But before we get to that, let's see what I thought about S3a...
First off, I gotta say that in the first episode "Tattoo" when Scott was explaining to Derek why he wanted to get his tattoo, I REALLY expected Derek to say "that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard" after Scott finished - but nope.... they actually played it straight, like it WASN'T the stupidest thing we'd ever heard. :P
I do wonder what the storylines would have been if Colton had stayed on the cast, because he was written out so completely that it was like they had always planned for him to leave.[Spoilers for 3b]I don't think the actress that plays Cora leaving will be as seamless somehow - since Derek leaving his ONLY sibling to return to Beacon Hills will be hard to explain - unless they just give Derek even MORE angst and kill her off, which I wouldn't put it past them. But at the recent first-ever Teen Wolf Con, Hoechlin talked like there's a possibility that she still could be in a few episodes, so obviously they don't kill her in the first few episodes.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the actress who played Erica left too, right? Which was why they killed her and Boyd off in 3a? I had read that somewhere anyway. You can more tell that they're being killed off, though again, it's pretty well written to appear like it was always intentional.
Anyway, things I had heard about this 3a from fandom included how convoluted and crowded the plot was. So let's pick it apart with a summary....I'll put this in it's own little box, so that you can skip it if you've already figured out what everyone's motivations were...
Alpha Pack comes to town. Derek knew they were going to come, because they ALWAYS come to check out new alphas - now, Derek had never actually SEEN them before (nor they him - as seen when Deucalion says he looks like his mother.) So, my theory is that Derek's little speech to Boyd and Erica about "once you start running, you never stop" is in reference to WHY he and Laura took to the hills after the Hale Fire - it wasn't to flee Kate Argent, it was because Laura was a new alpha. Derek, in S2, had decided to stop running and instead tried to build a pack very quickly in the hopes of being ready for the Alpha Pack when they arrived.
Ready for what though? Do the Alpha Pack try to recruit every single alpha? Derek seemed to know that they'd want him to kill his betas - so why create them? Does the Alpha Pack kill everyone who doesn't join? Did Derek always plan to resist and try to take them out? (These are questions that aren't answered).
The Alpha Pack is afraid of Scott. They know, for some reason (possibly through Morelle?) that Scott has the potential to be a true alpha. This makes Deucalion both want to recruit Scott AND kill him - since Scott is the only threat to Deucalion if he's against them. Deucalion decides to kill two birds with one stone and pretends to solely be interested in Derek, so that Derek will kill his betas (including Scott) and thus wipe out the threat... or Scott will survive/kill Derek and become the alpha that he's meant to be and join up with Deucalion.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Blake is a new English teacher and a Darach. She's followed the Alpha Pack back to Beacon Hills (or patiently waited until they returned) in order to get revenge for being mauled to almost-death and completely mutilated by Kali when she killed her pack to join Deucalion. In order to get enough power to wreak revenge on the Alpha Pack, Jennifer has started performing sacrifices in order to gain power. Much like the Alphas gain the power of any of their betas that they kill, Jennifer gains power from human sacrifices. Virgins, Philosophers, Warriors, Healers, Guardians.
So, basically, we have Derek being used as a pawn yet again.... by basically every single character by the end of the 3a... while these two powers go head to head.
Scott and Stiles try to keep everyone alive. Isaac starts switching loyalties. Lydia starts coming into her powers. The Alpha Twins fall in lurve. Peter lays back to see where the chips are falling so that he can make his next play for power/possibly get revenge on Derek... and Cora shows up after 6 years of being absent only to get conveniently (for Peter) sick and help bring about her brothers fall from power.
Although Jennifer is justified in wanting to kill the Alpha Pack, Scott and Derek can't fully support her in her quest because she's killed innocent people to accomplish her goals - and Derek has to try to kill her in the end in order to hopefully save the guardians.
Derek, using the same tactic that Peter just used on him, convinces her first to heal his eyes in order to distract her from completing the killing of the guardians.
Derek and Scott's decision not to kill people unless they absolutely have to also means that Deucalion lives at the end when Jennifer fails to kill him. So, in the end we're left with three villains still alive: Deucalion, Peter, and Gerard.....grey areas are Ethan and Aiden, who remain alive but we aren't sure of their loyalties anymore.
