Welcome to the Wolfpack: ‘Apotheosis’ and Season 5

In All, Television by David

Though it has not been as consistent as in past seasons, Welcome to the Wolfpack is back to take a look at Season 5 Episode 20, ‘Apotheosis’ as well as season five as whole. It has been a weird journey throughout this fragmented season, and the real question is, did Teen Wolf managed to get itself on the right track and justify its continued viewing? Or has its post Season 3b spiral sunk the show for good. All will be addressed. But first, one friendly little warning,

Spoilers Ahead, so don’t howl about it if you don’t listen. Thanks as always to Teen Wolf’s Tumblr for help with the gifs.

Like all Teen Wolf finales, this one probably should have been two hours instead of one, and considering this episode actually went through a time compression process to fit everything into it, I feel like Jeff Davis kind of agrees with me. But despite that, man, was that an entertaining episode of television. ‘Apotheosis’ manages to juggle the multitude of storylines running through season five and give each a rather adequate conclusion. Would I have liked more time with certain characters so that everything didn’t feel so rushed? Sure, but I will admit that the rushed nature in this particular case somewhat benefited the episode, giving it an exhilarating energy that made up for the first half. I say first half because, despite all it was trying to cram into one episode, the show was somehow able to give some breathing room in the last twenty minutes, and that made a lot of the moments really stick. A lot of this came down to one simple thing: the reveal that Scott (Tyler Posey) had basically been a Machiavellian puppet master for much of 5b was brilliant. After spending much of the season feeling out of control, seeing Scott take back the narrative was refreshing. Especially because of the moral grey area this plan ultimately required.

In order for this plan to work, Scott was forced to rely on season 2 Big Bad Gerard (Michael Hogan) and season 3a co-Big Bad Deucalion (Gideon Emery). I’ll get to Hogan later, but the Deucalion part of the plan is what really made this episode work, because it made Theo (Cody Christian) look like a fool. Theo has been problematic this entire season. In principle Theo was a good idea: he was basically the nega-version of Scott. Where Scott valued everyone else’s life even more than his own, Theo only valued his own life above anything else. Scott’s pack is run by friendship and trust while Theo’s pack was run by fear. Theo acted as if he wanted a place to belong, but in reality he just wanted power, no matter the cost. That is why he sacrificed his sister when he was younger, and why he would turn on anyone that he needed to in order to gain a power edge. Using Deucalion against him was a smart move by Scott (and the show). Deucalion was a villain who lost his way (due to, well, Gerard being a dick), and embarked on a quest for power that led him to murder his own pack and then form an Alpha Pack that was ruled by fear, just like Theo’s. Deucalion, however, seemed to have learned the errors of his ways after the events of 3a, after his eyesight was healed. Scott allowed Deucalion to live in the hope that the man would remember the person he once was. This is what made Deucalion’s cooperation with Theo throughout these episodes always seem weird (even though much of it was forced). I always assumed that some angle was being played, because so little made sense. How did Deucalion get caught by a bunch of neophyte chimeras? Why was he suddenly blind again? Considering how things ended in 3a, why was he still so angry at Scott? Part of me wondered if he was actually using Theo to gain power for himself, but that also made little sense. It seemed like a weird character rewrite that only made sense because the subpar writing in the season 4 and much of 5 made me think the show would actually make such a strange decision. Thankfully, that turned out not to be true, as Deucalion was working with Scott the entire time.

I guess Theo was simply blind to the truth… YEAHHHHHH!

Still, this was not a squeaky clean alliance. Scott likely hoped that Theo wasn’t so far beyond saving that Theo would kill his own pack; or, if Theo was that far gone, the idea was likely for Deucalion to drive the other chimeras away from Theo before he could harm them. To be fair, this is ultimately what happened with Hayden (Victoria Moroles) and Corey (Michael Johnston), so the idea was not without merit. Unfortunately, part of how this had to be done was by Deucalion baiting Theo with a way to gain more power–taking it from members of the chimera pack. Considering it was always Theo’s plan to try and take the Beast of Gevaudan’s power, it made sense that first he would power-up on the strength of his own pack. His pack was only useful if they could bring him power, but if they were more useful to him in death than in life, then so be it. Josh (Henry Zaga) realized too late that he needed to be done with Theo, and Tracy (Kelsey Asbille) made the mistake of falling for the pack leader, which led her to believe that he wouldn’t kill her. Of course, Theo killed both of them, and Deucalion thus successfully reduced Theo’s pack to just Theo. Now, Josh and Tracy’s deaths aren’t Scott’s fault, but Scott had to know the risks of using Deucalion on Theo, so it is not as if Scott’s conscience can be clear. This is important, because it brings Teen Wolf back to the advanced storytelling that it excelled at during season 3b. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made, and when you have someone as unstable as Theo, there is only so much you can do. A lot of this season was Scott constantly coming up short when it came to saving people, and learning that some things are beyond his control. So Scott making a plan that could (but likely would not) save everyone, is a reflection of him learning to do what he can instead of trying to do too much and failing to save anyone.

