Teen of Wolftown

On ten years of Teen Wolf, getting my dad into Mare of Easttown, and impostor syndrome.

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To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Teen Wolf, I decided to rewatch the pilot episode. The image attached to this week’s newsletter is from said pilot; Scott (Tyler Posey) and his best friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) are hiding from the search party, led by Stiles’ sheriff father, for the missing half of a dead body. At this point in the episode, Scott and Stiles are in over their heads already; two under the radar sophomores-to-be looking for a corpse the night before school starts because they both feel like nothing happens in their hometown, the then-sleepy Beacon Hills. When Scott and Stiles get separated, Scott finds the body, but not before he gets attacked by something faster than he can see with teeth that dug into his torso.

The next morning, Scott discovers that he’s been gifted with a bizarre new set of abilities that gives him almost everything he’s ever wanted; superhearing that lands him a date with the pretty new girl Allison (Crystal Reed), superspeed and agility that makes him first string on the lacrosse team much to the dismay of team captain Jackson (Colton Haynes) and his brainy and uber-popular girlfriend Lydia (Holland Roden), and classic werewolf accouterments like glowing eyes, hair-turned-fur, claws, and rapid healing that land him in the company of fellow werewolf Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin).

Scott’s powers, of course, come at a price. Under the full moon, Scott puts himself and the people around him at risk as he’s unable to control his transformation. He ditches Allison at a party and gets lured out into the woods by Derek, who puts him directly in the crosshairs of a group of werewolf hunters, led by a crossbow-wielding man that shot him. After apologizing to Allison the next day, he discovers that the hunter that attacked him is none other than Allison’s father, Chris (JR Bourne).

As far as pilots go, Wolf Moon is a pretty strong one. It introduces who everyone is in relation to each other, the main character’s central problem, and all the complications and obstacles that will continue to get in his way. All the other characters are, in retrospect to who they’ll become, fully-fledged people. They feel lived-in and have that human itch for more to them. They have that MTV edge to them, where they’ll hurl very raunchy (relative to TV), very 2010 insults at each other laced with innuendo. They’re not some shiny, new, archetypal blank slates.

Scott is dorky and sweet, and Posey’s performance brings truth to Scott’s anxiety about his future; not just as a werewolf, but as a person. Scott still worries more about getting the girl or getting grounded as much as he is adjusting to the supernatural world. In the later seasons, he worries about how well he’s doing in school, how many plates he’s spinning, and his home life as much as whatever is trying to kill him that year. Sometimes high school can feel like life and death, but Scott also has life-threatening circumstances thrown his way on top of that.

This is something the show has always done well, regardless if they’re declining in quality or drama. The supernatural threat often mirrors the internal, emotional threats the characters are facing. As the show progresses, Scott comes into his own as a fierce leader and a loyal friend, protecting Beacon Hills from anything and everything the supernatural world has to throw at them.

There’s this tiny moment in the pilot that I’m obsessed with: Jackson corners Scott at his locker and asks him where he’s getting his “juice”, suggesting that Scott has been using steroids to suddenly become so good at lacrosse. Scott, in his earnest boyishness, says: “My mom does all the grocery shopping,”. Jackson seethes.

That’s just who Scott is, and to some extent, remained for the rest of the show—he’s just a sweet kid that, despite all his wisdom or best intentions, is still a just kid. Kids make mistakes, kids get in over their heads, and kids learn to change.

As Scott gets older and becomes more of a leader, he still tries not to lose his youth. Some might argue that Scott does grow up too fast, with more and more responsibilities being piled on him, but his naivete becomes replaced with (compassion and childlike wonder) that allows him to see the best in people, even when they don’t want him to.

Allison feels shiny and new, at least she does to Beacon Hills. But there’s something in the dimples from Crystal Reed’s wry smile and confidence under all those very 2011 bangles and blazer combinations that let you in on a little secret Allison isn’t willing to share just yet. Her family moves around a lot, her dad is always out in the middle of the night, and she can parkour the side of her house like it was nothing. She’s as cool and collected as she is kind and compassionate. She’s as skilled as she is insecure, both as a teenaged student and as a hunter, especially as the series progresses. She can definitely take care of herself, as she’s demonstrated over and over again. I’m obsessed with this mini-crossbow she carries around in her school bag, an item I would like to possess to further be in my Daryl Dixon Era1.

I want to talk about Allison a little bit more simply because she’s genuinely a fictional character that’s left a lasting impact on me. She’s gone through this incredible metamorphosis: from sweet love interest to hunter-in-training to a villain, and then ultimately redeemed as a hero making the ultimate sacrifice.

There’s this scene somewhere in Season 1 where Scott comes over to her house for the first time. The two of them go through Allison’s things that have yet to be unpacked. She takes him on a tour of her photographs and paintings, creative endeavours she thinks she’s failed at.

She inspects a piece of her work and goes into this critical and clinical commentary about them. Scott asks her “so, what is it that you’re good at?” and she shows him, taking him down to the basement to show him her compound bow. Allison is a very talented archer. It’s that teenage self-awareness that I love about her. At one point she tells Scott that a) she never does things she doesn’t want to do, and b) whenever she realises she’s “not good at something”, she stops. You can see how Allison talks to herself in her head, but her compassion both for herself and other people, Scott especially, don’t waver.