So, pretty straight forward.
Flashback Episode: Paige etc.
Now let's talk about Derek... he's yet again manipulated by female. But, I think he comes to it honestly... because it seems that Peter has been manipulating Derek possibly his entire life and still is. We see this in the flashback episode of Derek when he's a teenager.
The flashback episode is extremely problematic. Firstly, REALLY? Do we REALLY need to give Derek even MORE angst and tragedy? I know from interviews that the writer only came up with the meaning of the eyes part way through S2, and so he needed to have a reason for Derek's eyes to have been blue in S1 - and since he decided that eyes turned blue when you'd killed innocents, he then had to have Derek kill someone in such a way that it wouldn't reflect too badly on Derek (ie: a mercy killing when the bite doesn't take). But seriously? If that were the only reason, he could have just had eyes turn blue when someone felt themselves GUILTY of killing innocents - because that way Derek's eyes just could have been blue because he accidentally got his whole family killed when he trusted the wrong person.
Of course, the second reason they needed the backstory was to explain the power of the Nemeton tree - the reason why Jennifer/Julia survived the first attack and also her "connection" with Derek. Plus, they needed to tie in the alpha pack with the nemeton and the timing of the "virgin sacrifice" that Derek inadvertently made. But, I'd argue that this could have been done MUCH better - because Ennis still could have bitten someone to replace his past members and then have it go bad (or possibly their bitten and then the agents kill them)... and Jennifer and Derek really didn't NEED to be tied together at all.
But, the other thing that backstory does is show how Peter was manipulative and sinister even BEFORE the fire... and that he's been manipulating Derek into doing stupid things for a VERY long time. To the point where I think Peter only has himself to blame that Derek was so easily manipulated by Kate too. Derek was basically raised by Peter to be a puppet with only a facade of free will and not any ACTUAL free will. Even when Derek DOESN'T choose to do something, his body is used to do it without his consent. It's actually quite horrible.
I'd seen posts on tumblr of people trying to get around the unreliable narrators and trying to explain away the unnecessary increase of tragic!past for Derek by saying that maybe none of it was true and Peter was lyiing, or it actually happened to PETER and not Derek... but that doesn't fly, because if you watch the episode - both Peter and Gerard are saying different things to their listeners than we the audience are seeing in the actual visuals. Which means that WE SAW the correct version, it was only the CHARACTERS that saw a different version. And this is basically confirmed by Jennifer when she explains how it all went down and what Paige's death meant for her.
Anywho... yeah, that addition to the canon was annoying. Derek already has a tragic enough past, thanks. I'm pretty sure 10 family members being burnt alive by your (possible) statutory rapist is enough to make a guy have issues - you don't need to add even MORE reasons.
Speaking of Kate Argent, let's talk....
I know I know, Jeff Davis doesn't think about timelines and he's horrible at chronological continuity... and I knew this going in and I TRIED to turn it off, but I seriously couldn't.
So, this is what we know:
The Hale fire was 6 years ago.
Stiles mother died 8 years ago.
Cora Hale is 17.
Kate Argent told Derek that he "grew up in all the right places" back in S1.
Derek was a sophomore when the whole Paige and Deucalion backstory thing happened.
I know from Tyler's panel at the recent Teen Wolf Con (Wolfsbane, if people want to search out the vids), that Derek was basically 18 one day and 26 the next night, and I think this is because Davis wrote him as 18 and didn't even do the math about what that would mean for Kate Argent seducing him. Mainly that 6 tears ago he would have been 12! If he were 26, then 6 years ago he would have been 20, which is a much better age to be seduced. In 3a, we get this Paige backstory where he's a sophomore in High School, which places him at around 15/16, right? (Which is what age he LOOKS). Which means that Kate Argent wouldn't have seduced him until after that... personally, I think he was still a teenager, because of Kate's line about him growing up well... so, I'd place him around 17/18 when his family died, and 23/24 now.
Other things. Stiles was ~8 when his mother died. And Scott, Stiles, and Cora, were ~11 when the Hale Fire happened.
