Teen Wolf “A Novel Approach” Review (Season 5 Episode 5)


The beauty of Teen Wolf is that it offers amusement and entertainment for the casual fan who likes a bit of horror, special effects and some pretty well-done build up of suspense. For the fan who wants to really dig in, engage in the canon and look for the threads of continuity from season to season, Teen Wolf can be an entertaining hour of unintentional humor and comedy, which can be as satisfying as it is frustrating. Last night’s episode, “A Novel Approach” was a much better outing than last week’s “Condition Terminal.” I was definitely entertained, but no episode of Teen Wolf would be complete without raising a few questions about the show’s very fluid notion of canon.

Whether you are a casual fan, a hard core blogger interested in exploring canon and Teen Wolf meta or someone still on the fence about the show overall, there is one thing I think everyone can agree on – Dylan O’Brien continues to be one of the show’s standout performers. “A Novel Approach” harkened back to the brilliance of O’Brien’s performances in the season of the nogitsune.

Just how brilliant is O’Brien? He is so talented that he pulled off the entire opening sequence without uttering a single word and still managed to convey fear, tension, desperation and anxiety that had me a bit on edge. The downside to Stiles being silent is that we had to endure Donovan’s rambling and whining during the opening act. I liked it much more when the actor portrayed anger and resentment, but at times it got a little whiny and I wanted him to just shut up.

The chimeras have not had a very strong track record of successes, despite their unquestionable ability to invoke fear and panic in those they pursue. Their mixed track record and Stiles being the Teen Wolf‘s best friend had me on the edge of my seat, but in a “how will Stiles get out of this situation” kinda way, as opposed to a “OMG he’s going to kill Stiles” kinda way. And that’s perfectly fine. I’m okay with the sense of untouchable characters and at times wish some of my favorite shows would adhere to this trope from time to time. I’m looking your way, Game of Thrones.

Despite the strength of O’Brien’s acting, the storyline still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. This is the scenario in which I want Scott to find himself, but alas we will instead watch Scott’s no kill approach and Stiles killing Donovan in self-defense as a means to creating a rift between the best friends. The more engaged viewer in me has a few questions/issues regarding this premise:

1. Why keep a secret? Stiles killed Donovan in self-defense. Although Donovan was mostly a one-dimensional character, we were very clear on the hatred he had for Sheriff Stilinski – as was everyone that worked with the Sheriff. Of course, it would have been difficult to explain what happened to Donovan’s body, but that became an issue after Stiles had clearly decided to flee. Further, if Stiles opened up to Scott and told him the truth, would Scott really be upset or take issue with Stiles killing Donovan in self-defense? I don’t even think it was Stiles’ intention to kill Donovan when he unleashed the bars of death – I read it more as a last ditch effort to try to slow Donovan down so that Stiles could escape. It is really hard to see how Scott, the king of forgiveness and understanding, would ever take issue with that.

2. Speaking of Scott – I need him to seriously consider who is a “victim” in his world. From what we’ve seen this season alone, Lucas and Tracy appeared to be victims of the Dread Doctors. Donovan, however, is not so clear to me. Yes, he was tinkered with by the Dread Doctors, but he had every intention of making Sheriff Stilinski a victim well before the Dread Doctors got a hold of him. Scott’s “they are all victims and we try to save the victims” philosophy is way too simplistic and impractical. Although I wish Scott were the one faced with the dilemma of dealing with Donovan’s death, I am glad to see the writers confronting the issue through Stiles.

3. Finally, why would the high school have such a dangerous arrangement of metal that can easily fall and impale someone? And not to be too nitpicky, but I am, I found it odd that one of the rods impaled Donovan. It must have been extremely sharp and come down with a lot of force.

A Surplus of Stories

“A Novel Approach” also illuminated something else for me – there are a TON off issues this season and I’m curious to see how many will be revealed to tie into the central plot and how many will actually get resolved. So far we have:

– Dread Doctors – what is their end game once they create the perfect chimera? It is interesting to have a nemesis, or what appears to be a nemesis, coming from a place that is not antagonistic towards supernaturals.

– Liam’s nemesis, i.e., the girl with the money issues working at the film-inspired club last week. I would be perfectly fine if the writers offer no follow-up on this one. Alternatively, I’m also fine with the Dread Doctor/Parrish combination taking her out of the equation.

– Something is up with Kira! I thought Kira was just getting more powerful, which she appears to be doing, but it looks like her power is getting out of control. She is speaking Japanese, despite not knowing the language, and that “aura” around her was pretty menacing. Based on recent interviews with Jeff Davis, it looks like last night’s episode might be the last time we see lovey dovey moments between Scott and Kira, as her growing powers will lead her to distance herself from the group. I hope “distance” does not mean that Kira disappears for several episodes at a time. I’m honestly more intrigued by what is going on with her than I am the Dread Doctors.

– Related to that issue, I was extremely frustrated with Scott’s decision not to tell Kira the truth about her appearance. For now, I am trying to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assuming that perhaps he felt like the timing was bad and hopefully we will see him tell her in next week’s episode.

– Parrish’s supernatural identity remains a mystery, but it at least looks like it is connected to the Dread Doctor story.

