The Character Analysis Series: Stiles Stilinski

Some of us have to make mistakes; some of us have to get our hands a little bloody sometimes; some of us are human.

Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf

Hey guys! Here’s another character analysis! These usually take a little bit longer than normal reviews and such because they require a bit more knowledge than some of the books. So there might be a bit of a wait in between these posts. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it!

Stiles Stilinski can easily be pinpointed as the voice of Teen Wolf. Despite originally just being a sidekick, Stiles quickly became a fan favorite.Whether it be his knack to find himself in comically dangerous situations or his witty one-liners, Stiles served as comedic relief. But, Stiles also served to further the plot in different ways by being well-versed in the mythology of whatever evil their fighting. Since Stiles isn’t the main character, it may seem like he doesn’t have much of a character arc or purpose aside from making the viewers laugh. But, if you look close enough, Stiles’s character development is as intricate and interesting as Scott’s. 

Seasons 1- 3A

Like Scott, Stiles’s character development is broken up into different stages. The first stage is Stiles’s human phase. While Stiles is one of the only characters that remains human throughout the entire show, his views on the world mature throughout the seasons. In the first three seasons, Stiles retains his humanity, serving only to help Scott understand his own superhumanity. Here, Stiles is meant to provide a contrast to Scott and serve as a tether to Scott’s human side. While Stiles is often overlooked as one of Scott’s anchors, it’s true that Stiles’s relationship and constant presence keep Scott from losing himself in his monstrous side. The best example of this is during Season One during Scott’s full moon. When Scott kisses Lydia, instead of allowing Scott to use the full moon to excuse it, Stiles handcuffs Scott to the radiator in his bedroom, forcing him to come to terms with what he is and search for a way to control his shifting. As he wasn’t as informed, this didn’t work, but it was Stiles’s attempt that proved that he was also Scott’s anchor – though more in a physical sense. 

Stiles’s morals are often meant to contrast Scott’s as well. While Scott’s morals are portrayed as black and white, Stiles’s morals fall in a gray area. This is due to Stiles’s disregard for the law/authority. Part of this comes from his father’s style of parenting. Sheriff Stilinski doesn’t really punish Stiles for following him on his calls or for hacking into the police’s radio frequencies. Since he’s been able to get away with it for so long, he begins to realize that there is no consequence for his disregard of the law. This belief doesn’t translate well to his behavior in school, as he is constantly given detention for his unlawful behavior. Stiles is already shown to be an agent of chaos in his own right, which makes his possession by the nogitsune the most logical out of all the pack members. 

While it seems that Stiles would be much more suitable for an antagonistic character, his undying loyalty towards Scott and Scott’s influence serve to keep him from moving to the dark side. While it often seems like Scott relies too heavily on his pack members, his pack members rely on him for his steadfastness. Stiles is no exception. His chaotic nature leads to extreme bouts of anxiety because he justifies his lawlessness as being a necessity to help his friends. This, when contrasted with the lawful nature of his closest friends and family serves to make Stiles feel less than those around him. At the end of Season 3A, when the darach kidnaps his dad as a sacrifice, Stiles’s panic attack is a result of feeling like a failure and believing that he should be the sacrifice. This comes from his notion that as the only human in the pack, Stiles feels that has nothing to offer and no way to truly protect his family (this is why he relies heavily on his baseball bat as a false sense of security). The panic attack also represents Stiles’s inability to fix a situation because there is no law to break in order to save his father. This demonstrates that Stiles’s disregard of the law is only necessary when he feels like he’s protecting his family. 

While Stiles is offered the bite during this time, he refuses it under the pretense that he doesn’t want it. But, based on Stiles’s characterization, it’s much more probable that Stiles refused it because he didn’t want to be another Scott. While he could’ve used the physical strength to help people the way Scott did, Stiles would prefer to use his mental capacity and courage to aid his friends. There might be times where Stiles regrets this, but this decision shapes Stiles into a character that helps move along the plot line and makes him a valued member of the pack because he relies on his intellectual prowess rather than brute force like some of the other characters. 

Season 3B

As Stiles is naturally chaotic, the nogitsune’s attraction to Stiles makes sense. The nogitsune wants to cause strife, chaos, and pain. While Stiles’s intention is never to cause strife or pain, the nogitsune latches onto Stiles’s disregard for the law and his rapidly disintegrating mental state. The nogitsune infiltrates Stiles to separate him from his good influences, hoping that Scott and his pack would abandon Stiles so the nogitsune would be able to continue with its purpose.  This season also symbolizes Stiles’s loss of innocence because even though he is possessed, this is the first time he has blood on his hands. While Scott and the rest of the pack don’t blame him, they can’t relate and this does eventually create a distance between Stiles and the rest of the pack in later seasons. 

When Stiles begins to date Malia, it seems like an extremely fast and unlikely relationship. In reality, the Stiles that falls in love with Malia is desperate to find someone who can absolve him of the blood on his hands. But, Malia shares the same morally gray personality as Stiles, but this comes from Malia’s time living as a coyote. Instead of absolving him, Malia helps him cope with the consequences of his actions. This new side of Stiles opens his eyes to the consequences of a truly lawless world and this is why the rest of his character development serves as a benefit to the story. It emphasizes his new maturity. His relationship with Malia is necessary as he relies on Malia to help him redeem himself. 

Season 3B is the climax of Stiles’s character arc. Though Stiles continues to be his usual sarcastic self after these life-changing events, he becomes distant from his humanity and searches for ways to make himself useful and strong rather than weak and a burden to the rest of his pack. 

