Liz Tells Frank What Happened In MTV’s “Teen Wolf”
As you know, there are no depths to my dedication to telling you about stuff. Well, maybe there’s a depth. Speed 2: Cruise Control was pretty bad.
But over the last three months, I have noticed a surprising uptick in the number of people in my sphere discussing the MTV series Teen Wolf — which would normally inspire me to watch it, except that for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. (I’m trying to catch up on Damages, Frank! I’ve got a lot on my plate.)
Fortunately, one of those aforementioned Teen Wolf fans agreed to hop on IM and talk me through what actually sounds like an intriguing post-Buffy dramedy, with a strong social conscience and frequently shirtless young men. Below is the edited result of my discussion with Megan Westerby. It’s all her fault.
Liz: LET’S TALK ABOUT TEEN WOLF.
Liz: First off, let me say what I know. Which is that Teen Wolf is a show about a teenager who is also a werewolf.
Megan: Well, they did manage to re-use a rather descriptive title. TEEN. WOLF.
Liz: It doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
Megan: Teen Wolf is a show about a good-hearted teenager who is BITTEN BY A WEREWOLF OMG.
Liz: How do we know he’s good-hearted? PLEASE TELL ME THERE’S A SCENE WHERE HE DEFENDS SOME KID GETTING BULLIED AND THEN GETS BULLIED HIMSELF. #spider-man
Megan: That’s just the nicest thing I can say without introducing him as a doofus. But he’s a doofus. He CARES about people and it’s largely understood that he was a little bullied before the show started — but, honestly? He’s such a goober that I don’t pay a lot of attention to him. He’s the title character and the one on, y’know, promotional materials, but the characters that MATTER are the best friend and the born werewolf.
Liz: I hear he’s pretty, though.
Megan: He’s very pretty. They did a great job casting. And Tyler Posey, who plays Scott, is so clearly willing to be a genial, ready-for-press dude who frequently takes off his shirt. He has a huge comedy/tragedy tattoo on his ribs and I think I’ve seen him pull his shirt off in two interviews to show it.
Liz: It’s nice that he’s conscious of his specific talents.
Megan: But Scott, as a character, suffers from being one-dimensional. Because — gasp! — the day we’re introduced to him, he’s introduced to Allison, who is clearly the LOVE OF HIS LIFE. But, see, it’s a Romeo and Juliet affair, because Scott has just been turned into a werewolf and ALLISON’S FAMILY HUNTS WEREWOLVES. Do you see how clever that is?
Liz: BLOWN. AWAY.
Megan: Because it gets cleverer.
Megan: Allison has an extended family and they’re mostly crazy, but the upshot is that Kate Argent burnt down the Hale House, where the family of werewolves in our not-so-sleepy little town all lived.
Liz: Kate is like Allison’s cousin or something?
Megan: Aunt. We don’t know this for much of the first season, since the show is really determined to try to make us think that Derek Hale is the werewolf that turned Scott (spoiler: he isn’t) and the extreme wackiness here is that OMG KATE SLEPT WITH DEREK WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER AND THEN BURNT DOWN HIS HOUSE AND KILLED HIS ENTIRE FAMILY.
Megan: I USE ALL CAPS WHEN IT COMES TO DEREK BECAUSE HE KINDA LIVES IN ALL CAPS. HE’S QUITE ANGRY. HIS FAMILY IS DEAD.
Liz: He’s like Batman!
Liz: So you clearly want to talk about Derek.
Megan: Well, yes. He’s not the best part of the show — we can get back to Stiles later — but Derek is one of those characters who is so magnificently short-sighted that I honestly can’t tell if it’s awful writing or genius writing. Basically: he’s a werewolf with a strategic thinking problem whose ENTIRE FAMILY IS DEAD OMG. He runs around threatening high school kids and giving no one any information ever even while trying to coach them into being better werewolves.
Liz: Okay. So to recap: Guy gets bitten. Becomes teen werewolf. Meets hot older wolf who wants to mentor him…
Megan: …Falls in love with the new girl, battles the high school jock…
Liz: …with his wolf powers…
Megan: Oh, did I mention everyone plays lacrosse in this town?
Liz: Umm. No. You did not. Um. Why does everyone play lacross in this town?
Megan: Very good question.
Liz: Is there an answer?
Megan: Not that I’m aware. Possibly they thought it’d be the easiest sport to film? Because they can mostly just run around with sticks.
Liz: I feel like there would be many more movies about lacrosse if that were true.
Megan: In the original movie it was basketball, and the original movie is a comedy, whereas this is horror, so WHO KNOWS.
Liz: Lacrosse is horrific?
Megan: That’s an existential question I don’t feel prepared to answer.
Liz: I don’t feel like we’ve gotten to the heart of why anyone on this planet needs to know about Teen Wolf.
