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Throwback Thursday - Teen Wolf - Riddled

8 Apr 2021

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

In the Teen Wolf family, the second half of season 3 has long held a special place in fans' hearts, because, in part of its Nogitsune storyline. And by Nogitsune storyline, I don't mean the horrific consequences it had (you all know who I mean), but because it mainly involes one Stiles Stilinski playing, for the first time, a villain instead of the smart, sweet, uncoordinated goofball we all know and love. Even now, when I think about which TV seasons I think back upon fondly, it's easily in my top 5. So really, when given the opportunity to delve into a TV show from the (not so distant!) past, at some point, I was always goint to go back to Teen Wolf. It would be easy to dismiss that little show as an MTV product, a remake of a movie that bears almost no resemblance to the original, but that would do it (and you) a disservice. Teen Wolf became so much more than just another supernatural show involving teens in high school, with monsters of the season and rich mythology launching dozens of wild storylines. At its heart though, and while the supernatural aspect is very entertaining, Teen Wolf is a show about friendship, and what it's like to be in high school, whether you have fangs and furry sideburns, or just a debilitating inability to talk to people you have a crush on. And while some characters didn't stick for the whole run, almost all of them were welcome additions and left their mark (ISAAC, I MISS YOU!). So without further ado, let's take a stroll down memory lane and flashback to "Riddled", the seventh episode of season 3B.

To set the scene in case 3B isn't branded in your mind (it's okay, it happens to the best of us): since Allison, Scott, and Stiles took that dangerous and icy plunge back at the end of season 3A and technically died for 16 hours, each of them has been experiencing lingering and terrifying effects resulting from them "opening the door" to their minds. You can thank Deaton for that cryptic diagnosis by the way, since none of them have any idea as how to "close" the door. Scott and Allison's issues pretty quickly fade away, Scott can control his transformations again, and Allison recovers her ability to shoot straight, Katniss-style (if Katniss had ever encountered werewolves, that is). Stiles, however, seems to be worsening as times goes by. Sleep-deprived, anxious (even more than usual), irritable, unable to know if he's dreaming or awake, not to mention temporarily losing the ability to read, he ends up in the hospital under a concerned Melissa's care, for severe sleep deprivation. But was it only that? As we all know, Stiles' past is anything but rosy and his mom died tragically when he was 8, of a degenerative brain disease, which Melissa remembers and unsurprisingly worries is also happening to Claudia's son. Of course, there's also the small and insignificant matter of the Nemeton, that magical tree stump, which kind of throws any attempts at medical explanations through the window.

Now, you'll know that in Teen Wolf, middle of the night phone calls are never about something innocuous (I mean, even in the real world, aside from "you up" texts, getting woken up at 3am by relentless ringing is never a good sign). Scott, always a good egg, picks up as soon as he can drag himself awake, only to realize he has a terrified Stiles on the other end of the line. In addition to his other symptoms, Stiles has been sleep walking all over Beacon Hills, and it's happened again, except this time he doesn't even know where he is. He's freezing, hurt, lost, and whispering because... he thinks there's someone else there with him. When you think about it, it's reminiscent of the season premiere when he couldn't wake himself up from increasingly terrifying nightmares. The situation he's in now, trapped in an unknown basement with one leg torn apart by a coyote trap, on the most freezing night of the year, seems, well... nightmare-ish. Of course, this is a supernatural show so someone sleep-driving to a basement in which coyote traps are just casually lying around doesn't surprise anyone. And after all, Stiles is apparently walking and talking, so Scott thinks no more of it and desperately scrambles to try and find where his best friend could have sleep-walked to.
Back at the school, Lydia and Aiden are doing some late-night model painting. Now, one might wonder how this is allowed, but as Lydia points out, any semblance of security has left the town long ago considering the survival rate. Lydia has been having some hearing issues, as in she hears a lot of things that no one else seems to even be aware of, and suddenly Stiles' tearful voice airs out of the radio, asking for help. Which is how we come to find Scott, a bedheaded Isaac, Lydia, and Aiden, all in Stiles' room, searching for clues. Stiles' Jeep is gone, there's a pair of scissors stabbed in his bed, with myriads of red threads leading to every single piece of "evidence" Stiles collected about their current unsolved mystery involving serial-killer Barrow, Kira, and Eichen House. As Isaac points out, this could either be the work of a brilliant mind, or, well "total insanity". Unfortunately for me since they're both favorites, Stiles and Isaac have not been warming up to each other despite their common fondness for Scott, but you have to admit Isaac has a point here. Stiles warned Scott that he didn't want the Sheriff to be involved because he already worries too much, but there's no way a bunch of teens, even supernatural ones who have uncanny senses of smell, can comb through the entirety of Beacon Hills in the hopes of finding Stiles by chance, without some kind of back up. The Sheriff immediately puts an APB on Stiles' Jeep, and it turns up surprisingly fast: apparently Stiles sleep-drove to the hospital, had an internal struggle with himself on the roof, and left. At this point, Scott and Derek are having a nice little wolfy chat about chemo signals, something we've never heard of before in three seasons of the show but sure, why not. Teen Wolf does enjoy sprinkling its lore in small doses (and when it's convenient). Before long, they realize that Stiles is no longer at the hospital, but Lydia is still getting one of her gut feelings (meaning, well, someone is about to die, namely Stiles), and finds out that she can hear voices through the strings Stiles put up, which lead her to believe Stiles may be at Eichen house. They all head over to that truly delightful place, only to find the basement... empty. Stiles isn't there and the Sheriff, who has just about had enough, loses it. Lydia is understandably baffled because so far she's been pretty spot on about these things. They all leave, hearts sinking, and the camera pans to the inverted 5 symbol that means "self" scratched on the wall, the exact same that Stiles saw in his scenes, except it doesn't fade away in smoke.

