Here’s my review of Teen Wolf season five episode “Required Reading.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.
Did this seem like an extra confusing episode of Teen Wolf? Because I certainly felt confused for most of it. I think that might have been the point though. With all this talk of repressed memories and hallucinations, the dream-like quality of most of this episode really made those points stand out. The horror elements continue to shine as reality and memories begin to blur. There were some very important flashbacks in this episode, and along with that, “Required Reading” started off with a flash forward. That’s what I’m going to focus on for a bit.
Flash forwards are the lesser used cousin of flashbacks. When used effectively, they can be a great tool to add an element of mystery and foreshadowing to a story. But when used ineffectively, they ruin the dramatic tension. This season of Teen Wolf opened with the good kind of flash forward. We got to see Lydia in Eichen House and her scenes there gave us hints about what to expect this season. Lydia’s flashes provided little breadcrumbs for upcoming plot points.
In contrast, this episode opened with an more ineffective flash forward. At first, it’s exciting. We’re left wondering why Scott is suffering an asthma attack in the hospital and why the Dread Doctor is attacking him. From what we know, Scott doesn’t have asthma anymore. So that pulls the audience in and keeps us interested. In addition to this, the action from Malia is fast-paced and exciting. And of course, having Mama McCall in a scene makes anything better. So at first glance, the opening is great because it’s ambiguous. Is it a dream? A flashback? Something else?
It soon becomes clear, however, after the opening credits that that scene was just a flash forward of things to come. Scott says “we never should have read that book” and then the group is shown beginning to read the book. Once we realize the true nature of that opening scene, all the dramatic narrative tension is gone. Now we’re just waiting for the episode to catch back up to that point. It makes things predictable. We know they’ll end up at the hospital at some point and we know they’ll be attacked. And when we finally do get back to that scene, it’s less exciting. There isn’t really any new element or information to the scene so it seems like a small waste of time to watch it again. There is no new reveal or twist to reinterpret how we see the scene. It’s just straightforwardly the same scene again for the second time with a few seconds added to show why they were in the hospital.
The other problem of this flash forward is that it’s too fresh in our memories. The Lydia flash forward from “Creatures of the Night” works because we’re still waiting to catch up to that moment. When we finally do see Lydia being interrogated in Eichen House, it won’t be like we just watched it a few minutes ago. Flash forwards always work better as foreshadowing for more distant future events and if they add another element to the scene once the story catches up to that moment.
Despite the fact that I disliked the use of a flash forward here, I really enjoyed the flashbacks experienced by Lydia, Scott, and Stiles. Lydia and Stiles’ in particular are devastating to watch. I think it was supposed to be ambiguous about whether these were true memories from their childhood or ones that had been twisted by their book-induced hallucinations. But either way, that scene of watching Lydia’s grandma bleed out from apparently drilling a hole in her own head was disgustingly fascinating to watch. And it was heartbreaking to see Stiles remember that his mother suffered from paranoid delusions before she died, thinking that young Stiles was out to kill her. It’s scenes like these that make the plot more interesting. It keeps the audience on their toes as we try to figure out what’s real and what’s not. We still don’t know much about the Dread Doctors and their evil plans, but now that everyone’s read the books, we’re one step closer to answers.
All There in the Werewolf Manual
- I thought it was pretty hilarious that Mason had to educate Kira about kitsunes. Where have the Yukimura parents been all season? You’d think Mama Yukimura would, you know, occasionally mention some of these things to her daughter!
- So… is ruining your yearbook photo a big enough reason to hold a grudge for years? Did Liam and Hayden’s school not do reshoots??
- Speaking of Liam, he’s suddenly become very useless to the plot very fast. Why isn’t he reading the book too? Why isn’t he doing anything relevant? And also, where is he getting that money from to pay Hayden back?
- Why are Stiles and Malia lying to each other? Stiles is understandable since he still thinks he’s responsible for Donovan’s death, but what reason does Malia have to hide her new memory of the Desert Wolf?
- I’ll be honest and admit I don’t like Theo at all. He’s not even an interesting villain. His blatant seduction of Malia and blackmail of Stiles is straight up cliche.
- Whoever writes the dumb hashtags MTV puts in the corner of the screen should be fired. Just saying.
- More scenes with Brett and Mason together please! They’re fun ^_^
- I appreciate that Sheriff Stilinski doesn’t appreciate the name “Dread Doctors.” LOL
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.