Source: online streaming
Show summary: Fourteen year old Maddy Smith has a secret: she and her family are all wolfbloods – people that transform into wolves. Her ancestors have lived in the town Stoneybridge for centuries, disguising their heightened ability of hearing and smell from the rest of the world and living as normal humans. But with a new wolfblood in the Smiths’ territory, and Maddy’s best friend suddenly obsessed with the thought that there is a beast out on the moors, the quiet little town Stoneybridge isn’t so quiet anymore.
Episode: Season 1, episode 3 “Family Ties”
Episode summary: A school art exhibit with the theme of family brights out discussions about several strained relationships -- and ends in the exhibit being vandalized.
Maddy Smith (Aimee Kelly): Our introduction to this world, and a delightful, tough, smart wolf girl.
Tom Okinawe (Kedar Williams-Stirling): One of Maddy’s BFFs, photographer, footballer, and all around delight.
Shannon Kelly (Louisa Connolly-Burnham): Maddy’s other BFF, photographer, obsessed with finding the thing howling on the moors and leaving pawprints, and, again, all around delight.
Rhydian Morris (Bobby Lockwood): New kid, the wolfblood trying, and failing, to be a lone wolf.
Emma Smith (Angela Lonsdale): Maddy’s mother, overprotective, cheesy funny.
The Three Ks: Kay (Shorelle Hepkin), Kara (Rachel Teate), and Katrina (Gabrielle Green) are the requisite popular (usually mean) girls.
Jimi Chen (Jonathan Raggett): Footballer, popular boy, jackass. Jimi runs around with two other friends whose names I never hear. They mostly echo Jimi, so not really important anyway.
Mr Jeffries (Mark Fleischmann): School administrator, tough on the students.
We open on the students getting ready for an art show. Theme: What does family mean in the twenty-first century? I approve.
I love seeing glimpses of their families in the various art projects they’ve created. Maddy has glamor shot images of her parents, absolutely beautiful, perfectly human. Tom has action shot after action shot, mostly of him and his dad, and lots and lots of football. He says after his dad comes to the art show, they’re taking off for the weekend to go to a Manchester United game. His dad has promised that there will be no distractions or emergencies to ruin their weekend. Clearly, that’s going to go well. Poor Tom.
And then there’s Rhydian. No photographs, of course, just a drawing of a kid, curled up, hiding, shadow adults in the distance. The Three Ks call it spooky and weird. Oh, girls, no, it’s sad, mostly, and kind of lovely. Poor Rhydian. He turns the drawing over and quickly scratches out a stereotypical house, stick figure family, smiling sun, and asks if that’s normal enough for them. Poor, poor Rhydian. Maddy stops him as he storms off, and tells him he shouldn’t listen to them. He snaps at her, asking why shouldn’t he, she does. She pretends to be something she’s not, shows off her how perfectly human she and her family are, she’s just like them, pretty and fake.
So, even after Rhydian was hurt fighting a wolfblood last episode, a wolfblood who doesn’t pretend to be human, doesn’t lock itself in a cage, hunts humans, is a threat to them all … after all that, he’s still going with his whole STOP PRETENDING thing? Okay, then. That’ll go well.
(Still love the credits. Just in case you wondered.)
Apparently, the school has been exploring the question “what does family mean in the twenty-first century” across different subject areas for awhile, which culminated in the art show. That is fantastic! I love the idea of one high level theme being explored across subject matters. Why didn’t any of my schools ever do this? Fail, USA public schools, fail.
Shannon wanders around the art show, and stops at the project “Shine the Light to See Who Made Me Who I Am” that uses ultraviolet light to reveal family portraits painted with special ink. That is AWESOME. I have all sorts of art ideas right now. Shannon’s not as impressed as I am, unfortunately, and asks whether the artist considered using a barium silicate lamp in order to get a higher spectral range. Oh, Shannon, you and your giant brain and your intellectual snobbery. I love you.
(I also love science. And art. And science + art.)