– The desert wolf storyline quietly chugged along this week, as we saw Malia’s panic attack leading to a memory about someone other than her being responsible for the car wreck that killed her mother. The desert wolf seems like a good suspect. I am a little worried that this storyline may suffer from a bit of a time crunch, which might result in some shortcuts in the writing and implausible leaps in logic. Like the Kira subplot, I find this storyline more compelling than the Dread Doctors.

– There are also mysterious things going on with Lydia, who we know was visited by the Dread Doctors. This is the aspect of the Dread Doctors storyline in which I’m most interested. I’m curious see what Lydia recalls once she reads the book. You know, it probably would have been a MUCH better plan for someone in the pack to actually read the book before they even set foot in Eichen House, but that would make way too much sense.

This list does not even touch upon some of the seemingly significant loose ends from Season 4. Every now and then, I remember that Kate Argent is somewhere in the Teen Wolf universe alive and kicking and I immediately get the urge to just fight the air.

Closure on Kate is not necessarily needed in season 5, but it is absolutely something I would like to see wrapped up before Teen Wolf comes to an end for good. Perhaps we will finally see Kate get a little comeuppance in Season 6. I do not want to go too long without seeing J.R. Bourne on the show!

Back to Season 5 . . .

The central action in the episode went down in Eichen House, which I still associate with nothing but horrible storylines and I wish the show would find a new use for the space and convert it into something else. Scott’s pack, minus Liam, discovered a connection between Dr. Valack and the Dread Doctor book. Lydia made the connection, but the writers also reminded us that Theo is in on the Dread Doctors antics by having him point out the connection to Scott.

Between Donovan and Dr. Valack, “A Novel Approach” was full of exposition. I’ve come to learn, and in some ways delight, in how exposition on Teen Wolf inevitably means more canon or continuity shenanigans.

Dr. Valack was a prime example of this last night. Although he provided some helpful context on the Dread Doctors, I’m definitely declaring shenanigans on how the Eichen House is now powered by more than just MOUNTAIN ASSSSSSHHHHHHHHH, despite being told last season that the secret black powder was the key to Eichen House’s supernatural wing. Dr. Valack’s speech about the Dread Doctors and how they were infiltrating Eichen House was like a nonsensical stroll down Teen Wolf buzz word memory lane. MOUNTAIN ASH! NEMETON!! TELLURIC CURRENTS!!! DANNY!!!!

That darn nemeton is the gift that keeps on giving, not unlike Herpes. At what point does someone make it their sole mission to try to recreate the events that took power away from the nemeton? I’m sure that it will take something apocalyptic to put an end to that thing, but that sacrifice might be what’s best for the greater good.

According to Valack, the MOUNTAIN ASSSSSHHHHHHHHH worked in concert with the telluric currents and some other mumbo jumbo in order to fully keep the supernatural in place at Eichen House. Kira’s power surge made all of that go awry, which I guess suggests that the Dread Doctors are aware of what is going on with her. I got a good chuckle out of the scene with Tyler Posey and his real-life dad, who left him behind to deal with Kira.

Kira’s surge allowed the Dread Doctors to enter Eichen House and settle their score with Dr. Valack. Scott endured the pain and got Kira out of the hospital. I appreciate Scott’s bravery, but I kept wondering if maybe dragging her would have been a less painful option than carrying her in his arms? I don’t know how these things work, and dragging would cause a few lumps, bumps and would not look anywhere near as dramatic. After Scott carries Kira to safety, he then takes a moment to tell her that he remembers saying he loves her, which she does not reciprocate. They had this conversation while Stiles and Lydia, neither of whom have abilities that allow them to kick ass, were still in danger. I get it, Scott was between a rock and a hard place, but despite Kira being weak, he saw the Dread Doctors walk right past them and he knows that they are not really interested in the born/bitten supernaturals.

As the episode ended, Dr. Valack was short one creepy eye and on the loose. That, of course, left me with more questions – what is Valack up to? Are the Dread Doctors a classic Teen Wolf misdirect and is it possible that Valack is the second coming of this season’s big bad? Valack referred to his former roommate, who we know was Peter Hale – where is Peter? Do you think anyone will mention Peter’s whereabouts next week? I would gladly welcome that kind of exposition!

Shipping Ain’t Easy!

Somehow the writers managed to insert some ‘shippy bits into last night’s episode, despite everything else going on. Scott reflected the history of Stydia with Kira. I found his use of “those two are good together” interesting, as it reminded me of Lydia sharing the same sentiment with Stiles about Scott and Allison way back in Season 2. I don’t know if the writers intended to provide closure to the idea of Stiles and Lydia being romantically linked, or at least bring closure to the Stiles we saw in Seasons 1 and 2 who was obsessed with Lydia.

The writers seem pretty determined to pair Lydia with Parrish, but it’s hard not to revisit some of those Stydia feels when it looks like Malia is getting cozy with Theo. I think that as the season progresses we will see Stiles and Kira distancing themselves from their respective partners as they grapple with major life changes. I hope that Stiles will find someone he can open up to about what happened to Donovan. I’m indifferent to the ‘ships, but the writers clearly have plans for the romantic pairings.

Until Next Moon Day!
What did you think of this week’s installment of Teen Wolf? Sound off below!

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