Back at the station, Agent McCall (who's alive by the way, despite being stabbed almost to death by one of the Oni in the previous episode, no big deal or anything) storms in, asking if any progress has been made on the search for his mysterious attacker. Various sketches adorn the wall and let's just say, I'm not sure how Agent McCall hasn't been clued in on what's going on in Beacon Hills, because unless it's Mardi Gras, I can't think of many serial killers who'd dress up to do the deed. He doesn't seem to think anything of it though, and maybe it's a blessing in disguise in Beacon Hills, to be this blissfully oblivious to just how deep into the supernatural your son and his friends are. Still, he's not all bad since when he realizes there's a slightly more urgent crisis going on, he reads the phone call transcript between Scott and Stiles and makes the connexion between Stiles' description "freezing, my eyes are watering" and the coyote den they sprayed with repellent a few weeks ago. Mama McCall and Agent McCall speed off towards the forest, while Stiles is being tortured by what we can now assume is the Nogitsune, who keeps talking in riddles to an increasingly frantic and hopeless Stiles. Stiles is starting to realize that maybe not all is as it seems in bargain Basement Land, when the coyote trap suddenly switches from one leg to another, and it turns out Agent McCall was right: he was still dreaming all along. Now you get why Stiles is terrified of falling asleep, if THIS is what his mind comes up with, I'd end up at Eichen House too. Still, when Mama McCall and Agent McCall pull him out of Malia Tate's coyote den and he finally screams himself awake, you just want to pull him in for a hug and tell him everything's going to be okay. Seriously, has Stiles not suffered enough?!
Since this is Teen Wolf, the answer is no, no he has not (and this is the point when I cry because I don't want to see Stiles any more hurt than this, and yet...). At the hospital, we learn that the Sheriff has also been keeping track of Stiles' symptoms and has come to the same conclusion Melissa has: it could be frontotemporal dementia, which can be early onset in teenagers. Because yeah, sure, why not, just take hiw wife, his career, and now his son from the Sheriff, WHY DON'T YOU, TEEN WOLF?! (I jest but I love this show and I am of course along for the terrible, awful, devastating ride). Now, I haven't mentioned this so far because, to be perfectly honest, it's obvious to anyone who has watched the show, but Dylan O'Brien was a huge part of what made it so good. In this season he truly get to shine, not only as "normal" Stiles, but thanks to this storyline, he brings it in every possible way. Whether it's this incredibly touching moment with Scott as they both sense it might be the end of life as Stiles knew it and hug it out, or a few minutes later, when the Nogitsune finally takes over Stiles' mind. Now, you all know I'm a Hunger Games fan (I promise I don't have some kind of internal bet with myself of how many references I can insert per recap), and I like to compare this MRI transformation moment where just by Dylan O'Brien's eyes you can tell something very, very wrong is happening, to the end of Catching Fire when Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss went from realizing there no longer was a District 12, to launching an internal revolution that would bring down Panem, just by the intensity in her gaz, which was called Oscar worthy at the time. (And yes, okay, she didn't win for that movie but it still counts)
It's been said time and again (so please give him more villain roles) but Dylan O'Brien is so good at playing this much darker version of his character that it makes this season intensely thrilling. The quiet way in which he becomes terrifying is fantastic, the switch between Stiles and Void Stiles is so seamless, yet so terrifying, and I could watch Void Stiles snatch fireflies from the previously thought as menacing Oni ALL. DAY. LONG. Gosh, if only the rest of the gang had known they were so easy to neutralize, imagine that! Because yes, remember when Derek astutely sniffed out that Stiles had been battling with himself about something on the hospital roof? Apparently he had quite the arsenal up there, no one's sure what he was up to yet, but there's a giant electric cable that's threatening to electrify everyone on its passage. Kira's mom is the only one who knows what Stiles has become, but her Oni are no match for the Nogitsune. Here's a fun callback to season 2 by the way, remember when Matt was the villain?
"Except for you, Stiles. What do you turn into?"
"Abominable snowman. But it's more like a winter-time thing."
I bet right now, Beacon Hills would give anything to have that abominable snowman instead of the Nogitsune.
I won't spoil the rest of the season, but our little gang's troubles are really only beginning. Now, do yourself a favor and rewatch it, you know you want to! I know I will, I hate to admit this but I never actually finished the show and I still have part of season 5 and the entirety of season 6 to watch sooo you know where you can find me for the foreseeable future! As usual, sound off in the comments. Which was your season 3B favorite episode? (I'm not even saying this is mine, they're pretty much all great)