Season 4 

This season is Stiles’s search to make himself a valued member of the pack. I want to clarify that just because Stiles’s is searching for his value in this season doesn’t mean that he had no value before this. This lack of self-worth comes from Stiles’s inner voice that acknowledges that he will never be Scott and that his rank in the pank is the result of being severely insecure. After being possessed, Stiles wants to redeem himself, which he does by being Malia’s perfect boyfriend and Scott’s perfect right hand man. But, the events of the nogitsune still haunt Stiles in a couple ways. The first is that he now has to come to terms with what it means to be human again. He realizes that his biggest asset is not his ability to break the law without remorse, but rather his ability to piece together the mysterious events in Beacon Hills. His relationship with Lydia begins to strengthen here because he proves himself to be Lydia’s equal, rather than someone who is consistently pining after her. With Lydia’s abilities and Stiles’s emerging self-confidence, Stiles understands his value. 

Stiles and Malia’s breakup in the middle of the seasons is necessary because it symbolizes Stiles’s acceptance of his own actions. He realizes that while he can’t change the past, he can use the past to influence his future actions. Malia, who remains relatively static through their relationship, relied on Stiles to gain control over her shifting and finding balance between her animal side and her human side (much like Scott, another foreshadowing that Malia and Scott would ultimately end up together; they both needed Stiles in the same way). Once both of them could manage their inner demons, they no longer needed each other. Stiles’s morals also begin to shift in the opposite direction from Malia’s (shown by him hiding Malia’s true parentage because he knew it could worsen her self-perception) and this doesn’t sit well with Malia. Stiles ultimately hid her identity from her and this may have come across like he was ashamed of who she really was. 

Season 5

This is another life-changing season for Stiles. After the events of seasons 3 and 4 when Stiles manages to come to terms with his new persona, Stiles spills blood when he isn’t under the influence of evil. This serves as a paradigm shift for Stiles who once could blame the nogitsune for his actions, now has to come to terms with the fact that he is capable of killing someone as his human self. Now, he believes that he has no place in Scott’s pack and this begins to strain his relationship with Scott. While Scott believes that Stiles’s place is still his second-in-command, Stiles doesn’t know how to come to terms with the fact that he broke Scott’s biggest rule. 

When Theo comes along and appears to take over Stiles’s place, Stiles’s hurt prevents him from being honest with Scott, instead choosing to let Theo tell him. During Scott and Stiles’s confrontation outside of the animal clinic, neither of them truly talk about what’s going on. Stiles doesn’t correct Scott’s notions about why Stiles killed Donovan and Stiles doesn’t admit his inner turmoil or hurt at being replaced. 

This season in terms of character development is meant to demonstrate the importance of a strong support system. Scott’s and Stiles’s lack of communication threaten to destroy their friendship. When Scott learns the truth, he spends several episodes fighting for Stiles’s forgiveness, which Stiles doesn’t give freely. This partly might be because he is testing Scott to see how important their friendship is and partly because he knows that his forgiveness would result in his reinstatement in the pack and he’s still not sure of his place. When Scott gets kidnapped, Stiles no longer feels angry because it’s replaced by guilt and what-ifs. This is why their relationship seems to be mended at the end of season 5 and going into season 6. 

Stiles teaches Scott how to shift his morals to a grayer view of the world, helping enhance Scott’s leadership abilities. This is the final step in Stiles’s coming of age, as he is now confident in his abilities and is secure in his knowledge of his place in Scott’s pack. From here, Stiles isn’t really a main character, but he’s still a large part of the story. 

Season 6

After being taken by the Wild Hunt, Stiles demonstrates that his maturity doesn’t result in a loss of identity. He still can manage to hold on to some of his initial ideas, such as his feelings for Lydia. Despite not being a supernatural in need of an anchor, Lydia serves as Stiles’s anchor. When separated from the people he cares most about, it’s his faith in Lydia that keeps him tethered to his world. This is ultimately why Lydia and Stiles end up together because they keep each other grounded. While Lydia is a supernatural, she relies on Stiles to keep her from going insane and Stiles relies on her to remind him that he has a purpose in Scott’s pack. Lydia’s memory of Stiles proves that Stiles is the glue of Scott’s pack and without him, the pack isn’t whole.  While Stiles isn’t present in every episode, his memory is in every episode which emphasizes that his doubts were unwarranted.

When Stiles finally makes his way back, he is more confident in who he is meant to be. He realizes that as their threats grow in their severity, he needs more training which leads him to join the FBI. This complete shift in Stiles’s motives from once relying on chaos to relying on the law in order to protect his pack shows Stiles’s overall development. The one thing that remains constant through this whole season is Stiles’s loyalty towards Scott and Lydia, shown by him helping Derek find his way back to help Scott and how he is always willing to sacrifice his life for Lydia’s. 

Conclusion

Stiles is a fascinating character because much of his character development is done on his own. He doesn’t rely on others to grow, like Scott did. Though it may not seem like it, Stiles has a circular character development. He starts off as a chaotic comedic sidekick and ends up as an FBI agent. While this may only seem like a half-circle development, Stiles’s development is constant in the fact that he is always by Scott’s side no matter which end of the spectrum he’s on. Stiles is proof that you don’t need superhuman strength to contribute to society. Stiles is a normal person with normal abilities and he finds a way to persevere to keep his place. Stiles is also extremely resilient and manages to land on his feet even during his darkest days. His relationship with Scott demonstrates the importance of having a strong support system and the importance of communication. While Stiles’s only defense may be sarcasm, his character furthers several ideas including providing balance for Scott’s overly trusting nature. His presence on the show is meant to emphasize the importance of balance between order and chaos. While Stiles was never explicitly evil, he was the chaos to Scott’s order and overall, served to make Scott a better leader while furthering a message that you don’t need to be a supernatural to be extraordinary.

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