Warning: This recap of the “Superposition” episode of Teen Wolf contains spoilers.
Out of the many hundreds of options when it comes to TV serials about sexy monsters, chances are you usually prefer something simple. Carnage, transmogrification, the occasional shirtless hug. Monsters ain’t gotta be anything but sexy and dangerous, and let’s leave it at that. Then along comes Teen Wolf with its plot lines about quantum mechanics, Freudian psychology, the dark unknowability of human subconsciousness, and it’s like, what? We did not sign up for this! But here’s the thing: Teen Wolf is so extra. Ever since the beginning, it’s been more ambitious and far stranger than it had any right to be. Just look at its source material: Did Michael J. Fox’s version routinely concern itself with electromagnetic theory or the limits of human perception? Not in my opinion.
For all its ambitions, Teen Wolf can often fail to cohere into something satisfying. Some people have written off entire seasons for being “messy,” but I’ve always felt messy was one of the better things a show can be. “Superposition” was easily as strange and ambitious as Teen Wolf gets (maybe even stranger?) but the reason it worked (and boy did it work) was because it showed just how much Stiles means to these characters. In his absence, we learned that he wasn’t just the resident human, he was keeping everyone else human as well. Yeah, this episode was scary, complicated, and downright heart-wrenching. Let’s talk about it!
We began with dozens of melty-faced ghouls riding horses across a high school lacrosse field, no big deal.
I mean honestly, who hasn’t seen this happen from time time? I’ll tell you who: Scott and Liam!
The main reason they did not see this was because the Ghost Riders were invisible! But you better believe Scott could hear and/or smell them, because it’s not like we’re talking a team of silent ninjas here. They were dozens of ghouls on horses!
But Liam and Scott didn’t have time to worry too much about it. They needed to get in some father-son bonding time, and also it was lacrosse season (again? in the same year?) and Liam needed to become team captain. Also Scott had a pressing feeling he needed to make one of his friends less terrible at lacrosse. But who? Must be Liam, his son. There was no one else anymore.
Even though it was after 9 p.m., a gaggle of stone-cold dorks were still in the physics classroom doing science. But at least Corey and Mason had the right idea by interrupting their studies to kiss on the mouth! That was a better plan than making magnetic silly putty or whatever the F they were doing in there. That’s when they were all interrupted by an unwell man.
Ho jeez, it was Coach Finstock! He had somehow been allowed to leave the adult daycare where he lives and makes macaroni art. And now here he was, chasing dorks out of the science room. It was too late for this kind of academia!
After Mason and Corey got separated, Corey had a run-in with some Ghost Riders. Fortunately they couldn’t see him when he turned invisible (he’s a were-chameleon or whatever). Meanwhile Mason went in the library and found a student getting strangled while suspended in midair! But when Corey grabbed Mason’s hand and turned him invisible also (does Teen Wolf actually think that chameleons turn invisible?) they both used their green chameleon vision to see what was really happening:
A pair of Ghost Riders had lynched the student! Then they did some kind of magic and made him disappear. Later when Scott and Liam busted in to see what the fuss was all about, Corey and Mason couldn’t remember ever seeing the student. All in all, it was a weird evening for everyone involved.
Speaking of weird… We were then treated to a split-second sex scene in which Malia did sex with a rando. But we could tell from the look on her face that she did not really enjoy it very much. This wasn’t technically cheating because Stiles had been “erased” from her reality, but it still felt like she could sense something was wrong. And I laughed when she forced the guy to be the little spoon… I forgot that Stiles was always the little spoon also. Aw.
Lydia also had trouble sleeping mostly on account of the LOUD TRAIN NOISES. Her mother seemed to think she was just having a nightmare, but Lydia hadn’t even been asleep! Ugh, sometimes being a banshee is like the worst possible thing to be. I don’t care if they can do banshee hadoukens, count me out.
I have to tell you this in the least creepy way I know how (yet still kinda creepy), did you ever expect that Teen Wolf‘s No. 1 source of beefcake would once again be Scott McCall? I feel like it’s been actual YEARS since he’s been undressed on this show. It was honestly so refreshing and retro to see him pulling some serious Season 2 level of gratuitousness here.
Anyway, Scott was just enjoying some quality shirtless time in his bedroom when he noticed that there was an odd absence in his photographs, and also in his life, maybe. Had he ever had a male best friend for most of his life? It was unclear.
This episode’s big coming-of-age existential subplot involved Liam attempting to step up and become the new team captain. Despite being 18 inches shorter than the rest of his teammates, the kid had skills and spunk. So why was he doing so badly at impressing the coach? Get it together, Liam! Scott needs a replacement, stat!