The real master stroke, however, is that if Theo hadn’t relied on Deucalion his plan likely would have worked. The Garuda talons from the very beginning of the season could have done everything Theo wanted and stolen the Beasts power, but Theo let Deucalion convince him that the talons wouldn’t work. The look on Theo’s face when he realized that he had been played, and more importantly that he was never the threat he thought he was, is the kind of moment the show had been building toward all season. Theo constantly felt himself to be weak and small, and ultimately he was proven to be so. The knowledge that the show realized that Theo was only a threat as long as Scott was not aware Theo actually was one was refreshing. Theo gets points for actually killing Scott (sure, it didn’t stick, but not much he can do about that), and for being a character you genuinely wanted to see get his comeuppance, which at least made him a useful antagonist, even if a lot of time had to be wasted on him (at the expense of far more interesting characters) in order to get to this point. And seeing Theo get dragged beneath the earth by his vengeful sister was quite satisfying, especially considering how much his defeat was treated like a gnat being swatted away.

Bye bye. Deserved everything you got.

Then there was Gerard, who returned mostly as a fount of knowledge this season after Daddy Argent (JR Bourne) healed Gerard from his mountain ash sickness. Gerard explained the history of the beast, the history of the Argent family, and helped Parrish (Ryan Kelley) get a grip on his hellhound powers, but you were always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Gerard was never out to help anyone, just obtain glory for himself, so to watch as he schemed and schemed only to find out that he had been played by Daddy Argent and Scott was amazing. Gerard thought he was in control, but in fact he was being used as a tool to get a job done, and as soon as the focus needed to shift from killing the Beast to first saving Mason (Khylin Rhambo), Gerard became a tool no longer needed. Seeing the good guys in really any show, but especially a supernatural one like this, win because they are clever and not because they are strong, or because the plot conveniently gives them a way to win, is really refreshing. There have been a lot of faults in this season of Teen Wolf, but what is very true is that each episode–even in 5a, but especially 5b–served to provide information piece by piece so that when everything came together in the finale it made sense and didn’t feel like a desperate cop out. Whether it was the use of former Big Bads, how the show revealed Lydia (Holland Roden)’s powers in a way that made her integral role make sense, Parrish’s role in this whole thing, or Scott coming back from his lowest point in the midseason finale to his highest point now, the show managed to build up to or justify just about everything from this season. Teen Wolf even made Scott being saved from the Beast by his memories of Alison (Crystal Reed) not feel like it came from completely out of nowhere, because the show had done what it could to make it clear that Alison’s spirit lives on with her friends, and by establishing her family’s history in dealing with the first incarnation of the Beast. Sure, the details of how all this happened led to a lot of frustration and handwringing, but few shows can actually stick the landing like Teen Wolf did in ‘Apotheosis,’ and by doing so, the show was able to completely recalibrate the type of show it can be if it wants to be.

Suck it, Gerard.

Let’s actually look at the Beast for a moment, because in a lot of ways this season worked despite its ultimate villain. The number one reason for this is, well the CGI for the the Beast is maybe the worst looking thing ever. There is a reason Teen Wolf has done its best to keep its villains as CGI free as possible. Most of the effects are practical, and for the most part things look pretty good. About as far as the show should go is the kitsune form that Kira (Arden Cho) shifts into at times, or when CG is used to show her fox spirit surrounding her. Anything more than that, and you get this:

Get the hell out of here, Theo. Also, no, just no. This hurt my eyes.

