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Teen Wolf died so Wolf Pack could live

Paramount Plus’ premiere of Wolf Pack feels timed to take over from the failed Teen Wolf: The Movie

Tyler Posey as Scott McCall carries an unconscious woman on his back as he growls with fury, exposing his canine teeth, in Teen Wolf: The Movie Photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/MTV Entertainment

Teen Wolf first premiered in 2011, as Twilight (2008) and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries (2009) helped the teen fantasy craze reach its apex. The message to Hollywood was clear: Young audiences wanted shows with sexy teenagers, supernatural powers and villains, and forbidden love. Teen Wolf checked all the boxes, making it a massive success for MTV. The show ran for six seasons, ending in 2017. In the five years since the finale, television made for young adults has moved away from vampires and werewolves, but it hasn’t strayed far from the horror-fantasy model the series (and contemporaries like Pretty Little Liars and Scream Queens) popularized. In theory, now is the perfect time for a revival — which is why this week, we’re getting two attempts: The creatively titled Teen Wolf: The Movie, and a new series, Wolf Pack, which is only spiritually connected.

Created by Jeff Davis, Teen Wolf: The Movie and Wolf Pack premiere on Paramount Plus on Jan. 26, but other than a common genre element and entangled advertising (including shared panels at SDCC and NYCC earlier this year), the two properties have nothing to do with one another, at least based on the two episodes of Wolf Pack previewed for critics. And while fans of the original series might find the lack of context alarming, the divorce provides an opportunity the franchise so desperately needs: an offramp and a fresh start.

Previously, on Teen Wolf… The Movie

Tyler Posey as Scott McCall growing with his eyes squinted with fog and bright light lighting up the night behind him in Teen Wolf: The Movie Photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/MTV Entertainment

Teen Wolf started as a show about Scott (Tyler Posey), a teenage boy bitten by a werewolf who must figure out how to balance lacrosse games with supernatural threats, all while falling in love with the daughter of a werewolf hunter. The world quickly expanded. The town of Beacon Hills was revealed to be full of otherworldly creatures — banshees, werecoyotes, kitsune, hellhounds — and the villains became more and more dangerous. Subsequent seasons got darker, more serious, and mythology-driven, though the core was always the relationship between Scott and his human best friend, Stiles (Dylan O’Brien). Scott and Stiles’ bond made the show relatable despite the fact that one was a werewolf. No matter how nonsensical the plots, or how disturbing the villain, the pair were always there to bring Teen Wolf back to reality.

This was especially evident in season 3, arguably the series’ best season, and coincidentally, the season Teen Wolf: The Movie borrows most from. Season 3’s antagonist, a kitsune-esque “nogitsune” trickster spirit that thrives off of chaos and pain and temporarily possessed Stiles, was the series’ scariest villain and also its most emotionally effective. So it makes sense that Teen Wolf: The Movie would want to revisit the arc to strike a similar human-relationship-to-supernatural-action ratio. There’s just one small problem: O’Brien chose not to return for the film. And without Stiles, The Movie lacks both the heart and the humor that made the show so addictive.

Like Scott, the Teen Wolf franchise becomes consumed in slo-mo action shots without an emotional anchor. And with more plot than character, Teen Wolf: The Movie falters. This is clear in how the film borrows heavily from the action of season 3 — the nogitsune and his shadow henchmen, the oni, were villains in the second part of the season — but reclaims almost none of the heart, sacrificing it to make room for dramatic entrances. But simply getting a beloved character like Peter (Ian Bohen) to walk out of the shadows and light a cigar with a blow torch doesn’t make up for the fact that the film isn’t additive.

By being so nostalgic, it’s unclear who Teen Wolf: The Movie is even for. New viewers would be completely lost without the context of season 3, and it’s not satisfying to this longtime fan hoping to experience the humor and heart of the original series. Between all the forced action, the closest The Movie comes to a real relationship is Derek (Tyler Hoechlin) and his teenage son, Eli (Vince Mattis), who struggles to access his werewolf powers and feels insecure around his dad. But that storyline is left underdeveloped as it takes a backseat to a main plot about Allison’s (Crystal Reed) resurrection as her season 1, werewolf-hating self, and Scott’s desperate attempt to remind her of who she had grown into before she died.

