Wolf Pack 1×01 “From a Spark to a Flame” is an episode of television that feels like it could just as easily have been slightly extended to turn it into a campy sort of disaster film. You know the ones. And honestly? It just flat out works. Why? Because it’s fun and, while certainly not here specifically for “us,” anyone who grew up on ’90s and early 2000s teen movies and, yes, series (like…you know…the one about the vampire slayer) will almost certainly remember that particular genre’s feel. It’s scary at times, big on the feels, and refuses to be condescending or take itself too seriously.
Those are all very good things in the entertainment value department — I’m just going to be repetitive here and say this episode is fun. Yes, with italics for emphasis again — sure. But as viewers, we’re still usually looking for a little bit of extra special something to make us pick this dose of fun over others. Well, there’s no shortage of that in this pilot. Sure, we could break down shots of a raging inferno and a truly horrific opener involving terrified animals goring their way through stranded drivers. (See also: the amount of “WTF” with those burning rams.) But there’s also a story here, one that certainly shows potential.
It’s a story about Everett Lang and Blake Navarro, whose lives get turned completely upside down after suffering wounds that nobody else can see the true nature of — and none of the adults in the room will believe them about. If that sounds like a familiar experience, outside of all the supernatural aspects, congratulations. You’re human, and you have either survived growing up or are in the process of it. Or, maybe it’s both. This element is where, at least for the bulk of Wolf Pack 1×01, the true heart and connection with the audience really comes from. So, whether or not viewers stick with this series after “From a Spark to a Flame” almost surely depends on how much we find ourselves caring about these characters’ journeys. For me, it’s a very simple decision to say yes, I want more.
In the hands of the wrong actors, these characters could’ve been nothing more than a tropey mess — especially Blake as a “not like other girls” archetype who, in order to have her fantastically entertaining attitude must — of course — also come from a “broken” home. But Bella Shepard and Armani Jackson, thankfully, are very much the right actors. Jackson does a fantastic job of portraying Everett’s vulnerabilities right from the start, and when the time comes for him to play up the fear and trauma of all these new and terrifying changes, of suddenly having his world suddenly become a totally different place, he does a fantastic job there, as well.
Shepard definitely brings the kind of…”strong female character with an attitude” of it all to life in Blake. Underneath all of it, though, there’s that extra layer of substance. In particular, it’s easy to get a feel for in the way Blake takes care of her younger brother. Another subtle, yet meaningful, does of character depth comes from the almost regretful expression as Blake’s leaving the motel where she and her family are staying. Later, this character claims not to care about losing everything — and she puts up that rough exterior all along. But when the time comes to really react, to really show true caring, everything about that reaction feels both earned and genuine.
And if there happen to be a couple of moments where Blake and Everett have a beat of…something, that’s certainly all down to just the right chemistry.
We also meet another pair of young characters in Wolf Pack 1×01 — Luna and Harlan Briggs. Their introduction is one of the weaker aspects of the episode. Now, that’s not because there’s anything wrong with the characters or the actors themselves, but because it just feels a bit jarring to leave the disaster/horror vibe halfway through. As in, we’re suddenly just dumped in the middle of a club, seemingly out of nowhere. So, it definitely takes a bit of an adjustment.
These two do, however, initiate some interesting conversations about what family really is and what it means to find your people — your pack, in the context of this series. Perhaps once Harlan learns a little bit more about how utterly terrible both Everett and Blake’s fathers are, he’ll realize Garrett is about the most real dad of them all. Doesn’t matter if he happened to just find Harlan and Luna 18 years ago — he’s family. Period.
By the end of the episode, all four of these characters have come together and realized they’re going to be a big part of each other’s lives going forward. I, for one, can’t wait to see how that all works out.
Random thoughts on Wolf Pack 1×01
- “I’m pretty sure peak condition doesn’t feel like this giant fucking weight pressing on me.” Considering all the conversations around mental health and elite athletes in the past couple of years, I have a feeling many of them would relate.
- “I’ve got anxiety.” “Doesn’t everyone?” “Not like me.” It’s so simple, and it works!
- You’re right, Blake. I do not at all “get” you not having a phone. Even as an old, I can’t function without one. I’m supposed to believe a youth chooses not to have a phone? Ok.
- Bye, Austin. That’s what you get for talking down to the bus driver about a “shitty minimum wage job” like that.
- “If you want me to be a normal fucking teenager, then why don’t you try not using the word ‘fucking’ when talking to your teenager?” It was here, even if I don’t care about adults and cussing around teens one way or another, that I decided I loved her. Stand up to that shitty excuse for an adult, girl!
- Excellent work with the camera and effects as Everett enters the hospital. Really shows how bad the situation is and, more importantly, how badly it’s all messing with his already-existing struggles with anxiety.
- The Danny of it all concerns me because I want to make sure that autism is portrayed well. Not just for the perfect nephew I have but for everyone out there. I hope folks feel seen, not mocked or otherwise disrespected.
- “Most of my friends are online.” I am in this line, and I do not like it.
- Did anyone else feel like the hospital phone’s ringer was giving Scream? Also: “What does it want?” “To kill you.” Exact opposite of subtle. Ghostface would be proud.
- These parents are awful. Like…that whole hyperbole thing? “Nothing’s minor with you”? A bitch.
- “Fear. And pain.” Same.
- “I’ve been a piece of shit. I know. But give me a break. Please? Things are falling apart, and I…I don’t know what to do. I’m just looking for a little help. So I can take care of you and Danny, alright?” Manipulative much? It’s not her job to give you a break. Be a parent or GTFO.
- “I can take care of myself.”
- The heartbeat effect in that club during all the hot action was pretty cool, though. Even if it was a weird transition to that atmosphere, as I discussed above. Maybe edited a little differently, it would’ve hit better?
- “What’s his name?” “Fuck off.” “Is that his first name or his last name?” I love it.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar walks in. Me: “BUFFY!!!!” SMG introduces herself as Kristin Ramsay, cuts off the dickish officer trying to be rude to the head nurse. Me: OMG SMG!!! Basically, there’s something that feels very much like a nod to longtime fans of Gellar. It’s there, in terms of her first moment’s framing, the first line’s rhythm and “quippishness,” I’m going to call it. Not sure how else to put it.
- “I don’t have a phone because I don’t need to talk to people like you.” I suddenly understand the not having a phone thing.
- “You’re the one always saying you don’t feel like you’ve found your pack. Like no one gets us. And that all you’ve ever wanted is to find someone like you.” We all feel like that at some point or another, some of us more than others.
- “I have my own shit to deal with. You and me, we’re not int his together, alright?” …this is totally going to turn into “in this together,” huh?
- Absolutely everything in Garrett’s message to Luna and Harlan made my heart get stuck in my chest. That is a loving father. (And those were totally not tears in my eyes, just an allergic reaction. I swear.)
- “Sometimes, people freak out!”
- …why is Ramsay calling a child and manipulating him like this, though? Buffy would never.
- That shot of the kids running in the forest was a bit much. Made “Run, Forrest, run!” look subtle.
- Yeah, ok. I’m here for it.
Thoughts on Wolf Pack 1×01 “From a Spark to a Flame”? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of Wolf Pack stream Thursdays on Paramount+.