Teen Wolf presented us with “Sundowning” on Tuesday, the third episode of the new series. It was a rather remarkable case of an idiot plot, on few different levels.
We open with a sophomore physics class. The teacher, Mr. Douglas, has a violent coughing fit in the middle of some macho crap he’s spewing about power. We see he has flashes of a monster caught in the Dread Doctors laboratory, and when he runs out of class to breathe helium, the monster breaks out.
After the opening credits, we see Gwen, a classmate of Hayden’s. She’s looking for her sister Phoebe’s things, or anyone who remembers her. It seems she has been taken by the Hunt.
Then we get Malia writing a math test and struggling with her transformation. Mrs. Martin’s advice to calm down is singularly unhelpful, as such advice tends to be. Malia transforms. Scott, Lydia, Mrs. Martin and the Sheriff go looking for her. In the process, the Sheriff overhears the kids talking about Stiles and tells them that Stiles is traditionally a nickname in his family, and that his father used it. He is in a nursing home now, but when Scott and Lydia ask to talk to him, the Sheriff forbids it, without giving any explanation. Lydia also has a vision of an old lady saying that “following stops have been cancelled.”
Melissa McCall finds Chris Argent in her kitchen. He needs her help in examining one of the corpses in the morgue – the dead truck driver. Yes, the one who was stealing the helium.
Hayden tries to talk to Gwen in the library, but when she tells her what happened to her sister, Gwen doesn’t believe her. Liam asks Scott for assistance in this, but Scott’s all like “you’ve got it, bro,” and leaves to go to the nursing home. Malia then proceeds to attack the guy at the front desk to get in, while Lydia and Scott watch. They go to see Stilinski Senior, who turns out to have dementia. Let me just remind you that he’s the father of the Sheriff, not Claudia, so clearly there were two genetically unrelated cases of dementia in the family, because they just have the worst luck.
Lydia manages to use math to coax some lucidity out of the man, and Stilinski Senior proves to be an extremely nasty person. Malia has to fight the temptation to attack him. They are interrupted when the Sheriff arrives, with the member of staff who was attacked by Malia. He called the police, not very surprisingly. When the crew is leaving, Stilinski Senior tells the Sheriff to go back to his “dead wife and loser son.”
Meanwhile, the sophomore crew is throwing a party at Scott’s house to keep Gwen safe. The house is lined with mountain ash, so they chose it as a replacement spot for another party that should be taking place. The Hunt arrives. No one else but her can see them, so Corey crosses to the Shadow World and brings the Rider back with him. The pack tries to trap him with mountain ash, but he manages to get through and they are all saved by Parrish. The Rider has a stare-down with him, then leaves.
Chris and Melissa are in the morgue, examining the corpse. They realize that pineal gland, the part of the brain that’s said to contain souls, is missing. Just as it was in another murder case Chris knows about.
Scott and company are at the Sheriff station, where the assaulted staff member has decided not to press charges, so everyone is very relieved. They still get a stern talking to from Mrs. Martin. Sheriff asks his wife if she ever regretted not having kids, and she says no.
Liam and Scott talk, and Scott points out that because Corey brought the Rider from the Shadow World into the visible one, everyone at the party saw him and they are now in danger of being taken.
Sheriff comes to talk to Scott, and tells him that his father was physically abusive and apologises for not explaining before. He also tells him a dream he has that feels so real, about a talk with his wife where he wants to name a son afer her father and she says “okay, everyone will call him Stiles anyway.”
In the final scene, we see Mr. Douglas eating a pineal gland.
So, about that idiot plot.
The sophomore crew takes the cake, of course. Their task is to protect one girl from a group of extremely dangerous spectres who doom anyone who sees them. They know the Riders are after Gwen. So in the interest of safety, they throw a party. Furthermore, while they know the Riders are invisible for anyone who is not their target except for Corey in the Shadow World, they just stand around as they wait, all perfectly visible in the regular world. THEN, when Corey turns invisible to see the Riders, he solves the problem of Liam still not seeing anything by dragging the Rider into regular world.
Mountain ash was a good plan, I’ll give them that. They didn’t know for sure the Riders couldn’t get through, but there was hope. But the rest? Seriously?
I understand they would forget to block upstairs windows (or maybe the riders just broke through off-screen). I can give Corey a break, too, since he acted on impulse in a stressful situation. But why the hell did they not have a plan of action in case the Riders did appear? Why was Corey plus at least one other person (ideally all of them, but I don’t know how many he can take) in the shadow world the whole time, to be ready for the Riders? Why didn’t they at least try to isolate Gwen from other people?
I know Liam is not always the smartest kid around, but Mason is. He should have thought of all of this ahead of time. Their plan was completely, epically stupid. Of particularly amusing value was Mason reassuring Corey by saying that “Liam is watching the back door”. Really? What do you think he’s going to see? It makes the already bad plan seem even worse, because I could have maybe bought they were completely sure the mountain ash would work. It would have been overconfidence, but okay. However, having Liam watch the back door indicates they realized there was something to watch for. Yet they did not make sure he could actually see the thing he was watching for. I just…yeah.
The senior crew fares only a little better, though. First, they know they are all missing a person, so at the latest when the Sheriff tells them Stiles is a personal name in their family, they should have figured out it was the name of the person they were missing. It should have at least occurred to them. They didn’t know enough to guess he was the Sheriff’s son, but a relative? Sure.
