Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Five Things About Teen Wolf 5x10, "Status Asthmaticus"

  1. Given that “Status Asthmaticus” is only the midseason finale, and this is Teen Wolf, I wasn’t expecting a lot of answers. And boy, did Teen Wolf ever meet my expectations. Sure, we found out that Parrish is a hellhound, but by my count, we were left with nine major questions to ponder over the hiatus, only three of which I have any confidence that we’ll get an answer for:

    • Where does Scott’s asthma come from? (Presumably, it was intentionally introduced by Evil Mike Montgomery so that he could weaken him with the wolfsbane inhaler, but like… how?)

    • Where did the hallucinations come from? The Dread Doctors? Why?

    • Why does Evil Mike Montgomery want to take control of this particular pack? Just ‘cause it’s so eclectic?

    • Why does Parrish go after the bodies of chimeras? Why does he take them to the nemeton?

    • How long has Malia been planning to kill the Desert Wolf? How long has she been working with Braeden?

    • Tell me again why Evil Mike Montgomery lied to the Sheriff?

    • What does Mayor Lockwood know about the supernatural, and how long has she known it, and why is she keeping it a secret?

    • What is the Dread Doctors’ plan?

    • Whatever happened to Deaton in Russia?

  2. Despite the confusion as to what, exactly, was going on, “Status Asthmaticus” did function reasonably well as a midseason finale, structurally speaking. That’s a little surprising, since Teen Wolf has never produced a midseason finale before. (3A and 3B were basically two distinct seasons that shared a production number.) A midseason finale needs to wrap up the main plot of the first half-season while establishing major plot threads for the back half. Quibble about the hows and whys if you like, but “Status Asthmaticus” concluded or clarified any number of long-running plots this season: Evil Mike Montgomery’s evil plan; Malia’s search for the Desert Wolf; Liam’s relationship with Sixth Grade Girl; the tension between Scott and Stiles; Parrish’s bad body-snatching habit. They didn’t have the kind of inevitable thirty-car collision feeling that a really good story has when all of its plot threads coalesce into a single climax, but all of those stories did, in fact, lead somewhere—and that’s more than I would’ve predicted, a few episodes ago.

  3. “Status Asthmaticus” makes it fairly clear that Stiles and Malia’s distance this season has been intentional, not incidental. Going back to the season premiere, it’s possible to read seeds of this plotline in it. (“I like the vision. Especially if I’m in it,” is an oddly uncertain thing for Malia to say, given they’ve been dating for something like eight months at this point—longer than Scott and Allison dated.) Much as I love Stiles and Malia together, I’m not opposed on principle to a relationship troubles/break-up storyline for them, but it would’ve been nice to see the factors driving the tension between them, rather than sitting around for the last six episodes wondering why they’re not in scenes together. The scene between the two of them in the car tonight was great—well-acted, in-character, and revealing about both of their inner lives. (For instance, Malia seems to have been aware for some time that there’s distance between them, whereas Stiles apparently only realized it during that conversation.) But it’s hard to gauge what it means going forward, because the show has given us so little context to work with. Jeff Davis indicates in an interview with TV Line that Malia has been colluding with Braeden for a while, so presumably Malia's side of the story was partially held back in order to surprise us with that reveal. Lovely though the Braeden reveal was, her return could’ve been kept a surprise without hiding Malia’s intentions toward the Desert Wolf. And it should’ve been. One of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing was, “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.” Like all rules of writing, it’s not an absolute, but it’s a pretty good guideline for writing character drama, and that’s what much of Teen Wolf boiled down to, this season. Malia’s a major character whose inner life matters a great deal if one wants to understand what’s going on in Teen Wolf; a lot of this season would have been much less frustrating, and a lot of “Status Asthmaticus” would have been more gripping, had we known earlier on what Malia’s plans were. Indeed, even the scene between Malia and Stiles in the car becomes much clearer—and more interesting—once one knows the full extent of the secret Malia has been keeping from Stiles.

