Wolf Pack 1×05 “Incendiary” is, at its best, an episode that provides some interesting connections between characters and delivers on one of the most well-known teen horror tropes of them all — the party where Very Big Things happen. At its worst, this chapter in the series’ first season has an extended toxic masculinity cut…and nearly leans toward overkill with how wild the big house party gets. Somewhere in the middle, there’s still a fire investigation. And then, there’s that “omg WHAT” moment at the end, which makes you desperate for more regardless of any missteps along the way.
Five episodes in, this series remains a baffling mixture of pure fun, a “so bizarre it’s perfect” feeling, and things that are just…why. In short, it’s entertaining as hell and gets the job done while still leaving plenty of room for improvement. Is this fifth episode, or any episode really, fine art? No. Do we care? Also no. Because the series isn’t trying to be and shouldn’t be judged based on those standards. So, we’ll defend it to the death and keep tuning in…but it’s also frustrating. Because, even within a genre that doesn’t take itself seriously — and isn’t meant to! — there are still places, here and there, where just a slight adjustment would make it so much better.
Basically, shorten a scene here or there, and you’ve got something for this generation that’s up there on the level of so many greats that came before it. For whatever reason, though, the creative direction is, and has been, “we can. So, screw it. Balls to the wall.” The commitment is impressive…but also why.
Boys will be…the epitome of equal parts cringe and sweet, actually.
From a development standpoint, Harlan Briggs probably benefits from the storytelling in “Incendiary” more than any other character. In some sense, that shouldn’t be surprising at all. After all, he’s the one whose arc up until now has been a flat line of “go to gym, party, be moody, probably party some more,” which means an episode that features a big party and a workout scene that seems to take years basically screams his name. And yet…it’s precisely because those parts have felt flat and one-dimensional up until this point that it is surprising to see Harlan become a more well-rounded person in those venues. But, somehow, bringing the other three pack members into his world finally gets the group’s most reluctant one asking all the right questions and revealing just enough more of himself to really be a character who works.
Before Wolf Pack 1×05 every goes anywhere near a gym or Tia’s house party,
Mulder and Scully a younger Harlan and Garrett take a nice trip to the forest. Maybe it’s meeting a 12-year-old Harlan and seeing him struggle to train with his Watcher control his enhanced hearing that really makes those later scenes successful, actually, because with that look back, viewers learn a lot. In the first place, we see a very different relationship between Harlan and Garrett than what the “grown” (that term is used very loosely here) version has with his adoptive father. You get the feeling that they’re close, that exploring this shared secret is their version of quality time. And it’s Garrett showing full confidence in the young boy that nudges him in the right direction to figure out his powers.
Also during that time in the past, young Harlan seems almost shy with Garrett — and definitely like he both looks up to, and wants to impress, his dad. But then, there’s that intense moment of awe as he sees his “real” father, the wolf. Maybe that was a definitive turning point in the relationship; maybe not. Either way, when present day Harlan tells Everett the story, it’s easily the most open he’s ever been — especially with either of his new pack members. Tyler Lawrence Gray does a fantastic job with the conversation, especially in terms of keeping the moment meaningful, yet subtle enough to still fit with who we know Harlan to be. And the instant flip back to making jokes to deflect is also a great touch.
With that being said, do I wish this whole conversation had somehow come…not after a mindless lifting competition? Sure. Or, really…The gym sequence works until it doesn’t. It makes sense for Harlan to want to test Everett’s skills, especially after the horrifyingly-botched rescue attempt. In some sense, even, it’s basically one wolf sizing up another moreso than it’s toxic “tough guy” masculinity hours. And yes, there’s also the great moment of Everett encouraging Harlan and sharing his power…right up until that fails because they’re not quite there with figuring out the pack mechanics yet.
It. Just. Takes. Forever. Snip the tiniest bit off, and it becomes great…instead of unfortunate.
I could probably say the same for the house party that comes later. For that, though, it’s not even that too much time is spent on it. No. I simply don’t want to believe that exactly zero of those teens, Everett included, are able to resist that much indulgence. Insert something about “in my day” here, if you will.
Teen drama checklist: Ships? Check.
Our pack doesn’t get themselves invited to Tia’s just because they want to let off some steam, though. In fact, if that was the only goal, pretty much all four of them would probably have way better ideas than hanging out with a bunch of assholes. (Same.) Instead, their plan is to save their classmates from the wolf. The Big Bad, if you will. Or, if we really want to get overly into corny jokes with names here, the Big Bad…Wolf.
