The Chess is a Metaphor for the Game of Life.
Jennifer: Idioms, analogies, metaphors and similes. Idioms are somewhat of a secret to people that know the language or the culture. There are phrases that only make sense if you know keywords. Saying ‘jump the gun’ is meaningful only if you know about the starting gun in a race. Or a phrase, like ‘seeing the whole board’…
Jennifer: That’s right Stiles. Do you play?
Stiles: No. My father does.
Well this is almost definitely 100% not true because Stiles had in his room not 1 but 2 Chess boards.
I call bullshit! Perhaps he just doesn’t play any more but used to either with his dad or with his mum or both?
The question is why would Jennifer care if Stiles plays chess or not? Maybe because she has issues with people ‘seeing the whole board’ and finding out the truth whatever that might be.
She tried to kill Lydia because she knew to much but didn’t even know that she was a Banshee at the time. The tree Lydia was drawing and her insistence that the five-fold knot drawn on the chalkboard meant that someone else was going to die was enough to get rid of Lydia for The Darach. The irony is that I don’t think Lydia actually consciously knows whatever it is that has worried Jennifer yet and as a consequence neither do we.
Now I think they emphasized the falsehood in Stiles answer to Jennifer on purpose to draw our attention to the chess board and the game of chess in general and think about it’s meaning in terms of the English lesson that Jennifer was giving about idioms, metaphors, analogies and similes.
Ahahahaaaa so continuing with the theme we had this:
Isaac: Something I learnt from my father. Take a step back and look at the whole picture sometimes you’ll see things that you wouldn’t notice if you were up close and all your looking at is the details [3×09 ‘The Girl Who Knew To Much].
Stiles: The reason your losing the game is because you’ve never been able to see the whole board
[3×09 ‘The Girl Who Knew To Much].
Okay so the characters in Teen Wolf are unable necessarily to see the big picture or the whole board but in many cases in tv shows the audience is shown details that the characters don’t know by the omniscient narrator who does not take part in the story but only relates it to the audience…this can be the camera. An example would have been Scott and Jennifer talking in 3×01 and then as Scott turns his back and walks away we see Jennifer’s face turn into the Darach’s. In this circumstance we ‘the audience’ would have known from the get go and the tension and drama in the story telling would come from waiting for the characters to find out.
However Teen Wolf has not afforded us this luxury. We are being told the story from multiple points of view at times through the use of flashbacks and memories and are consciously aware of the fact that our ‘narrators’ are unreliable. So saying try and see the big picture is all very nice and stuff but we’re as in the dark as the characters for the most part. We have a slight advantage in that we can actually re-watch the show and stare at scenes for clues though.
So I watch and I hunt stalking my prey like a lion stalks a gazelle or a werewolf stalks a deer
erm. Then I realized that maybe the answer was in front of our eyes all along right on the chess board that Stiles is using to show his dad the ‘bigger’ picture.
(click image for large version)
On Stiles’ chess board a pawn is labeled Scott. A. Pawn.
Morrell: You’re playing his game! And while you’re trying to figure out what to do next he’s thinking 10 moves ahead with the checkmate already in sight. [3×09 ‘The Girl Who Knew To Much’]
A check from which a king cannot escape.
But Scott isn’t the King; he is a pawn. How can you play a game when you don’t know what game you’re playing or what the rules are? Is Scott actually playing Deucalion’s game or is he being used. It’s like if the True Alpha is symbolic of being King – Scott isn’t there yet and doesn’t yet have the tools to fight?
Stiles: Well it gets kind of hard for him to do his job when he doesn’t have all the information and we all know he’s pretty much missing half the story here right? [3×04 ‘Unleashed]
Stiles: It’s like you’ve been playing a losing game. [3×09 ‘The Girl Who Knew To Much’]
This is an idiom that alludes to actual unsuccessful battles or games. The game is essentially an analogy for battle are i.e. the strategy of war is likened to the strategy of a chess game and in this case it is an unwinnable struggle; a struggle destined to failure.
So I’m pretty sure that the writers think that they’re being clever (I actually think it is clever) as we have this word below being emphasized in the episode ;)
This History teacher Mr Westover, the second philosopher sacrifice, was writing notes on the chalkboard about WW1 – The Great War when he was taken.
What it actually says on the board is:
WORLD WAR 1 – THE GREAT WAR
- June 28, 1914 – Heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated.
- Austria issues July Ultimatum – Serbia rebuffs.
- Franz Joseph of Austria joins forces with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany against Serbia.
- Serbia seeks help from Russia (Czar Nicholas II).
I actually never studied this in school (History was an elective and I had to pick between History and Geography at age 14) but from my limited knowledge I know that this is what is believed to be the catalyst, the trigger, that lead to war.
You could actually call it a “confluence of events” like Peter Hale mentioned in 3×08 ‘Visionary’ the flashback episode. Although that is not the first time this term has been used in Teen Wolf. Last Season we had this in 2×10 ‘Fury’:
Chris: This might just be the confluence of events we’ve been hoping for.
Gerard: Confluence or conflagration? I’m open to both.
Anyway in 3×08 ‘Visionary’ we actually (whether it was true or not) saw how Deucalion wanted to make peace, after a long history of fighting, with the hunters.
Deucalion: I had a vision; a vision of peace!! [3×08 ‘Visionary’]
But it all got fucked in the ass because of Gerard.
Deucalion: Ennis don’t! Don’t make us part of a historical cliché. With two such powers it never ends in an eye for an eye – a skirmish becomes a war; a murder becomes a massacre and we end up no better than our enemies. [3×08 ‘Visionary’]
Gerard not only ambushed Deucalion he also set it up to look like he’d been attacked by Deucalion in turn. Clearly he wanted war and wanted to encourage an animosity between then – he must have a reason for not wanting peace. If I can guess I’d say that Gerard wanted to justify going after the Hale pack because it seems likely that he told Kate to do what she did when she set fire to the house.
