Tonight is Teen Wolf's Game Changer. We get about three of these a season and tonight promises the reveal of The Benefactor, the him or her who has hired a coterie of assassins to clear out the show's supernaturals. More people will die, and there are already so many corpses, like Allison Argent, the series' nominal third lead, who was murdered by demons at the end of the super-long third season and amid several cast changes.
So Teen Wolf's fourth season has been fresh with new faces and expanded roles, most of them marvelous and surely not all invincible as we head into the final stretch of episodes. It's a whole New Class kind of thing. Let's review them before we have to mourn.
Malia/Kira vs. Allison
It was a big deal when Allison was killed at the end of the second half of super-long season 3, in the way of these things: Teen Wolf was misogynistic, Crystal Reed had been debased, creator Jeff Davis was most absolutely not a gift. Well now. Crystal Reed was always playing strange, sophisticated notes in her what-do-you-mean-I-don't-look-16? armor. Her "There's always hope" breaks me, I swear. But Shelley Hennig and Arden Cho take all that shit and put it right here on the surface. They are how shall we say sillier, and there's something to that, now. That the way through grief (like a pall, Allison's death is what all of season 4 emerges from, without existing within) should actually be through.
Deputy Parrish and Agent McCall
I have a very real feeling that Scott's deadbeat dad, Matthew Del Negro's Agent McCall, will die by the end of the season. What did he say this week to Scott? When I get back from this business trip blah blah we're going to have to talk. Despite Del Negro's considerable height, McCall is a nonstarter, the one part of the series that most does not need fixing. Scott's mom and Stiles' dad need to fall in love and this gets in the way of that, and also it was not ever like Scott had daddy issues before this.
Ryan Kelley's Deputy Parrish, on the other hand, I hope will be with us for a while. Because it's like, What are you, bro? (Parrish is a supernatural, maybe a phoenix, which is a fan theory that makes no sense except it means ashes, no clothes, and flame.) And also like, Isn't it nice that Deputy Parrish only exists to make everyone else feel better? Ryan Kelley is not a great actor, no, but he also doesn't seem overly ambitious. They compliment. Idling in neutral is worth it if the car is nice enough, etc.
Kira's mom vs. Allison's mom
Mama Argent—her name is Victoria—was a terrible, no-good kind of person. There is a case to be made that she was psychologically tormenting her entire household. She tried to kill teens! That most of the fandom has glamorized her after an assisted suicide in season 2 is less about her than us, our penchant for valorizing actress Eaddy Mays' paint-peeling stare. Simple rubric: Mays is worth the adoration; Victoria is not.
Kira's mom, Noshiko, is on the other hand a demonstrably superior parent and is also an ancient supernatural spirit with nine lives! I love that she seems to loathe being an exposition machine, Like where were these children when I, Noshiko, was learning all of life's mysteries in like 300 AD? Things keep changing, and this is the purest evidence of the show's simplest ethic: That teens are made better (stronger! faster! etc.) outside of the old teen TV trope garbage.
Braeden vs. Jennifer/Cora
Since at least the beginning of season 3, conventional wisdom has told us that Teen Wolf is subtly a very racist show. Down with the brown! And so on, until each scene was ringed with white torsos. This is not wholly true in any toxic way, and certainly becomes less and less true with each new season 4 episode. Meagan Tandy's Braeden, seen murdered in the first half of season 3 and seen alive in the second half of season 3 is now alive a lot, actually, and she is here and there being an unscrupulous mercenary (a new trope in the show's trope swirlie) who has not wasted a moment getting all over Derek Hale.
Tandy and Tyler Hoechlin have the kind of chemistry that made people come up with that term, chemistry, in the first place. (In this, she wins in an imaginary Braeden vs. Sterek tier, too, but hush now.) Hoechlin had no such chemistry with Adelaide Kane's Cora, his sister, because that part was kind of bunk and Kane knew it and is now literally ruling over the masses, as she should be.
Hoechlin further had no real chemistry with Hayley Webb's Jennifer, who was a well-meaning homicidal maniac in that kind of classic way. I did love how Webb's line readings were always like one octave off, like she'd been watching a different show.
Lydia vs. Lydia
Lydia, like Teen Wolf, has gotten better and better by doing all of the things that usually make a TV show get worse. She has suffered, survived, and learned from a passel of violences—which makes her a more interesting character without always making her more coherent. Queen Bee, underground math prodigy, refugee of extreme mental abuse, banshee. There used to be a kind of joke to make of it, What's up with Lydia? We do not yet know! But if we do not have any answers about why/when/how, we do not have nothing. Say this with me now: Holland Roden is a champion. She's not just playing a bunch of notes without a melody. She's a one-woman orchestra and this orchestra for some reason also includes a 10-gallon plastic pickle drum and some baseball cards being spun through a bicycle wheel. This is the one rule, really: Better that things be surprising, and find tension, wit, and full feeling in the clash of those surprises, than boring.
Liam vs. Isaac/Erica/Boyd
Dylan Sprayberry, who plays newbie Beta-wolf Liam, has that thing where he can both a) act; and b) be 16 at the same time. Which he is! We are all gross for having seen him shirtless, we are. So far Sprayberry has that teen actor thing going where he cannot but endear, which follows in the similar tradition of past Betas. Daniel Sharman's Isaac is this incarnate; he was all endearment, all snark and heart and a vertiginous curl upward to his entire face. Gage Golightly's Erica and Sinqua Walls' Boyd both got chewed up by season 3 and we could always have used more of Walls' how-am-I-here-oh-I-am-a-werewolf-you-say solemnity, and that is a shame.
There is already so clearly something there there for Liam, as there should have been but never was for the others. Like that whole big brother/little brother thing to Scott, which is not a dynamic the series has ever done successfully before. Squint into the horizon and you see Teen Wolf's future, circa fall 2016.
[Images via MTV]