Since we’re dealing with a teen drama that checks every single box, the party obviously winds up being the perfect place for some romance. For Luna, unfortunately, that means quality time with Austin. Just after she was more than happy to draw the wolf for him — and believed him, unlike everyone else — in the previous episode, Austin feels the need to be a giant asshole to her in Wolf Pack 1×05. Luckily, though, Luna has Everett there to support her after the fact. And unluckily, she still has her whole piano thing with him later. I mean, I get it. But I also think she could do better.
Speaking of doing better. Everett and Blake. Hi.
First of all, that boy can not even get out of his pants and socks to get in the pool because he’s too obsessed. Later, they have their sweet moment alone, where Everett’s talking about all the reasons he wishes “she” had a phone, all while Blake’s just..smitten. Not sure how else to put it, really. And then, she really lights up after his decision to shoot his shot with that tentative little kiss, all while he’s too busy drowning in his anxieties to notice.
There’s something to be said for the “tough girl” still being swept up like this and just…sort of melting. There’s also something both very real and very touching about the way Bella Shepard plays this softer side of Blake. Opposite that, you have an insecure, vulnerable, yet totally committed Everett coming from Armani Jackson, and the chemistry works so much better here than it does in all the dream sequences.
At the risk of over-using the word, Blake and Everett’s big moment is just…sweet. And it works so incredibly well because Shepard and Jackson have exactly the right onscreen chemistry. Often, when people talk about chemistry, especially when it comes to a potential love story, they mean the thirsty, “omg when are these two going to just go at it” sort of relationship dynamic. But the genuine, sweet (yep, using that word again) and shy dynamic of a first love has its own draw. And these two actors deliver that feeling beautifully.
Um. And did I mention it’s sweet? Because it’s sweet. Very sweet, actually…but, thankfully, not so much so that I’m like “omg a cavity is forming.”
Now, back to things at the party that are decidedly not sweet: Phoebe, what happens with everyone taunting her with her own voicemail…and that holyfuckthewolf reveal. As soon as Austin goes in the pool to get his phone and a character mentions that the lights are out, you know something’s coming. Despite it being so heavily telegraphed, the part where everyone rushes inside to escape the big, looming beast that rises up out that pool like we’re watching Jaws or something (except with a werewolf instead of a shark!), is still a blast. I don’t even care that there’s no way that thing could’ve gotten in the pool without anyone noticing. It’s fun.
…and if the werewolf is really here to protect the pack, let’s all get ready to say farewell to Phoebe forever. Sorry, not sorry.
All that, and a fire investigation, too!
So far, Kristin Ramsey’s arson investigation has been a way for this series to ground itself in reality. For most of Wolf Pack 1×05, that remains the case. Kristin and Garrett visit the school’s robotics lab, interrogate Cyrus — without any parents around. So much for learning and growing — and start to put all the puzzle pieces together. If we, as viewers, once wondered why Ramsey was so convinced the arsonist had to be part of a certain group of students, “Incendiary” enlightens us. It was all always about access to certain materials in that lab, as well as the knowledge of how to use them.
Rodrigo Santoro and Sarah Michelle Gellar hit all the right notes together, as we suspected they would when Santoro’s Garrett first got himself involved in the investigation. And whatever their characters’ dynamic is meant to be, it makes for good TV. The adults aren’t remotely the central story in this series, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely meaningless side characters either. They fit, in their own usually antagonistic way, and that’s more evident than ever here.
Now, with all that out of the way, let’s talk about the twist. Even if Ramsey’s part of this story has always, ostensibly, been about grounding things in a very real procedural sort of sense, it’s still also been pretty obvious from the start that she knew more than she let on. We never really knew if we could trust her, and in a lot of ways, we still don’t. Just when we were starting to think maybe we could…well. Meet the end of this episode.
Did she know the wolf was real all along? Probably, but there’s also just enough mystery coming from Gellar’s performance that…who knows? At this point, we can still mostly believe what we want. Regardless, she’s definitely fully into the werewolf theory now — and also more than willing to keep that knowledge a secret by any means necessary. Insert at least a dozen Buffy references here, readers. Probably start with one about slayers and protecting their identities. Although, some comment on how SMG’s still got it in the ass-kicking department is probably also near the top of the list.
