There are several elements that need to come together to make a great supernatural TV series. Yes, of course, it needs a smart, compelling mythology. Well-done action sequences and good visual effects never hurt. Nailing ambience and tone are important, too. But right up there with the supernatural-ness of a supernatural show are its most human aspects: interesting, flawed characters, complicated relationships, deeply relatable emotion. The Upside Down is cool and all, but we keep coming back to Stranger Things because we’ve grown attached to this group of people. Interview With the Vampire is a bloody good time, but it works because of the palpable chemistry between its two main characters. The biggest draw of a show literally called Supernatural is the very human sibling relationship at its core. It’s here, in the human emotion of it all, that new teen werewolf show Wolf Pack has the most work to do.
Paramount+’s Wolf Pack comes with as much of a werewolf pedigree as any show possibly could: It’s based on Edo van Belkom’s Wolf Pack novel series and was adapted into a TV series by Jeff Davis, whom you might know as the person who adapted that other teen werewolf show, Teen Wolf (Wolf Pack is in no way a spin-off of Teen Wolf though). Plus, the former supernatural teen queen herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, is an executive producer and takes on a supporting role within the cast. The story kicks off right in the thick of it: Wildfires are raging outside L.A. and a bus full of high school kids gets trapped on the road when hundreds of animals come rushing out of the forest. In the midst of the chaos, Very Anxious Teen Everett Lang (Armani Jackson) and sulky, no-I-don’t-own-a-phone Blake Navarro (Bella Shepard) wind up getting bit by some unidentified animal — and then things get weird. He gets stronger, she gets faster, and some giant beast is following them around, plus there’s those mysterious phone calls about how they’re going to be killed before the next full moon.
It’s not long before Everett and Blake realize they aren’t the only teen werewolves in town: They run into Luna (Chloe Rose Robertson) and Harlan Briggs (Tyler Lawrence Gray), twins, who, as it turns out, were born werewolves and discovered as cubs out in the forest by park ranger Garrett Briggs (Rodrigo Santoro), who raised them as his own. The four of them don’t know why they’re drawn to each other, but the Briggs twins suspect the newbie werewolves might’ve been bitten by their biological father, who has possibly returned after 18 years.
It’s a premise with a ton of potential, but in the first two episodes provided for review, it mostly falls flat. A major part of that problem is the lack of on-screen chemistry among our titular pack. Everett and Blake are clearly being set up for a romantic storyline — there are lots of longing stares, awkward pauses, and even an almost kiss — but their post-bite desire for one another doesn’t really pop. Even Luna and Harlan’s sibling relationship doesn’t feel authentic or fully formed just yet. Again, we’re only talking about the first two episodes, so chemistry could begin to show itself after the cast spends more time together, but at the moment, there’s nothing to latch on to here. Not to compare Wolf Pack to Teen Wolf (everyone will be comparing Wolf Pack to Teen Wolf, it’s the way of things!), but part of the reason Teen Wolf worked so well from the jump is that the werewolf shenanigans were much easier to go all in on because the show was grounded by a central friendship that immediately felt deep and believable (Scott and Stiles forever!). There’s nothing like that here to root for just yet.
Though that might not only be because of the chemistry problem. There was one word that kept popping into my brain while watching these two episodes: vague. Everything is so vague! There’s a lack of specificity in multiple areas. The characters, at least in these two episodes, feel mostly one-note. Everett has anxiety and an emotionally abusive mother! Luna is lonely! Harlan is angry! Blake…doesn’t want a phone! No, seriously, they call back to that so many times in the span of two episodes. If you’re wondering how Gellar fares in all of this, you’ll mostly have to keep wondering. Kristin Ramsey, arson investigator for the L.A.F.D., barely registers in these first two episodes. Surely, there must be bigger plans for her down the road, and hopefully Kristin is more than an Intimidating Authority Figure.
It’s hard to get some real character development with the way our four mains are set up: We learn that none of them have any real friends — no non-werewolf they trust to bounce things off of — and their conversations with one another are either, again, vague, or non-existent. There are several times when one character wants to talk about what’s going on and they get shut down immediately, or another wants to open up and share experiences but is ordered to stop talking. Let these characters speak to one another! Let’s see their dynamic, let’s dive into who they are individually and as a group in this time of intense stress, let’s, at the very least, get some basic information and/or set up the rules of this world.
The problem with putting the two characters who have the least understanding of what is happening at the forefront, without tossing in someone willing to impart some type of guidance or a morsel of intel, is that the audience is left in the dark, too. The mythology the show is trying to build begins to feel less mysterious and more murky. Some of the mysteries Wolf Pack is already setting up — who is the werewolf beast who bit Everett and Blake? If it is Harlan and Luna’s birth father, why is he suddenly back? Is it tied to the wildfires? Who is making those creepy-as-hell phone calls?! — are interesting, but the show will need to divulge some concrete clues lest the audience grow weary of having to make wild guesses as to what’s happening all the time. There’s no real leader, no one really driving the plot forward just yet. When everyone is simply reactive instead of proactive (even for a little!), the story loses the forward momentum it really needs to hook the viewer.
There are some real bright spots with potential, though. Jackson has the makings of a really compelling lead, especially if Everett becomes more of a driving force in the plot. There’s an interesting family dynamic brewing between the Briggs twins and their adoptive father that remains mostly untapped at the moment. There is a formidable villain looming in the background. But the biggest thing Wolf Pack has going for it from the start is how well it plays up the horror of it all. It excels at building tension, and there was more than one sequence that left me with my heart rate jacked up. The scares are believable, and that’s not always easy to pull off. Maybe Wolf Pack is just getting off to a slow start in other areas. After all, a werewolf takes time to really develop their powers, right? Maybe?! Here’s hoping.