Her compassion is something she carries with her to the very end. Allison was tragically killed by the Oni, these Japanese demon warriors, during a battle in Season 3’s penultimate episode. She died in Scott’s arms while figuring out the key piece of information to defeat the Oni and ultimately the season’s Big Bad. The gang doesn’t have time to mourn Allison in between the final battles. Her father makes a show of compartmentalizing his emotions to help the kids get their stories straight. Even with her last breath, she had to let Scott know that she loved him. It almost seemed cruel that it was Allison that bit the bullet. Allison changed her family’s Hunter Code to protecting those that cannot protect themselves, she’d lost her aunt and her mother within the span of a year, and she happens to be one of the only mortal humans in the group.

I guess her death reminds audiences that these teenagers aren’t invincible, no matter how well-trained they are against the supernatural. Nobody was safe. The season she died, Stiles got possessed by a demonic fox spirit. Truly, no one was safe.

Allison didn’t get to graduate or go to college. Allison didn’t get to grow up. Was her death enough to motivate the rest of the gang to defeat whatever evil they faced? Sure, at the time. But did the show follow through with exploring how her death affected those around her? Not so much.

The decision to kill off Allison wasn’t one I was a fan of. Though Reed wanted to exit the show to pursue other projects, the show could have easily written Allison out; an unexpected move, a different mission, whatever the hell they did to JJ and Emily on Criminal Minds—a show also created by Teen Wolf showrunner Jeff Davis.

The finality of Allison’s departure didn’t leave much room for the writers to explore what would happen even if she were to come back. People have been resurrected on Teen Wolf before, so it wouldn’t be that much of a reach. Davis said he’d felt pressure to follow Game of Thrones’ lead killing off main characters for shock value, which is suuuuch a cop-out. But Reed did come back to the show as a guest, playing Allison’s ancestor Marie-Jeanne Valet in 18th century France, the hunter that killed the Beast of Gevaudan (that somehow found its way back to the present day in Season 5).

Allison didn’t get a chance to graduate high school or go to college—she didn’t really get the chance to grow up. But she did a lot of growing up in the time we were allowed to spend with her. I loved her arc in Season 3. She came back from a summer in France with a whole new haircut, wardrobe, a whole new way of dealing with the world around her, and the realisation that that new way may not be the best way after all.

Teen Wolf, at least between seasons 1 to 3, has this great knack for balancing tone. O’Brien can pretty much riff and bounce off anyone in the cast regardless of their characters’ relationships. His chemistry with Hoechlin’s Derek follows in the grand Tumblr tradition of homoerotic tension with an obscenely large following. Sterek (Stiles/Derek) is up there with the likes of Destiel or Larry Stylinson in notoriety. Writing that sentence sends a chill down my spine, like my sense of authorship or access to any internet should be revoked immediately.

I really miss Teen Wolf. I miss those live streams the cast used to do on ustream before Instagram Live was a thing. I miss the Teen Wolf aftershow and their subsequent After After Show. I miss looking up links on Tuesday morning to watch new episodes the Monday night they air in the US. I miss how distinctively 2009 the show was in 2011; from the Disney-like layers + Macy’s jewelery in teen girl wardrobe, or Lydia and Jackson looking for a copy of The Notebook at a video store.

I miss Derek’s pack, arguably the hottest group of teenagers ever to strut in (what I assume) to be Macy’s leather jackets. I miss Allison and Isaac’s brief little fling. I miss sleepy little Beacon Hills feeling like the centre of the known universe. I miss being reminded that Tyler Posey and Taylor Lautner used to audition for the same roles as child actors. I miss Teen Wolf product placement, showing off whatever Toyota, Macbook, or phone AT&T put out conveniently peppered in as stuff Stiles happens to have. I miss religiously looking up what Free People or Brandy Melville top Allison wore every episode.

It wasn’t just a teen drama. I can recall a slew of episodes that were dark, gruesome, and really challenging especially for their target audience. One of my favourites is Motel California from the third season, which earned the show its first Viewers Discretion warning. That episode was also one where they really sunk their teeth into the horror genre, leaning into tropes and homages that make up the show’s foundation and digging into every single character’s much darker personas2.

Ten years is a long time, but it’s weird to me how it doesn’t seem that far away. Rewatching the rest of the show on Netflix feels very current somehow, still. I’m finally getting around to seeing seasons four through six, and yeah, it’s not lookin’ too pretty. But I’m having fun.

I love seeing where the cast of Teen Wolf ends up. Tyler Posey is now a Toretto, much to my delight, on Fast and Furious: Spy Racers. Dylan O’Brien is having another moment I’m calling the O’Brienaissance. Crystal Reed and Tyler Hoechlin are part of the Teen Wolf to DCTV pipeline (Gotham, Swamp Thing, and Superman and Lois respectively), whilst former recurring cast members like Seth Gilliam, Melissa Ponzio, and Daniel Sharman are a part of the Teen Wolf to The Walking Dead franchise Industrial Complex.

