Subjectify’s first Third Thursday Throwback of 2023 is the Teen Wolf pilot “Wolf Moon”. In advance of Teen Wolf: The Movie, the hosts of Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast look back at the episode that started it all.
Loosely adapted from the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie by Criminal Minds creator Jeff Davis, MTV’s Teen Wolf is a character-driven supernatural drama that incorporates elements of horror, mystery and action amidst the many heartfelt and comedic moments delivered by its incredibly endearing cast.
The series premiered on June 5, 2011, and in 2012, Subjectify co-founders Karen Rought and Natalie Fisher launched Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast as a way to bring more attention to the show and its fandom. This ironically named podcast was the first one on the internet dedicated solely to Teen Wolf, offering its listeners an in-depth analysis of the show which was fast becoming a huge hit for MTV.
Over the next five years, Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast recapped every Teen Wolf episode, hosted live podcast episodes and convention panels, conducted numerous interviews with the cast, crew, and creator Jeff Davis, visited the Teen Wolf set, and generally covered all things Teen Wolf in great detail, from historical werewolf mythology to cast side projects.
When Teen Wolf wrapped up with its 100th episode in September 2017, Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast concluded as well, but we have recently relaunched the podcast in order to cover the two upcoming projects from creator Jeff Davis: his new teen werewolf series Wolf Pack, and of course, Teen Wolf: The Movie, both of which premiere January 26 on Paramount Plus.
In the lead up to the much anticipated Teen Wolf: The Movie, we have decided to dedicate our first Third Thursday Throwback of 2023 to the Teen Wolf pilot, which bears the title of “Wolf Moon.”
Third Thursday Throwback is a feature designed to offer the Subjectify staff an amnesty from the confines of linear time and in order to review properties from the past. We may select a movie, TV show, book or even an album, and it may be an well-worn favorite or a writer’s late-to-the-table first-time experience with an older work, but on the third Thursday of each month, you can expect to see a review here that will cover something that is by no means current, but is still worth talking about. So read on as our Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast hosts Natalie and Karen each share their feelings about rewatching the Teen Wolf pilot. But first, a bit of a recap.
In the Teen Wolf pilot, we’re introduced to Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a nerdy, asthmatic kid who attends high school in a small northern California town called Beacon Hills. When his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), the son of the local police sheriff, drags him out into the woods one night in search of a reported dead body, Scott gets bitten by a mysterious creature and begins to experience a number of changes, including enhanced hearing, reflexes and strength.
Stiles soon uncovers enough lore to become convinced that Scott has been bitten by a werewolf, a concept that Scott is reluctant to buy into, even with a full moon on the rise. He’s more interested in spending time with the new girl at school, Allison (Crystal Reed), who, to his great shock, is also interested in him. Scott’s newfound confidence and increased abilities are also noticed by the school’s most popular kids Jackson (Colton Haynes) and Lydia (Holland Roden), by his lacrosse coach, who is just thrilled to have a new star player, and by Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin), a mysterious young man who left Beacon Hills some years ago after his family was involved in a tragic fire.
Scott soon learns that he should not have ignored Stiles’s warnings in favor of his first date with Allison when, triggered by teenage hormones, strong emotions and of course, the pull of the full moon, he begins to shift uncontrollably into a werewolf while at a house party. Leaving Allison behind, he runs away to hide his transformation then begins to fear for her wellbeing when he learns that Derek, who had followed him on his date, picked her up and drove her home. Both friends now suspecting that Derek is the werewolf that killed the girl in the woods and bit Scott, Stiles rushes to check up on Allison, only to find her safe at home. At the same time, Scott uses his sense to track Allison’s scent and finds her jacket in the woods — a false trail laid by Derek, who is, indeed, a werewolf, but who was in fact acting to protect Allison from Scott’s new bloodlust and lack of control.
Derek is then forced to protect Scott as well, as a new enemy faction is introduced — a party of hunters, people aware of the supernatural who have been hunting and killing creatures like werewolves for centuries. Despite Scott being wounded with an arrow, they’re able to get away, and Derek tries to connect with Scott, telling him that the bite is a gift, that he will need Derek in order to learn to control his powers, and that they’re like brothers now. But Scott’s problems begin to escalate when, the next day, when trying to apologize to Allison at school, he catches a glimpse of her father in the car and realizes that he’s one of the hunters who attacked him in the woods last night.
Karen: There is only one TV show I can think of off the top of my head where I can definitively say that I know where I was when I first watched it. It’ll come as no surprise which show that is — either because you’ve been following my coverage for the last decade or because you have basic reading comprehension and have seen the headline of this article.
The answer is, of course, Teen Wolf. It was June 5, 2011, and I had just finished watching the MTV Movie Awards. I’d seen commercials for the show throughout the night and thought it looked pretty good, so I decided to hang around and watch the first episode. Though I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened during that awards show, I can tell you that watching the Teen Wolf pilot that night changed the course of my life.