Sure enough, Tom remains on his own. His mother is working late and won’t be there at all, but his dad will be there soon. Tom reassures himself more than anyone else. Oh, Tom. You lovely lad.
Nearby, Jimi waits by his project, looking eager and nervous, as his dad approaches. His dad takes his time perusing the art and looks quiet stern. When he reaches Jimi, he doesn’t say anything, simply looks at Jimi’s project for a moment and then moves on. Jimi’s art, a painting of his house and his father, is fairly straightforward and not fabulously painted, but you can tell that Jimi worked hard on this project, and that he cares a lot about his father’s opinion.
Instead of saying anything to his son, Mr Chen moves on to Tom’s project, tells him it’s very inventive (which, I don’t know that it is; it’s mostly photographs, arranged stylishly, but still just photographs) and goes on to talk to Tom for awhile about that time when Tom was footie player of the year. Jimi storms off. I don’t blame him.
Brief aside about racism in storytelling. Individually, both of these stories are fine. Jimi is often a jackass and a snob; based on what we’ve seen of him (…in less than an hour, really, since we’re only on episode three. Man, it feels like so much longer, already), it makes sense that he’s trying to live up to very high standards at home. In contrast, Tom’s parents are busy, leaving him with all sorts of time to be a footie star while also having wacky, strange adventures with Shannon and Maddie. Even when he got hurt last episode, we never saw his parents, so it makes sense that one or both are absent-ish.
However. This isn’t just two characters with complicated relationships with their parents. This is also two characters of color (the only two men of color who have regular roles in the show at this point), and so far in this episode, both of them have strained (if not outright bad) relationships with their parents, particularly their fathers. Mr Chen is a stereotypical aloof, critical Asian parent, holding his son to standards he can never meet; Mr Okinawe is a black man, and the stereotype is that black men aren’t good fathers. It’s problematic that the only good parents we’ve seen so far are Maddy’s parents, the white parents. I know that race and racism play out in different ways in different countries, but it’s still a problem when the only parents of color are shown to be bad parents, while the only white parents are the good parents. We’ll see how this plays out, but I’m troubled.
On the surface, this is just a story about different types of families, parents and children (see, the theme of the art project, the school year, and the episode), but you have to take into account the way other aspects intersect. Jimi’s dad isn’t just a cold, aloof, judgmental father, he’s an Asian father, and those are pretty stereotypical traits.
Back to the episode.
As Jimi runs out of the building, he sees Rhydian lurking outside the windows, looking inside at all the people. Everything around him is dark and lonely; everything in the windows is (or at least appears to be) full of light and love. This image is both lovely and heavy handed. Of course, it only lasts a moment before Jimi continues to run off, so the heavy handed isn’t terrible.
Maddy shows her parents Rhydian’s art. They are sympathetic toward his loneliness, and tells Maddy she should bring him over more often. Maddy points out that until recently, he thought he was the only wolfblood in the world, and he needs time to adjust. Emma reminds Maddy that he needs to be around his own kind, that pack animals don’t do well on their own. So much for that whole lone wolf thing Rhydian tried to establish in the first episode.
As they get ready to leave, they find Tom sitting alone by his art. His dad never showed. He gets a text message while talking to them, and says that his dad is stuck in traffic and will be there in a minute, so Maddy and her parents go ahead and leave. Oh, Tom.
As the final teacher leaves, the school seems empty, and he turns off the lights in the display room before he leaves. In the darkness, we see a shadow move.
Rhydian and Tom have been visually set up as the prime suspects, because Rhydian has been lurking in the shadows (and Maddy saw him doing it), and Tom was left alone when Maddy left, waiting on his father.
Sure enough, when the students show up on Monday, the art has been vandalized. While there were security cameras set up, the only thing caught on camera was someone running away, someone fast in the dark. Maddie stares at Rhydian throughout this conversation.
