Wolf Pack 1×04 “Fear and Pain” addresses the big reveal from the previous episode, but it doesn’t necessarily do it in the most sensible way. There are also a few places where it’s really difficult to look past some technical elements that are….eh. Frankly not great, is what we’ll call them. Even so, though, all the things that work for the series continue to do so here. So, taking the bad with the good isn’t necessarily difficult. Neither is remembering to step back and say, “ok. This isn’t supposed to be prestige television. Let’s enjoy it for what it is.” Basically, it’s a situation of “if you can get past the rough stuff, there’s a lot to appreciate.”
To that end, the chance for appreciation comes from several different areas, not the least of which is the continued conversation about mental health. Whenever and wherever that piece comes into play, the main cast’s performances seem to step up a notch, making what could easily fall into the trap of “after school special lecture” into something meaningful. That’s not really anything new, as it’s basically been — along with the kind of campy, “how many horror tropes can we hit” bit — the selling point for this series from the start. But it continues to be worth coming back for, especially with some of the talent on display.
So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the truly cringeworthy in “Fear and Pain.”
Traumatized witnesses…and the investigators who don’t believe them.
Wolf Pack 1×04 features the first time we see Kristin Ramsey interrogating a child the right way — with a parent present — which makes sense, considering the way things went down with Garrett in the third episode. It also makes her conversation with Austin that much more impactful, seeing as how we’re not sitting here going “WTF, lady” throughout the whole thing. So, let’s talk a little bit about what happens with Austin, both in the early scene where he talks to Kristin and the later ones where he’s with his peers. This is a kid who hasn’t quite factored in very much before now, other than to kind of be a jerk on the bus in the premiere and/or to hang out with the “cool” kids in episode 3. Now, though, he’s kind of a big deal.
In the first place, he’s a prime example of what happens when people experience a truly traumatic event and just can’t get past it. Austin isn’t sleeping — can’t even close his eyes at night — as his mom lets us know. And throughout his interview with Ramsey, he’s having horrifying flashbacks to the attack that kicked off this whole series. But Ramsey doesn’t quite believe his story (who would, in the real world, considering?), and that adds another awful layer to things. Far too often, law enforcement doesn’t believe victims. In this case, I don’t think it’s the bad faith disbelief that happens in a lot of abuse cases — especially those of a sexual nature — but it’s still disbelief. Which is not, at all, helpful for a kid like Austin (or any victim).
Ramsey, for her part, takes on this placating tone, trying to reassure him. And she really does try to come at this from a position of empathy in the moment, as far as all evidence indicates. Kristin’s even right about how a particularly bad trauma can sometimes cause our imaginations to run wild, to create something truly fantastical as a coping mechanism…But, as viewers, we know this massive wolf is real. We know Austin’s is telling the truth. And so is everyone else whose nightmares are plastered all over the board.
“Austin, I don’t want you to think that those pictures are hanging there as some kind of joke. Like we’re mocking the witnesses. I have them there to remind me how powerful and confusing a traumatic event like this can be. I have no doubt that a 280 pound ram charging right at you is completely terrifying.”
Nothing Ramsey says is enough, though. Because failing to listen to what victims are saying, or to see what’s right there in front of her eyes from a variety of witness statements (now including Austin’s), isn’t going to cut it. So, what does Austin do? He acts out, telling her to “ask the fucking ram” before storming off. And quite frankly, when you’re showing someone your vulnerabilities, over and over and over…when you’re begging to be heard and constantly being misunderstood or outright gaslit? Yeah. It’s a common human response to get pissed and lash out. Who doesn’t? Find me someone who never has. I’ll wait.
The whole situation leads Austin to frantically, desperately seek help from Everett. Asking for help is good…just not when it’s in the form of practically demanding someone else’s prescription medication. Everett initially seems to realize that. But he gives in on the condition that Austin admits to what he really saw on the highway. Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely not. But is it understandable, and does it highlight how drug-seeking typically isn’t about someone being “bad”? Yes, definitely. Sometimes, you just don’t know what else to do and will pretty much try anything. (Kids, please don’t.)
Of course, once Austin gets Luna to make that sketch for him and actually believes him — which he doesn’t even want to trust by that point — he gets what all of us really want: someone to hear us out, to see us. Maybe even to help us, if we’re really lucky. If only the people who are supposed to help actually would.
Just pack things.
Wolf Pack 1×04 has about half a second where the pack is like, “hey, let’s go our separate ways because maybe we’re most dangerous when we’re together.” Which…doesn’t work out at all. As we keep being reminded over and over again, in new and sometimes unexpected ways, they’re connected now. And there’s no turning back.
The latest connection comes courtesy of Everett’s anxiety. Just like pack members can all share their senses of hearing and smell under the right set of circumstances, they can also feel each other’s emotional reactions to what’s going on around them. But they don’t necessarily respond in exactly the same way — something that’s both really fascinating from a mythology standpoint and just more of our very necessary conversation about mental health.
The whole pack learns what both anxiety and panic attacks feel like, as well as what sets them apart from each other, the hard way — by actually suffering themselves. Yes, Everett explains what they’re going through and how it might be different than his personal situation. And maybe there’s something to be said for a little more “show, don’t tell” here. But the long explanation means he’s also teaching the intended audience about these things, which is far more important than any nitpicking on storytelling.
