It’s probably not a huge surprise to most people that Teen Wolf: The Movie has received a mixed reception at best. A direct sequel to MTV’s TV series, which ran from 2011-2017, the Paramount+ film was probably doomed from the moment that Dylan O’Brien opted not to return as Stiles, arguably the show’s most popular character. (Arden Cho, who played Kira, also declined to reprise her role after she was reportedly offered a significantly lesser salary than her co-stars.)
There are a few things to enjoy about the movie, particularly if you’re a Scott (Tyler Posey) and Allison (Crystal Reed) shipper. And there are a lot of other things to be pissed about. There are plot holes galore, bizarre new couple pairings that nobody asked for, and, as the cherry on top, a devastating character death at the very end that feels like it was added on purely for shock value. But Teen Wolf: The Movie’s biggest crime is destroying the relationship between Stiles and Lydia (Holland Roden).
Stiles and Lydia, widely dubbed “Stydia” by fans, were a ship that was literally years and years in the making. It started off as incredibly one-sided at first. Fans will remember Stiles awkwardly trying to say “hi” to her, as she brushed her way past him in the pilot episode, way back in 2011: “Hey, Lydia! You look…like you’re about to ignore me.”
The first real Stydia win came at the end of Season 1, when Lydia’s friend Allison convinced her to attend the winter formal with Stiles. After a passionate, endearingly awkward speech by Stiles about how he’s had a crush on her since the third grade—“I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one who knows how smart you really are,” he tells her—Lydia slowly started to warm to him and the two shared a sweet dance. Later that night, Stiles saved her when Peter (Ian Bohen) attacked her on the lacrosse field, even offering to sacrifice his life to the Alpha to protect her. Stiles then spent the entire weekend in the hospital waiting to hear if Lydia was okay. Although the ship would still have a long way to go until becoming canon, the Stydia seed was clearly planted.
One of the biggest Stydia developments came in Season 3, Episode 11 (“Alpha Pact”). While the two had become close friends by this point, they had both been dating other people and nothing romantic had really happened between them. In “Alpha Pack,” Stiles has a panic attack, and Lydia, desperate to help him calm down, kisses him (don’t try this in real life, please): “I read once that holding your breath can stop a panic attack, so when I kissed you…you held your breath.” It’s clear something has shifted between them, especially on Lydia’s end. She would even go on to later confess, “When I kissed him, that’s when it all changed.”
It eventually becomes abundantly clear that not only are Stiles’ feelings for Lydia no longer one-sided, but that there’s also a powerful connection between the two of them—a soulmate energy, if you will. The real turning point comes in Season 6, when the Ghost Riders take Stiles away and erase him from everyone’s memories. Lydia is the only one of the friend group who feels like someone deeply important in her life is missing. When she’s eventually able to recall the memory of their kiss, she also remembers that she was the last person to see Stiles before he was taken away. They were sitting in his jeep, and Stiles confessed that he loved her. Lydia tearfully recalls, “I didn’t say it back,” only for Stiles to emerge from a bright white light and declare, “You don’t have to.” Reunited, the two share a passionate kiss. Stydia is finally canon, shippers are thrilled, and all is right in the world.
Except we apparently can’t have nice things. Fans were understandably upset when Teen Wolf: The Movie undid six seasons of beautiful development and destroyed Stydia by breaking them up off-screen. Lydia revealed that she left Stiles after having a vivid nightmare—which she believed to be a premonition—of him dying in a car accident: “If I was never in the car with him, then there wouldn’t have to be a crash.”
This is incredibly hard to buy for a number of reasons. Can I believe that Lydia would sacrifice her happiness to protect Stiles’ life? Sure, whatever. The part I can’t get past is that Stiles would just apparently accept this and not try everything in his power to fight for her and save their relationship. You’re telling me that Stiles Stilinski, the guy who’s had a crush on her since the third grade, the guy who made a 10-year-plan to get her to fall in love with him, would just let the love of his life slip away? Just like that?!
Even back in Season 2, Stiles gave a speech about how utterly devastated he would be if anything happened to her: “You don’t care about getting hurt. But you know how I’ll feel? I’ll be devastated. And if you die, I will literally go out of my freakin’ mind!” It just seems wildly out of character that Stiles would so easily let go of Lydia like this. The movie ending also leaves both characters in a pretty bleak place individually.
Obviously, I knew Teen Wolf: The Movie wasn’t going to give us a Stydia wedding, and I don’t doubt that Dylan O’Brien’s absence was a challenge to work around. Creator Jeff Davis explained the decision in an interview with TV Insider: “You can leave it at the excuse that, oh, Stiles is off just doing something else while the movie happened. But I didn’t want to leave it at that. I wanted to still be able to tell an emotional story.” I can understand the intent, and Roden’s performance does sell Lydia’s heartbreak very well. But ultimately, the split just feels incredibly unnecessary and, frankly, like a lazy choice. The movie could have easily still crafted a compelling emotional story for Lydia unrelated to Stiles’ absence. Why destroy one of the show’s most beloved, staple couples over it?
An off-screen breakup also just feels cruel to fans after years and years of buildup. With so many shows being canceled after just a season or two these days, we so rarely get these satisfying slow-burn ships with so much development and history. And look, I get that creators can ultimately do whatever they want with their stories, no matter how much fans may disagree with their decisions (looking at you, Season 8 of Game of Thrones).
At the end of the day, we (grumble) aren’t owed happy endings for our favorite characters or ships. But why would you go out of your way to throw a middle finger at fans here? Especially when so much of the film’s plot is arguably fanservice for Scott and Allison, a ship where one of the characters literally died on screen? Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad that Scallison got their happy ending, even if bringing Allison back does cheapen her initial death. But why couldn’t Stydia get their happy ending too?
This is far from the first time a sequel or reboot has destroyed a beloved ship for the sake of drama. Shows as varied as Veronica Mars, The Perfectionists, and Girl Meets World are also guilty of similar stunts, to name a few. To an extent, this rings true to real life—not every couple is built to last, even ones we swore were “endgame.” Plus, conflict is obviously necessary to drive these stories. But when destroying a ship is done at the expense of all development, has everyone acting out of character, and leaves everything in a terrible, unsatisfying limbo? That’s when it’s not just frustrating to fans—it’s also just bad writing. Ultimately, Stiles, Lydia, and the Teen Wolf fandom all deserved better.