Teen Wolf 3.06 “Motel California” TV REVIEW
Writer: Christian Taylor
Director: Christian Taylor
THE ONE WHERE The lacrosse team (and groupie girlfriends) find themselves staying overnight in a motel Stanley Kubrick would be proud of.
VERDICT Season three has seen Teen Wolf really getting its claws into the horror stakes. Swapping cringe-worthy high school romance for blood, guts and tension has proved a worthy change of tone for the show and proves that you don’t always have to try so hard to produce a decent episode.
This week, we see the lacrosse team – along with Allison (Crystal Reed) and Lydia (Holland Roden) – staying overnight at a creepier-than-your-usual motel. As coach Finstock (Orny Adams) mumbles something along the lines of, “the meet has been cancelled until tomorrow,” the premise for the plot may get off to a shaky start but it more than makes up for it with more horror than you can shake a stick at. Christian Taylor takes the reigns this week as both writer and director and whilst he doesn’t have too many directorial credits to his name, his brief dip into last season’s “Abomination” episode and his experience with The Clone Wars and Lost shows that he’s more than capable.
We’re introduced to the motel in the form of a flashback (a technique which Teen Wolf is loving this season). It’s 1977, and a beaten and bloodied man rents out a room to take his own life. It’s quite clear that he’s been bitten by something wolfie, and as he cocks the gun to his mouth we’re shown that he’s a member of the Argent family. A clever and somewhat brave opening to a show that usually focuses on bare torsos and brooding teenage boys. Coincidentally, this week’s episode takes place in the very same motel, which makes for a great set-up.
On hand with her huge darting eyes and whispering worries, Lydia mumbles that she doesn’t like the place. If her past actions and premonitions are anything to go by, you’d think people would start to listen to her but once again, Allison waves it away with that glistening smile of hers. Lydia soon finds something more concrete to be concerned about during a creepy encounter with the motel receptionist. The number 198 hangs from the wall of the front office, which the receptionist informs Lydia represents the number of people who have committed suicide at the motel. Shudder.
Then things start to go awry for our heroes. Scott (Tyler Posey) hallucinates Deucalion (Gideon Emery) killing his mother; Boyd (Sinqua Walls) finds a dead body in the ice dispenser; Isaac (Daniel Sharman) goes back to his freezer days and Ethan (Charlie Carver) tries to cut an hallucinated body from his stomach. It’s all teasingly showcased in a series of snippets and clever camera work and editing that enhance the edginess (there’s a wonderfully eerie cut from the 198 hanging in the receptionist’s office office to Isaac flicking through channels of static on the TV, starting at 199 and going up).
When Lydia and Allison head back to the motel desk, they notice that the number has now changed from 198 to 201. Three more deaths – three more suicides? The girls and Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) desperately try to figure out the pattern and soon realise that the target is of the werewolf kind. Darting from room to room, it’s Lydia who hears the whispers of ghosts and inevitably saves the lives of Boyd and Ethan. The writing is well on point here, as Lydia and co manage to save them right on the cusp of suicide. “Motel California” is, without a doubt, one of the most nail-biting episodes to date.
The almost-suicide scene with Scott and Stiles is a real surprise. Whilst the dialogue is a little cheesy at times, it gives the boys a chance to flex their emotional acting skills and although Tyler Posey does his best pre-death sob, it’s Dylan O’Brien who once again steals the show. He’s quickly proving himself to be the best actor on the show – be it a comedic or dramatic script, O’Brien will go far in Tinseltown.
There are a few prolonged, romantic iterludes that sadly let “Motel California” down. Whilst a few tender moments are to be expected, Teen Wolf needs to learn that it doesn’t need to be so damn cheesy all the time. As Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) tries to heal, there’s a first kiss with Ms Blake (Hayley Webb) that when teamed with corny lighting and a hip indie tune, is guaranteed to make even the sturdiest of eyes roll.
What “Motel California” does do well is set up a load of teasing questions. As the episode comes to an end, we’re shown a very ill-looking Gerard (Micheal Hogan), dripping with mountain ash from all orifices. Where has he been the whole time? Does he have anything to do with the suicides? There’s also the fact that wolf’s bane was found in the whistle of the Coach – which makes sense of Scott’s inability to heal last week. So, who planted it there? Was it Ms Morrell? Is a druid controlling Lydia?
The writers don’t seem to be pointing the finger directly at anyone for the time being and do a brilliant job of prolonging plots without letting the show become tiresome. If they stick to teasing storylines like this, Teen Wolf can only get better.
BEST BIT Lydia’s quick thinking allows her and Stiles to save all three wolfies. But why was Isaac only under the bed and not trying to take his own life too?
HEEEERE’S JOHNNY Did anyone else want Stiles and Lydia to burst through the door to Boyd’s bathroom Jack Nicholson-style? No?
FINAL DESTINATION The whole episode is tinged with a “death chasing teenagers” vibe – especially a flame heading towards a petrol-soaked Scott.
SCENE CUT FAUX PAS So Allison goes from being in the shower, to talking on the phone to her Dad outside to then exiting the bathroom getting dressed? Get your scene changes right guys!
BEST LINE: Chris Argent quizzes Gerard about his uncle’s suicide.
Chris: “I want to know the Alpha who bit him. I want his name.”