Mr Jeffries, the school administrator, informs everyone that the End of Term Disco has been cancelled until the vandal is found, because the school has a zero tolerance policy on vandalism. This is excellent encouragement for the students to
The Three Ks walk down the hall talking about how much they need to find out who did it, and Jimi, looking sly, asks Rhydian if it’s true he tore up the photography dark room on his first day. Subtle, Jimi. Subtle. Rhydian says he knocked some stuff over, but why does Jimi care? Because he’s trying to set you up, idiot. Sure enough, the Three Ks overhear this, and confront Rhydian, asking where he was Friday night. When Rhydian won’t answer, Jimi says he saw him skulking around the playground like a burglar.
Rhydian gets upset as everyone confronts him, and the veins in his hands darken, the first sign of the wolfblood change. He runs off, and Maddy runs after him. (God, people run off a lot in this show. No, A LOT.) She tries to calm him, he gets pissy and claims that she thinks he did it, too. She asks if he did, because she saw him at the window, and he admits he lurked, but he didn’t do it. He saw her and her parents, but he didn’t come inside to join them because he’s not ready for all that. Maddy tells him she believes him, but he says it doesn’t matter, he’ll get blamed for it anyway. Not if they find the person who actually did it, Maddy logics. Here’s yet another reason for someone to solve the mystery. We have less than 20 minutes left of the episode, and a bunch of different people effected in different ways by the vandalism, so whatever happens has to have a quick resolution. This is actually a pretty good way to handle things; by focusing on one question (Who Dunnit) even with all the different motivations, the writers are stories about multiple characters without feeling like they’re trying to jam too much into the episode.
The Three Ks try to find a solution to the jacket fiasco. Katrina frantically tries to clean it in the bathroom, while Kay and Kara have tracked down another version. Unfortunately, even if they pool all their birthday and pocket money, they don’t have near enough for a 250 pound jacket. (During the art show, Maddy’s parents briefly talked about Emma owning a jacket just like it once. The resolution should be for Maddy to give them her mother’s jacket. If not, it really shouldn’t have been mentioned; see, Chekhov’s Gun.)
As usual, Maddy, Shannon, and Tom team up to solve the mystery. They start by looking for clues at the scene of the crime. Shannon’s logic is that if they can work out why the art show was trashed, it will help them figure out who did it (e.g., if only the good projects are destroyed, it could be jealousy about the art quality, while if one person’s art is destroyed more than the others, maybe the vandal has a problem with that person.) They find that Tom’s project is utterly destroyed, and Shannon wants to know who he had a falling out with recently. (JIMI. ALL SIGNS POINT TO JIMI. He was angry at his father, angry at Tom for getting nice words from his father, angry at the art exhibit because his art wasn’t good enough, tried to turn the blame onto Rhydian pretty much immediately, and is a general asshole.)
The Three Ks are still in the bathroom trying to figure out how to replace the jacket. Kay suggests that a make-over always makes her feel better, but Katrina shoots her down, until Kara realizes there’s actually potential in this idea. They grab a younger girl, who looks terrified of them, but pleased once they’re done. They don’t ask for money until they’re done, and then try to charge her 5 quid, but she doesn’t have that much money. So … kind of a fail, but a cute idea.
At lunch, Tom complains about the crappy quality of the pizza, and Shannon teases him that he just got spoiled in Manchester. At first, he doesn’t know what she means, until she reminds him that he told her about a great pizza place he went to with his dad. Then he quickly starts talking about it again, how wonderful it was, how he got to design his own pizza and it tasted amazing. Oh, Tom, you poor guy.
Rhydian gets threatened by some random student (clearly Jimi is still spreading the word that Rhydian was lurking around the art show), and he snaps at Tom after. Maddy tells him she knows he’s angry, but he can’t take it out on Tom. Rhydian says that Tom is a lot angrier than Rhydian is. Maddy’s confused by this, and he tells her to talk to Tom, who is obviously lying about something. Maddy hasn’t noticed anything, but Rhydian points out a couple details: first, it’s a cold day and no one else is sweating, but Tom is. Second, his heartbeat is the fastest in the room. Maddy takes a moment, starts using her enhanced senses, and sure enough, she can tell how nervous Tom is. Rhydian says that even normal humans get hunches when someone is lying, he’s just learned to do it better. I like this use of their enhanced senses.