The scene where the core four come together and share these new, scary feelings even has not just a heart to it, but also some comic relief. Everett rapidly lists all the reasons why he might be in the middle of an anxiety attack, with just the right amount of urgency, frustration, and even anger. That part somehow has both a sincerity and a humor to it, considering how he’s like basically “seriously, bitch” (but not in those words) when he’s asked why he’s even having an attack in the first place.
But then, for a full-out fun moment, we get the perfectly-delivered “no shit” in response to Harlan telling him he needs to learn how to relax. Like, that is brand new information, if you will. People who have anxiety, or symptoms of any other kind of stress-related disorder, have obviously never, ever thought of relaxing, y’all! Let’s just all take Harlan’s advice and move on! Perfect! (Note the sarcasm here, gang.) If only it were that simple.
So, that’s the pack mythology part of “Fear and Pain” that’s basically perfect. The bad comes in with Everett rescuing Danny toward the end of the episode. In the first place, there’s hardly any logic to the idea of Blake just…leaving her brother alone in the booth when she
suddenly finds herself in the middle of a P2 sequel believes her bitchy classmates may be in trouble and rushes off to investigate. After all, if she was fine letting the kid fend for himself, she could’ve left him at the hotel where he could at least watch his news. While we’re at it, why should she help them anyway? They suck. And, furthermore, anyone who’s ever watched a single horror movie knows better.
On top of all that, the shot of Everett with Danny in his arms is just too much. Just…help. That’s all I can really say about that. Help.
More on Wolf Pack 1×04
- Ok, so…everyone’s just…standing around, worried about Garrett, and not addressing the silver bullets until after he comes back from outside? Maybe instead of yet another “omg look at the fire” opening image, we should spend more time picking up on the immediate aftermath of that big reveal and then sending him outside? Logic!
- “Tell her why you can’t sleep. Why you can’t even close your eyes.” Would gladly spend several days sharing such things with
my hero Buffy SummersSarah Michelle Gellar. Where do I sign up?
- While we’re at it, did you have a moment every time the word “fangs” came out of SMG’s mouth? Or are you normal.
- “So, how’d they get like that?” Ok but there’s forever something about Bella Shepard’s delivery. I can’t stress enough how much Blake is basically my favorite character, and it’s all down to the way Shepard tosses out pretty much every single line.
- “Did I eventually find out the truth? That the two of you are every bit as human as me and everyone else? Yeah. Of course.” People can learn and grow! …still doesn’t make what he did right.
- There’s no way in (the) Hell(mouth) that the entire Ramsey night scene wasn’t meant to give us olds an “omg Buffy’s patrolling” moment. None. You will not convince me otherwise. It’s all too familiar — right down to the particular way Gellar’s hair is styled.
- And don’t get me started on that look in her eyes when Ramsey sees the ram die.
- With that being said, what even is with the shot of her on the ground? And why are the rams so…just…comically awful. The werewolf looks more real. Come on.
- “Normal. For real?” Blake, once again, gets me.
- And there’s a vibe when Luna’s writing her number on her arm, right?
- Very much over Harlan basically being there to be moody, thirsty, and not much else.
- I’m even more over Everett’s mother. What an absolutely disgusting woman.
- “Try to remember Harlan and Luna still don’t know that you know what you know.” It’s giving “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.”
- I can’t stress enough how great Rio Mangini is at portraying Austin’s pain in this episode. Same goes for Armani Jackson with Everett’s panic. It’s a whole cast sort of thing, as I mentioned in the introduction. For this episode, though, these two are given the most to do with that aspect of the story — and they do it very, very well.
- The Garrett/Kristin thing: Sir, interfering with an investigation is bad. But also, I’m here for the Rodrigo Santoro and SMG “dance,” so to speak. This should be fun if it gets more time to build
- “Well, I don’t think it’s a seven-foot-tall monster with two heads and wings.” Buffy saying “monster.” That is all.
- The gleeful “and he’s off the task force!!!” line after Ramsey has already dragged Miller and dismissed Jang…SMG, I love you.
- On the one hand, we at least finally know what all the weird horse stuff has been about. On the other, it doesn’t completely line up with Blake being able to, you know, not kill her innocent little brother for smacking her. What’s the difference, here? Is it a “Luna was too young to control herself, but Blake’s more mature” situation? Something about being part of a pack? Or…???
- Still waiting for the wolf to eat this mean girl, though.
- Ma’am, never say you’ll be right back. Because you won’t be.
- …the horror psychology is great with the whole Danny thing, though.
- “Don’t say that you believe me. Or you know it was traumatic. Or there was a lot of smoke or any of that bullshit because…I’ve heard it already.” I really can’t stress enough how getting too many fake “I care” messages, or too much fake belief, or fake…whatever you need, really…makes it impossible to want to hear anything at all. The false platitudes suck, and believing folks after all the lies is next to impossible.
- But wait! There’s more! “I believe you.” “I just said you don’t have to lie to me.” Seriously, I really can’t stress enough how great all the Austin parts are. Honestly, who cares about the goofy rams or some of the over-the-top imagery, when stuff like this exists? I can’t be bothered to.
- Ok but the pile of bodies.
Thoughts on Wolf Pack 1×04 “Fear and Pain”? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of Wolf Pack stream Thursdays on Paramount+.