The kids all had a mysterious day of schooling during which they couldn’t quite remember Stiles. Scott stopped at Stiles’ locker without knowing why, Malia highlighted the word “styles” in her textbook, and Lydia noticed that the empty desk next to her was now occupied by a grown-ass woman in a doctor’s uniform who sounded A LOT like a speeding train.
What was going ON anymore? Obviously we knew the Ghost Riders were erasing beloved humans, but it felt like there were now other paranormal things going on that were perhaps unrelated to the Ghost Riders. Who knows?
Aw, Officer Parrish is back! Which, if you didn’t recognize him on account of him wearing clothes, that’s understandable. And he might still be a Hellhound and a harbinger of death, but he was also just trying to be a regular cop again. Fair enough. Burning your uniform off every few hours probably gets expensive.
This hot teacher dude caught Scott attempting to break into Stiles’s locker (though Scott didn’t know why he was compelled to do it), and I think we’re meant to believe that the hot teacher is maybe not what he seems. (He seems to be hot, mostly.) This is what I’m saying about how there are other mysterious forces going on in this school at the moment. Who even is this guy?
Deaton! Deaton’s back! After spending a lot of his time being a Catholic priest in post-apocalyptic Georgia, it’s nice to know he still cares about the wounded pet population of Beacon Hills. In this case he informed Scott that maybe his subconsciousness was trying to tell him something. But what? Stay tuned.
Then Scott went to bed to get some beauty sleep and woke up in the woods!
This sort of thing happened a lot in Season 1 when Scott was first becoming a werewolf, so I appreciated this callback. But why had his subconsciousness brought him here? For much the same reason Malia’s subconsciousness made her sleep on a pile of rags in the corner!
Like Scott, Malia had begun reverting to a previous part of her life, specifically the part where she hadn’t met Stiles yet. In a truly moving and poignant reminder of how important our loved ones can be, she had now lost her “anchor” and with him the ability to control her animal side. In a very real sense she was less than she used to be, and oh man, I feel like crying. Gonna text all my friends right now!
Scott summoned Lydia and Malia to the woods to confer with them about what was going on, and they all three agreed that somebody was missing from their lives. Scott realized this because (via flashbacks to Season 1) he remembered he had been accompanied by a friend before he’d been bitten. And Lydia admitted (in one of the more devastating lines in this series history) that whoever the missing person was, “I think I loved him?” Oh man. And then, yeah, the picture again. Although, once they figure out who had gone missing from that photo, the next mystery they should solve is WHO PRINTS OUT PHOTOS IN 2016?
In one of the more truly baffling twists, guess who was suddenly back? Stiles’s dead mom!
And because Sheriff Stilinski did not seem surprised or frazzled by her reappearance, there must be some kind of brainwashing at play here. Clearly the woman is an impostor, but maybe the Ghost Riders (or some other force) had reinserted her into Beacon Hills much the same way that Stiles had been erased? Look, I don’t know. But it was somehow both worrisome AND heartwarming to see Sheriff Stilinski looking so happy again.
Liam and Corey were able to put aside their differences (they were each jealous of each other’s relationship with Mason) to team up and use Corey’s chameleon-vision to investigate the Ghost Riders. Here we learned an important thing about these dastardly erasures… They can be undone! For instance, using chamelon-vision they found a blank student ID, which became visible once Corey showed it to Liam in regular vision. Then they scanned it and the picture on it reappeared once the computer told them to whom it belonged. (Ghost Riders haven’t figured out how to erase hard drives yet.) And that’s when they remembered the student who had been taken. It was all pretty complicated, but the conclusion was simple: Stiles can be brought back into reality if people start remembering him again!
And that process was now well underway… Deaton used the fragment of broken glass (from last week’s car accident) to put Lydia into some kind of banshee trance (don’t ask) where she would scribble from her subconsciousness. And look what she wrote?
Yes, she wrote “mischief” a whole lot (I LOLed when Malia asked what “mischief” meant), but in the larger sense Lydia wrote out STILES! And the episode concluded with the million dollar question… “What the hell is a Stiles?” Reader, they’re about to find out! Hopefully.
“Superposition” was a dreamy, strange, sad, and occasionally gorgeous hour of TV. It remains truly impressive how well Teen Wolf indulges in B-movie tropes while also elevating itself to next-level atmospherics and elegy. Here is a show about teenager monsters that now casually explores quantum mechanics, the subconscious, memory, and existential angst. Wherever this show ends up, whatever reputation it’s remembered by, we know this for sure: Teen Wolf is lovely and special and I’m so glad it hasn’t been erased from reality. YET.
What did YOU think of “Superposition”?
Teen Wolf airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on MTV