Based on the books by Canadian Horror Fiction Author Edo Van Belkom, Wolf Pack is Paramount+’s newest YA fantasy show to rival all the other YA fantasy shows. And who better to spearhead the project than the man behind the 2010’s sensation that brought us Dylan O’Brian, Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davies.
The series premiere is a gory one with disaster movie-level action and destruction. The catalyst for the series is a massive California wildfire, the biggest seen in a decade, that’s troubling the town’s population for its cause and how some neighbourhoods will have to recover. On top of it all, the wildfire seems connected to the re-emergence of a supernatural being, a huge Alpha wolf chasing after four teenagers.
Why these four teens? Well, that’s the real beginning of the story, the reason we’re all here. Everett Lang (Armani Jackson) and Blake Navarro (Bella Shepard) are sophomores who were bitten by something while fleeing their school bus from the wildfire encroaching onto the highway. This mysterious bite heals fast and comes with enhanced abilities. Blake can suddenly run super fast, and Everett has crazy super strength. A large dog with glowing eyes stalks them during the day, then chases and attacks at night. Everett also receives haunting phone calls that warn him of something chasing him. It’s unclear if this is a taunt like Ghostface in Scream or an actual warning from someone trying to help.
Halfway through the episode, we finally meet the other teens part of the Wolf Pack—twin seniors Luna Briggs (Chloe Rose Robertson) and Harlan Briggs (Tyler Lawrence Gray), found by Park Ranger Garrett Briggs (Rodrigo Santoro) a decade prior during the other historically massive wildfire. These two seem to think and claim that their father is the giant wolf stalking them all.
You know this is a Jeff Davies project because the first time we meet Harlan, he’s at a rave and twinking it out, hooking up with the DJ. I’ve always appreciated the inclusion of the Gays in Teen Wolf and, of course, now in Wolf Pack. I do have to say that it is obvious that Jeff Davies has a type because Tyler Lawrence Gray, the two guys he hooks up with in Wolf Pack so far, and Colton Haynes and Charlie Carver from Teen Wolf all have the same kind of white boy sharp jawlines and eyebrows.
Having been a fan of Teen Wolf while it was first airing, it’s hard not to compare the two series.
Like Teen Wolf, Wolf Pack plays out the backdrop of financial inequity and mental illness. Blake is a bit of an outsider because her home life is a little unstable, and Everett is an outcast due to his apparent struggles with anxiety and perhaps ADHD. Although, it will be tough to say if the series does well with these issues, considering how they’re handled in Teen Wolf, where the issues were established but could have been better addressed.
As for chemistry, there’s a lot of it. Everett Lang (Armani Jackson) and Blake Navarro (Bella Shepard) already have good banter. It was a bit stiff in the first couple of minutes, but that could have been a choice because the two characters supposedly barely spoke to one another before that moment. The bickering between Luna Briggs (Chloe Rose Robertson) and Harlan Briggs (Tyler Lawrence Gray) is very sibling-like, although I found a few of their interactions too exposition-y.
As for the introduction of adult characters, they weren’t the focus on the screen, with reason—this show is about high school students. For the key players, when they were on screen, that time was heavy-handed and had more exposition as well. The most we hear from Park Ranger Garrett Briggs is a monologue into a tape recorder he intends his children to receive if he doesn’t make it through the fire. This monologue establishes their relationship but is repeated by Luna and Harlan at another time. Felt like a waste of a moment.
This particular plot point to me feels cluttery. Wildfire Investigator Kristin Ramsy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) big moment comes at the end of the episode when she finally gets on the phone with Everett to get into a massive monologue about the fire being arson, and she knows that it’s a high school student who was likely on that bus with him. Okay, what does that have to do with the wolves? That was thrown out there as an extra cliffhanger, but I’m not sure it was needed. There was already so much for the pilot to establish, and this Investigator’s rush to find the arsonist feels like it could have waited till Episode 2 or 3.
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rodrigo Santoro’s performances were outstanding. I can already tell these two will be excellent in this series. I hope they team up as a pseudo mom and dad to this blossoming Wolf Pack and work to protect these puppies at all costs while holding hands under the moonlight.
The side character that really stands out in the pilot is Blake’s brother, Danny Navarro (Nevada Jose), who is autistic with limited speech. Due to the unstable home life these siblings share, Blake has become a parentified child and the primary caregiver for Danny. It’s a complex and sad storyline to integrate into a show like this, but it could be a great representation if done well. Jeff Davies is going all in with this kid. However, I worry that Danny may eventually be seen as inspiration porn the way many disabled characters end up being painted saintlike in their struggles.
That being said, I’m super intrigued by this new fantasy series. Some of the VFX could be better, but for the most part, I’ve been finding it very immersive. I like the casting, I like where the story is headed, and I am very happy to have a Wolf Pack back in my life.
Featured photo by Steve Dietl/Paramount+
Wolf Pack premieres today on Paramount+. Episodes air every Wednesday.