Due to the mature theme of this episode, viewer discretion is advised.” Oh shit. First time, to my knowledge, that Teen Wolf has begun with a viewer advisory. This does not bode well, my friends. This does not bode well at all.
As the majority of last night’s episode takes place in a psychiatric facility, I wanted to pass this warning along, straight from the official Teen Wolf Tumblr:
We would like to take this time to warn everyone that tonight’s episode will feature some potentially triggering content such as suicide, abuse, self-medication and mental health; just to name a few. We strongly advise that anyone who may find any of this content triggering or harmful avoid the “Echo House” tag on Tumblr.
Spoilers after the jump.
The Sheriff brings Stiles to Eichen House, the mental institution previously seen in “Riddled”, where the murderer Barrow, from “Galvanize”, had been committed. Enter the asylum: like every mental hospital shown in media ever, there are barred doors, patients creeping in the hallway, and the lighting seems stuck at the “dim and sinister” setting. Sheriff Stilinski is much more upset about Stiles being there than Stiles himself is, and the good sheriff almost doesn’t let his son stay, but finally relents when Stiles reminds him that it’s only temporary and tells him it will be for the best. Man, is he wrong. A man suddenly hangs himself in the stairwell as Stiles is being led to his room, and then he catches a glimpse of that bandaged, metal-jawed form the nogitsune used while haunting him in “Riddled”.
Stiles, now seriously regretting his choice to stay, is then led to his room, where he meets his roommate, Oliver. Oliver seems to be a pleasant chap, who also happens to currently be in restraints on his bed. The next morning, Oliver and Stiles run into—you guessed it—Malia. In standard Hale fashion, she greets Stiles with a punch to the face when he approaches her. Then, suddenly, Ms. Morell, guidance counselor/French teacher/druid emissary extraordinaire shows up outta nowhere! She leads a group therapy session at Eichen House, with Stiles, Oliver, and Malia in attendance, among others. The session is cut short when Morell notices Stiles is developing a rash she calls a “Lichtenberg figure”, which she says appear on lightning-strike victims. She further explains that when they fade from his skin, the nogitsune will resume control, and she warns that if the nogitsune resurfaces, she will take drastic measures. Stiles finds a locked door to the basement, and Oliver says he can help him get access to the key.
Elsewhere, Deaton (with Allison and Scott) checks in with Papa Argent via phone with some new details, including the introduction of a Mysterious Scroll (from the Shugendō, Japanese mystics) which has key information about how to exorcise the nogitsune. After the call, Argent returns to his holding cell next to Derek, and they discuss what they’re going to do about Stiles. They bring up Jackson’s brief stint as the killer kanima, as well as the berserkers, who actually shapeshifted into bears in battle, according to Argent. He goes on to say he once encountered teens who had tapped into this beserker magic, and one’s human side was so far gone that Argent felt no remorse putting him down. This leads Derek to ask if he will hesitate to put down Stiles. Argent responds: Stiles, yes; a nogitsune, no. Later, Argent encounters the older Spanish-speaking woman we saw at the very beginning of 3B, the one who had Derek and Peter in chains and cut off Peter’s finger. She insinuates a connection between her family and the Argent family, but is, of course, frustratingly vague.
Meanwhile, Scott and the twins meet up with Allison and Lydia at Superhero Central, where the plan is revealed: rob an armored car that will have Katashi’s possessions, including, hopefully, the Shugendō scroll. Kira later meets up with them to help out, but unfortunately, the teens are beaten to the punch by Kincaid, Katashi’s werewolf enforcer. A melee ensues in which he kicks pretty much all their asses, until the twins finally join the fight and beat him so bad, Scott has to tell them to stop before they kill him. They take the Shugendō scroll, which had been hidden in Katashi’s silver finger prosthetic.