Later, Maddy has Tom meet her in the dark room to talk privately about what really happened over the weekend. Tom finally admits that his dad never turned up, just sent a text saying he couldn’t make it. He’s since tried to call a number of times, but Tom refuses to talk to him. Tom is angry, and understandably so, because his dad let him down again. Shannon interrupts this fraught moment by bringing in their artwork salvaged from the destroyed show, but Tom just grabs his and flings it to the floor, telling her to keep it, and then storms off. (I told you people storm off a lot in this episode!)
During class in the computer lab, everyone keeps staring at Rhydian, clearly waiting for something. Sure enough, he’s called out of class to go talk to Mr Jeffries, the school administrator. Jimi dobbed him in. Maddy makes up an excuse to get out of the classroom and hurries after Rhydian, so she can listen at the door to the office. Rhydian feels cornered and is fighting the change, his heart racing, darkness racing along the veins in his hands. Maddy whispers at him to calm down (and to hide the fact he can hear her whispering from outside the room). This does not work to calm him. Rhydian continues to feel confronted, and we watch the dark veins climb his body until the race along the back of his neck and his transformation is very near. Throughout this scene, we can hear his heartbeat the way Maddy can, loud and strong, racing faster and faster, and it adds a nice tension, ratcheting up my own nerves.
(I am really intrigued by Maddy’s ability to stay calm and to talk wolfbloods down and to alpha them around without falling into the stereotypical beating them up that we see so often in werewolf stories. She’s amazing. I swoon.)
Maddy has to leave the door because someone is coming, so she tells Rhydian to think about lying in a green field, and he cracks up. It calms him down, though, and at Maddy’s prompting once she can get back to the door, he tells Mr Jeffries that he came to the art show on his own, but left with Maddy’s parents. Maddy races to call her mum’s mobile while Mr Jeffries calls the home phone, and just makes it, so Emma backs up Rhydian’s story.
In the dark room, Rhydian gives Maddy grief for coming up with a ridiculous thing to think about (lying in a green field). (Actually, he calls it “lame” and that’s a load of ableist crap.) Maddy points out that hey, it worked. She then admits to him that Tom was the last person to leave the building, and now she’s worried that it was Tom. Rhydian suggests she talk to him, which I agree is a good idea.
Jimi is not well pleased that Rhydian has come back to the computer lab and hasn’t been expelled, but Rhydian and Maddy are adorable, so pleased with themselves. Just after they get settled again, Shannon bursts out with “ultraviolet!”, startling the room, and then quickly tells Tom, Maddy, and Rhydian about Kara’s ultraviolet painting, the ink was spilled everywhere, and the vandal would have walked in it, but wouldn’t have washed it off because it was invisible without the light. Shannon also comes up with a great way to check everyone’s shoes – well, “great” might be stretching it, but ingenious works – by calling the ultraviolet light a dog dirt detector. She kneels in the hallway, checking everyone, and I just shake my head at her delightful like of self-consciousness.
Meanwhile, Maddy confronts Tom and says she knows he was the last one to leave the school. Tom is aghast that she thinks he would do that to other people’s work. Maddy says she’s just trying to help him. Instead of storm off, Tom stays (NOVEL CONCEPT), grabs the ultraviolet light from Shannon, and demands that Maddy test him. Of course, she does, and there’s no paint. Tom’s upset, some friend she is, not believing him, but he doesn’t storm off, just sadly stands there a bit and walk away. OH, TOM, I LOVE YOU.
When he finally leaves the school, he finds his dad waiting for him outside. He wants to talk to Tom about Friday, offers to go get a burger, and tells Tom it’s alright, his mother knows he’s there. Tom snaps that it’s not alright, he promised there would be no emergencies, but he let Tom down again. His dad says it wasn’t hospital business, it was a family emergency. That goes over even less well; Tom now thinks his dad’s new baby is family and Tom isn’t. OH, TOM. MY HEART. This time, Tom does run off. Mr Okinawe tells Maddy, who’s been lurking and watching their fight (creepy, Maddy), that he tried to explain. She points out that he let Tom down via text, which is pretty low. He says the baby was very ill, and he didn’t want to let Tom down, but what choice did he have? Maddy offers to talk to Tom on his dad’s behalf. Oh, Maddy, why would he want to talk to you? You didn’t believe him either.
