Teen Wolf: Complete Series (2011-2017), MTV’s entry in the supernatural teenager series, was a rare narrative drama in the MTV lineup up reality shows. It takes its name from the Michael J. Fox eighties horror comedy but its sensibility is coming-of-age drama by way of young adult melodrama for the post-Buffy era. Against all odds, it developed into one of the best of the supernatural shows that proliferated in the early 21st century, interesting and engaging and a lot smarter than True Blood, with a mythology more interesting than The Vampire Diaries.
Tyler Posey is Scott McCall, the good-looking but socially outcast kid who gets bitten in the woods and starts manifesting feral qualities, not just during the full moon but also in the grip of adrenaline and testosterone surges. Dylan O’Brien is his best friend Stiles, whose movie geek knowledge turns out to be spot-on when it comes to werewolf lore, and Crystal Reed is new girl Allison Argent he falls hard for. It turns out that she comes from a long line of werewolf hunters, which drops a supernatural Romeo and Juliet story at the center of it all.
Teen Wolf roils all that teen angst and young love hormones into the odyssey of a young man learning to control his werewolf powers (a metaphor for young adult hormones, of course, but one that works just fine) and choose his pack. Australian filmmaker Russell Mulcahy helped develop the show with creator Jeff Davis and set the tone as a frequent director, giving it plenty of shadowy style and nocturnal atmosphere.
Where the first season was all about exploring powers and learning to control the werewolf within, the second is about independence, defining your own path, and forming your own pack. There’s just enough humor and self-awareness to keep it from pitching into pretentiousness. Or excess. This is a fun show, but it’s also smart and filled with likable and interesting teenage characters whose anxieties play out in mythic metaphors. These high school rebels have found their cause.
Scott and his buddies hit their junior year in season three as Scott balances his double life as star player of the school lacrosse team and pack leader of an unconventional pack of fellow shapeshifters and humans in the know. The team, which now also includes adults impressed by his decency and his commitment, pulls together when a pack of super-powered Alpha werewolves invade the town and students turn up dead in some kind of ritual slaying. That’s life in this town, where night falls early and the mist brings monsters and demons. It’s also the final season for Reed’s Allison, who bowed out of the show, and the beginning of the ascension of Lydia (Holland Roden), Allison’s best friend, as one of the defining leaders of the team as she discovers her own supernatural family legacy.
Also joining the pack this season are Kira Yukimura (Arden Cho), a Japanese-American student who discovers her own warrior legacy as she falls in love with Scott (who rather shyly returns her interest), and Malia (Shelley Hennig), an emotionally fragile teenager who spent most of her life trapped in wolf form and is learning to live in the human world with the help of Scott and Stiles.
The fifth season pits the wolf pack against the insidious The Dread Doctors, a mysterious cabal of steampunk scientists who use an alchemy of science and magic to experiment on high school kids in an attempt to create a “chimera,” a mix of human and supernatural being. Their experiments turn the kids into bloodthirsty creatures driven to kill before they die from the process, making for a kind of “Jekyll and Hyde”/”Frankenstein” story as a teen tragedy. The show has also gotten darker over time and the ominous Eichen House, a hospital with all the charm of a gothic insane asylum turned chamber of horrors, takes on an even more brutal aspect this season.
The show comes to a conclusion in the sixth season, where they battle the Ghost Riders, supernatural entities from another dimension that begin “erasing” people from existence, and confront a new hunter who is determined to take out all shapeshifters, no matter whose side they are on. The final seasons brings the series episode count up to 100.
The adult cast include Sherriff Noah Stilinski (Linden Ashby), Stiles’ father, Scott’s mother Melissa (Melissa Ponzio), a nurse who as seen some very strange things, and werewolf hunter Chris Argent (JR Bourne), who quite unexpectedly finds himself on the side of teen wolf Scott to protect their shared communities from outside threats. And future TV Superman Tyler Hoelchin has a recurring role as a fellow werewolf, a loner who is won over by Scott’s compassion and courage.
This is pure teen melodrama strewn through dark fantasy, where the kids know best and the grown-ups are either philosophical mentors, old-world warriors, or well-meaning but clueless parents, and it embraces that fantasy with a passion, escalating the stakes with every episode. It’s self-aware, sexy, very stylish on a budget, and full of attractive teenagers who act on their hormonal urges and well-toned young men who spend time with their shirts off and their pecs flexing. But it plays the story straight and acknowledges the deaths with a sense of loss and mourning that only steels our heroes to fight for their town.
A TV movie follow-up was released on Paramount+ in 2023, which reunited most of the primary characters of the series, including the return of Crystal Reed as Allison (sadly, Stiles was not part of this one). Russell Mulcahy directs.
Rated TV-14. It features some teen sexuality and horror movie violence
Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Teen Wolf: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Teen Wolf: The Complete Series [DVD]
The DVD and Bluy-ray releases include commentary tracks and featurettes.