Dissecting the Argents of “Teen Wolf”, Pt. 2
As mentioned in our last post, the Argents’ story slowly comes to light mostly through the lens of Scott McCall, the protagonist of “Teen Wolf”. His relationship with Allison is fraught with difficulties, most of them stemming from the fact that he is a werewolf and she comes from a family of werewolf hunters. The first hunter we meet is her father, Chris Argent, and we are introduced to the rest of her family members as the series progresses.
So far in our “Teen Wolf” series, we’ve talked about the show’s atrocious treatment of women and people of color, the writers continuously abusing Isaac Lahey, and the lack of consequences for the show’s abusers. In our last post, we continued our discussion of abusewith a look at Gerard and Kate Argent; this week, we will look at Chris, Victoria and Allison Argent.
The introduction of Chris Argent is that of a man who’s killed a lot of werewolves. He swears by his family’s “code”, is determined to hunt and kill any werewolf that puts the human species at risk, and is incredibly protective of the women in his life. We do not see any men in Chris Argent’s life until the introduction of his father, Gerard, in season two — that plays a pivotal role in the way Chris behaves. He is the “alpha male” (for lack of better, non-werewolfish terminology), and he goes to extreme lengths to protect his wife, sister, and daughter.
But in the Argent canon, the men are only supposed to be the hunters while the women are supposed to be the leaders. Chris plays the role of both the hunter and the leader, or at least, he attempts to do so. In that, he lets the guiding principles of the Argent name blind him to several very important aspects of what is happening around him. He attempts to kill teenagers simply for the fact that they’ve been turned into creatures he’s been trained his whole life to hate — the fact that they’re essentially children escaping his tunnel vision. He also does everything in his power to take control of Allison’s life.
When Gerard comes into the picture, these behaviors in Chris are explained. It becomes apparent that Gerard has put Chris through the wringer his whole life, and Chris is clearly attempting to make up for that treatment by being a Better Man. (Gerard exerts control over Chris even after it becomes clear that Gerard is not a good guy, but there is a sense of familial loyalty in the way that Chris continues to help his father that is very interesting.) People who grow up in abusive homes often do not know a reality outside of that abuse — Chris’ character arc is very much based around the idea of him attempting to break that cycle, but falling short on multiple occasions. Chris isn’t at all like his father; he tries hard to do what is right and what is honorable, even when that’s the hard thing to do. Unfortunately, the abuse of his father runs deep, and Chris ends up actively participating in the torture of teenagers, among other things. While this does not excuse Chris’ actions whatsoever, it gives us insight into the larger abuse and power systems that are in play.
One of the most disturbing sequences between Gerard and Chris occurs after Chris’ wife, Victoria, has been bitten by Derek. The bite of an alpha, if survived, turns humans into werewolves. Victoria survives the bite — therefore, per the Code, she cannot continue to live. (The Argents operate under the assumption that all werewolves will eventually hurt humans, and if they hurt humans, they must be put down. So nipping the problem in the bud is encouraged, especially by Gerard.) She decides to kill herself, on her daughter’s bed, with Chris’ help. And Chris only agrees to go through with it after some vaguely threatening words from his father.
This scene is distressing for so many reasons. One of those is that Victoria Argent does some incredibly cruel things during her time on the show. She, too, attempts to kill a teenage werewolf in order to protect her daughter — she threatens, cajoles, and bodily harms Scott for daring to go anywhere near Allison. (It is also important to note, that this attempt on Scott’s life is how she was bit. Derek bites Victoria to save Scott’s life.) But in the final moments of her life, it’s clear that what she did was done out of love for her daughter and love for her family. Victoria Argent was more than a hunter, and I think sometimes people forget that because of how cold she was in a lot of aspects of her life. I feel like it’s important to remember that she wasn’t just a ruthless killer of werewolves. She was a mother, too.
And yeah, her logic is skewed a bit – she, too, neglected the Code they spend so much time talking up when she tried to kill Scott, but it’s funny because – while I hated her for that – I also couldn’t help but see the flipside of it. Hadn’t Chris threatened to kill Scott as well? And it’s different from Gerard, or from Kate, because Allison is thrown into the mix in a way that doesn’t make her a pawn in someone else’s game.
She’s their daughter, and they did what they could to protect – and it bled into their profession, which was bound to happen when your daughter falls in love with a werewolf. Victoria is a lot of things – cunning, vindictive, intelligent, merciless – and she is also a mother. And that fact alone gives her actions a lot more weight than most of the Argents’. They are not excused, certainly – she broke the Code when she tried to kill Scott, who hadn’t given her a reason because he hadn’t harmed a human – but there’s aspects of her personality that are easier to understand.
In episode 2×07, when Victoria finds out Scott and Allison are sleeping together, she and Scott have a conversation in the office at school that involves phallic-shaped pencils and one very unforgiving electric sharpener. It’s a great comedic relief scene because, for one of the first times, it wasn’t about Scott being a werewolf and Victoria being a hunter, at least not at its core – it was, simply, an absolutely fucking terrifying woman with so much self-contained power sharpening pencils like she was pretending they were dicks because she wanted to intimidate her daughter’s boyfriend.
We see it again when Victoria realizes they’re still dating – though this time it’s obviously playing into the hunter/werewolf dynamic. The thing here is that Victoria’s actions were layered for me in a way Gerard’s and Kate’s weren’t. This was a woman who followed a shady-at-best Code and couldn’t reconcile the hunter in her with the mother she probably wished she’d been. And as a woman who is already clearly very protective of her daughter, throwing a werewolf boyfriend into the mix seems sort of disastrous. As an audience we know how good Scott is, this season we see him become a True Alpha this season by pure force of will – by the pure force of his goodness – alone. He is not someone Victoria or Chris ever needed to worry about, but the hunter instincts proved entirely too strong for Victoria, and it must’ve been hard to be supportive when every single bone in her body was screaming that the boy her daughter was dating was a bloodthirsty monster who needed to be killed.