Seriously, just no. This isn’t just bad. It’s embarrassing. This is why the show had to hide the Beast for most of the season, and could never really show any fights. Sometimes that worked, such as Scott’s fight with the Beast in ‘Maid of Gevaudan’s,’ where the Beast rarely shows up on screen but it actually works really well, as Scott is constantly knocked backwards by an off-screen blow. But this can really only work once, and the rest of the fights never really do. It’s no wonder that in the same episode, the show finally gave a human face to the monster: first Mason, kind of, and then more concretely Sebastien (Martini). Still, what really made the Beast work so weirdly is how it undermined the Dread Doctors.

The Dread Doctors were awesome villains when they first showed up. They had a cool look. They were genuinely frightening, and they were a real threat. The problem is that they became too big of a threat. No one could ever beat them, and making things worse, they weren’t even defeated by the heroes, but were instead killed by the Beast once it became fully revived. Making the Dread Doctors be connected to the original Beast by having Marcel (Daniel Bonjour), Sebastien’s comrade from the past, be the leader (Marti Matulis) was a nice twist; but it would have worked so much better if we had at least known that the Dread Doctors were directly connected to the Beast much earlier. The retroactive story of Marcel is amazing: racked by guilt and ever loyal after Sebastien’s death and erasure from the record, Marcel spent more than a century prolonging his life in order to figure out how to bring Sebastien back from the dead. This had the potential to be really powerful, but instead it was a cool twist that made me lament over what could have been. This has been the paradoxical nature of this season in general. There is so much to lament, but equally as much worthy of praise.

Then there was the Desert Wolf (Marisol Nichols). I am torn on ultimately how I feel about the Desert Wolf as a whole. The Desert Wolf always felt like this weird B-Villain plotline throughout the season that kept Malia (Shelley Hennig) and Braedan (Meagan Tandy) away from the rest of the group, but at the same time the Desert Wolf gave both of these characters not only something to do, but a storyline where they were the most important part. Like all of the non-Allison female characters in Teen Wolf, Malia has often been underused (though at least she is not always disappearing like Kira, or waffling between being a protagonist and a McGuffin like Lydia) so it was nice that she was the focus of a storyline. Especially one that brought an end to the troubled history she has had with her birth parents, and allowed Braedan to shine as well. Malia was finally able to thrive in her own storyline, and the show got to have a lot of fun making Styles the damsel in distress who Malia was desperately trying to protect. The final confrontation between Malia, Braedan, and the Desert Wolf works quite well, and Styles shows up at the perfect time to get thrown around like a rag doll and distract the Desert Wolf long enough for Malia to use Chekhov’s Garuda claws to take the rest of the Desert Wolf’s power.

That takes care of that.

All together, season 5 ultimately leaves you with two questions: what the hell could possibly be a real threat to these characters next, and how long until the transition from the original cast to the next wave? The first question is interesting because one of the big things this season was so many of the characters getting a power upgrade. Malia now has all of her mother’s werecoyote strength, which makes her stronger than ever. Whenever the hell Kira returns from her training with the skinwalkers, she is going to have finally gotten a grips on her kitsune side. Lydia learned how to fight and utilize her banshee powers. Not to mention that Scott’s pack basically added a hellhound in Parrish, another beta werewolf in Hayden, and a chameleon chimera in Cory. So, sure, the next big threat might be a Nazi Alpha werewolf who has been experimented on by the Dread Doctors for decades, but unless we are heading for another season of psychological threats like 3b (please let this happen), it is hard to see what is really going to offer a threat to Scott’s pack at this point. Which is why it seems more and more likely that after a rather grim season, in which they faced threats that committed mass acts of murder throughout the town, season 6 (while not necessarily being lighter) may deal much more with natural threats and issues than with supernatural ones. The main group is getting closer and closer to actually graduating from high school, and hopefully getting the hell out of Beacon Hills. How the show deals with this upcoming transition is going to be the most fascinating thing going forward.