Even now the Alpha pack works like this Aiden explaining to Lydia that Derek killed one of theirs so they must kill one if his and now it’s Derek turn. Tit for Tat an endless bloodthirsty cycle of revenge etc.
Aiden: I told you that was Kali – I didn’t have a choice.
Aiden: Try and remember Derek killed Ennis!
Lydia: So it’s his turn to kill someone now – is that it?
All this to me seems to be hinting at this spoiler that we had for Season 3:
” Apparently there is a big storyline regarding the war between the Argents and the werewolves that started it all, as well as a treaty that has been broken that has sent everything to hell.”
What is the origins of the enmity between different factions? My guess is that someone got murdered/assassinated and the blame was perhaps put on a party that was not necessarily responsible. If history repeats itself Gerard is a prime example of not keeping to the code.
However we have moved on from just werewolves vs. hunters because a third party is actually now in the works. The Druids – specifically the Darach whose enemy appears to be the Alpha pack so werewolves but not necessarily all werewolves.
What does Jennifer want from Scott? She’s been manipulating him because for example by making him shut off his phone in 3×01 ‘Tattoo’ she made it harder for him to be there when he was needed for his friends. She also tried to keep Derek apart from Scott as well advising him not to tell Scott that he was alive but for what end…that is what is not clear. We don’t know what she gains from this? Is she literally just destroying/stopping a system of support of a pack from forming so that he is less of a threat later? Trying to stop him from becoming the True Alpha?
To be quite honest I feel like we’re actually playing this!
Now the way to win is perhaps to ‘join forces’ with an enemy to beat a more dangerous foe. Like The Darach and Scott and co. seem to be doing in 3×10 ‘The Overlooked’. At this point it is not even clear if the ‘something is coming’ has actually happened yet.
I actually need to mention the ‘song’ we’ve been hearing all season that was mentioned again in 3×09 ‘The Girl That Knew To Much’. Lydia recognizes the song but we don’t know from where yet and it is obviously of importance even if we don’t know it’s significance yet but I will point out that a song is all about balance and harmony, we don’t get music unless the notes work together.
Universal balance is a theme in teen wolf that has run throughout seasons. Take particular note of this quote from 2×10 ‘Fury’:
Derek: You can’t just break the rules, not like this.
Stiles: What do you mean?
Derek: Universe balances things out. Always does.
Stiles: Is it because he’s using Jackson to kill people who don’t deserve it?
Derek: And Killing people himself.
Stiles: So if Matt breaks the rules of the Kanima; he becomes the Kanima?
Plus more recently in 3×04 ‘Unleashed’:
Deaton: The Celtic Druids were close to nature they believed they kept it in balance.
I feel like this is a clue as to why the True Alpha happens so rarely. I know people have been questioning why they only happen like once every 100 years because surely there have been other virtuous werewolves before Scott. The True Alpha comes about as a reaction to extreme unbalance in the Universe. Scott is very much in many ways the antithesis to all the ‘bad’ things going on. The opposite of violent, of hate, betrayal etc he’s not going to continue in the same pattern as the hunters and packs before him . He’s the balance in a cosmic way if that makes sense?
Now for my obligatory bit of mythology
I spend to much time on Google to mix it with all of this. The ancient Celts used to play a game called Fidchell which is considered a predecessor to modern Chess. Not much is know about it and the rules have been lost to time but it is mentioned a lot in mythic stories.
“In addition, fidchell, as described in the legends, often has a mystical or divinatory aspect to it. Battles ebb and flow as a result of the ebb and flow of a game of fidchell, games play themselves, great events are decided on the outcome of a fidchell match, and so on. “
In this sense the game is like a game of fate. Now not all shows like to have ‘fate’ as a force that is real but it is probably important to note that it has been mentioned in Teen Wolf in 2×12 ‘Master Plan’.
Allison: There’s no such thing as fate.
Scott: There’s no such thing as werewolves.
I guess to a certain degree its left up to the audience whether they believe that fate is something that exists or not. If fate does exist it would be at odds to a degree with this concept of will. If Scott is prophesized or fated to become the True Alpha and come on all Season 3 people have seemed to know that it’s coming way before he even had an inkling. Then how much does the force of his own will really come into it. This is an incredibly interesting and complicated debate and the answer isn’t simple.
Scott is supposedly a part of Deucalion’s game and games have rules. As established in the Teen Wolf universe you break the rules you suffer the consequences (possibly quite severe ones). If Scott plays by the ‘rules of the game’ even if he is freely choosing his next move the rules still guide what he can actually do because he can only act within their constrains and this suggest that events are preordained. This is a deterministic view of life where free will is an illusion and individual choices are bound by rigidly determined rules and guided by an omnipresent invisible force.
In this way chess is seen as a metaphor for life itself.
Probably the most important question though is does Scott play by the rules or does he break them? Quite often when faced with a choice where he is supposed to pick one move or the other he refuses to do either opting a third route instead. Instead of letting fate guide him he is instead (perhaps) exerting his free will and that is maybe what makes him a True Alpha? I bet you can find a dozen paradoxes but I fucking love them bring them on!!!
Chris: One of the definitions of threading the needle, is to find a safe path between two opposing forces. [3×05 ‘Frayed’]
Finally returning to what Morrell said about Deucalion having “check mate” in sight. Scott would only have no more moves if he plays by the rules if he breaks them anything is possible. He might turn the tables and make them all play his game instead of Deucalion’s? It’s just so hard to see him in the mid-season promo say “I don’t know what else to do”. Maybe he doesn’t realize what he has to do yet?