Jodi Walker
January 07, 2014 AT 08:30 AM EST

Teen Wolf has always been a show that teeters on the precipice of being too much; just a heartbeat away from getting a little too big for its mythology britches and then blaming it all on a dream sequence. I’m not saying that was the case with this dream sequence, and its dance with the overkill devil is certainly what keeps me tuning in for more. I’m just saying that the dream-within-a-dream-times-infinity was a nerve-wracking way to start 3-B.

The first half of season 3 was a whirlwind of new lore for Scott N’ the Gang and the latter half has both a lot to live up to and a lot to explain. So, instead of treading lightly, it seems that the writers are just taking a deep dive into the psychological abyss, at times in a new Asian-horror style that suits the show well. And good for them! I guess that’s exactly what we could expect after a midseason finale that promised all three of our main characters would have their hearts encompassed by darkness forever. Like, eternity. That’s a pretty heavy commitment, the kind that makes you wonder how far the show will really take it.

The premiere opens on Stiles in bed dreaming that he’s roaming around Beacon Hills High in his pajamas. We’ve all been there. But whereas we hadn’t been going to math class for an entire semester and then had to take a final exam, Stiles finds his school overtaken by that pesky nemeton. Nope! Lydia pops up in bed to tell him it’s just a dream and he better sit still and stay away from his glowing bedroom door. Nope! That too was another dream and another nemeton. Stiles hasn’t finally scored Lydia, but he can definitely always count on Scott to be at school first thing in the morning to listen to his theories on sleep paralysis and REM cycles. NOPE! I kid you not, it’s another dream. But this one doesn’t end in a light sheen of sweat, this one ends in full night terror screams, because silly, smart comic-relief Stiles is getting pulled into the dark side of questioning his whole reality, and fast (and hats off to Dylan O’Brien for that whole sequence).

Not doing much better is his fellow human, Allison, who hallucinates about her dear dead Aunt Kate all the way from her apartment to school, apparently having no idea how she got there once she arrives (don’t sacrifice your soul for your parents and drive, kids). Scott, when not throwing around his new roommate Isaac for maybe wanting to make out with his ex-girlfriend, is being chased by his own alpha werewolf shadow through the halls and trying not to lose control of his inner-wolf in History class. All in all, things are really not going so well for the supernaturally inclined high school students of Beacon Hills right now.

With Allison’s not being able to keep a steady hunting hand, Stiles’ wavering literacy and Scott’s lack of control over his animal instincts, everyone is losing the very strength they used to personally bring to the pack. Even Lydia, finally clued in on everything, is once again trapped in the middle of insanity — but this time, she’s aware of it. Luckily, new girl in town Kira (a charming Arden Cho) invites herself to help after overhearing the crew’s mental predicaments because these kids talk about darachs and human sacrifices at lunch like they’re talking about last night’s episode of The Voice. She thinks they might be experiencing “Barto,” a Tibetan word for “in-between state,” the state between life and death.

Dr. Deaton the all-knowing, rarely-helping veterinarian agrees with Kira’s theory and has some extra tips on not losing their minds completely. You see, Stiles’ subconscious is communicating with him in sign language (and riddles): After their sacrifice, they set the door to their minds “ajar,” entering them into a super-consciousness, and they’re going to keep almost shooting their friends in the heads with arrows if they don’t close that door soon. Listen, I’m glad these kids at least have some sort of Giles-like figure to turn to, but I’m a little over Deaton giving his insights after the fact. Could he not have told them all of this door business preemptively? Like, hey, when you’re in that ice-bath-Matrix-tree-grove, maybe try to keep your mind doors locked up, okay?

Now that Sheriff Stilinski is clued into the supernatural goings on of his town, and potentially about to lose his job at the hands of Papa McCall, he’s taking a look at an old case he suspects might have involved some werewolf-oolery. A mother and her two children were killed in a “car wreck,” but when they found the bodies, they were covered in “coyote scratches” and the body of the 9-year-old daughter, Malia Tate, had been bitten up and dragged off. When Scott and Stiles go looking for the dead body (I see you, season 1 full circle!), they come face to face with…a little werewolf? A were-coyote? That kitsune everybody keeps talking about in the season preview? Whatever it is, when Scott looks into its glowing eyes, he addresses it as Malia and it runs off. Realizing they’re in way over their heads, Scott texts Derek, who’s with Peter, being held hostage via electric shock in a basement that looks remarkably like dear dead Aunt Kate’s former torture basement. No signs of Cora (other than in 16th century France over on the CW).

Even when it’s a little much, even when it doesn’t totally make sense, this world involves me in a way that continually makes me not want these episodes to end. A successful premiere left me with plenty of thrills and questions, and a successful season should hopefully offer plenty of answers. A few of those questions right now: Who has Derek and Peter all shirtless and shock-y? What/who exactly is that creature in the woods? Did Malia’s dad seem to have a little too much of a commanding presence over the family dog? And are Scott, Stiles and Allison going to make it out of this with their sanity?

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