The Problem With Teen Wolf
I’ve seen this before, but I couldn’t put it into words: Teen Wolf is a show of deliberate superficiality, of an intense underestimation of its audience; where the scenes that matter, the scenes that have all the effort and thought put into them, are those meant to stimulate the senses or the emotions without actually engaging intellectually: characters slowly walking in the darkness with spooky music playing the background, cheap deaths, deformed monsters, manpain, any scene meant to bring a tear to your eye, dramatic reveals, “cool” action scenes, sexual titillation and so many other examples.
Teen Wolf is all frosting and no actual cake underneath. And normally I wouldn’t rag about this, because it’s a very elitist thing to expect all media to have intellectually-engaging content. Eating a spoonful of frosting is perfectly fine if that’s what you like.
The problem is that Teen Wolf pretends to be different. It’s dishonest in its presentation. It carefully arranges scenes in teasers and trailers to show itself as far deeper than it actually is. Teen Wolf is a soap opera with supernatural horror elements, and it’s not even socially progressive (though it likes to pretend it is). Even within the show, ominous plot threads are hinted at and then either discarded or solved in insultingly simplistic ways (and I have yet to see fan speculation that was less interesting than what the show actually presented), and never a plot thread is resolved without at least another hook thrown in to keep the audience perpetually hooked, despite the lackluster resolutions.
The emotional scenes are exploitative. They are not meant to further character development (as they are often quickly forgotten once their purpose has been fulfilled) and they certainly have little to no connection to the plot.
The plots are presented as complex, but they are in fact insultingly simple. There is always a single sentence that sums every season’s plot up, and the rest is decoration. These superfluous plot threads, designed to provide artificial complexity (and hook the audience with empty promises) are often discarded as the show throws yet more ominous plots at the viewer, trusting them to forget the disappointing resolution they just witnessed.
Teen Wolf masters the art of making filler not feel like filler. A good 50% of the episodes in each 12-episode arc is made up of events that seem dramatic and crucial, but will never be addressed again, and will leave no lasting impact on the show. And that percentage I just gave is, I fear, quite generous.
The show runner’s faults are numerous, and are likely responsible for the many problems with the show, but the greatest fault of all is the show runner’s obsessive enamourment with his own ideas. Actors leave and their characters are recycled. The archetypes are maintained, the originally-envisaged storylines are delayed but always find their way back to the show. And it is here that we find the source of the disingenuity, of the deceit, of the false presentation: the show runner is far too proud of himself to acknowledge his problems. And thus, they will never be fixed.
That is the problem with Teen Wolf: It believes itself to be worth far more than it actually is.
Beautifully said. I agree. And I don’t feel like that’s how it was in season one. I feel like the showrunner had a leveled head. He kept his plots simple and you knew they were simple. The biggest question of that season was ‘who’s the alpha’ and it was solved in a simple but believable way. And then you see him move away from that structure in season two, by throwing two separate villains at you, and the way he solved Matt’s involvement was mind boggling and insulting. Then there was season three, where he threw two even more distinct and separate villains at you.
I think the problem with the way the show is told is that it’s hard not to notice how unprogressive it is. Especially with the show runner boasting about how progressive his show is. In season three, it’s hard not to notice that the only villains who died were the females. When a show is presented to you, it makes you a promise. It says ‘this is what i’m about, if that interests you, stick around’. Breaking bad, for example, was about seeing how much shit a man that our society views as a good man can do before he truly becomes a villain in the eyes of the audience. It was about watching what we perceive to be good men become villains and what we perceive to be throw away men become heroes. They held up that promise in my opinion. and in my opinion, that is one of the main structures a show needs to be truly good.
Teen wolf made us a promise too. It was supposed to be a teenage show about werewolves and season one fit nicely into that. It wasn’t too serious, it wasn’t too dark. But more importantly, it wasn’t too complex for Jeff Davis to be able to pull off. The problem now is that Jeff Davis wants to pull off more complex and intricate story telling but he’s still writing like he did in season one. The acting has stepped up immensely, and Jeff Davis hasn’t improved. He changed the promise of the show, but he hasn’t changed how he writes the show, and that’s causing him major problems story telling wise. The Showrunner is the weakest part of the show in my opinion.