And in the end, it’s her single-mindedness to get rid of Scott that’s her own demise. Derek bites her, and to follow the Code, Victoria plans out her suicide to excruciating detail for everyone involved (namely, Chris). I don’t think she realized how harmful she was until the very end – which is how these things always seem to work, right? The moment she couldn’t say goodbye to Allison, the moment she couldn’t get her own daughter to spare her five minutes of alone time – that’s when Victoria knew just how much she’d alienated Allison. When she knew that being an overprotective mother with a fairly large weapons cache and a defunct Code of Honor does not a good parent make. Victoria kills herself in Allison’s room to be close to her in death in a way she never was in life, and it’s devastating.
However, it opened up a whole new side storyline season three, and a very interesting one at that; Allison begins hallucinating that her mom is still around, and I wish “Teen Wolf” hadn’t gotten lazy with this – it seems they might be starting it up again if some of the spoilers are any indication – because it was such a fascinating way to look at their relationship and how simultaneously too little and too much Victoria did as a parent. The scene where Allison stitches up Scott is probably one of my favorites of the season, mostly due to Crystal Reed’s acting, but also because it’s a heartbreaking moment wherein Victoria appears to “talk” Allison through the process.
She doesn’t do it kindly. But then again, had she ever? She tells Allison to stop crying, to stop whining and shaking and take a breath and suck it up. Because you don’t accomplish anything by crying. And Allison does it. It’s such an important scene that shouldn’t be overlooked because it is imperative to understanding their relationship. Allison is often calm under pressure, and that is due in large part to Victoria. Victoria taught her how to be strong – but she also taught her that being strong means suppressing your emotions, though these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive things.
Victoria essentially sabotaged her relationship with her own daughter because she couldn’t see that – but that’s a result of being raised by a family of hunters. I don’t doubt Victoria got the same exact brand of “tough love” from her own hunter family. It’s unfortunate that it plays out the way it does. For all their talks of Code and Family and Honor, they often miss the mark by miles. Allison has a line in season one that sums her childhood up perfectly – “Can’t I be strong and go to prom?” – and it’s disheartening that she thinks she has to choose one or the other, that she thinks strong and weak are in a clear cut dichotomy. That, as a woman, she has to do ten times a much as man to not fall into the latter category.
Allison is a product of her environment. She is a product of constant adult manipulation, of love displayed with an array of swords and guns and arrows, of the people she trusts repeatedly lying to her and then expecting her to immediately lead them in season two as a broken, grieving girl with no mother. And, ultimately, Victoria (and Kate!) are products of this same environment, where women are supposed to be leaders but men are really given the positions of authority (and where have I heard this before? Oh, right. This is life on a daily basis for women everywhere).
It’s why Gerard was so obviously in charge. It’s why the Argents don’t live by a Code, but instead by a series of cruel patriarchs (with the exception of, perhaps, Chris, whose journey is significantly marked by the abuse he’s suffered at his father’s hands) who have attempted to wring all emotionality out of their daughters, sisters, wives, because everyone knows women only have two settings: Weepy, and PMSing (and “Teen Wolf” loves its werewolf PMS time-of-the-month jokes, doesn’t it?). It’s why Chris has consistently displayed more empathy than Victoria ever did, because he was not raised on the Code in the same way she was.
It’s different than, say, Chris being raised by Gerard on what it means to be a man and a leader. This is just as harmful and debilitating to a kid growing up, of course, but women in positions of power are always expected to act a certain way that, logically, doesn’t make sense. We see this all the time in politics, on shows, every day in the real world. If a woman is too in control she’s power hungry, cold-hearted, a bitch – if she exhibits any kind of emotion, she’s weak and ineffectual. And the Argent women of “Teen Wolf” repeatedly throw themselves onto this damned if you do, damned if you don’t double-edged sword where they can only exist on the extreme ends of things instead of realizing it’s possible to find relief somewhere in the middle.
And they may live in the same world, but I can guarantee you Chris Argent’s road was much less difficult than Kate’s, or Victoria’s, or Allison’s. These women were raised to believe emotions are merely an obstacle to overcome, that tears are a weakness, a crutch, a chink in your armor that can take you down easier than any bite ever could.
The irony here, of course, is that this very upbringing is what caused Victoria’s death while Allison – who has broken in the past and nearly forgotten herself – remains stronger than ever because she understands something no one else had before the end of season three. She understood it so much sooner than Chris – who had to lose his wife and his sister, who had to see that the things that go bump in the night are sometimes the same things that tucked him into bed as a kid before he figured out there is no solely bad or good side to be on.
The old Code is worthless. Because anything that pits Allison against the people she loves without really seeing who they are – without realizing that grey areas are a fact of life – is not something to live by. It’s archaic, it’s detrimental, and like most things, it changes with time.
At the end of season three, Allison creates a new Code: “We protect those who cannot protect themselves.” Chris defers to her, and this means (I hope! I hope it continues! I hope Gerard stops getting a pass!) Allison finally assumes her proper place amongst hunters as the matriarchal leader, because if there’s one thing I’m sure of given her growth over the past three seasons – despite every attempt by a manipulative or well-meaning-but-misguided adult to steer her in a different direction – it’s that she’s more than ready to take charge and change the Argent Code for good.