The big reveal at the end of this episode not only has me making “give it to me NOW” hands at the next one, but it also brings earlier scenes into question. As Kristin’s slowly hinting to Garrett about knowing more, is she testing him to see if he’ll really protect Luna and Harlan at all costs? Or simply trying to get proof. And when she mentions losing her son in a fire, right in the middle of trying to find the Cyrus’ dad/Harlan/Luna connection…what even does that mean?
I, for one, can’t wait to find out. And I’ll gladly sit through whatever nonsense is necessary to do so.
More on Wolf Pack 1×05
- “How do you do something by not doing it?” Whoever figures this out for real-life tasks will be the next billionaire.
- More Young!Harlan, please. This child actor is fantastic, and watching the background scene really does make teen Harlan make so much more sense.
- Have never related to Harlan more than during his “fuck it” before picking up the creeper caller…
- …until his “ok. Who the fuck are you, and what do you want” bit. That is literally me when the spam callers just…hold the line without saying things when I answer.
- Ghostface would put this caller down, though. I mean, we get it. The wolf kills every night. Do we have to chat about it all day?
- Shoutout to Luna for recognizing some Ovid in the midst of all this chaos. A well-read icon.
- How is everyone freaking out in the car literally the best/closest they’ve been yet? Just…absolute sibling feelings — for all four instead of just two separate pairs.
- Something about the way Krisin just casually dumps that envelope in Garrett’s hands. Queen.
- …alpha female?
- “My kids took it last year.” “It’s also an easy A.” “Harlan got a D.” The deadpan. This series is a comedy! Love that for me.
- Just…a lot of excellent delivery from Gray in the bathroom scene. Particularly enjoyed “everyone seems nice to you.”
- “I don’t really feel like I’m adding much value.” “I agree. You add nothing.” “We’re going to be good friends. I can tell.” Again, I say: A comedy.
- Kristin is a lot. And you can tell Garrett is picking up on every hint she’s dropping. I’m completely in love with Santoro and Gellar, ok? (I mean, me being in love with SMG has been a thing since 1997. But still.)
- “Life a wolf, dumbass.” So true.
- “The plan is to keep anyone else from being killed.” “How. By being nice to them?” “If that’s the plan, then we definitely need another plan.” The young talent said, “no way. Y’all aren’t the only ones that get to do a comedy.” Well done.
- That little smile from Kristin when Garrett says what he does about fighting with Harlan…Hm.
- “I don’t need to wear a slutty bikini so a bunch of hormonal boys can stare at me.” “It’s not slutty! And it’s not for them. It’s for you.” “So I can stare at myself?” “No. So you can see yourself.” What I really, really love here is that both sides of this are valid AF.
Buffy’sGellar’s “I solved it” face is great.
- …ok but please tell me kids these days don’t sound like that when they’re trying to figure each other out.
- The fuckboy dialogue was hilarious, though. I don’t even care.
- “Why are you such an asshole?” “It’s my default setting. I blame my parents.” Whoever wrote this can @ me.
- Everett’s whole speech. From now on, we’re settling for nothing less.
- “Yeah. I can take care of myself.” First off, obviously. It’s Buffy. Secondly, it’s not actually Buffy, so we should follow the rule of surviving horror movies that says not to split up. Third, and most importantly...WAIT. WTF?!
- “A werewolf.” The way she just says it! I smashed my keyboard here. A lot.
- “An incredibly powerful supernatural predator. Part human, part wolf. A werewolf.” It’s giving Buffy…until it isn’t. Have I mentioned “WAIT. WTF?!” yet???
Thoughts on Wolf Pack 1×05 “Incendiary”? Leave us a comment!
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Did she hit the security guard with her gun, flashlight, or…claws?
I’m going to say it, she lost her son in a fire. Is she their grandmother? I mean, who knows how werewolves age.
So, I just pulled the scene back up because I honestly wasn’t 100% sure after the first several viewings (and, quite frankly, will never not take an excuse to see more SMG). I think a combination of flashlight and claws, maybe? Definitely flashlight, but right at the end, it looks like there may have been a claw swipe. Not to mention, there’s a butt ton of blood that wouldn’t typically come from a flashlight smash to the head.
I definitely think she’s related somehow. Just haven’t decided what yet. Grandmother’s fair game, especially since that will give me a bunch of excuses to kvetch and moan about how old that makes me feel.