Somehow, I was expecting cheesiness from MTV’s original series based loosely on the 1985 Michael J. Fox supernatural comedy Teen Wolf. I don’t know if that was because of the original or MTV as the delivery vehicle, but either way, the television series starring Tyler Posey as the left-out lacrosse player Scott McCall gets its fair share of comedy, drama, romance, and action without being lame. In fact, like so many theologically and socially-charged superhero movies before it, this show proves that it’s full of provocative questions and spunky heart.
McCall is bitten by a werewolf in the first episode, and finds himself struggling with how to deal with his newfound power, hormones, and rage. Crossing genres, it’s like he’s instantly dealing with Hulk-like power and lightswitch quick emotions, while fighting through the emotions and situations of a Peter Parker, just bitten by that radioactive spider. I’m sure that some people turned away, figuring that werewolves meant Twilight-like, but as a fan of the supernatural (and not a fan of that particular vampire series), I found much more comparison to Supernatural or the hero flicks.
One of my favorite characters is actually Stiles Stilinski, McCall’s best friend, who is even geekier and further outside the high school social circles than McCall. Like Smallville, he’s the friend who McCall has to entrust his secret to, and the friend who helps him (for awhile) keep it a secret from everyone else, especially the new-girl-in-town who McCall falls for, Allison (Crystal Reed), the daughter of a pre-eminent werewolf hunter. Seriously, we needed a Van Helsing-like sighting, right?
So, sure, there’s the Romeo and Juliet storyline here: knowing that her family hunts werewolves, McCall should back away slowly, but we’re made to feel like he can’t deny his feelings for Allison. And this is a high school story anyway, so who really denies their feelings for long in high school? And McCall and Allison work it out… mostly. McCall will jive and grate against the head jock, Jackson (Colton Haynes), and his power hungry girlfriend (Holland Roden), figuring into the added dimension of power and social setting in high school (it’s Mean Girls , only with guys). It’s one of the main dramas of the first season, along with the bigger story about the mythology of the werewolves and how McCall’s “mentor” werewolf, Derek (Tyler Hoechlin), fits into the story of more than McCall’s turning.
I won’t say too much about how McCall became a werewolf, how his relationship with Derek develops, and what becomes of this new dynamic of examining families. There’s the werewolf community, the werewolf hunter community, and the human community, and then all of the fractions that occur within those groups. I know Jeph Loeb (Heroes, various comics) had a hand in the pilot, but the social discussion of heroes, responsibility, and social dynamics had me thinking of Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer. Who is in and who is out? Which distinctions matter and which don’t? Are the distinctions that rise to the importance the ones which matter in the end?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve learned quite a few lessons about the flipping of the priority list. Jesus taught that the first would be last, that community was only as strong as its weakest part, that the rich were to help the poor, that leaders were supposed to serve. All of those things made ignored attributes important, and hallmark characteristics… pointless. In Teen Wolf, the distinctions that we think will matter aren’t the ones which still stand, and which still bond individuals or groups together, at the end of the first season. Walls have been torn down, and the ethical decisions that individuals or species make end up mattering more than who turns and who doesn’t. It’s a story in ethics and responsibility, community and place, heroics and choice, all at the same time.