  4. I had suspicions that some of the chimeras might be resurrected in this episode, though I’ll admit that I thought Donovan would be among the ones brought back. (For all we know, maybe he will be in 5B, though I hope not—it would rather undercut the Stiles plot from 5A.) On the whole, it’s a solid decision. It does cheapen death a little bit in the Teen Wolf universe, but between Erica, Boyd, Allison, Aiden, Victoria Argent, and any number of lesser characters, death is expensive enough at this point that it can handle a little inflation. And Tracy and Sixth Grade Girl, in particular, are much more valuable to the narrative alive than they are dead. (Gay Chimera’s Gay Chimera Boyfriend, naturally, has the most valuable nickname.)

  5. This season appears to be Scott’s crisis of confidence. Now, I am all for crises of confidence, in particular because Melissa was right: They’re integral to stories about leaders. And if Teen Wolf is going to claim that Scott is the leader of the pack (vroom! vroom!), then they should probably construct stories that reflect that. The problem is that, as in “Ouroboros,” I’m not sure where, exactly, Scott’s crisis of confidence stems from. Is he upset that he didn’t realize Evil Mike Montgomery was evil? Well, hell, Peter Hale spent all of season one trying to kill everyone Scott cared about, and it still took him all of season four to figure out he was evil. He claims that he’s upset because he doesn’t know why any of the pack would return to him, but that’s kind of ridiculous. Kira left unwillingly, and for reasons that had nothing to do with Scott; it’s entirely possible that Liam might want nothing to do with Scott, but that’s not Scott’s fault; and Stiles, the only person whose alienation is in any way Scott’s fault, is simply never going to abandon Scott. (It’s also unclear whether Scott knows that Stiles’ alienation is unjust, though if he has a single working brain cell, he’ll be going over everything Evil Mike Montgomery ever said to him and reconsidering its truth, right about now.) The pack is definitely in dire straits, but Scott’s leadership skills aren’t to blame. If Teen Wolf wanted to argue that Scott’s problem is that he fails to act as a leader, that would be one thing; outside of Liam, we never actually see Scott leading these people. But that’s pretty clearly a bug, not a feature. Teen Wolf has always had a big show-don’t-tell problem with Scott’s True Alfalfa status, and his crisis of confidence seems to be yet another iteration of that.

  6. Odds and Ends:

    • Continuity watch: Scott has gotten through a mountain ash barrier before, Malia’s sister had a doll and Malia was a little obsessed with it, Scott remembers how intense first love is (SO INTENSE), and one time Stiles killed a bunch of people while he was possessed.


    • That moment when Parrish came for Sixth Grade Girl’s body was actually quite affecting, even if it was undercut by her immediate resurrection. It was the first moment when the concept of Parrish-as-hellhound felt real and serious, rather than wonderfully absurd.

    • So, presumably Evil Mike Montgomery’s eyes stayed gold because he’s a chimera, and not because murder eyes require you to feel guilty in order to appear? What a relief.

    • Another reason to be excited about the return of Gay Chimera’s Gay Chimera Boyfriend: He’s a chimera chameleon. Holy alliteration!

    • Wait, so, Evil Mike Montgomery wants Stiles in his pack because he thinks somewhere deep inside, Stiles really likes violence? What, has he been listening in on Stiles’ internal monologue of his worst fears about himself?


    • So, Stiles chose his dad over Scott, huh? Shocker.

    • Actually, I wonder what Stiles’ order of saving people is. I’d guess it’s something like the Sheriff  > Malia > Lydia > Scott > Melissa > Kira > Liam > other people he knows > innocent women > innocent men, but I wouldn’t put money on it or anything. Scott’s order of saving people, of course, is everyone > no really everyone > self-defense is not a valid moral concept. Scott’s the kind of asshole who thinks Kirk was really clever to reprogram the Kobayashi Maru.

    • We’ve now seen every snippet from the Eichen House tease in “Creatures of the Night,” save the one with Malia. That’s a weird choice. In fact, the whole “Lydia in Eichen House” flashforward thing is even weirder in retrospect than it was at the time.

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