I still need to talk about Stiles, about Derek, about Lydia and so much more, but I’ll save that for another day. There’s a lot more to unpack. Or rather, pack. Get it? Like wolves run in packs?

Dad of Maretown

My dad got into Mare of Easttown because he found out my mum and I were watching it without him. I have many of the same thoughts and opinions that other people who have written about Mare have shared, so I’m not about to regurgitate them.

What I will point out though is how surprised I was that my dad enjoyed something of Mare’s pace. My father is a middle-aged man, and seems to have been his entire life simply based on how much he still talks about HBO’s Band of Brothers or The Pacific. He loves The Walking Dead, the Ip Man franchise, and believes Lucky Number Slevin is one of the greatest films ever made, unlike what Taylor Swift claims.

He kept asking mum and I what would happen next, he couldn’t bear the fact that he couldn’t guess the twists. He couldn’t stand not being able to figure out who the murderer was before Mare did. He loved trying to say the words ‘home’ (heauxme) and ‘overdose’ (eauxverdeaux) with me in that Delco accent. We both reveled in learning that Mare is short for Marianne, my name with an extra M and N.

Despite all the fun he was having, he was not impressed with me snickering away when Anne asked Siobhan to a boy genius concert, or with the way my jaw dropped when Siobhan started her bender set to a Phoebe Bridgers needle-drop. Anne should get her own show3.

The thing I loved most about Mare is that it’s as much a show about self-identity as it is about grief and family. About impostor syndrome. I think about that scene where Zabel admits to Mare that the only reason he solved that cold case was that a PI he once ignored did most of the leg work for him. Here’s this young man whose claim to fame, whose whole reason for being assigned to the McMenamin case was because he solved that cold case, and as it turns out, he didn’t solve that case himself at all. But Zabel is still a very capable detective, despite the lack of faith he has in himself. That’s like my worst nightmare! A Night Mare! Mare comforts him though, reminding him that despite how everyone seems on the outside, they’re just as fucked up as they are on the inside. I forget about that too.

Mare struggles with the tide of public opinion on top of all the grief she carries; there’s this one line her therapist says to her where Mare is essentially hiding in other people’s grief that really rattled me. A friend of mine said to me recently that we often lie to ourselves about what it is we have to do. I think the two statements correlate, even if I am projecting my own shit onto this show.

We get it in our heads that we have to uphold some impossible standard and raise an invisible bar that only we can see, only for it to continue to upend us. Mare’s public life as a detective, as a local hero, gets muddled with her private life that becomes just as public in a small town like Easttown. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her who she is because they’ve already made up their minds whether they realise it or not.

I don’t know if my dad read into Mare this much. He was very satisfied with the finale. I love it when I can watch TV with my parents. It’s a very mundane but very special thing we can share together.4

I’m Pasta Sin Drone

I’ve been trying to stay offline this past week, and I probably will continue to do so for a while aside from the odd tweet here and there. I’m trying not to police myself too harshly about it. A lot of the reason why I want to is because impostor syndrome has been eating me alive lately. Like a damn plate of pasta. Or in Robert Pattinson’s case, a microwavable bowl of pasta.

It comes and goes, but when it comes it brings out every other intrusive thought or impulse I have in me. Turns everything a little too dark for my liking. I think too much about everything. About what I’m doing, what I want to do, or need to do, or should be doing. Why I’m doing those things on top of that. I’m not really sure what my priorities are, to be honest with you. I’ve always been someone that wants too much, and often too much at once.

When I write, I don’t think as much. Or at least, my thinking is more useful when I’m writing. I don’t think I want to do anything revolutionary or world-changing anymore; ambitious, I know, but I’m hoping I can pin that on a super competitive high school that really prides itself on having overachieving students. I feel so much shame for comparing myself to other people, hence the trying-to-stay-offline thing. How do I stop? I just have to try not to, right? I know that sounds glib, but honestly, I’m still figuring all of this out.

Sorry for having a little Dear Diary moment in here, I kinda needed to get that off my chest in a way that I have a record of it. One I won’t forget about if I bury it in my journal.

It goes back to Mare and to Teen Wolf; shows about people trying to find their way—to find themselves in spite of everything that’s expected of them and what they expect of themselves. I wish I knew why historically as a species we can’t seem to believe in ourselves 100%, among other things.

If you made it this far, dear reader, I hope you’re doing okay. I think there’s something in the air right now making us all a little on edge. If you’re not, good for you. If you are, I’m right there with you. Stay safe. See you next week!

1

I’m learning how to ride motorcycles. I am perpetually in my Daryl Dixon era. I have also purchased a cowboy hat and dyed the blonde bits of my hair pink. You can gauge where my head is at from that alone.

2

Not in that Betty from Riverdale way. In a very ‘the writers have seen The Shining’ sort of way.

3

She’s a very beautiful girl, I’d like to get to know her.

4

Other Mare thoughts: betty by Taylor Swift should’ve played at Betty Carroll’s funeral, specifically to transition from when her husband admitted in a room full of people at the wake that he had an affair with Mare’s mum, Helen, and when Mare starts laughing at Helen in the car.