Though Bitten‘s second season premiere started out with a lot of quick developments, “Scare Tactics” quiets down again with a lot of posturing. The show is somewhat known for this; it often wants to think that it’s a smarter show with mob-like tendencies, the werewolves of the Danvers clan doing their own maneuvering within the supernatural universe instead of a criminal empire. Unfortunately, the scriptwriting in Bitten is just not good enough to support entire episodes of sustained drama such as “Scare Tactics,” its plot too tepid and dialogue-heavy for its own good.
It picks up with a pretty good flashback of Clay when he was a kid in Louisiana. It was Malcolm who turned him, threatening to catch him and eat his insides if he can’t run fast enough. He’s able to hide in some brush and only get the bite that turns him, but it still impacts his life considerably. Eventually, it’ll lead Clay to turn Elena, and then Malcolm returns to kill Elena’s boyfriend Philip. That past event set in motion a lot of what we’ve recently seen in Bitten, and Elena’s plot for revenge make even more sense with this piece of information.
On the other hand, the amount of time “Scare Tactics” takes interrogating Malcolm feels worthless. He’s kidnapped Rachel, and apparently he’s keeping her somewhere, but he’s made it quite clear that he’s not going to tell where she is. And killing him doesn’t really work either – he’s almost asking for that, especially when he goads Elena and Logan. Still, Jeremy insists on keeping him locked up, and “Scare Tactics” has three or four different scenes where characters go to Malcolm to attempt to force information out of him. It’s all quite boring, written with very little tension; there are no stakes here because Malcolm doesn’t have anything to offer. The best Bitten can do is a confrontation between Malcolm and Elena – she’s still seething because of Philip’s death, and there’s pathos in their conversation that is generally lacking in this show.
“Scare Tactics” dives into the witch storyline too, and I’ve got to say that I do find the two witches quite a bit more appealing than the werewolf stuff Bitten has already done. The witches have moody atmosphere around them, in this episode depicted by a dense fog and whispering when they make their presence known. Their writing still isn’t good; like Malcolm’s dialogue, it’s got a lot of badass posturing that actually comes off as very silly, like Ruth’s statement that the werewolves “are either on our side or you’re in our way, and right now you’re in our way.” It just doesn’t work the way it should, which could be said about most of Bitten so far.
Still, this episode makes use of witch powers in a way that gives me hope that, as the season continues, the show might come out of its boring rut. The hint towards a much more sinister, violent man with witch-like powers indicates that both the witches and werewolves will band together, and that’s important because right now the Danvers clan feels underpowered compared to witches. We’ll see more of Ruth and Paige, hopefully with Jeremy and his team.
Other than that, there’s not much more to discuss about “Scare Tactics.” It feels like Bitten is wasting its time with Malcolm. It’s also doing little to further its characters, because Elena is still simply driven by rage and Logan eager to get his wife back. The lack of development is troubling, but what’s worse is that Bitten continually comes back to sex as a way to feel better about grief. Elena states that she needs to confront her feelings about losing Philip, and so obviously she has sex with Clay to get over all of that emotional stuff. Bitten doesn’t know how to deal with his sort of thing, and its script isn’t strong enough for complex issues; it all feels wholly unrealistic and unresolved.
“Scare Tactics” gives me more faith in this season based on the witches alone, but Bitten still pales in comparison to most other scripted television dramas. Even its main conceit – werewolves – is strangely unenchanting; perhaps the witches can at least bring a supernatural aspect to a series that sorely needs something new.