Teen Wolf: “Smoke and Mirrors” Review

Teen Wolf ReviewSeason 4 finale! We got a super-sized episode (a whole extra 10 minutes) packed full of action, emotion, and surprisingly few major character deaths. Without further ado, on to the super-sized review, with some super-sized spoilers.

Down in La Iglesia, they almost finally explain the Berserkers—except not really at all. In a classic Teen Wolf villain monologue, Kate explains that she can not only control but also make them; that’s why they call her La Loba, “The Bone Woman” (that is not what “la loba” means, it just means “she-wolf”.) It seems she is some sort of “Chosen One” for the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca (also not really explained), but how this connects to the Viking-based legend of Berserkers is absolutely unclear. To test Scott’s loyalty, Kate has him stab Kira. Opening credits!

A powerful mother helping her daughter come into her powers more. We should see more of this!

A powerful mother helping her daughter come into her powers. We should see more of this!

The grievously injured Kira is visited by her mother in a vision, and Noshiko helps her learn that foxes trigger their healing the same way wolves do: through more pain. In this case, via some obsidian shards from the underground temple. Back at Beacon Hills High, Lydia and Mason are trapped by a Berserker. After an unsuccessful attempt by the two of them to take it down with baseball bats (*facepalm*), Sherriff Stilinski shows up and for the first time this season shows us one way to actually kill a Berserker—with a large explosive device!

We're gonna need a bigger boat. I mean U.S. Marshall van.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat. I mean, U.S. Marshall van.

Stiles, Malia, Liam, Derek, Braeden, and Peter head down to Mexico. Baby Liam starts a full-moon freak out en route, and after Derek’s “Alpha, Beta, Omega” mantra fails, Stiles uses Satomi’s (well, actually Buddha’s) “the sun, the moon, the truth” mantra to calm him down. They arrive, but Derek is mortally injured by a Berserker and Braeden tends to him after driving the Berserker away. The rest of the crew head into the depths of La Iglesia, and as Kate and another Berserker (or the same one, I guess? I’m losing track) close in on Braeden, the cavalry—Argent, Parrish, and the Calavera clan—arrive. Braeden ducks out of the fray to check on Derek, who succumbs to his wounds.

The gang gathered in La Iglesia run into Berserker!Scott without knowing it’s him, and Stiles finds Kira. Meanwhile, Peter, Malia, and Liam are finally getting the upper hand on Scott, and at Peter’s command, Malia almost stabs him with a Berserker bone (last episode they implied that this will kill them) but is stopped in the nick of time by Kira and Stiles. Scott proceeds to attack them all, but Liam manages to deprogram him by saying, “You’re not a monster; you’re a werewolf, like me.” Scott summons his Alpha power to rip off the Berserker armor. He confronts Peter who wolfs out hardcore; not back to his Season 1 Alpha form, but much more than we’ve seen since his resurrection.

La Loba, nahual, the Bone Woman, the one and only Kate Argent.

La Loba, nagual, the Bone Woman, the one and only Kate Argent.

Back outside, Kate is about to take on Araya, head of the Calaveras, but she is stopped by a wolf (full, four-legged, fur-covered wolf) with blue eyes. Is this the elusive Desert Wolf?! It mauls but does not kill Kate, before transforming back into human form—it’s Derek. He explains he wasn’t dying; he was evolving. Did he know that all along? Shouldn’t he have told everyone who was so worried about him? Does such an evolution always involve total de-powering into a human? No time for explanations though; Chris Argent has made a bullet from the special yellow wolfsbane he took a few episodes back and shoots his sister with it. It also does not kill her and she makes a run for it, but he tracks her down to the caverns below where they have an extremely powerful brother-sister moment, bringing up Allison and questioning just who is worth fighting for and saving, before Kate flees once again.

Scott and Peter go at it full force, and their battle ends with Scott punching him so hard, it breaks his neck? I thought for a minute there Peter had died, but much like his nephew, it was a false alarm. He’s only knocked unconscious, kids; Scott’s still not a killer! Argent gives them some yellow wolfsbane to keep him knocked out, but then leaves with the Calaveras, saying he has made a deal with them to help track down Kate in exchange for them leaving Scott and his pack alone. Braeden reveals she actually was a U.S. Marshall, but lost her job when she became obsessed with tracking down one person: the Desert Wolf. Everything is happy times back in Beacon Hills, and Kira kept one of the obsidian shards from La Iglesia which has been shaped into a shuriken (or “ninja star” for the undereducated), which is apparently her first Kitsune “tail”. Ummmmkay. Lydia gives Parrish a book copy of the Bestiary and says she’d like to help him figure out what he is. Last but not least, Peter is locked away in that secret floor of Eichen House, where his roomie is Dr. Valack, he of the third eye. Who thought this would be a good idea?! And that’s all, folks!

teen wolf Dr. Valack

Worst roommate ever.