I’ve talked about this time and time again, but if you’re new here, let me just tell you — that’s not hyperbole. I got my first shot at writing for an entertainment website because I wanted to cover the series. I learned how to manage a successful podcast thanks to starting Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast. I started going to Comic-Con because of Teen Wolf. I made lifelong friends because of Teen Wolf. I got my first tattoo because of Teen Wolf.
And nearly twelve years later, that show is still affecting my life. With the Teen Wolf movie on the horizon, my Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast co-host Natalie and I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the beginning and rewatch the Teen Wolf pilot episode to feature as our first 2023 Throwback Thursday review. It’d been a while since we’d both seen it, and considering the plot of the upcoming movie, it would also be relevant. Plus, it’s always fun to go back and see where it all began.
The first thing that struck me was how much I remembered of the Teen Wolf pilot. Not just hazy impressions or vague recollections—no, I remembered whole sequences, and watching it again now brought all those memories to the surface and transported me back to 2011. The opening of the show is burned into my memory, and when I think of certain characters, I was surprised to realize that some of the most iconic images or lines—moments I still recall and lines I still repeat—come from this episode.
Stiles hanging upside down from Scott’s roof. The first time Scott transforms into a werewolf. Derek being the creepy guy lurking on the outskirts of a high school party. Jackson asking where Scott gets his juice. Allison in the rain. Lydia scheming.
It’s all so familiar, and yet there is a sense of distance here. They’re so young. Tyler Posey was just 20 years old. This was Dylan O’Brien’s first acting gig, though you wouldn’t know it to watch him. I couldn’t help but laugh every time Tyler Hoechlin came on screen, because although Derek is meant to be imposing and mysterious in this episode, I know what he’ll have to deal with soon enough and how it will thoroughly change him. But most notably, Holland Roden as Lydia stands out. What we see in the Teen Wolf premiere is a mere fraction of who she is. Watching her play up the mean girl role in season 1 is fun, but it’s also a good reminder of how far she’s come since then.
The episode itself is good. I remember one of my main takeaways from that night back in 2011 was that it was a great pilot. Not all television shows have the luxury of smooth sailing from the start, but Teen Wolf had a lot going for it. This episode was funny and dramatic and scary and action-packed. It introduced a variety of characters, most of them already at odds with each other whether they knew it or not, and set up a mystery that would take an entire season to solve. It’s hard watching the pilot of some of my favorite shows with new viewers, because you have this automatic impulse to say, “Wait! It gets better!” And while I do think Teen Wolf improved over the course of its six seasons, I also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this episode to anyone who likes supernatural shows. Just as it did twelve years ago, it still has an uncanny ability to grab ahold of you and never let go.
I have to keep saying that to myself—Twelve Years Ago. It’s amazing to watch the Teen Wolf pilot and know where the show will go, know where it will end. It’s incredible to think back on the last twelve years and realize so much of what I’ve gotten to do, so much of who I am, leads back to this series. It was a whirlwind, and yet it plays like a highlight reel in my mind. I can pause the movie and pick out moments: Telling Linden Ashby I loved him in Mortal Kombat. Watching the Carver twins cause chaos as they try to record a sound bite for our introduction. Getting everyone from Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast together in the same room. Having Natalie by my side every step of the way.
Teen Wolf will never just be a show to me. It’s an era of my life, and I’m so grateful that era isn’t quite over yet. With Teen Wolf: The Movie right around the corner, watching the Teen Wolf pilot reminded me of how fun this show is. How much I know and love these characters. How important their journey has been to me. Everyone might be older and wiser now, but if all of the recent press surrounding Teen Wolf: The Movie has taught me anything, it’s that they all still remember those days on set, shooting this pilot. They remember meeting each other for the first time, and they know how far they’ve come as a cast. As friends. As a Teen Wolf family.
Natalie: Watching the Teen Wolf pilot again after all this time was honestly pretty wild. There were things that I remembered perfectly, things that I had forgotten (Scott’s asthma!) and even things I remembered that simply weren’t there any more! (RIP “My Body” by Young The Giant — the broadcast version of the pilot used this song in an explosive way when we first got a look at Scott. The DVD and streaming versions replace it with another song, due to licensing rights. Boooooo.)
Aside from the fact that this is a genuinely strong pilot — one mostly dealing with new relationships, but the established ones feel very lived-in, really some of the most natural, unstilted character dynamics and worldbuilding I’ve ever seen — what hit me the hardest is how much character baggage, for lack of a better word, I brought to the viewing. Seeing these characters back at their beginnings made me think hard about where they’re headed, and how much of those journeys, those deeper layers, can be spotted here retroactively.
Stiles’s excitement about going into the woods to look at a dead body is actually pretty warped to begin with, but leaving that gory obsession aside, the fact that Stiles a) dragged Scott out in the first place and b) took the fall for Scott and allows him to sneak away, means that it is also effectively Stiles’s fault that Scott was bitten. I can’t remember my exact train of thought about this over the years, but the fact that Stiles is, for better or worse, responsible for Scott becoming a werewolf, is one of the things that for me makes this friendship one of the most impactful on TV.