Back at Eichen House, Stiles gets the keys with the help of Malia and Oliver, since he had made a deal with Malia after running into her in the shower. Classic Teen Wolf shenanigans. She had said she wants to change back into a coyote, and that she would help him get the key in exchange for him introducing her to “someone” who can help her change back, though it is unclear which werewolf he is referring to. Unfortunately, while trying to use the keys to open the basement, Stiles is stopped by none other than the owner of the keys, Brunski himself. He is taken to “the quiet room” and given a sedative by Brunski (because apparently orderlies can prescribe medication in this hospital).
After encountering the nogitsune in a dream, Stiles is awakened by Malia, and she shows him an alternate route to the basement (why didn’t they just try this before?). In said basement, they take a break from their looking for clues and make out. On an old couch in this creepy, dank asylum basement. Gross. Oh yeah, and then they (presumably) have sex. In the same creepy, dank asylum basement. Double gross. After their sex break, they realize that the wall marked by the 己 kanji is hollow, and after breaking through it, they discover the corpse of the nogitsune, along with a possible clue.
Oliver, under the thrall of the nogitsune, suddenly appears and interrupts the two lovebirds with Brunski’s stungun and a kind offer to perform some trepanation (the drilling of holes in the skull). Stiles reluctantly concedes control of his body to the nogitsune in exchange for letting Malia live. She survives so unscathed that she literally just peaces out of Eichen House at the end of the episode, with Ms. Morell’s blessing. Back at his clinic, Deaton reveals that the Shugendō scroll says that one way to get rid of the nogitsune is to “change the body of the host”—like by turning him into a werewolf, as Scott points out.
That wraps up the recap, so let’s get critique-y.
Things I liked: Berserkers. No, none made an appearance, they barely got a mention (and it was a pretty horrifying mention at that), but it would be neat to see one at some point in the show. I love when they make the mythology more and more expansive. Also, bears are awesome.
The total Scooby Gang vibe of the planning of retrieving the scroll. Seeing the teens try to take matters into their own hands without any of the adults had such a fresh, young energy to it, which brought a much-needed element of fun into this otherwise very dark episode.
Things I didn’t like about the things I liked: The actual attempt at retrieving the scroll. Um, what the hell happened here? Kira was totally kicking Oni butt the other day, but she couldn’t do anything to this werewolf? Scott, Mr. True Alpha, was equally as useless in the fight. But the twins, who are currently omegas, or betas at best, were beating Kincaid so bad that Scott had to stop them before they killed him? And what, Kincaid, a werewolf employee of the frickin’ Yakuza, is just gonna be like, “Oh yeah, those teens really showed me! I’ve seen the error of my ways and I’ll leave them alone now!” Ridiculous.
Things I didn’t like at all: Eichen House. It could not have been more stereotypical—as I mentioned, the dim and scary lighting, barred doors, patients restrained to beds, staff ranging from mean to downright cruel and abusive. Not only is there immense stigma surrounding mental health issues and the seeking of help for said issues, but then on top of that, pop culture media demonizes psychiatric facilities and those who work there. Even if you finally get the courage to admit you need help, you are quite possibly scared away from actually seeking the help you need because of horrible, antiquated presentations like the one seen in last night’s episode.
More than a few people out there will need psychiatric hospitalization of some duration in their lifetime on their journey to health and recovery, and it is incredibly unhelpful to promote images of facilities like Eichen House. Conversely, there are certainly issues that need to be addressed in the mental health care system; there may be facilities that are not up to quality standards, and unfortunately, there may be workers mistreating their patients. But to paint these situations as merely the norm is an enormous disservice, both to those in need of mental health services and those who work hard to compassionately provide these services.
Stiles’s losing his v-card. (I guess there is a small chance that they just made out/cuddled, but viewers were certainly led to believe that they went all the way.) First of all, Stiles deserves better. Yes, he almost lost it in a wine cellar to a childhood friend, but actually losing it in a grungy, evil asylum basement to a girl he barely knew? Really? I know he’s been through a lot lately, but I feel like he has more self-control and respect for girls than to go and do something like that. And let us not forget that even when he was gonna do the deed in a wine cellar at the beginning of 3A, he made the point of getting a condom, but he didn’t seem to take any precautions in trying to find if any prophylactics were laying around in a mental asylum’s icky basement. Oh, let me look for condoms here, next to the skull drills or this dessicated corpse, perhaps! Maybe his lack of judgement can be somewhat explained by the extreme stresses of the day and environment.
