Tis the week to say farewell to both of the summer’s high profile teen-becomes-an-animal-and-falls-in-love-with-the-child-of-their-nemesis cable dramas.
MTV’s “Teen Wolf” wrapped up its first season on Monday (August 15) night with a finale that included a few lingering questions, but no pressing cliffhangers. If you’re a writer-producer, it’s the sort of finale you can turn in if you’re confident that you’ll be continuing the story a few months down the road. Indeed, MTV renewed “Teen Wolf” weeks ago and new episodes will premiere in 2012 and if the network holds off till the summer again, I’ll probably even keep watching, despite the galling awareness that Australian doctorologists say that TV is killing me at a rate of 22 minutes per small screen hour. Since reading the results of that scientifically questionable study, I’ve been evaluating what percentage of my TV viewing is worth dying for. With “Teen Wolf,” I’m certain it’s a loss.
While I haven’t loved “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” I’ve found it to be a pleasantly entertaining summertime diversion, low impact but likable. When musing on the TV that’s killing me, “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” doesn’t go under the heading of TV Worth Dying Slowly For, but unlike “Teen Wolf,” it also can’t be filed under Oh God, I’m Squandering My Life. It’s better suited for the I Probably Wasn’t Gonna Do Anything Better With That Time pile, which isn’t too shabby.
But like my own dwindling reservoir of mortality, “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” may not be around forever. The superpowered drama finished its opening installment of episodes on Tuesday (August 16) night and it has yet to be picked up for any additional episodes. That’s not a terrific sign, especially if you consider that “Switched at Birth,” which premiered within days of “Chloe” and has been a true summer smash, has already been picked up for a whopping 22 episodes. With ABC Family’s packed schedule and more original premieres on the horizon, I can see how it might make sense to cut ties with a show that hasn’t necessarily stirred up the sort of buzz the network might have hoped for. But having watched the “Chloe King” finale, I’m sure I speak for whatever fanbase the show has in saying that cancelation now would just be plain cruel.
Thoughts on the two finales after the break… Obviously with spoilers.
All season long, my policy was that a lacrosse-free episode of “Teen Wolf” was a good episode of “Teen Wolf,” if “good” equals “less awful than the lacrosse-themed episodes.” I think lacrosse is a fun sport to watch and play, but it’s a stupid sport to attempt to depict on TV and an even stupider substitute for basketball from the original film. But I’ve ranted about this aspect of things quite enough.
The “Teen Wolf” finale was a tense affair full of shocking revelations, or revelations that were shocking to people on screen, but which had been revealed to us previously. Peter’s the Alpha? Yes. We know. Kate started the fire that a dozen different people had been blamed for over the course of the season? Sure. We knew that.
So most of the real suspense in the finale was whether Allison would find a way to forgive and love Scott after discovering, almost simultaneously, that he was a werewolf and her family destiny was to kill werewolves. The short answer: Yes. Yes she could forgive him.
Yeah, the finale was full of pulse-pounding thrills, except that no amount of narrative urgency was too important that it couldn’t be set aside for a hideously bad product plug for some sort of AT&T mobile hotspot device. I understand that these shows have to sell products to stay in business, but if you’re a showrunner, you have to have the guts to say “This is my freaking finale. You’re not going to ruin my finale with an AT&T commercial.” But that’s not the way Jeff Davis went and we got Stiles and The Alpha pausing to chatter about the difficulties of getting Internet connectivity at the least appropriate place possible.
The finale then unspooled into a sloppy climax in which all of our main characters battled a blurry CGI blob — at least now we understand why we’d been denied full-on wolf effects for the majority of the season. The effect in which the CG Alpha staggered backwards after being kicked by Scott was so poor they might as well have gone with claymation. But we finally set the Alpha on fire and and Derek shockingly killed Peter rather than giving Scott the chance to dewolf. Totally selfish, right? And Derek growls, “I’m the Alpha now.” And the camera pulled back and you thought, “That’s a good place to leave things.”
But then, almost as if somebody swapped the reels in the projection booth, we cut to Scott and Stiles checking in on Lydia, who’s still alive, but she’s also not healing, which means that she isn’t a werewolf, but she is something else. What is she? Dunno. But I was more curious about the situation in which Scott and Stiles stared at the newly Alpha-ed Derek, eyes all a-glow, and said, “That was really mean of you, but if you don’t mind, we have to go see our friend at the hospital.” Then in the next scene, we had Jackson searching for Derek, even though he’d know where he was a few minutes earlier, begging Derek to bite him. Then we went back to Scott, now without Stiles, up on the roof making out with Allison, as Mrs. and Mr. Argent stood in the next room having a vague conversation that gave no real indication that Mr. Argent had been eager to run Scott down with his car just a few hours earlier.
There are definitely questions leading into next season: What’s up with Lydia? Why can’t I remember if they explained what’s up with Carver from “The Wire”? Are the Argents really just remaining in town to give Allison the chance to eventually sleep with Scott (albeit hopefully not in an abandoned schoolbus as may have been her preference)? What the heck happened after Derek announced he was the Alpha and why didn’t anybody think that was a good chance for a preemptive strike? And Will Scott’s mom ever pay their power bill or will the McCalls continue to live in a weird state of perpetual darkness? Did “Teen Wolf” really resort to a “Female werewolves are bitches *twice* a month… you know… cuz they get periods” joke? And if every slo-mo scene in “Teen Wolf” were shot in regular speed, how short would each episode actually be? I’m thinking the finale would have been 25 minutes if you just showed everything at a normal pace.