In the Teen Wolf pilot, Stiles is the one who takes point on the werewolf thing. He gets somewhat over-involved, and it’s easy to read it as Stiles taking responsibility. This will follow a pattern the rest of the series — Stiles’s contribution always feels like more than just the necessary non-powered nerdy research guy role, and the pilot brought back the vibe I always got, which is that, although he is almost manically curious, the urgency of his drive is actually about shouldering as much of the burden for Scott as he can, about this situation that is, in some lights, his fault. Whether or not you as a viewer feel that it’s his fault, you can bet that Stiles feels that it is.
He’s also willing to chain Scott up and feed him live mice — and sure, this is a joke, but from some angles, the darkness is there right from the start. He would do it, without question. And there will be times in the future where Stiles acts as Scott’s dark shadow. Some fans have even assigned him to the “poison friend” trope: the darker, more cynical partner willing to get his hands dirty in order to protect the pure-hearted hero from something so dire. It’s a fascinating dynamic, one that gives O’Brien a wealth to play with over the course of the series. The places that character would go to — on the one hand, you never would have guessed it from the way we meet this goofball sidekick hanging off of the roof, but on the other, I feel like I can see the potential right under the surface.
That might just be projecting onto O’Brien, who knows. Bursting onto the screen as a totally unknown actor, Teen Wolf fans knew this kid was next-level good from the jump. And while he’s certainly gone on to pursue huge things, hand on heart, I’m still not sure he’s been given the opportunity to showcase his depth, growth and range as an actor within a role more than what he did with this one, regardless of what he thinks about Teen Wolf now.
The show is about as dark and serious as it is possible to be while still being a relatively light watch. The quips and humor in this episode are so natural, genuinely hysterical without being, like, wink-at-camera. “I’ve been scarlet nerd-ed by you.” “I hear this breed is very litigious.” “My mom does all the grocery shopping.” The last sets up Jackson as a tertiary antagonist, after the monster and the hunters, as someone looking to discover Scott’s secret for his own personal gain and biting off more than he can chew. Jackson’s tragic arc is one of my very favorites — I loved him from the jump — and going back to see both Jackson and Lydia be just as attractive and appealing as ever, while also thinking about where they’re going… I don’t think I can even get started on Lydia because I wouldn’t know where to stop.
Like Karen, the first pan to Derek lurking made me burst out laughing. It’s good to know some things never change. There is a special place in my heart for this character that no one else will ever fill. I love how serious he is, how he bears the trauma he’s been through, but I also find his inability to ever be normal freaking hilarious. Social awkwardness disguised as cool, brooding intimidation. I love how in time, his arc is able to allow him to recover from that forced angst to his naturally zen, ironic, and kind of nerdy personality. In the pilot, his anger at Scott’s rejection broke my heart — knowing what he’s going through, what brought him home to Beacon Hills, makes it clear to me (though not to Scott) that he is so, so, so lonely.
I realize that I haven’t said too much about Scott himself. This is because I feel like the perspective of the pilot so closely follows him that I almost feel we are him. There’s a blend of action and comedy, but the action isn’t funny, goofy action, it’s properly disorientating, in-the-moment stuff, like when he jumps off the roof, and the way it’s shot makes me feel like we are experiencing it along with him — all his heightened sense, his heightened emotions, even when it comes to meeting Allison. I had forgotten this is how his powers kicked in — because of her, as he overhears that she needs a pen and is able to be smooth. He is our lens so closely and so effectively that it’s hard to step back and look at him from the outside — we are seeing everything through his eyes.
As Karen mentioned, it’s impossible to reflect back on Teen Wolf without also thinking about how the show has personally affected my trajectory in this industry. It’s through Teen Wolf that I first properly learnt how to navigate network PR teams, interview requests, and event coverage, as a baby journalist. Teen Wolf was the first show I got screeners for, and the first set I stepped foot on. I’d already been podcasting on other shows, but had not recorded, edited and produced my own. And it’s the first show where my work allowed me to connect with the team behind the scenes on a personal level — to communicate so openly with the cast and writers on a regular basis. I didn’t go to college for journalism. Teen Wolf was my college.
But to be honest, while the episode was playing, I wasn’t really thinking about any of that. I wasn’t thinking about the grander scheme of things, or even the upcoming movie. I was basically just caught up in the moment, and my main takeaway at the end of it — or rather, every few minutes while watching — was “Wow, this is good. This is really fucking good. It really is as good as I remember.” It made me want to sit there and just keep watching the whole show over from scratch. Over a decade down the line, after sinking so much energy into this show, it’s gratifying to find that not much has changed — Teen Wolf is still able to hook its claws into me as much as it ever did.