Megan: That’s because I haven’t talked about Stiles yet. Stiles is Scott’s best friend and he is, like, everything that was great about the non-Buffy characters on Buffy rolled into one character. He is ostensibly the comic relief — and jesus, Dylan O’Brien’s comedic timing is perfect — but he becomes the heart of the show very quickly.
Liz: I can get on board with this.
Megan: A note on Dylan O’Brien: This is his first acting gig. He was a YouTuber with a modest following who went in to audition for Scott and walked away with the character of Stiles.
Liz: Good for him!
Megan: Stiles is over the top in the best possible way, delivers immaculate one-liners, has the best relationship with everyone on the show except for Allison, and he’s the reason I kept watching. But I also really love the terrific relationships between parents and children, as well as the amazing teenaged young women who have a ton of agency and are super awesome. Plus, this show is written in a way where they use werewolf issues as a stand-in for racism and homophobia, etc. There’s a canonical gay character and he’s best friends with the high school jock and they use DEREK WHO TAKES HIS SHIRT OFF A LOT as a nice little piece of gay bait in this amazing clip.
It’s a supercut with a lot of Stiles and Derek scenes, but the first, oh, three minutes have the set-up, then execution, of the Derek Is Shirtless Bait For Danny, and gives you a really good look at all the dynamics.
Liz: Oh no, the young man took his shirt off. And then he put on a new shirt. And it was too tight. So he took his shirt off again. And now his shirt’s still off. This show certainly has… well, an audience. An audience it knows well.
Liz: The creator is also the former creator of Criminal Minds?
Megan: Yes. Did I mention Jeff Davis is gay? Jeff Davis is a gift. Oh, and you’ll notice that all the werewolves have no chest hair despite being extra shaggy up top.
Liz: That seems… wrong. Is there a reason?
Megan: The target audience is teenage girls and demo testing indicated teenage girls didn’t want hairy men.
Liz: I wasn’t expecting you to have an answer to that question.
Megan: I mean, I’m embellishing, but that general explanation was given by the actor who plays Derek, Tyler Hoechlin, during a season one interview.
Liz: So — shirtless men, a guy with good comedic timing, the whole werewolf thing, and lots of blood. Why else have you and others I respect fallen into this vortex?
Megan: Honestly, because the cast seems so in love with making this show it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about it. The season one production values weren’t great and there were a few episodes that were literally too dark for me to understand much — lots of running around a high school at night — but there are tons of pop culture nods, a town and different family structures that make sense in contemporary America, and there’s a A SCENE IN A GAY CLUB WHERE DRAG QUEENS HIT ON STILES.
Liz: Um, and now is the time when you go into detail.
Megan: So, the crew has to go to a gay club to hunt down the kanima, which is an awesomely stupid creation of Jeff Davis’s that I’m not going to get into right now. And Scott DOESN’T REALIZE IT’S A GAY CLUB until a guy buys him a drink and he starts to put the clues together. At which point he turns to Stiles and says, ‘dude, everyone here’s a dude!’ (exact transcript). And Stiles is surrounded by drag queens who are petting him and have sympathy for him while he mocks Scott for just figuring that out.
Megan: EVEN BETTER, a few episodes later Lydia throws a party that is severely under attended. Stiles says he can call some friends. SMASH CUT TO Lydia opening the front door and there being a group of drag queens on the front step. Which means he got all their numbers. I’m hoping for a musical episode in Season 3.
Liz: That’s really wonderful.
Megan: For a show with only 24 episodes I’m sometimes at a loss, here, as to what to give away. I’ve spoiled almost everything. Basically: The terrific interaction between the guy with the comedic timing and the guy playing the humorless werewolf are the reason to watch the show, but there’s a lot of really good filler.
Liz: From the outside, it’s strange that that’s the primary reason people care about this show — the random connection between two secondary characters. Like if the only reason people liked Buffy was because of Xander and Oz.
Megan: Pretty much exactly! Also, I have to give a huge shoutout to the official Teen Wolf Twitter and Tumblr accounts. They’re delightful and interact with fans and the cast in a really natural way.
Liz: That is the first thing I learned about this show, actually, that its social media is managed by some strange team of mad geniuses.
Megan: One of the actors said that Newsroom was his favorite show on TV and the official Teen Wolf Twitter account just responded HEY. It was genius.
Liz: Newsroom? Sigh. Children.
Megan: Riiiight? Also, Colton Haynes plays Jackson, the jock I keep talking about. He is a model. He takes his shirt off a lot, and he clearly toned up for the second season, so it’s DELIGHTFUL.
Liz: Wait, the MODEL had to TONE UP? Ugh. I hate everything.
Megan: Like, he went from being hot to having a defined six pack. End result…
Liz: Every time I click on a link you send me, I’m a little worried about ending up on an FBI watchlist.
Liz: But GODDAMN, YOUNG MAN. Well played.
The lengths I go for you, Frank. The sacrifices I make.