The future? We’ll see…

Which brings us to the second question. Because it does seem like, while the end is not necessarily imminent, it has to be on the horizon for much of the original cast. While sharing a lot in common with Buffy (as do all modern supernatural shows, in some form or another), Teen Wolf is likely not a show that will be continuing to follow its main characters into college. Instead, it seems much more likely to pull a Skins or a Degrassi and transition to a new cast of characters. The show already started down this path in season 4, with the introduction of Liam (Dylan Sprayberry) and Mason. Then it took this to the next level with Hayden and Cory coming in as each of those characters’ respective love interests. So the foundation of this shift is there, but here is the problem: can these characters actually carry the show on their own? Jeff Davis has managed to created quite an awesome lore and world in Teen Wolf, but he has always had Tyler Posey and Dylan O’Brien to anchor things. Sure, they have had success creating numerous awesome characters around them, but finding a new center can be really hard. One of the biggest problems with 5a was that the show actually tried to give Liam and (to some extent) Hayden storylines that put them front and center, and the results were, well, not good. Neither actor was ready for it, and the show basically relegated them to complementary roles soon after that, in which both thrived. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they never will be able to handle lead roles, and one need look no further than how much Posey improved since season one, when he could only act with his jaw. Still, it is worrisome for the show’s longterm forecast if it really does want to transition the show. You can’t blame the show for trying, because if it works, the show will have bought itself years of life, and it otherwise would probably have to end much sooner, simply because the original actors have aged out of their roles–and in the case of O’Brien are potentially on their way to being a big star. On the other hand, this could also create a situation where the show has to have multiple ‘series’ finales, and instead of going out on top creatively it dies a slow painful death. (As Jack Black put it in High Fidelity, “Is it better to burn out or fade away?” – Ed) Season 5 ultimately proved that Teen Wolf absolutely can still bring its A-game when it wants to, and ‘Apotheosis’ was quite a fun and fulfilling episode of television. The question at this point, though, is how long the show can realistically keep this up, just from practical perspective. That makes it sad that the show basically punted season 4 and, if we are being honest, parts of the early parts of season 5.

Notes and Observations

This looks terrible, but at least Lydia finally has a real moment of awesome that isn’t undercut by stupid.

  • So that Stiles, Malia, and Lydia love triangle that always bubbled beneath the surface but had thankfully never reared its head seems to now be a real possibility once again, and all I can do is shake my head while Stydia shippers do backflips.
  • Daddy Argent got a lot of nice moments, but I wish the episode had had more time to give Mama McCall (Melissa Ponzio) and Sheriff Stilinski (Linden Ashby).
  • It really bothered me how casually the show reveals that the lead Dread Doctor’s cane is the reforged magic pike, and no, show, having Gerard make a semi-dramatic reveal in a car is not good enough.
  • Also, why the hell would Marcel even keep the pike around? It is literally the only thing that can kill the Beast, so why not just throw it in a volcano? This is the one thing that the show never quite convinced me the logic of.
  • Stiles realizing he wants to be in law enforcement was quite the touching moment.
  • So, like, how the hell does Scott turning Hayden even work? She was already a chimera werejaguar, so how does this transition work? Is the fact that she went from non-magical to magical all that matters? Is there any reason she would heal more as an actual werewolf when the chimeras have shown they can heal just as well? Do I care way too much about this when the show is probably never going to talk about it again? Most definitely.
  • I continued to enjoy Mason mirroring Stiles, in that neither of them are supernatural creatures but have both been taken over by one to become the main villain for a season.
  • Theo getting dragged beneath the earth is going to be one of my favorite moments on television for quite some time. Seriously, good riddance, and don’t come back. Please, please don’t come back… you’re going to come back, aren’t you?
  • The show figuring out ways to showcase Scott’s strength this season was a nice change of pace. Especially considering they figured out how to do it in ways other than simple physical prowess. Scott is strong, but ultimately his greatest strength is the bond with his friends, and the fact that no one realizes that he is actually smart.
  • I feel like mass murder would lead to a lot of school cancelations. How on earth are these kids still on track to graduate on time?
  • More importantly, why didn’t we get more from my favorite storyline in 5a– Scott struggling to balance taking AP Biology with the whole being the savior of Beacon Hills thing? Really, whether Scott was able to stick with and rock this class is all I care about in season 6. I’ll admit that is kind of sad…
  • Final note: Alison is still the best. That is all.

Apotheosis: A-

Season 5a Grade: B-

Season 5b Grade: B+ (that last episode really helped)

Season 5 Overall: B

That’s it for this edition of Welcome to the Wolfpack. It’s been a fun ride, as always, and we’ll return in some shape or form when season 6 hits. Until then, just remember that getting slammed through a glass table may look cool, but it just leads to you getting a glass shard stuck in your chest.