I think this was definitely one of the best Teen Wolf finales yet. It was actually kind of refreshing to see no major character deaths (RIP to all those poor Calavera hunters though, we hardly knew ye). Considering how many characters, good and evil, died in Season 3, it was a nice change of pace. Although Kate is an evil, horrible person and a sex offender, I was glad (for story purposes) that she didn’t die; her resurrection was such an incredible shocker, and I felt like it would have been a waste to kill her off so soon after waiting so long to bring her back, especially since she didn’t really get that much screen time this season despite being an important big bad. Not entirely sure where they’re gonna go with her in the upcoming season(s) though, because I don’t really see a redemption arc in her future.

You guys, I really thought Derek was dead for a few minutes there; his degree of importance to the show has been in a pretty precarious place for the past two seasons, and I could totally see the possibility of running out of ideas with what to do with him. However, his new evolution has opened the door for him to have some intriguing storylines again. You know whose storyline has really run its course though? Peter Hale. I was so ready for him to die this finale, but nooope, he’s still alive and kicking, jonesing for some power.

I am so over you, Peter Hale.

I am so over you, Peter Hale.

What did I really love about this finale? No new major plot twists were brought up at the very last minute. I hate when they drop huge bombshells (arrival of the Alpha pack, Kate’s sudden reappearance, etc.) and then are like “LOL! Big shock, right? See you in a few months!” All the big mysteries have been laid out gradually throughout the season: the Desert Wolf was brought up episodes ago with several mentions since. Heck, Parrish’s possible supernatural nature was hinted at all the way back in the Season 3B finale, and his first reveal was in Episode 9 of this season. Even the mysterious Dr. Valack, who I assume will be somehow involved in the main story arc of Season 5, was at least first shown in the penultimate episode, not in the last five minutes of the finale. My brain isn’t racked with shock at any last second reveals, and I can ponder the mysteries as part of the larger season as a whole.

Speaking of the season as a whole, let’s look at some season-wide points. I loved Season 4—I’d say it’s my favorite one so far—but at times it did feel kind of all over the place. “Can’t Go Back”, “Not All Monsters Do Monstrous Things”, “Money Problems”, “Teen Wolf: The Next Generation”, “Assassins Are Out to Kill Us, We’re All Gonna Die”, it was hard to pinpoint a main theme that really tied everything together from start to finish. The deadpool and endless league of assassins was a super cool idea that I had never seen on a supernatural show before, and I think it would have more than sufficed as the main plot for the season, and would have been even better if the Benefactor was a human. When Kate and Peter ending up being the most important Big Bads of the season, it kind of detracted from the awesomeness of the whole hit list story arc, and made it feel like almost an afterthought by the time the finale rolled around.

Teen Wolf MasonWhile I love the revitalizing presence of many new cast members, Teen Wolf is fast approaching a tipping point of too many characters (let’s not even mention Satomi’s seemingly enormous pack who came out of nowhere and I fear will once again disappear). Liam was a neat insight into the next generation, and while Scott gaining a Beta was perhaps inevitable and makes for a very intriguing storyline, I feel it could have waited until a later season. Mason on the other hand—what a pleasant surprise! I was so worried he was gonna be Danny 2.0, and at first he was even more peripheral and seemed to have less screen time than Danny usually did. But the situation really turned around by the end of the season. Not only were some of the scenes showcasing his friendship with Liam very touching and so much more personal than anything between BFFs Danny and Jackson, but he actually got to be actively involved in the adventures of the pack! Whoa! From pulling the plug on the Evil DJ to his sizeable role in the finale, he’s proved he’s not just another pretty face or token PoC or gay sidekick, and has cemented his role as a valuable addition to the team.

Meredith Teen WolfThere were even more important female characters this season. While I am still very conflicted about much of how they handled Meredith, I think her role as the Benefactor made for a very fascinating villain. I hated how after the Peter reveal, everyone was so quick to say, “Oh, so Peter was really the Benefactor.” He may have been the one to originate the concept of a supernatural genocide in his coma delirium, but Meredith was the one who took it and acted on it. Misguided though she was, she thought she was doing the right thing by seeking to alleviate further death and suffering. It was a bad idea, but it was her idea to set things in motion that led to the actual hit list and assassins. It is not fair to take away her title as Benefactor and her agency in this decision, especially when she had so little agency in the show before. Braeden was another minor character from past seasons who really rose to prominence in Season 4, and it was great to see such an awesome character and actress take on such an important role. I would of course be remiss if I didn’t mention Malia, who had cameos in Season 3B but quickly became a break-out star of the season.

This unfortunately meant a sort of pushing aside of our previous main characters. The writers seemed particularly forgetful or unwilling to have scenes in which Kira actually did anything with her powers, and her scenes in the finale were by far her best in the season (especially that scene with her mom), and I really look forward to seeing her grow in her powers even more in the near future, so let’s hope the writers step up their game on that front. In fact, I’d appreciate if they could explain their take on Kitsunes a little more in general, ’cause they kind of make no sense right now and I’m really not getting this whole “symbolic” tail thing. I also really want to see Lydia get a better handle on her powers; though she was important this season, it was almost more for the sake of her grandmother’s mystery and backstory, and I feel like she actually did more with her abilities in Season 3 (A and B). Stiles really took a back seat this season, and even Scott, our title hero, seemed slightly underused, though creating a Beta and dealing with the monster within did show a bit of development.

