There are some things in our lives that we have no control over, such as the way we’re raised. As we grow up, our parents have ideas about the types of adults they would like us to become. These ideas can be as open-ended as wanting us to make good choices or as narrow as deciding that we will go to medical school. These can then lead our families to have expectations regarding our behavior. We can either choose to embrace those expectations, or we can reject them in favor of choosing our own paths—as Elsa Bloodstone ultimately does in Marvel’s Werewolf by Night.
Werewolf by Night is unique for multiple reasons: It is an overt homage to classic Hollywood horror movies, it is almost entirely in black and white, and it feels darker than many of Marvel’s other pieces. I was intrigued from the get-go, as I had not heard of the characters before this was announced, and I was hooked from the first moment on. I was most impressed by the amount of character development packed into 50 minutes for the two main characters, Elsa Bloodstone and Jack Russell.
Elsa was raised in the Bloodstone family, a culture of monster-hunting “death dealers” obsessed with duty. Werewolf by Night opens with Elsa estranged from her family. Although the show doesn’t explicitly describe the reasons for this, it’s apparent that Elsa still feels attachment to her family’s heirloom, the Bloodstone gem. We are told that this artifact, previously owned by her father, Ulysses Bloodstone, provides a number of qualities desirable by any hunter—longevity of life and the ability to use magic, to name a few—and Elsa is willing to work together with Jack Russell, a complete stranger, on the chance that she can gain possession of the stone.
Unbeknownst to Elsa, Jack is a werewolf, one of the monsters that her family has sworn to hunt and kill. They are able to establish a tentative trust after being trapped together, both agreeing to work together for the sake of their individual goals (Jack wants to free his friend, and Elsa wants to claim the bloodstone). It all seems to be going well until Jack’s true identity is revealed suddenly in front of all of the hunters. Elsa could have easily chosen to reclaim her father’s legacy by caving to that pressure, choosing to write off Jack as simply another monster. Instead, she fully embraces her new path as she opts to defend Jack in his werewolf form and to rely on the connection they forged during their brief time together that night.…There is always the opportunity to take an inward look at the beliefs we’ve been raised with and determine what we want to carry forward.
Jack, much like Elsa, subverts the expectations that are placed on him by others. When he attends the wake of Elsa’s father, he comes across as mild-mannered and unassuming, a stark contrast to the hunters’ threatening auras. By the time we realize what Jack truly is, we have already gotten to know his character. He chooses peaceful solutions when possible instead of the violence that is expected of him. Jack chooses to be considerate and caring, showing concern towards Elsa’s wellbeing and risking his life to infiltrate the wake to save his captured friend. He does not fit the “vicious monster” stereotype that the hunters have given him. Jack does not let his baser instincts define or control who he is.
During the course of the story, Elsa and Jack become trapped together, and Jack shares an insight with her: “All families have something in common. They follow us. For good; for bad. They stay—like, they become an atmosphere. And sometimes we think that by doing something very specific, we can change everything and not be like them.”
Sometimes, it may seem as though our families’ expectations can follow us forever, hanging overhead and forcing us down paths that we may not want to travel. Even so, there is always the opportunity to take an inward look at the beliefs we’ve been raised with and determine what we want to carry forward.
There may not be a specific action we can take to make us different from our families, and growth may not even be something that occurs instantly. The show leaves Elsa as she is still determining her path forward. In the same way, determining the types of people we want to be is a lifelong process, and we have to allow ourselves the time and grace for that to happen.