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‘Wolf Pack’ review: Sarah Michelle Gellar deserves better than Paramount+’s dreary werewolf drama

It’s not an anniversary most people celebrate, but it’s only been a year since Peacock released a quirky little drama called wolf like me. Even though it was obvious to anyone who could read the title, critics preferred not to reveal that the show, with a great central performance from Isla Fisher, was really about werewolves. On the other hand, if you revealed that the show was about werewolves, the audience that tunes in to werewolves probably would have felt that the show was too much about humans. Stupid, nasty people and their nasty feelings.

Fortunately, you don’t have to tiptoe when it comes to Paramount+’s new drama wolf pack. It’s about werewolves. Hurrah! The very best that can be said about it wolf pack is that it is not restrained. But even knowing that the show is undoubtedly about werewolves, a discerning audience that tunes in to werewolves will likely feel that the show is too much about humans to begin with. Wooden, badly written people and their annoying perfect cheekbones.

wolf pack

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broadcast date: Thursday January 26 (Paramount+)
Form: Armani Jackson, Bella Shepard, Chloe Rose Robertson, Tyler Lawrence Gray, Rodrigo Santoro, Sarah Michelle Gellar
Creator: Jeff Davis

Created by Jeff Davis, the mastermind behind MTVs teenage wolf, wolf pack begins with a pilot I found entertainingly bad, with enough amusingly heightened elements that I could keep watching with morbid curiosity. The second of two episodes sent to critics is so disjointed and uninvolved that all curiosity evaporated, like the tiniest drop of water in the middle of an inferno.

Speaking of infernos, that’s where the wolf pack pilot, written by Davis and directed by Jason Ensler, begins. There’s a big fire burning east of Los Angeles. A school bus, transporting the most and least popular students from what appears to be a regional feeder school, gets stuck in a gnarled traffic jam on the brink of the blaze. Suddenly all the animals come thundering out of the forest. It’s a sequence I’ve seen before in a dozen movies and TV projects, but there’s always something unsettling about watching CGI deer, coyotes, and a flaming ram in a thunderous stampede. For some reason, this is exactly when the stupid high school students decide to leave the partial safety of their bus and get caught in the stampede. Some get trampled hilariously and graphically, but several get bitten. By something.

Among the bitten are the anxiety-prone Everett (Armani Jackson) and Blake (Bella Shepard), who are so gruff yet caring that only a fictional teenage girl with a younger brother on the autism spectrum could be. Everett and Blake aren’t friends, but they form a tenuous bond around their gnarled bite marks.

The fire causes twins Luna (Chloe Rose Robertson) and Harlan (Tyler Lawrence Gray) nervousness, as their father (Rodrigo Santoro’s Briggs) is a park ranger who will spend the first two episodes coughing in a state of smoky disorientation. Harlan is also gay. Harlan and Luna are also werewolves. Are they connected to the blurry CG thing with glowing eyes that bit Everett and Blake? If not, it’s quite a coincidence. Or maybe all the glowing yellow eyes just mean a hepatitis outbreak is spreading and Hepatitis pack was just too cumbersome a title.

The fire provides extra cover for Kristin Ramsey (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to spend two episodes introducing herself as an arson investigator for the LAFD. Not to really do any research, mind you. But be sure to introduce yourself as a fire investigator. Kristin knows more than she’s saying, otherwise the decision to cast Sarah Michelle Gellar would have been a weird one. However, I cannot judge wolf pack based on things that might get less weird in the future. For now, it’s a lot for Kristin to introduce herself to people and explain that arson is bad. Whose deed.

One of the nice things about it wolf like me was that it chose to deviate from the most well-known lycanthropy metaphor – werewolfism as an extension of puberty – to use wolfing for parallel midlife changes.

wolf pack takes the metaphor, as it is, back to adolescence, especially that universal moment when all the CW and MTV stars emerge from the ugly awkwardness of adolescence to realize they are attractive.

Clearly hot, but with visible acne scars in certain light? Try lycanthropy! Obviously horny, but with clothes so baggy no one can see that you have a great body? Ask your doctor if lycanthropy might be for you! Side effects include fast running, enhanced senses and abs. Consult a modeling agent if excessive heat occurs.

Like I said, the first episode is funny to say the least. The script consists of one moan-worthy dialogue after another – and there’s no indication that any of the young cast members are able to overcome moan-worthy dialogue – but it’s nice to see the small additions of the established order. teenage wolf formula. There’s a little extra swearing here, a little more bloodshed there. Everyone is so attractive that if you just put Gregg Araki in charge of the property, orgies would ensue instead of carnage, but instead it’s a lot of, “Holy shit, I can see my abs!” (actual line of dialogue) and “Holy shit, my skin looks great!” (not an actual line of dialogue, but close). There are a few jump scares, with CG blobs bursting out of the darkness, but nothing really scary. However, it is impeccably lit for maximum foreboding, especially the hospital corridors and dingy motel rooms.

Then in the second episode… nothing happens. There are about 30 minutes – these episodes are over 50 minutes each and feel like hours – of bite-induced hallucinations, several scenes of Sarah Michelle Gellar introducing herself to people before disappearing, plus the half-hearted introduction of a new character who appears to be doesn’t seem to be hot enough to be part of the main ensemble. Will he walk werewolf kibble or will he prove to be the ultimate proof of the exciting powers of lycanthropy? The answer will be revealed in an episode I’m definitely not going to watch.

The performances are all wooden – I feel like Shepard and Jackson are a lot better than Robertson and Gray – but what’s weirder is how the directors of the first two episodes got too invested in the eerie mood lighting and universal objectification to figure it out how to get the actors to move in the frame, so there’s one scene after another of people standing awkwardly, unsure what to do with their supernaturally enhanced bodies. They don’t feel much more comfortable with their supernaturally amplified moves, and there are a few scenes of people running where you can almost hear the editors say, “Well, that was the best we could do.”

Much of what’s guilty enough about the first installment could perhaps be sustained by the awkwardness of the second if there was at least some narrative forward momentum. Maybe the conscious pacing works better in Edo van Belkom’s book, but if you ask me after two episodes what wolf pack probably going to be like a series, my only answer would be that maybe the various wolves come together as a pack of sorts, and that eventually Sarah will introduce Michelle Gellar to them too – though whether she’ll be a wolf when she does I can’t say and won’t stick around to find out.

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