If the Paige and Deucalion backstory happened around 8 years ago, it would have also when Stiles' mom died. So, the Deputy Stilinski we saw in the flashback was someone who was just about to lose his wife, or just had lost his wife. Now, yes, at the hospital the Sheriff tells Melissa that the files for Jennifer/Julia would be "over ten years old"...which would support the Derek is ~26 idea.
I know Davis tried to imply that werewolves aged differently, by having Peter be really cryptic about how old he and Derek were. "Older than we look, but not as old as you'd think", and Cora's comment about being 17 "if you measure in years." But Davis does that really sloppily, because we also have Peter clearly stating that he only knew Cora "for 11 years, leaving 6 unaccounted for."
So, Cora is definitely 17 and was definitely 11 when the fire happened, regardless of how old Derek might have been. And the whole reason Peter tells Cora the Paige Story is to explain why her brother is different than she remembers... if 4-5 out of Cora's 11 years were spent with her brother POST-Paige, you'd think that she would remember him as being his sullen self and she wouldn't need the story. It would make far more sense to tell her the story if Derek only started amassing tragic!past in the last year or so that Cora knew Derek, so she wouldn't necessarily have noticed the personality change. So, I still think that Derek only had a year between Paige and Kate.
Anyway, let's talk about plot and characters and whatnot....
Derek and Cora
Once again, like last season, we sacrifice good character moments for a fast-paced high-stakes plot. What do we know about Cora and Derek's relationship? She was thought dead. Derek is a disappointment to her. Derek has vowed not to leave her again. That's it - that's all we know. We don't really know what their dynamic is besides awkward... which is I guess understandable, since they don't really know each other when it comes right down to it. Derek used to be different when Cora knew him - and Cora grew up, seemingly, on the run.
What I do love about the characters is the family resemblance - from their appearance (good casting!) right down to their demeanor. It makes me wonder if the intent was to channel the fandoms love of Sterek into the Stiles/Cora ship and have that develop.[spoilers for 3b]. sadly, we'll never know, since the actress has moved onto other projects and can no longer commit to Teen Wolf.
Derek himself is in over his head. I think as soon as he knew the Alpha Pack was in town, he dropped the cocky attitude and realized that he was in deep shit. He'd been desperately trying to train his betas to be prepared, but in so doing he drove two of them away - the only ones he still had was an abuse victim who was used to it and a former-lizard dude who's parent's were hauling him off to London. So, he took the summer to make sure the former-lizard wouldn't kill anymore people and basically completely resigned himself to his fate.
You can see it in the very first episode, and basically right up until Kali takes the pole out of his back - Derek knows he's going to die. His only goal is to try to save his betas - he figures that will be his way of getting the Alpha business at least a LITTLE right. This all backfires, when his betas are stupidly loyal and come to help defend him on the night that the Alphas are coming to kill him.... and he let's them, because they have a pretty smart plan, and maybe Derek was wrong...only he wasn't, and it means he fails at saving Boyd, just as he failed to save Erica.
Oh, that's another thing, the other thing I saw in fanfic and tumblr was how wrong it was for Derek to throw that glass at Isaac and kick him out. Well, yeah, sure... but I completely understood why he did it, and this is DEREK we're talking about? What did you expect? For him to sit Isaac down and have a long talk about his suicide-plan and desire that Isaac switch loyalties and save himself? Not likely - especially not when Derek has grown up being manipulated by everyone around him - no, Derek is going to use what he knows and manipulate Isaac into doing what he wants instead - and that's pretty easy to do when you know that someone will leave if you start acting like their abusive father.
The other thing I saw on tumblr was how people said it was a continuity error that Isaac asked Derek if he bit them because he was lonely... because Derek supposedly said "right in front of Isaac" that it was for power back in S2. But um, guys, Isaac was unconscious at the time. It was BOYD who knew that Derek was biting them for power. Also, people can do one action for more than one reason. I get out of bed in the morning because I have to pee, eat, and I've got stuff to do.... it's not just one of those reasons, it's ALL Of them. Derek needed power if was going to deal with Gerard and eventually face the Alpha Pack instead of running like he and Laura did before, and he also probably bit them because he had just killed his last remaining family and Scott had rejected him as a pack member. So, yeah, Derek is a REALLY lonely boy.