Then just letting Malia attack a civilian for no reason… I was literally speechless. What happened to you morals, Scott? Not even a verbal protest? Also, I understand why they went to the nursing home, because Sheriff didn’t really explain properly. But once they arrived and saw that Stilinski Senior had dementia, why didn’t they leave? They spent hours there after that. Hours. They went after school, arrived before sunset, and stayed until it was completely dark outside. Why do that, apart from “the plot requires us to”? They had no indication Stilinski Senior even had lucid moments, or how often he had them.
Also, Scott showed some truly A+ leadership qualities when he failed to give Liam any useful advice at all. Then, when Liam’s solution to the problem backfired, he said “I should have been here.” Dude, that is not how you make an effective alpha out of Liam. That is how you undermine his confidence, in fact. The storyline with Liam slowly assuming leadership, which started on such a promising note, has me a little worried now. I think Liam is up for some guilt and more self-doubt next episode.
At least Chris was as perfect in this episode as he has been in the last few seasons, and Melissa was as perfect as she always has.
To be a little more positive, though, dementia is actually a brilliant loophole to the whole memory wipe thing. I mean, because the ill person doesn’t remember the person who was taken by the Hunt at the moment they are taken, they are not affected. Then, when they have a lucid moment, they remember everything. It’s a great idea. I’m just sorry it wasn’t explored with Claudia Stillinski, who was already established as suffering from dementia and who could be ill at this point and it would make much more sense than her being perfectly healthy, as I’ve pointed out already.
I particularly regret this now that I’m beginning to have a sinking feeling that Claudia Stilinski will be asked to choose death so that her son could live. I’m not a fan of that narrative.
I know, I know. Just last week, I said that I liked the emerging story for it sheer brutality. But last week, it looked like Claudia Stilinski was going to be sort of a mirage. If we hardly saw her this season, she would have been more of a might have been than an actual character. Last episode, I thought we wouldn’t be seeing much of Claudia, and that the only point of her presence in the story would be to illustrate a point.
While that’s hardly a commendable way to write women, generally speaking, her being a completely tertiary and barely sketched character would have made her eventual death relatively justifiable. Its natural the development of main characters is prioritized over that of the tertiary ones, even though it does have some unfortunate implications when the tertiary character is a woman or a person of colour and the protagonist is a white guy. But if last episode had been the last we saw of Claudia until the pack somehow brought back Stiles, and only then realized it caused his mother’s death and Stiles had to deal with it… Well, that narrative could have had interesting potential for the development of his and Sheriff’s relationship and could have been explored at length in the second half of this season.
On the other hand, having Claudia Stilinski be a character in her own right and then have her decide she would much rather her son lived than she, that’s a more questionable narrative. Because this is not quite stepping in front of a bullet for him, this is a much more problematic kind of sacrifice. She would be taking years of the life she had already lived away from herself and her husband, and that makes me uncomfortable, because it implicitly gives it less value. She would probably be giving up her life and even the memory of years of it in her husband’s mind for a child she never really remembered having.1
As for the Sheriif. I loved his personal moment with Scott. Though I have to wonder what their relationship is exactly in a world where Stiles doesn’t exist. But he does have the shittiest life. Abusive father, wife who dies of a serious illness and goes through periods of insanity before that, all those time Stiles was in serious danger… I appreciated the way they showed how he was reluctant to speak about the past abuse, though. Even probably about three decades pater, it still pains him. He is ashamed, in a way. He loses his temper with Scott simply because he doesn’t want to confront his past.
I’m very grateful they decided to mention the fact that Malia’s mother tried to kill her a few months ago, and that it might, just possibly, be affecting her in some way. I’m less grateful about the tendency to talk about her like she wasn’t there, though, displayed by everyone present.
I enjoyed Gwen very much as a character. Her deep concern for her sister. her fear for her mental health. Her very natural suspicion of what Hayden was telling her. In her, we sort fo see Stiles’ panic from the first episode from the outside. He was panicking everyone is forgetting him. Gwen is panicking because someone forgot her beloved sister. I can’t decide which is more terrifying. Certainly Gwen’s ignorance about the supernatural added the dimension of feeling crazy to it. The idea of being forgotten is explored here from various sides, and I like it. I’m afraid Gwen’s chances of survival are slim, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
And lastly, to give some attention to my fave Corey, it was nice seeing him doubt himself and Mason reassuring him. But did it have to be about physical fighting prowess? Juts last episode, they pointed out that his special skill is disappearing. It doesn’t seem to be anything improving his fighting chances, especially not with the Hunt who can see him whatever he does. So why expect him to fight? His contribution to the group is somewhere else. No one ever asked Lydia to fight, or pushed her into it. I’d call this toxic masculinity, but no one asks this of Mason either, probably because he has no superpowers. So sexism does play a part, but it’s also just inability to contemplate any other role for a supernatural character. The two fighters in that scene should have been Liam and Hayden, not Liam and Corey.
And the traditional random points to close with:
- I‘m glad the creepy vibes I got off the physics teacher last episode were confirmed. Teachers at Beacon Hills High are apparently something like Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers…
- Parrish was everything, but then he always is.
- Mrs. Martin continues to mock safe spaces with her interpretation. This episode, her telling Malia “this is a safe space” in the middle of what was effectively a panic attack was particularly offensive.
- Do I sense Chris/Melissa coming our way?
- The Sheriff’s name is Noah?? Nope. Not for your life. It’ll be John forever. Maybe Tom, if I’m feeling really generous.
- The physics teacher is Amemait in human form? That could be fun, but why isn’t he female in that case?
1. I do realize many people might have a completely opposite view, and think that she needs to be a character in her own right and make the choice for herself, instead of being simply removed from the story. I don’t agree, but I understand the argument. ↩