cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Teen Wolf S1 finale - failed parallels and non-dilemmas

Overall, episodes 111 and 112 were more downbeat than I was expecting. This was largely because Scott didn't actually do anything, but still got a happy ending; so even though the other characters made choices, grew, and suffered is some very watchable ways, the hero's journey just didn't pay off, and that wasn't satisfying.

In particular, while Allison/Scott's story reached a resolution, the parallel story of Kate and Derek, which had built up some fabulous momentum, was just left to fizzle out, without a final stomp of irony to finish it off. Realistic perhaps, but so disappointing dramatically speaking.

Allison's journey

I feel like I should talk about Allison's journey here, but as in the finale of S2, her choices were all subsumed by Scott's story. I like Allison and teaming her with Kate was a great dramatic choice and led to some excellent scenes; but the arc ended up with a simplistic fairy-tale romance, and I wanted more than that.

If it really had to go the romance route, then it needed to be equally focused on the tragedy of Kate and Derek, and that got pushed aside and forgotten with no real dramatic resolution. Bah. It also meant that Derek's final scene with Peter had no dramatic framing -- there should have been some simmering jealousy for Scott's happy ending on Derek's part, but once again, Derek's left a blank slate for us to write supposedly villainous intentions over. Double bah.

Scott's ethical dilemmas:

Should he quit the Lacross team so he can take Allison to the dance? (Yes)
Should he sneak into to the dance for Allison? (Yes)
Should he threaten Jackson in order to force him to take Allison to the dance? (Yes)
Should he attempt to save Derek in order to protect Allison? (Yes)
Should he tell Allison he loves her? (Yes)
Should he sneak out of the dance to make out with Allison? (Yes)
Should he tell Allison he's a werewolf? (He doesn't have to, because it's revealed for him)
Should he attempt to find Derek and risk giving away his own location? (Yes)
Should he blackmail Derek for help in order to protect Allison? (Yes)
Should he fight the Alpha to protect Allison? (Yes)
Should he ask Derek not to kill Peter, so Scott has a chance to live a normal life with Allison? (Yes)

What I find interesting about this list is that Scott very rarely faces a real ethical dilemma. They are primarily simple problems, and even the ones which should be more difficult (like whether he should try to rescue Derek or kill the Alpha) are reduced to how they will help him win/protect/keep Allison.

It's not quite so obvious as you watch the episodes as a whole, but when you go back and look at them scene by scene, every single decision in these two episodes is about Allison. Scott doesn't even take an active part in killing Peter, although every other teenager (if we count Derek as one) in the scene does -- Stiles and Jackson with the Molotov cocktails, Allison with the arrow, and Derek with the killing blow. Killing Peter is definitely self-defence, not murder, so I don't really understand what this sequence is meant to be telling us about Scott.

At this stage of the series, I really am utterly bemused about how Scott can be the hero of the story. He never makes any real choices! And he always gets a happy outcome anyway! How is that heroic? How is it supposed to be interesting? How is he growing? I just don't get it. Jackson makes more interesting choices and is more likeable and watchable in these two episodes, which is really saying something.

Anyway, the result of Scott's single-minded focus on Allison is that Scott (unlike Derek) gets an Argent to love him. Obviously Derek just didn't stalk Kate enough, right? That's clearly the message here. Ugh.

Scott doesn't get his happy human life, though, because Derek kills the Alpha himself. This is shot to make it look like Derek has made a terrible choice, but Derek didn't actually have much of a choice about this, as I discuss below.

Stiles' ethical dilemmas:

Should he sacrifice Derek to Peter in order to save Lydia? (Yes)
Should he risk his life and give Peter an ultimatum in order to get help for Lydia? (Yes)
Should he attempt to stall or foil Peter? (Yes)
Should he take the bite? (No)
Should he lie to his father to protect the werewolves? (Yes)
Should he lie to the Hunters to protect Scott? (Yes)
Should he distract the Hunters by telling them about Kate? (Yes)
Should he help kill Peter? (Yes)

Stiles' ethical dilemmas are actual dilemmas. He has to choose between saving and sacrificing people. He has to choose whether to become a werewolf. He has to negotiate and use cunning with Peter and the Hunters. He has to put a further wedge between himself and his father by choosing to lie and protect the werewolves. He helps kill someone.