Derek and Jennifer
Which brings me to the Jennifer/Derek storyline...which I actually kind of liked, right up until she was yet ANOTHER person manipulating him - though, granted, she wasn't actually, because what did she need him for? Protection against the alphas? He kind of sucked at that. I think Jennifer DID love Derek, but as soon as Derek found out that she was killing a whole bunch of innocent people, I'm pretty sure any and all affection he had for her went out the window and she became just another Kate Argent.
There were things that I liked about that storyline though, as I said - I liked the love scene, and how they paralleled Derek's and Scott's psychosomatic injuries. And I also liked how Derek never actually said that he was absolutely disgusted by her true face.... I thought that was a nice testament to Derek's character, that although he may have hardened his heart against her because of her behaviour, he knew that he had liked her for who she was (or who he thought she was) rather than what she looked like.
Speaking of though, dude, you don't end up looking like that unless you've been burned extensively, and the flashbacks only ever showed her beiing slashed. The whole burn-victim make-up was OTT and didn't make sense.
Speaking of the Darach, let's talk about how awesome Sheriff Stilinski is!
Because, yes, granted, he doesn't believe Stiles at first - but as soon as he DOES believe, he figures out who the Darach is within HOURS. And it's someone who wasn't even on Stiles' list of suspects. Good job, Sheriff! ETA: Oh! Also the fact that Morelle was like "no detective is going to find Deaton!" and then BAM, Sheriff finds Deaton - and that's BEFORE he's even told about what's really going on. The Sheriff is awesome.
Also, it goes without saying that the Stilinski's once again ripped my heart out this season... what with Stiles fears for his father, then finally telling him, then the Sheriff not believing him, then believing him when it's almost too late... and then happy reunion! There's probably more I wanted to say about the Sheriff, but I've been writing this for a really long time and it's late and I'm starting to forget everything I wanted to talk about.
I love how the season started with Allison just doing whatever the hell she wanted. Like, the boys are planning this elaborate bank break-in, and Allison just calmly cuts the bolts and walks in... and the boys recruit Chris Agent to help them find Boyd and Cora, and meanwhile Allison is just out there trying to capture them on her own. Allison doesn't need or want your help, thanks.
It's really neat how basically the entire 3a, Allison is dealing with her OWN issues on her OWN without needing anyone to rescue her. She's coming to terms with her mother's death, her own lust for revenge afterward, her psychotic grandfather, etc. She learns the truth about why Derek bit her mother and it doesn't make her rush to Scott and get back together with him, it just makes her hate Derek a little less than she did... it just actually makes her UNDERSTAND and add more information to her arsenal for figuring out where she stands when it comes to the family business. And by the end of the season, she come into her own. SHE'S the agent of her own destiny. Unlike Derek, who is constantly manipulated up until the very last episode (arguably leaving is the first thing he's ever done of his own free will), Allison spends the entire 3a throwing off the manipulation of her mother, grandfather, and even her more reasonable father, and living her own life according to her rules - which includes leading the family business under her own code and no one else's.
Basically, Allison kicks ass.
Allison and Isaac
I like it. I mainly like it because it just shows that Allison and Scott aren't necessarily "meant to be" - S1 and S2 were set up to be all about this great destiny OTP - like there couldn't possibly be a happy ending unless they were together. And I kind of hate storylines like that. Life and love isn't like that. There's no such thing as a One True Love.
So, yeah, I like Allison and Isaac, because quit frankly, I'd probably like Allison/Anyone-but-Scott and Scott/Anyone-but-Allison, even if eventually it DOES end up with Allison/Scott holding hands and walking off into the sunset.... I just want the realism (and arguably more romantic notion) of them CHOOSING one another even though they don't HAVE to. I like the idea of them possibly being just as happy with other people.
Like I said in my S2 write-up... Isaac had already started shifting loyalties to Scott back then, so nothing in 3a was all that surprising. I guess I was a little surprised that he was still as loyal to Derek as he was, but then, it's not like Derek doesn't deserve it - and as we saw in S2, Isaac admired Scott's resolve to HELP people, and Derek obviously needs help.
