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Teen Wolf: The Movie Brings (Most of) the Pack Back Together

With the returns of Allison Argent and the Nogitsune, Teen Wolf delves into its history for this continuation.
  • Tyler Posey, Vince Mattis, and Crystal Reed in Teen Wolf: The Movie (photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/MTV Entertainment)
    Tyler Posey, Vince Mattis, and Crystal Reed in Teen Wolf: The Movie (photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/MTV Entertainment)

    In a world of expanded universes, prequels, and spinoffs to even the most middling of genre properties, it's charmingly quaint that Teen Wolf has returned simply as a continuation made-for-TV-movie. The MTV teen drama (which was itself an in-name-only adaptation for the Michael J. Fox '80s comedy) ran for six seasons, from 2011 to 2017, and concluded without any major cliffhangers or unanswered questions. There was no real pressing need for a Teen Wolf movie beyond creator Jeff Davis and (most of) the stars of the show wanting to get the band back together again, and sometimes that's good enough. While Teen Wolf: The Movie offers plenty to quibble about — including two original cast members who are probably too conspicuous in their absence — it also settles pretty quickly into classic Teen Wolf. Of course, classic Teen Wolf tended to really load up on plot and mythology, and considering the nearly six-year absence, it's no surprise that a lot of what goes down in the movie requires a bit of unpacking.

    Spoilers for Teen Wolf: The Movie follow…

    In the movie, it's been 15 years since the death of Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), a time jump that seems like an arbitrary and unnecessary development until wesee that Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) is now the single father of a 15-year-old son, Eli (Vince Mattis). Who's Eli's mom, what became of her, and when did Derek find out about this little chip off the ol' block? Unclear! Does it really matter? Not really.

    Eli's a werewolf like his dad, but he has trouble wolfing out, because, you know, adolescent development is weird like that. He's taken to teenage misbehavior like taking the jeep — the one that used to belong to Stiles (Dylan O'Brien) — out for a ride, in defiance of his dad and Sheriff Stilinski (Linden Ashby). He also doesn't seem to have any friends, but that's not really a plot point.

    If your eyes just lit up at the thought of Stiles' jeep being back on the road, it's important to know that Stiles himself doesn't show up in the movie — not as a cameo or in any kind of post-credits tease. Dylan O'Brien definitely seems to have left Teen Wolf for good to focus on his movie career, which honestly is the smart move. In the movie, Stiles is now an FBI agent who's doing important work somewhere that's not Beacon Hills. His dad says they're not going to bother him with whatever supernatural weirdness is going on now, and that's pretty much all there is to say about that.

    The supernatural weirdness in question is the return of the trickster spirit the Nogitsune, which has been released from the little tchotchke it's been imprisoned in since the end of Season 3. That tchotchke had been under the protection of Liam (Dylan Sprayberry), who's now managing a bar in Japan with his girlfriend Hikari (Amy Lin Workman). When a mysterious hooded figure attacks and sets the Nogitsune free, the intent is to f*ck up the lives of Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and his pack.

    The headline development that comes next is that the Nogitsune manipulates Scott and his old allies Lydia (Holland Roden) and Chris Argent (JR Bourne) into supernaturally resurrecting Allison, Argent's daughter and Scott's first love. Manipulated by the Nogitsune, Allison only remembers being a werewolf hunter — nothing about Scott or their relationship or how she and her father eventually became allies to Scott's pack under the code "we help those who can't help themselves." Now, Allison — if she's even really Allison and not just some supernatural conjuring who looks like Allison — is on a mission to take out werewolves Scott, Derek, and Eli.

    The emotional stakes of Undead Allison are pretty straightforward. Scott is determined to make her remember their love before she either kills him and his friends, or it becomes necessary to kill her. It even makes sense to tie her resurrection to the Nogitsune, since her death came at the hands of the sword-wielding Oni demons, who were under the Nogitsune's possession at the time. The problem is that by bringing the Nogitsune demon back as the movie's primary antagonist, it underlines the absence of two pretty crucial characters. For one thing, it was Stiles who was possessed by the Nogitsune for the better part of Season 3. He really should be the one battling against it now that it's back.

    Even more problematic is the absence of Kira (Arden Cho), who was a major character in Seasons 3 through 5, especially as pertaining to the Nogitsune. It was her family's lore that brought the Nogitsune into the world in the first place, conjured by Kira's grandmother during her time spent in a World War II internment camp. Through her family lineage, Kira is a kitsune, a kind of firefox who is equipped to battle the Nogitsune and the Oni. Cho didn't sign on to Teen Wolf: The Movie reportedly because she was being offered less than half of the per-episode salary than her fellow main cast members. Kira's absence also underlines the fact that Hikari, a new character written for the movie, is also a kitsune, who uses her firefox powers to save Scott at one point. It's hard to imagine that this particular story beat wasn't originally intended for Kira.

    If you went into Teen Wolf not having refreshed your memory on the series, you probably found yourself pausing the movie and Googling a few things. A rewatch of Season 3 in its entirety might not have been a bad idea, considering almost all of the threads the movie picks up are from that era.

    One reveal in particular that deserves some unpacking is when Lydia and Jackson (Colton Haynes) encounter the hooded figure who unleashed the Nogitsune and set the events of the movie into motion. The unmasking of this villain relies on the audience having a strong memory of side characters from the early seasons. It turns out to be Adrian Harris (Adam Fristoe), the old chemistry teacher at Beacon Hills High. To refresh your memory: Harris was a jerk of a teacher to pretty much everybody. His one major storyline in the early seasons was the revelation that he had unwittingly told werewolf hunter (and Allison's aunt) Kate Argent (Jill Wagner) how to set a fire without it looking like arson. This is how Kate was able to burn down the Hale house in the events before Season 1, killing members of Derek's family.

    Harris met his demise in — you guessed it — Season 3 at the hands of the Darach, a dark Druid whom he was secretly helping. Last we saw, Harris was tied to a tree and had a garrote wire pulled around his neck. He was presumed dead, but apparently he survived, with a wicked neck scar, and decided to blame the dark turn his life took on Scott and his friends, who he said laid him out as bait to catch the Darach. This guy sucks. As the prime mover lurking behind the supernatural events of Teen Wolf: The Movie, he acts as an Easter egg for die-hard fans with steel-trap memories. For the rest of us, that reveal falls flat.

    Teen Wolf: The Movie does have its charms. Finding out that Malia (Shelley Hennig) and Parrish (Ryan Kelley) are in the midst of a sexy little relationship is fun, especially now that curse words and nudity are allowed, thanks to a Paramount+ release. And what would a Teen Wolf movie be without taking a break to play an inexplicably high-stakes lacrosse match in the middle of a supernatural crisis? Most of the gang is back, and it's great to see them reunited. Perhaps unavoidably, the plot is shaggy, and the absences of Stiles and Kira are felt more sharply than Davis would have wanted. Fans of the Scott/Allison relationship, and especially fans of Derek Hale, had their feelings put through the wringer, which is as much of the Teen Wolf experience as anything. There's little that remains open-ended at the film's conclusion, which is good. It doesn't demand another movie, but we could still get one. No pressure, just a grown-up wolf and his pack ready to battle some demons as needed.

    Teen Wolf: The Movie is now streaming on Paramount+. 

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Teen Wolf: The Movie, Teen Wolf, Arden Cho, Crystal Reed, Dylan O'Brien, Holland Roden, Jeff Davis, Linden Ashby, Shelley Hennig, Tyler Hoechlin, Tyler Posey