As a result of this, he gets... to keep being Scott's friend and partner in crime. Stiles seems okay with this, so whatever. I think he's short-changed, personally, but then I don't see in Scott whatever Stiles sees in Scott.

He's interesting though, as much because of his failings as his successes, which is what I want from a character. More screen time for him would be just fine with me. Also, he and Lydia are pretty adorable in the dance scene -- I now want them to become BFFs in S3.

Derek's ethical dilemmas:

Should he give up Scott and Peter to Kate, even when threatened with torture? (No)
Should he howl to let Scott know where he is despite the risk? (Yes)
Should he help Scott to kill his last living relative? (Yes)
Should he help Scott fight the Alpha? (Yes)
Should he kill the Alpha? (Yes)
Should he start building a pack by giving the bite to Jackson? (Implied yes)

Again, Derek has to make actual choices, and while they are not as complex as the ones facing Stiles, they are still difficult. He tries to protect Scott from Kate (distracting her from the phone, for instance). He resists psychological and physical torture and endures sexual assault. He helps kill Peter, with all the baggage that implies.

He also faces the biggest werewolf dilemma so far, which barely gets any screen time at all, when it comes to deciding whether to be Alpha. He has only two real choices here:

1. Let Scott kill Peter.
This has two potential outcomes: Scott is cured, or Scott becomes Alpha. In both cases, Derek will become an Omega, as Scott has already indicated that he wants nothing to do with Derek as a werewolf, and he'd certainly want nothing to do with him as a human. Further, Scott becoming Alpha is the more likely outcome, and given how irresponsible he's been at the full moon as a Beta, he would make a terrible Alpha, and very likely kill people in those first months after turning. Letting Scott kill Peter is a really bad choice given the risks.

2. Peter dies by any means other than Scott.
Derek becomes Alpha -- this will happen whether Derek kills him, Peter dies of his injuries, or a human kills him. Realistically, Derek killing him is the only option that's workable. He'd never let an Argent kill him, so that's out. Asking Stiles to do it is totally inappropriate, and Jackson wouldn't be able to do it. If he leaves him to die of his injuries, Peter is left to suffer from burns again, which would be appalling for both Derek and Peter, and there's a chance he won't die anyway which would mean going through all this again. Finally, if Derek is Alpha, he can make a new pack, which is what he's wanted from the start; and with Scott off the table as a pack-building option, and no other pack waiting for him outside Beacon Hills (which implies it's hard to join another pack), this is his only reasonable chance.

So he kills Peter, becomes Alpha, and starts trying to build his pack by biting Jackson, and he's so happy about it, God, which ends up being horribly ironic in S2. Biting Jackson is a terrible choice in many ways, but he's a) willing, and b) broken. These are consistently the things Derek is looking for in those he offers the bite -- it's always people who need to be stronger and are young enough to adapt. In every other respect his pack-building efforts end up being terrible, but his decision to choose those who are willing, powerless and in need is actually somewhat justifiable.

As with Stiles, I find Derek's dilemmas and choices interesting. He doesn't always choose badly, is the thing, but does end up getting the short end of the stick pretty much every time, which frustrates me. If Scott occasionally paid for his poor decisions, or Derek got an occasional victory for his good ones (that's actually framed as a victory by the text) it would make both their journeys more satisfying, even if Scott still tended to win, and Derek still tended to lose overall.

Well. That was fun. I'm interested to see how differently S2 reads now. I'm especially looking forward to rewatching the scenes between Stiles and the Sheriff.

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Tags: discussion, meta, teen wolf
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