A growling mummy with bloody teeth creeps up behind Crystal Reed as Allison Argent in TEEN WOLF: THE MOVIE Photo: Matt MIller/MTV Entertainment

Superfans will see things they missed from the original: The brilliance of Allison’s BFF turned banshee turned Stiles’ love interest, Lydia (Holland Roden), Derek’s stern dad vibes, Scott’s himbo energy, and, yes, even the action. But they’ll also be left scratching their heads about glaring plot holes. What happened to Monroe and the werewolf hunters, who ended the finale as Scott’s main rivals? Why is Scott out of touch with all the members of the pack he was so close to at the end of the series? For all the surface-level callbacks, this is not a movie looking to put a bow on the series.

On top of it all, Teen Wolf: The Movie disrespects Kira (Arden Cho), who was introduced in season 3 as a new love interest for Scott. Her character drove the season 3 plot revived by the film. The nogitsune villain, for example, was born from her mother’s trauma in a Japanese American internment camp during WWII. This background is never addressed in the film. In fact, Kira’s name doesn’t even come up. This is unsurprising given how the show casually abandoned her character in season 5, and then reportedly offered Cho less than her white co-stars to appear in the movie.

The glaring omission is more evident in how the movie essentially replaces Kira with Hikari Zhang (Amy L. Workman), a new kitsune who is barely introduced as Liam’s girlfriend or friend (their relationship is never defined) and only has a handful of lines. It’s hard not to see her character as an attempt by Davis to justify the film’s use of Japanese folklore, and it’s a huge miscalculation for the film. Fans want to see that Teen Wolf can evolve, but The Movie feels stuck in the past.

A new generation in Wolf Pack

Bella Shepard as Blake Navarro and Armani Jackson as Everett Lang stand back to back in front of a cracked mirror in a dusty old house in The Wolf Pack Photo: Steve Dietl/Paramount Plus

While Teen Wolf: The Movie disappoints, the best thing that may happen to Davis’ original series is the decision to start over again with Wolf Pack, which is actually based on a series of books by Edo van Belkom. The show begins with Everett (Armani Jackson), a loner who kicks off the episode mid-panic attack before he — spoiler alert — gets bitten by a mysterious creature while evacuating from a fire. The next thing he knows, he’s in the hospital being treated for a mysterious animal bite and receiving threatening phone calls warning him that people are out to kill him. His only ally is Blake (Bella Shepard), a classmate he also saw get bit during the evacuation.

Despite confusino, there’s no connection to Teen Wolf — even a pandering one that current cinematic universes might invite — in Wolf Pack. Davis doesn’t stretch to feature overlapping characters. There are no lines drawn, at least in the first two episodes, to Beacon Hills. And the team behind the new series stretches to redesign supernatural creatures in a more modern way. The show feels like Teen Wolf — the jump scares, the way-too-hot teenagers — but plot-wise, Wolf Pack isn’t tied down by any expectations to connect to the original.

This freedom allows the franchise to grow with the times. Wolf Pack is darker and less fast-paced than Teen Wolf, a possible reflection of the fact that the show has already been picked up for an entire season on streaming and doesn’t depend on weekly ratings, giving it more time to ease into the story. Scott realized he was a werewolf in the very first episode of Teen Wolf. Everett barely figures it out before the first hour is up. Meanwhile, major characters, like Kristin (Sarah Michelle Gellar), barely appear in the first two episodes, giving the series a nice sense of foreboding. (Though, if Gellar doesn’t get more to do soon, it’ll be tough to keep the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans coming back week to week.)

As a streaming show made in 2023, Wolf Pack has many technical differences from Teen Wolf, but it remains true to the heart of the series: the idea of the found family. Every season, Scott and Stiles added new members to their pack, made new friends, and created a new family. Wolf Pack continues that theme. Both Blake and Everett are disconnected from their parents and at odds with their classmates, but, after they’re bitten, they have an undeniable connection, which allows them to cross paths with werewolf twins Luna (Chloe Rose Robertson) and Harlan (Tyler Lawrence Gray), who were found by their adoptive father, Garrett (Rodrigo Santoro), as babies. A pack is forming, and it’s clear they’ll need each other if they want to survive the season.

After Teen Wolf: The Movie, it’s refreshing to see the focus placed back on the characters and their relationships. And if the show continues to prioritize character over plot, Wolf Pack might do what The Movie couldn’t: thrive.

Teen Wolf: The Movie and Wolf Pack are both out now on Paramount Plus.