Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
If the sixth and final season of Teen Wolf gets anything right – and, admittedly, it gets quite a few things right – it’s the impending doom of the series finale tucked and wrapped away into as many quick lines of dialogue and nostalgic flashbacks as possible. “They don’t need us anymore,” alpha pack leader Scott admits very early on into the premiere, speaking of his little supernatural hamlet, Beacon Hills; he could be talking about his fans as well, although I predict they would vehemently disagree.
Teen Wolf, as solid as it’s grown over the past five years, already feels a bit like a cutesy relic from a time when vampires were so played out, and werewolves were the logical fallback. The supernatural swamp has been cleaned up to a degree since, and where it hasn’t, it’s instead seeped into high-wire genre curiosities (Preacher), while dwindling in the teen angst space.
There are plenty of other shows to fill the gap (MTV’s own The Shannara Chronicles), but as it stands, Scott’s right: we don’t need him anymore. Teen Wolf‘s realization of that, and its weaponization of these poignant emotions in a final season mainline plot straight out of some demented Twilight Zone episode, is proof enough that we might not need Teen Wolf, but we’ll sure as hell miss it.
The show also smartly takes its time to deliver upon its central twist this season: an army of mouth-stitched mystery men on horseback are running riot through Beacon Hills, erasing people from reality. That begins as your usual Teen Wolf weirdness-of-the-week melodrama, wherein Liam (Dylan Sprayberry) and Hayden (Victoria Moroles) come across a kid on a deserted road claiming that his parents are missing. That’s lucky for Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), who’s chomping at the bit for something – anything – supernatural to happen in town. He responds to Scott’s dour truism about their impending redundancy with classic Stiles bluntness: “Beacon Hills would burn to the ground without us.”
He’s taking the pack’s upcoming graduation, and splintering across the country, the hardest. Although it isn’t delved into much yet, Scott (Tyler Posey) appears largely ready to be relieved of his guardianship status over the most fought-over supernatural hotspot in the country. Same goes for Lydia (Holland Roden), who resents being used as Stiles’ “supernatural metal detector” every time some random crime happens in town. Malia (Shelley Hennig, the show’s Drax-like secret weapon) is as lost as ever, estranged from Stiles, and trying to figure out where she fits in with the pack’s future when she’s averaging D’s in school. When everyone’s together, Teen Wolf is dynamite and crackling, its mature-yet-vulnerable ensemble cast something that most teenage dramas can only dream of.
Because of their talents, the show is at its most entertaining when it mixes all of this teenage angst, played by those gorgeous, endearing cast members (although this season’s new addition is so good looking as to tiptoe into parody), all dealing with an uncommonly intelligent, increasingly convoluted mythology.
Last year’s Dread Doctors/chimeras/Theo mix weighed too far into the confusing paradigm of the show’s supernatural backstory, but showrunner Jeff Davis has refreshingly cut the BS in the opening two hours of season six, as we get nearer to the show’s finish line. The Big Bads this time around aren’t exactly anything new from a visual standpoint (tall, ominious figures in black garb could describe honestly a dozen Teen Wolf villains), but their motive echoes some of the show’s better hooks: once they begin haunting you, they slowly seep the very memory of your existence from the minds of everyone around you, until they snatch you for good.
The first hour in season 6 not only cleverly drops hints at how that unfolds over the entire episode, it manages to feel like a shocking enough twist when it’s revealed exactly who is being forgotten at the end, despite even the advertisements which tell you exactly who it is: Stiles. As ever, O’Brien can flip on a dime from his goofy jester role, and he infuses the last few moments of the premiere with a Twilight Zone-esque paranoia as more and more of his best friends stare blankly into a stranger’s face.
Davis plays with that on-the-tip-of-your-tongue emotion even better in the second episode, when Scott, Lydia, and Malia come across subtle reminders about Stiles’ existence without much of a passing thought. If this is a hint as to the craft and emotion we’ll be getting from Teen Wolf the rest of the season, then fans should just get the tissues ready now.
The scenes also highlight Teen Wolf‘s cool-as-steel visual flair, and how easy it is to overlook style in lesser shows. There’s simply something undeniably graphic and snazzy about the way the show presents itself, and it goes a long way in emphasizing the dread of the supernatural world and covering up the occasional mundanity of its human one. It’s easy to take the world of Beacon Hills seriously – teenage chameleon boys and all – when so much love obviously went into making it look this good. Because of this, and because of all of Teen Wolf‘s positives, the show isn’t just “good for a teen drama,” it’s just good TV, period.
All told, Stiles’ plight is creepy stuff, and it feels genuinely captivating moving forward: how will Scott and the pack save someone they don’t know exists? Episode 2 addresses that, but largely returns to the show’s teenage filler content, centering around a rift between Liam and Corey (Michael Johnston), who can’t seem to find middle ground besides their love of Mason (Khylin Rhambo).
Teen Wolf is always convincing in its smaller moments, and as ever a nicely blatant, unafraid friend of its LGBT viewers, but it’s easy to hope that this final season was a shorter 10-13 episodes rather than the 20 we have down the line. Davis does have quite the knot to tie into a pretty bow if he wants a satisfied viewership by the closing shot of that 20th episode, and given the show’s track record, I’m inclined to give him and the writers the benefit of the doubt.
That’s doubly true when remembering how good Teen Wolf still is in the first place, considering its eugh, not another remake origins. It may have become slightly long in the tooth, but I’d still place this show’s highest highs (season 3 is a constant hyper head-trip centered around dreamscapes and evil Japanese demons) against television’s best supernatural shows at their comparative zeniths. If the final episodes continue the satisfying balance of creepy malice and easygoing drama exhibited in the season’s first two outings, then Teen Wolf will be able to end not only with a plethora of fans missing it and sharing it with friends long after it’s over, but with the status as one of the most consistently gratifying, shocking, and downright clever supernatural gems on television.
Teen Wolf has earned the right to play with some daring stories and tricky emotions, and it does just that in an assured, streamlined final season.