Stiles and Lydia
I like the friendship that has emerged. I like that Stiles still, and increasingly, loves her for her intelligence rather than her looks. (I like how after the panicattack!kiss, Stiles looks at her with affection after saying "that was really smart" rather than making some comment about sexy-times or anything. I also like, though, how you see Stiles slowly dismantling the pedestal that he had placed Lydia on... because YES she's really smart, but she's also infuriating - refusing to help, being skeptical, being altogether obtuse when she's not in the mood to deal with him, etc.
Basically, you see a REAL relationship grow where they're seeing each other as humans, rather than an idol and an idiotic pest. Because Lydia's view of Stiles is changing as well, of course... she's seeing how intelligent HE is, and Lydia obviously values intelligence above all.
Stiles is pretty awesome. Again, I just love how much like his father he is. I also love that despite being a human, he's right there in the thick of things. I like how possibly even MORE than Scott, Stiles is willing to help anyone who needs it. We see this in joke scenes, like when they're discussing the bank job, and Derek asks "will you help?" (or whatever), and Stiles immediately says "yeah, if you want me to..." (or words to that effect) and Derek's like "not you! Scott".... but Stiles offered to go into a bank to rescue Boyd and Dead!Erica from a PACK OF ALPHAS with Derek EVEN BEFORE Scott said he would help. Meaning that Scott could have refused, and Stiles STILL possibly would have gone to help.
Derek and Stiles
And I think Derek sees that about Stiles too, because he believes Stiles and Scott over Jennifer without doubt. "Where's Stiles' father?" Derek knows who his (annoying) friends are. Derek knows where his loyalties lie.... and I'm very interested to see what happens in 3b, now that Derek is a beta/omega.
Stiles' Panic Attack and PTSD
I also like how Stiles can only keep it together up to a point. I love the fact that we actually SEE that tipping point, that point where he thinks all might be lost and he has the panic attack. I also love the camera/sound effects and how they portrayed the panic attack. It was really kind of spot-on for what happens when you lose it... not that I've ever had a panic attack, but when I get really upset, I can't see.... like, my visuals get really weird, it's hard to explain, but it's sort of like how they filmed the panic attack, where things go blurry if I'm moving.
We know from S2 that Stiles has PTSD (of the "hyper-vigilance" variety)...and you see him increasingly lose his cool and get ANGRY in 3a...at Lydia, at the Coach, at Ethan, and at Derek. And I LOVED those bits... I especially liked Stiles going toe to toe with Derek in the hospital briefly, because it just shows that Stiles doesn't fear Derek anymore - and I love that development in his character. Same with threatening Aiden. Stiles has just HAD it and he doesn't care if someone is 10x stronger and faster than him or not, he's not putting up with any of their shit.
I'd really love to see more of the Stilinski's in 3b though - like, how the Sheriff knowing affects their dynamic. Knowing Teen Wolf, I probably won't be able to see anything character related, but still - a girl can dream.
It's a shame Boyd died. I guess they killed him because his storyline was too tied with Erica's? I don't even know... but it DOES kind of turn Teen Wolf into a pretty-white-boy show, so just in terms of representation it sucks. But also I would have loved to have explored the Boyd-Derek dynamic more, because they were really interesting together. Boyd was such a quiet thinker, that I always thought that out of all Derek's hastily created betas, Boyd was probably the one that he got along with the best. Which of course makes the manner of his death all the more tragic. Boyd was a saint going out though, because he basically forgave Derek with his dying breath.
Ethan and Aiden
I'll be interested to see what happens with these guys. They have a really weird superpower... the whole combining thing. And I think Ethan's freakout in Motel California was about that - about not being able to escape his brother, who obviously has slightly less heart/morals than Ethan does. I do believe that Ethan DOES love Danny.
I also think that despite Aiden's words to the contrary, he does hold some affection for Lydia - but possibly not enough to be relied upon. Ethan, meanwhile, I think will always act in whatever way he thinks is best for keeping Danny safe.
I'm really interested to see what being a Banshee means besides finding dead bodies.... and possibly being able to predict the outcome of battles.... and being able to scream in such a way that all supernatural creatures you know will hear you. Like, is there other stuff she could do? Maybe that stuff is enough.