Teen Wolf ParrishSadly, fans have to wait almost a full year before Teen Wolf graces our screens with its unique charms, but this gives the cast, and especially the creative team, a chance to rest and recharge after putting on effectively three different seasons (3A, 3B, and 4) back to back. Hopefully this means we will get an exceptional fifth season next year, one in which I pray Kira and Lydia keep coming into their powers more and more, Braeden continues to feature prominently, Derek’s transformation is explored and explained (and family history: his new state brings to mind his mother and sister who shared this ability), Scott grows as an Alpha, the mysterious Desert Wolf makes herself known, and we finally learn what Parrish is! I will be waiting impatiently with you all.

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5 thoughts on “Teen Wolf: “Smoke and Mirrors” Review

  1. Thanks for your recaps/reviews of Teen Wolf. I’ve really enjoyed them, and they have helped me to keep the various storylines straight, as I spent quite a bit of this season scratching my head in puzzlement. Your reviews also helped me to stay interested in this season, as for me, this was my least liked season so far.
    The Teen Wolf World/Universe has just gotten too big and convoluted, and nothing ever feels finished before they are introducing even more people/enemies/supernatural beings/myths etc. I can’t help compare it to Buffy and how Buffy introduced new recurring characters – Spike, Anya, Oz, Tara, Dawn, etc – and they were not introduced to the detriment of the other characters. I just felt that all the new characters this season hurt the storylines of the main cast rather than enhance them, and I didn’t have time to build a genuine liking/interest in the new characters before their stories were front and center, like I was being forced to care about them/be interested in them.
    I also can’t help feeling like Liam took some of Stiles place in Scott’s life and that makes me sad, as it was Scott and Stiles friendship that got me hooked on the show in season 1. I don’t want Scott and Stiles to lose that importance to each other.

    • Hi thanks so much for reading and commenting!
      First off have to say, there are four different authors on the Teen Wolf review team for the blog, so I’ve only written a few of the recaps/reviews. But glad that together we’ve helped keep you entertained and informed! : )

      I’m glad you brought up the Buffy comparison! Buffy is probably my number one favorite show (tho Teen Wolf is a close second). I guess the simplest answer is that Buffy’s seasons were typically twice as long so they had more time to bring in characters very gradually? (not to mention explore and wrap up storylines better) Also, the new characters were almost always supporting characters to the Core Four, not truly “main” characters, not at first anyway. The exception I’d say would be Dawn who appeared out of nowhere (literally!) and was the driving focal point of her whole first season. I didn’t really read internet comments back then, but I imagine some people found it hard to adjust to having such an important brand new character so front and center (I know I did). The same thing pretty much happened with Kira in 3B of TW, to be honest, though I liked Kira better than Dawn. Season 4 really did spring Liam and Malia on us (she had such little screentime in 3B I barely count it), and there’s a lot of mixed reaction to Liam, though I loved Malia. Her whole newly-human quirkiness and bluntness was very funny (and extremely reminiscent of Anya, don’t you think?)

      Luckily not all of the new characters on TW were introduced quite so forcefully. Braeden had her two previous appearances from Season 3, and her growth from mercenary to loyal packmate was at least somewhat gradual in 4. Parrish is another good example of someone introduced slowly that fans got to know and like gradually before making him more of an important player. And as overwhelming as all the new faces felt in season 4, it wasn’t nearly as bad as season 7 of Buffy! those like 75 new potentials kept popping up, it was extremely hard to truly care about any of them. I wouldn’t worry too much about Liam taking Stiles’s spot; he’s more like a little brother to both of them. there was a scene in the finale when they’re leaving the church ruins the morning after and Scott and Stiles both have their arms around their girlfriends but then turn and look at each other, and it was so clear that no matter who else comes into their lives, they’ll always be each other’s most important person : )

      I know you’re definitely not alone in this being your least liked season so far, if fan comment sections are any indication. I think of it this way: it really was a turning point, and definitely marks a new era of the show, but in that way it reminded me of the big changes between seasons 3 and 4 of Buffy — major cast changes, a drastically new show while somehow maintaining the spirit and quirk of the original seasons. I’ve never polled Buffy viewers but I often wonder if people tend to have a strong preference for either high school or post-high school seasons, cuz they are certainly different eras. for me, season 4 was when I really got into it, I had only been vaguely familiar before, so I think i’m biased towards the post-high school years. I bet we’ll see something similar with Teen Wolf viewers.

      SO that was probably more than you wanted to read haha I can be a bit long-winded. thanks again for reading and commenting, and hopefully next year’s Teen Wolf will be a hit for all fans!

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