Anyway, that was Season One of “Teen Wolf.” If it had premiered in February, I’d have stopped watching after a week.
THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING
Oh good gracious.
What a freaking mess.
And you can’t really expect me to accept that there’s an iota of a chance that this may have been a series finale, can you?
So to recap, as the episode ended we had:
… Valentina poisoned. [That’s bad.]
… Jasmine stabbed. [That’s bad.]
… Alek showing up and threatening to kill the evil Zane, only to have Zane announce that they’re brothers. [That’s not really bad, but it’s definitely an awkward family reunion.]
… Chloe’s mom out on a not-date with Brian’s dad, who probably wants to kidnap her or poison her or stab her or something. [That’s bad, albeit hypothetically.]
… Chloe shot to death. [That’s bad. But not so bad. She has nine lives. You might have heard about them.]
… Brian arriving in time to see Chloe dead, repeatedly telling her he loves her, seeing her reanimated [nine lives, remember?], kissing her and dying, or something. [That’s bad. But we *were* told that sometimes the Mai kiss only causes a coma and Chloe isn’t a trained doctor.]
[Somehow nothing bad happened to Amy and Paul. What’s up with that? They weren’t worth even an iota of nefarious plotting from Those Bad People Who Want To Kill Chloe?]
Anyway, if that’s how ABC Family decides to end things with “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” that would be a wee bit open-ended, wouldn’t it? More like “The Nine Dangling Plotlines of Chloe King.”
The finale was simultaneously a bit meandering and a bit rushed. Chloe’s whiplash back and forth between Brian and Alek has never been all that compelling to me because I never believed she had all that much chemistry with either guy, but this week’s love-swap — out with the Alek, back in with the Brian — was abrupt and it wasn’t aided by the tension-sapping visit to grandma, who we always figured would be evil, but whose actual evil nature remains vague and uninteresting. [Leaving grandma aside for a second and returning to the love triangle, I get that some people are Team Brian and some people are Team Alek, but I can’t get behind either entanglement. I’ve also been told that it’s entirely unacceptable to be Team Chlamy, so I guess I’ll have to root for a third option to show up.]
Meanwhile, Zane’s betrayal at the end of last episode and into this episode would have been more effective if the character hadn’t been randomly introduced last week and if we hadn’t been properly convinced that Jasmine can’t do anything right and therefore of *course* she’d date a guy who wants to kill everybody she knows.
And although I mocked “Teen Wolf” for sacrificing finale pacing for a product plug, I was astounded that after two straight weeks in which Kia was practically a guest star, climaxing with Chloe securing her own energy efficient, moderately priced car, this week’s episode found her sneaking out to seemingly meet her father and doing it on foot, leading to a confusing “I’ll give you a ride” exchange with Brian, rather than a “It’s OK, I’m going to take my brand new Kia, even if I only have a learner’s permit, it’s such a reliable and safe automobile it can even keep an unlicensed Mai safe.” At least then there would have been a narrative payoff for the Kia.
I also still don’t know what to think about Chloe’s father and I’m surprised there wasn’t one last beat involving his whereabouts. I mean, we assume that all of his earlier emails weren’t fabrications, were they? Or is that what was happening with Evil Grandma and the burning art? Did I mention that “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” is a show that I enjoy largely because it doesn’t require that I take “Breaking Bad”-style notes when I watch. I get that the text messages were sent by the two useless scrawny assassins and the only only-slightly-less-usless and only-slightly-less-scrawny assassin who were only at the theater to tire Chloe out before Brian’s Dad’s Mean Girlfriend shot her.
One of the great things about a show in which your main character has nine lives is that you can periodically kill her off in gruesome ways just to keep viewers on edge. One of the down sides of having a show in which your main character has nine lives is that when a season finale rolls around and you haven’t used any of those lives since the premiere, everybody knows one of those fake-deaths is coming, so nobody’s actually on edge. Know what I mean?
On Twitter earlier this week, I was asked if I thought that “Chloe King” is possibly too wholesome for an ABC Family audience that has tarted itself up with the marquee success of “Pretty Little Liars.” I fear that may be at least partially the case. Chloe learned in the pilot that if she so much as slipped tongue to a mortal guy, she might kill him. So sexuality was basically off the table this season. The show’s violence was always muted, the adult language was non-existent and we keep learning the dangers of keeping secrets from your parents and, last week, the dangers of skeevy older guys using the Internet as a den to entrap impressionable teens for white slavery. “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” almost could have aired on Disney Channel, it was so pure. And maybe ABC Family’s audience is into darker themes these days?
It doesn’t seem right for “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” to end this way, not with a full seven lives to go. As I said back when I first reviewed the show, I think Skyler Samuels is a star and I think she’ll be OK even if cancellation occurs, but I like the show around her enough that I’ll be a bit disappointed if this is limbo is where we’re stuck for good.
Anyway, what’d y’all think of either the “Teen Wolf” or “Nine Lives of Chloe King” finales?