I'm also interested to see how Lydia is going to deal with the Peter-problem that's going to occur in 3b - and that's not a spoiler, anyone with a brain knows that Peter is not a force for good and is going to be a problem. I'd really love to see Lydia destroy Peter somehow. I just think that would be poetic justice.
He's an interesting villain. I'm interested to see what his next scheme is - does he really intend to steal alpha status from Scott? Why was it important for him for Derek to not be an alpha anymore? Wouldn't it have been easier for Peter to steal the alpha status from Derek? Why just demote him? How exactly did Cora get so conveniently sick? I really think Peter must have done something to her, because her sickness a)had no explanation and b)benefited Peter who CONVENIENTLY knew how Derek could save her. Mind you, Jennifer also tried to use Cora as leverage to get Derek to help her, so maybe she's to blame for Cora's sickness and Peter just saw an opportunity to demote Derek and took it.
Morelle and Deaton
Interesting siblings. Did I mention that I like the fact that Morelle is French-Canadian? I wonder if that's just a cover story. Or maybe it's her (missing) husband that's French-Canadian, since her and Deaton have different last names.
I like the idea of Emissaries. It makes me think that they might be setting Stiles up to become one - because he's the only "human" in Scott's pack, really...Allison is a hunter, Lydia is a banshee.... who else is going to be a druidic connection to humanity for Scott? Mind you, maybe I've just way too much magic!Stiles fic.
It IS kind of weird though how Teen Wolf keeps mixing all their mythologies. Stick with one, maybe? I mean, you've got Celtic mythology as your main-thing, but then they were throwing Greek and Nordic myths in there too. Mind you, I like Supernatural, so maybe I shouldn't talk.
Is that everyone/everything? I'm tired.
Can't forget about Melissa! I like how we see her slowly realizing that she can't just ignore werewolves and they'll go away... she realizes that if the world isn't playing by the rules that she thought were in place, that she's probably going to have to bend some rules herself. I love how she saved Danny, and helped the Sheriff find the Darach, and electrocuted the Ethden monster. And I love how Scott just looks at her afterward like "you're awesome!" Because she is.
It'll be interesting to see how the dynamic with Scott's father works in 3b. Part of me doesn't like the idea of him there, because I'm just forseeing dramatic daddy-issues, which I kind of get my fill of on Supernatural. But we'll see.
Did I forget to talk about Scott? Holy crow. Um, he's maturing in 3a. There's not much else to say about him. I kind of wish that he had a better reason for his tattoo, because he starts off being kind of an immature teenager still - but I think by the end he's kind of matured more. He's not just successfully given Allison the space that she asked for, he's also accepted the fact that she may have moved on and that the world doesn't revolve around him - and that there's a possibility that Allison isn't the be-all-end-all of his life. Mind you, I could be lying, maybe 3b will be filled with Scott whining about Allison... but hopefully not.
You also see Scott slowly becoming an alpha through his interactions with Isaac especially. Isaac is already acting like Scott's beta, and we see Scott react in kind - he uses an "alpha voice" on Isaac TWICE even though he's not an alpha. More than that though, when Isaac panics when he's locked in the closet, Scott doesn't get mad at him, he recognizes that Isaac had been set up and where the real problem lay.
To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about Scott being able to walk through a mountain ash barrier. I'm kind of a fan of some rules being unbreakable...like physics. If you're setting up a magical universe, then your magic rules have to be a bit like physics. They have to be universal constants...and Scott being able to break a mountain ash circle destroys that constant. That being said, it was a cool effect and a neat way to do the eye-close-up thingy thing.
I'm interested to see what Scott's going to do with his new found alphadom. I don't see him as the type to run around biting people - probably, it'll be much of the same, only he'll be the boss man. LIke I said above under Derek's section, it'll be interesting to see the Scott+Derek dynamic with Scott being the alpha. I doubt Derek will join Scott's pack...but it'd be nice if they became equals of sorts... the brothers that Derek wanted them to be in S1. But, that'd probably be too much of a happy ending. :P
Let me know what you desperately wanted me to talk about that I forgot and I'll talk about it with you in the comments!