Yay, more running through the woods and following scent trails. I love this part! Sure enough, Maddy finds Tom, and she apologizes to him. He’s not too thrilled even after her apology, and then she tells him she talked to his dad, that the baby was ill. Tom is unsurprised, and still unhappy. All his dad ever talks about is the new baby. Tom never wanted a half sister, all he wanted was his dad. UGH TOM MY HEART. Maddy says that sometimes other people need the people we love more than we do. Tom gets that, but he needs him too, and he doesn’t ever get his dad. Oh, TOM. She suggests that they go back and see what his dad has to say. GOD, TOM.
Rhydian and Shannon are still trying to check people’s shoes, but everyone seems to be gone. Shannon says they never got to the Three Ks, Ryan Boswell (whoever that is – my guess is one of Jimi’s friends). Rhydian says they can check again tomorrow, and offers to put the light back. I kind of love when Shannon and Rhydian team up. She’s so obsessive and smart, he’s snarky and a little rude, but they work together well. Rhydian’s playing with the light when he sees paint on Jimi’s shoes. SHOCKING. I AM SO SHOCKED.
Rhydian pulls a creepy little move where he runs off from behind Jimi and circles around to confront him. He wants to know why Jimi did it; Jimi tells him to get lost. Rhydian uses super speed to catch Rhydian in another hallway. Now Jimi is running away, and Rhydian just keeps pacing him. He shouts at Jimi, accusing him of doing everything just to get Rhydian in trouble, because Jimi’s had it out for him from the beginning. Jimi finally snaps, not everything is about Rhydian, Rhydian just thinks it is because he’s poor little orphan boy. He doesn’t know how lucky he is because he doesn’t have anyone telling him he’s not good enough, he’s a disappointment. If that’s family, Jimi says, who needs one? Oh, Jimi, I feel for you. Rhydian tells him that the next time he loses his temper, he should smash up his own things, and starts to leave. Jimi accuses him of being off to tell on him, but he doesn’t have to; Jimi’s dad is right there, and heard everything. Well that’s convenient.
Meanwhile, the Three Ks have earned less than 40 pounds for all the makeovers they did. Jimi walks into the hallway then, and they ask to borrow a 100 quid, because he’s loaded. His dad is, again, close enough to hear, and wants to know what’s going on. (Again, convenient.) They explain that Katrina’s mum’s jacket got trashed and they are trying to replace it. Jimi’s dad says that’s a sad story, and gives them the money to replace it, out of Jimi’s allowance. They go off to Mr Jeffries’ office. Well, I called that whole Maddy giving them her mum’s jacket story wrong, but then WHY did they mention her jacket at all? Fail.
Tom and Maddy come back to the school and talk to his dad. Tom asks how the baby is doing, and his dad says she’s improving, and Tom really should meet her soon. He invites Tom to spend the weekend with them. Tom is reluctant, but finally agrees, and even gives his dad a little bit of grief for not showing up. Well that’s kind of lovely.
Rhydian brings Maddy and Shannon up to speed on Jimi, and defends Jimi a little. Maddy says that all families have problems, no matter how much money they have, and to prove this, Jimi and his dad drive past. Jimi’s head is down, and his dad is yelling at him. Ugh, Jimi. I’m so sorry kid. Rhydian says maybe he’s the lucky one, being on his own, and Maddy tells him he’s not on his own. She tilts her head toward Shannon, grinning, including her, and this is hitting all of my created family buttons so hard. THEY’RE FAMILY. MY HEART.
Still, the episode ends with Rhydian once again heading off on his own.
This hit me in my created family feelings. Friends as family! Family doesn't mean blood! People working hard to find their place in the world. SO MANY FEELINGS.
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