I’ve watched a lot of teenage supernatural shows in my life. Probably too many. You can blame Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which served as the laugh-tracked gateway drug to the Buffys, the Vampire Diarieses, the Smallvilles, the True Bloods*. And here’s a fairly obvious thing I’ve noticed from my time in the supernatural show trenches, teenager-focused or not: After a certain amount of ruminating in the first couple seasons, things tend to get complicated.
Teen Wolf has reached that point. Last season upped the ante with the stakes of the kanima storyline; the overall writing got stronger as the show got increasingly darker. The same happened with Buffy: The first season still rings with episodic camp, and the second upped the stakes (and had a sizable impact on the genre itself) when it *spoiler alert I guess* turned good vampire Angel into a ruthless killing machine, marking the true beginning of a show that holds a big place in the cultural canon at least partially because of its ability to deftly handle the long-haul, character-fuelled story lines. And so it goes with most supernatural shows (although few hold the place Buffy does in the history books): As seasons pass things darken, and complexify. Teen Wolf may retain some of the irreverent banter of the first season, but gone are the fluffy, campy romps of the early days; this season’s tagline is “This Might Hurt,” after all, and the show seems determined to live up to its promise to emotionally wound us–and, perhaps even more so, its characters.