Monday, August 10, 2015

Five Things About Teen Wolf 5x08, "Ouroboros"

  1. I guess I can’t really blame Teen Wolf for this, but man, the hashtag writers are falling down on the job this season. Suggested hashtags are always awful, of course (only Jane the Virgin makes them work, and that’s by leaning into their awfulness), but come on. #PeaceOutKira? #SlappedByMelissa? #Layden? You really think the Liam/Sixth Grade Girl Shippers couldn’t (and wouldn’t) come up with that one on their own?

  2. Given its placement in the season and its tenor and pacing, it seems that “Ouroboros” was intended to be an Answers Episode. It certainly has the feel of an episode that’s meant to clarify the stakes as we build to the midseason finale. Think, for example, of season two’s “Fury”: two episodes before the finale, we get a full explanation of the events that led to the creation of the kanima, and then a major twist both clarifies Gerard’s plan and creates a new, scarier obstacle for the final two episodes. “Ouroboros” falls in the same place as “Fury,” and it follows a lot of the same structural beats as “Fury.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work nearly as well as “Fury” does. (Things I never thought I’d say about season two, man.) Going into this episode, I felt like I had a reasonable handle on the gist of what was going on this season, even if the details confused me; coming out of it, even the gist was gone. “Ouroboros” seemed to exclusively answer questions I hadn’t even considered asking. We discovered that the Dread Doctors are responsible for Kira’s out-of-control kitsune. It had not, up to now, been clear that that Kira’s out-of-control kitsune was something that needed an explanation. Noshiko treated it as dangerous and concerning, but not exactly mysterious; I was perfectly content with “It’s just a thing that happens sometimes” as reasoning. (Lord knows we’ve never gotten better answers than that about banshees.) Meanwhile, “Ouroboros” spent a lot of time laying out details of the chimeras’ time with the Dread Doctors, but it manages to do so in a way that muddles the situation even further. What did the Dread Doctors do to Sixth Grade Girl? I dunno. What did they do to the Gay Chimera’s Gay Chimera Boyfriend? Beats me. How many times is each chimera abducted by the Dread Doctors? Who knows? It’s like Teen Wolf has lost all ability to exposit. It’s not even clear what the conflict of the midseason finale will be, other than “something to do with chimeras.”

  3. The Sheriff’s moral qualms over “leaving his badge at the door,” so to speak, are not an inherently bad plotline. It’s actually a pretty interesting subplot, in theory, and one that ties well into season five’s clearest themes. It makes sense for a man in the Sheriff’s position to have moral misgivings, and there certainly aren’t any other characters on this show who give a damn about the law. The Sheriff’s actions at the beginning episode provide a dramatic counterpoint to Stiles’ in “A Novel Approach,” and the moments in “Ouroboros” that hinged on that comparison were pretty good, all things considered. Stiles has already had tense conversations about and around Donovan’s death with, in order, Scott, Lydia, Malia, and Evil Mike Montgomery, so it’s not clear that the Sheriff needed to get in on the action too, but there’s at least the possibility of plot development this time around (the Sheriff is following the evidence! He won’t bend any more rules!) and I’m never going to complain about seeing more of Stiles with his father. There are, however, a couple major issues with the Sheriff’s new moral code. First, it hasn’t been built up to particularly well. Sure, he had a bit of a freak-out over covering up Tracy’s death in “Condition Terminal,” but the subject has hardly come up since then, and he certainly didn’t mind bending a few rules during his and Melissa’s investigation in “Strange Frequencies.” Season five has been pretty overstuffed, but you can’t tell me that we couldn’t have sacrificed a few of the gay club scenes in favor of building up the Sheriff’s moral concerns. Second, the way the Sheriff acted on his new philosophy was really, really nonsensical and weird. We strongly suspect that Kira killed a chimera, but we think that she acted in self-defense and we know that she’s not in control of her actions, so we’re going to arrest her? But we’re not going to handcuff her because she’s only a self-defending murderer? That doesn’t even make sense on a legal level. On a moral level, it’s even weirder: The Sheriff defends his decision to report the chimera’s body and bring in Kira by saying that the dead woman’s family deserves to know what happened to her. But he provides no explanation to the woman’s family as to why Kira would have to kill her in self-defense, and he prevents Melissa from telling them the truth, so what’s the net result of all this? A basically innocent girl goes to jail, and a family is left with no answers as to why their daughter went crazy and tried to kill someone? That seems super worth it.

  4. Where the hell did all of this “everything is my fault” stuff come from with Scott? He seemed pretty convinced of it, and I have zero idea of why. In so far as I’ve actually been able to follow what’s going on, Scott is pretty clearly not at fault for any of it. Is it an overdeveloped sense of responsibility? If so, that’s fine, I guess, but it seems pretty out of line with where Scott’s emotional arc has been leading this season. If he were blaming himself for the loss of a chimera, that would be one thing; Scott has made it pretty clear that he views it as his responsibility to protect them. But he seems to be blaming himself for things like “not knowing where Liam is” and “the pack being vaguely upset with each other,” and it’s hard to understand how he came to that conclusion, on either a logical or an emotional level.

  5. Weirdly enough, the best moment of this episode was probably the scene where Scott takes the memories from the Gay Chimera's Gay Chimera Boyfriend. Not only was it the only scene where everyone's motivations and logic were completely understandable, but it was the first time in ages that Teen Wolf has actually used Scott's alpha powers. For all the fuss that this show makes over Scott's True Alfalfa-ness, he very rarely acts like an alpha. Perhaps the best thing about season four was the way that it used Liam to turn that flaw into a real story arc, but season five hasn't done much with it. Since Teen Wolf insists on believing that Scott is its True Alfalfa protagonist, it's good for him to occasionally use his True Alfalfa powers in order to protag.

  6. Odds and Ends:

    Please please please let the Desert Wolf be this season’s Big Bad. That way, every single thing that’s ever gone wrong in Beacon Hills would somehow be the fault of either Allison’s or Malia’s family. (Season three excluded.)

    So I guess we really are giving up completely on the little arc we had going with Mayor Lockwood earlier in the season? What a disappointment. Teen Wolf clearly has no idea how to do fanservice.

    On the other hand, Teen Wolf has now had both a de-aging plotline and a character with wings, so it’s possible that this show is more tapped into fan aesthetics than anyone else in the world.

    Today in random continuity: Stiles used to skateboard? I guess he did have that huge wall decal for a while.

    How do these people not have surveillance cameras recording the Nemeton 24/7?

    One more thing on the Sheriff’s “no rule bending” philosophy, since I apparently can’t get over it and also it was possibly the stupidest thing about the whole subplot: What, exactly, is the difference between “outside the law” and “above the law”?

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