Yes, Teen Wolf is on MTV, but you should still give it a chance. Give it a chance because the show, now in its second season, shares the winning combination of humor, horror, and high school with other great shows like Buffy, The Fades, and Veronica Mars (instead of the supernatural/allegorical horror of the other shows, VM is about the horrors adults inflict on children – betrayal, abuse, murder).
Right from the first episode, Teen Wolf demonstrates a confident knack for humor and even hints at future character development. Like Buffy and VM, it takes advantage of its self-contained high school setting to build upon recurring characters who evolve over time, adding texture to the show. I have to say that Scott, the titular teen wolf, is actually the least interesting character. He’s sort of the bland center around whom more interesting characters revolve, namely his motor-mouthed best friend Stiles (a hilariously engaging Dylan O’Brien) and classmates Jackson and Lydia. I sort of groaned when Jackson first appeared onscreen, because I expected the model-handsome Colton Haynes to be a wooden actor (I know; there I go, making unfair assumptions) and Jackson to be a dim-witted, one-dimensional bully. Happily, I was wrong: Haynes has more range than I expected, and Jackson, with his perfectionism and need for admiration, is more than just Scott’s antagonist – he’s a shrewd instigator, rival, and occasional ally. Jackson’s ex-girlfriend Lydia is a combination of Buffy’s queen bee Cordelia and super-smart Willow, hiding her formidable intelligence from her peers so that she can be the most popular mean girl (Stiles even has a Xander-esque unrequited crush on her). Lydia is also hiding some strange werewolf bite-related experiences she’s having, setting up the most intriguing character arc of this season.
One of my favorite episodes of last season is “Night School,” in which Scott and his friends are trapped in their high school and terrorized by a vicious werewolf. It’s the best example of how the show delivers solid scares while also retaining a certain lightness, a sort of self-aware humor. It’s also the first time I saw the potential for Scott and his circle to coalesce into their own version of Buffy’s Scooby Gang. I’m a bit concerned that the show may have lost some of the first season’s light touch; this season sometimes feels overheated, teetering into melodrama. But I’m willing to give Scott and his Scoobies the chance to prove me wrong.
Update: Sadly, season 2 does not redeem itself – overly melodramatic, weird editing, lost threads in character development. I hoped things would turn around with the episode “Party Guessed,” which actually has some great, dream-like editing and explains the Lydia-Peter connection. But that episode is an exception, and any potential for Lydia is just squandered. The most annoying part of the season is that while practically every other character is becoming a werewolf or other supernatural being, the writers seem to forget that Scott is a werewolf – he hardly ever uses his enhanced hearing, speed, sense of smell, etc. in any of the dangerous situations he’s in. Bad writing, and very disappointing.
I still recommend season 1, though. Just pretend season 2 doesn’t exist. We’ll add it to the list of disappointing things of which we do not speak: the Matrix sequels, Star Wars prequels, Veronica Mars season 3, Friday Night Lights season 2.