And I know I shouldn’t have been holding out for it, but a part of me really wanted Stiles to get with a guy in this episode (not necessarily Derek; some other non-Derek guy). Articles like this, which talk about Stiles finding a vague “mutual attraction” in this exact episode, started circulating right after the episode “Illuminated”, in which Stiles hesitantly doesn’t answer when asked if he liked guys; this was the latest in the subtle and not-so-subtle hints pointing to a possible bisexual orientation for Stiles. I’m not saying that timing articles like that to follow such a scene was queerbaiting exactly, but I’m a queer man, and I feel a little baited. Despite all these implication that Stiles may in fact be bi, the most on-screen “action” he has had with any dude are a few awkward, flirty moments with Beacon Hill’s resident homosexual, Danny. Obviously, Stiles doesn’t need to do anything with either men or women to prove or disprove his bisexuality, but I think that dropping all these hints, without any action, or more importantly dialogue, addressing it outright, makes for a frustrating situation for queer viewers like myself. Seriously, a genuine talk with Scott or someone about any feelings he may or may not be having would mean the world to LGBTQ+ viewers, so much more than say, a same-sex kiss/sex scene thrown in just for titillation’s sake.
Malia. I cannot get over how quickly Malia has adapted to being a teenage girl; for being stuck in coyote form from the time she was eight years old, she has bounced back after eight years with no apparent deficits in language or socialization, aside from perhaps some minor aggression. That’s literally half of her life, the most recent half, that she spent as a coyote. You’d think she have a little more trouble with being a human now. Not to mention, she has also completely mastered makeup and hair styling and getting her ears pierced and a sassy, snarky tone appropriate to a sixteen year old on a dramedy TV show. Then she goes on to have her first kiss and first sex, all in the same day, with a boy she barely knows! Was she really in the best place to be making these decisions after only recently returning to human form? Has she even been properly educated about sex? She was only eight when she transformed, remember. She is probably just beginning to understand her newly adult body.
And why didn’t Stiles try to talk her down from being so impulsive with such a big step? I’m all for adolescents making their own choices about sex and how to use their bodies, in consensual, age-appropriate relationships/encounters, but if you are going to be sexually engaging with a partner who has spent the past eight years as a coyote, and only recently become human again, I think maybe you might need to be questioning whether you shouldn’t try to take things a little slower, for her sake. Luckily, it was with a guy like Stiles; she could easily have run into someone who would have really manipulated and used her for her presumable sexual naïveté. On the other hand, teens are routinely impulsively losing their virginity at young ages to people they might not really know that well, so perhaps the show is just trying to show a reality of teen life.
So, where does this all leave us? The nogitsune seems totally in charge of Stiles, which would mean bad news for him if/when Argent finally gets out of being locked up. What was the clue that Stiles found on the nogitsune’s corpse that he wanted to share with Scott? I think he recognized Kira’s mom in an old photo. The show has implied that the nogitsune was held in a Japanese internment camp in World War II, so he has been around for a long time, and I bet Mrs. Yukimura has been on his tail(s) for quite a while herself. Malia is loose, with unclear directives from Morell, and the last shot of the episode seemed to focus an awful lot on her bright blue, I’ve-killed-before werecoyote eyes. And finally, Deaton and Scott gave voice to what is now a real possibility—will Stiles himself be the latest teen to receive the gift/curse of lycanthropy?
Leave me any thoughts/comments/theories down below! In the meantime, while we wait for next week’s episode, “The Fox and the Wolf”, take a peek at this epic mid-season trailer. Things are only gonna get more intense from here on out; it’s gonna be a hell of a ride!