We have talked about the poor worldbuilding in Teen Wolf before, but this problem really takes the cake. Recently on Tumblr I saw a transcription one fan did at a Teen Wolf convention called Wolfsbane 3, during a panel featuring Ian Bohen, who plays Peter Hale. I’m not always the biggest fan of Peter, but Ian Bohen tends to be hilarious. And his opinions on Peter often make the character seem more interesting than he actually is on the show. But it was one comment Bohen apparently made about Alphas that really threw me for a loop. Basically he pointed out that Laura Hale, Derek’s sister and Peter’s niece, who is killed by Peter at the beginning of Season 1, might have killed her mother, Talia Hale, in order to become Alpha. Since she isn’t a True Alpha like Scott, she would have had to have killed Talia, or at least some other random Alpha.
Because I can’t find the actual video of this panel, I am uncertain if Ian Bohen actually said this. But whether or not he did, on closer reflection I realized this has to be correct. In meta and fanfiction, the Teen Wolf fandom has always explained Laura becoming an Alpha as a hereditary thing. Talia died, and her eldest child, Laura, inherited her alpha powers. However, Bohen’s comment made me realize that this fandom theory has never been confirmed in Teen Wolf canon. You either can be a True Alpha, which is so rare in the show that most Teen Wolf characters didn’t think it was possible until Scott became one, or you kill another Alpha to take their powers. The show constantly tells us that lone werewolves and packs without an Alpha are not likely to survive. This would mean a whole society that is based on murdering your successor in order to keep a pack going and if most werewolf packs are like the Hales, then that would mean that they would comprise mostly of family members. So if you wanna be Alpha, then you have to kill grandma. …Suddenly everything in Teen Wolf gets a lot darker and more uncomfortable. It also sets up several issues in the storytelling, particularly in regards to which characters we are supposed to view as villains.
Despite the fact that we don’t know anything about Laura Hale (we’ve barely even seen her in flashbacks), we are meant to be angry over her death because she was someone important to Derek. The fact that Peter killed Laura sets him up right away as a villain. Without his killing Laura to become the Alpha and biting Scott against his will, we wouldn’t really see him as a villain. Yes, Peter kills plenty of other characters in Season 1, but they are all people who murdered his family. So while we can still say murder is wrong, there would at least probably be more of a debate over whether Peter was justified in what he was doing. Even biting Scott against his will, while portrayed as something awful, is still shown more as Peter being desperate to form a pack in order to be strong enough to defeat those that killed his family. Derek, who is supposed to be a good werewolf in Season 1 (or at least better than Peter), doesn’t even seem too bothered by Peter biting Scott. What causes Derek to turn on Peter is finding out that Peter killed Laura. Derek’s attitude seems to be that maybe Peter deserved to avenge his family, but killing a family member to do so shows he cares more about power than he does about his family.
But if Laura killed her mother to become Alpha and killing pack members is common in werewolf packs, then Peter would definitely be in a more gray area here. Why should the viewer care about Laura’s death if she is just as much of a killer as her uncle? Furthermore, at the end of Season 1, Peter is set on fire by Stiles and Jackson. As he lays there dying, Derek stands over him and kills him to become the next Alpha. If the Alpha powers were hereditary, Derek should have assumed that he was the last Hale and would receive Peter’s powers, since at the time he didn’t know about Malia or Cora. But Derek doesn’t let Peter die and then magically become the Alpha because he’s the next Hale. He slashes Peter’s throat and only then becomes the Alpha, making it seem like Derek would not have inherited Peter’s powers otherwise.
Again, this means that for years, the Hales were killing each other in order to make sure that there was an Alpha. This probably divided families greatly if two siblings felt they had equal claim to being an Alpha. Furthermore, because of poor worldbuilding, we know nothing about how this was done. Did the elderly Alpha simply select a Beta (whether that was one of their children or another wolf in the pack) to be the next Alpha and let them kill them? Or did no Alpha ever really live to old age before they were killed by one of their Betas? And does that mean there was a ton of rivalry and infighting among the Betas? That hardly seems like a stable wolf pack.
Furthermore, if this is the case, then the hunters hardly seem that evil either. The Argent family claims to have a code and only goes after werewolves that cause problems or attack humans. We are meant to see them as being prejudiced and bigoted toward werewolves, because the hunters view them more as animals than people. Now, Kate Argent did kill the whole Hale family, including children, so I hardly think there is any argument that would make the hunters seem good. But we can at least understand them a little better. If a group of supernatural beings constantly killed their own family members to gain power, I would hardly trust them not to come after me. So it’s hard to see the hunters as having no grounds to at least be suspicious of werewolves.
The main point here is that all the things I have mentioned above could be true and valid, or they could not be, because maybe werewolves do inherit their Alpha powers after a family member dies. And this is all because one of the principle rules of the Teen Wolf universe, how someone becomes an Alpha, is not explained well enough. All it would have taken is some clarification from a character about how Laura became an Alpha, but without that explanation we have to assume that she killed Talia (or some other Alpha), because she couldn’t have been a True Alpha. And that opens a whole host of questions that don’t really seem to fit with the already established universe. The whole thing ends up being a confusing mess because of this one seemingly minor issue, which just proves again why good worldbuilding is so incredibly crucial.