If you have talked to me anytime between the announcement of this series and now, you know that I have been unreasonably excited for Wolf Pack. A supernatural teen drama from the creator of Teen Wolf starring none other than Sarah Michelle Gellar in her long-awaited return to supernatural TV (as both an actor and an executive producer, no less)? I’m not sure a show could get any more tailor-made for me if it tried. Maybe it was those sky-high expectations, or maybe it was the fact that I was only allowed to see a fraction of this series, but it is with a heavy heart that I must say: Wolf Pack is mostly untapped potential—so far.
Wolf Pack follows high schoolers Everett (Armani Jackson) and Blake (Bella Shepard) after a traffic jam on the highway next to a blazing California wildfire leaves both of them experiencing hallucinations, getting mysterious phone calls, and nursing nasty, supernatural bite marks. Due to their new inexplicable connection, Everett and Blake cross paths with twins Harlan (Tyler Lawrence Gray) and Luna (Chloe Rose Robertson), as they question why the full moon seems to draw them all together. Enter LA Fire Department investigator Kristin Ramsey (Sarah Michelle Gellar), whose joint task force with the police department—after a stampede and the utter devastation from the fire—is investigating the true cause of the blaze. Her first mission? Question our newly lycanthropic teens.
In just the first two episodes of Wolf Pack—the only two available for review—the series introduces three central conflicts: Everett and Blake’s new condition, Investigator Ramsey’s wildfire investigation, and Harlan and Luna’s adoptive, Park Ranger father Garrett (Rodrigo Santoro) being trapped within the fire’s hellish blaze. While the first episode does a good job of establishing the barest hints of this world and our central characters in Everett, Blake, Harlan, and Luna, the second episode drags its feet when it comes to combining each of its threads before finally kicking off the plot at the very end of the episode. This series falls into the streaming trap of stretching what could have been just the pilot into multiple establishing episodes, hindering both its stakes and world-building. While these two episodes offer no shortage of brutality, hair-raising chills, and tentative connections among its leads, there is also an ample amount of confusing visions and unclear timelines that dissipate the rising tension, as the series struggles to balance its various threads as they begin to collide.
Though these opening episodes do showcase storylines and characters that have me interested enough to keep watching, at times the series feels like it’s burying its most intriguing leads. Gellar (who, mind you, is the sole actor present on the poster, with her name written directly above the title) is hardly there so far, and Wolf Pack is ultimately worse for it. Out of the three central storylines introduced, her LAFD investigator is connected to the most interesting one, and yet anytime she spouts off one of the only lines she gets to say within the show—“We have to ask you a few questions”—Wolf Pack frustratingly cuts somewhere else, with only one scene that actually offers any kind of payoff for the amount of times she asks to question our leading teens. Whenever she’s on screen, Gellar is electric, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see her on TV once again, especially within this genre—but her presence so far within the series is more bark than bite.
However, even with all that said, there is still something there in this show. Like Jeff Davis’ other werewolf drama, Wolf Pack is filled to the brim with teenager abs, insistent authority figures, and creatures that go bump in the night, but its TV-MA rating and broader scope allows it to go places teen wolves have never gone before, in a way that feels refreshing and grounded. This series takes some of the more daring elements from Teen Wolf (of which this show has no canonical connection, despite premiering on the same day as The Movie) but dials them up, showcasing truly chilling hallucinations, bloody gore worthy of its higher rating, and supernatural metaphors about being a teenager. In that way, this series feels like a Buffy and Teen Wolf successor at best, and simply a messy but intriguing supernatural teen drama at worst.
Much like the glowy-eyed beast haunting and hunting our central teens, the potential for Wolf Pack hangs just around the corner, seemingly waiting for the perfect time to bare its fangs and surprise its audience. Until then, though, we’ll just have to wait for more episodes to truly see if Wolf Pack has the ability to sink its teeth into a larger audience than its built-in pack of lingering Teen Wolf fans and Sarah Michelle Gellar disciples. Without a duel premiere in its favor, its slow build could serve as a tough ask for audiences to keep coming back to, but the relatively light teen TV schedule ahead could allow Wolf Pack the chance it needs to (hopefully, eventually) thrive.
Wolf Pack premieres Thursday, January 26th on Paramount+.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.
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