From the moment that Derek Hale appeared in the Teen Wolf pilot, fans gravitated toward his hardened, socially awkward personality. Nearly 12 years later and he’s become a fan-favorite character.
When Derek first appears, he’s a mysterious, moody wolf with a myriad of trust issues. He’s had to spend so much time fending for himself after Kate Argent took part in burning down his family home that left all but his uncle, Peter, and sister, Cora Hale, dead in his immediate family.
Dude, that was Derek Hale. You remember, right? He’s only like a few years older than us.Stiles Stilinski
Derek quickly takes Scott (and by proxy, Stiles) under his wing as the Alpha who bit him is trying to lure him into his pack. We find out that’s Peter, and after suffering a scratch from his claws, Scott tells Derek the truth about Kate and that Peter was the reason his sister Laura is dead. He killed her.
By season 2, Derek has become the Alpha after slashing Peter’s throat and killing him. Though he wasn’t always the perfect Alpha, he always stood by his duty and willingness to rewrite the wrongs. He works on creating his pack, which includes Isaac, Boyd, and Erica. In 3A it’s revealed that the leader of the Alpha pack, Deucalion, gives Derek the choice to either kill all of his Beta’s and absorb their powers or die. This isn’t the first time he sacrifices himself, as he gives up his Alpha status to save his sister, Cora, who is injured.
Though he was constantly losing fights against enemies much more powerful than he was, he showcased his abilities frequently, including when he let Boyd and Cora literally massacre his body to protect Jeniffer Blake, the English teacher. Talk about a badass!
At the beginning of season 4, Kate has figured out a way to regress Derek into his 15-year-old self, one that doesn’t remember the Hale fire because it wouldn’t have happened yet. Kate’s aim is to steal the triskelion from the Hale vault and she grooms Derek to do it. Peter puts a stop to it as the bearer bonds from the family vault are stolen. He shifts back to his current age, but now he’s no longer got his wolf powers as his eyes shift from blue to yellow.
Derek hires Braeden, a mercenary, to help him figure out what Kate did to him. They quickly enter a physical relationship and Derek heads to Mexico where he gets “killed” by a Berserker. When he comes back, he’s able to fully evolve into his wolf form.
Prior to Braeden’s introduction, Derek had a pretty unlucky go at love. From Kate Argent grooming and seducing younger Derek, having to kill his first love after she gets attacked by a wolf, and of course Jennifer, the Darach. When Derek meets Braeden, he’s got a whole new set of eyes, as he has to learn how to live without his powers as a human. She teaches him how to protect himself.
It was refreshing to see a relationship in Teen Wolf that saw the two of them as equals, breaking the cycle that Derek is reduced to relationships where there was not only a lack of consent but an underlying power imbalance. Braeden helped Derek evolve as a person (not just as a wolf) and gave him the gift of self-love, something he hadn’t concerned himself with for a long time.
Hoechlin exited the show after season 4 to pursue other projects, including Supergirl but returned for the sixth and final season. They show footage of him running through the woods in North Carolina in Stiles’ FBI class where we find out he’s on the run from police in connection with a mass murder in Brazil. 12 wolves were slaughtered and it’s Gerard Argent and his team of hunters behind it, not Derek.
Stiles saves Derek by risking his career and giving one of the best moments in the series. Stiles, giving a recount of the story, claims he saved an injured Derek in the crossfire. However … that’s not what actually happened. Derek is the one carrying an injured Stiles out of the crossfire. Classic Sterek.
Speaking of, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about one duo that fans love over a decade later — Sterek. Wise-cracking Stiles and Derek’s prickly attitude aid some of the greatest moments in the show. Their relentless need to save one another amidst danger is part of the reason (alongside Stiles’ bubbly banter, cue “sour wolf”) that Sterek has become so beloved among Teen Wolf fans and why it’s outlasted the show itself.
Now 15 years into the future, Derek is a father to Eli, a 15-year-old rebellious, uncoordinated young wolf that has yet to officially “wolf out.” He’s a supportive father that attends Eli’s lacrosse games, but he also isn’t afraid to stick his foot down when Eli steals Stiles’ Jeep (in what seems like a weekly occurrence) because of how much he loves it.
With Allison resurrected, the only life she knows is that of a hunter — and the first person she sets her sights on is Derek. We’ve seen Derek die and escape death more times than there are fingers on hands, but this time is different. Though no longer an Alpha, he will sacrifice anything and everything to keep Eli and his found family safe, which he does. He narrowly escapes an arrow soaked in wolfsbane skating past the side of his neck, leaving him to bleed out on the floor.
Peter reemerges with a blow torch he uses to heal Derek’s wound because despite Derek clawing his throat out, that’s what brothers are for, right? After recovering, he finds himself in the same predicament, but this time he’s fighting alongside friends, and members of the pack, when he gets stabbed by one of the Oni and sent to Nogitsune’s world awaiting his fate.
They make it out but with the Nogitsune revealing his wolf-like powers thanks to Scott biting him; it adds another layer of difficulty to take down the ancient supernatural creature. Scott is ready to sacrifice himself to save everybody but Derek refuses to let go. Eli is part of Scott’s pack now and he’s going to need him. He instructs Jordan to light Nogitsune on fire and he goes down in a blazing fire with him.
Make no mistake about it. Though a traumatizing, heart-wrenching death, Derek Hale died a hero. He went out doing what he’s always done — protecting the pack. Derek’s development as a character is a privilege to witness. He’s never been one to give up or back down from any fight, especially when people he cares about are in the mix. To Derek, it’s not an option. He gets up and finds another way, just as he always has. Derek found something he’d been missing in Eli, an heir to the Hale name, someone to continue his legacy. May we all take solace in that.
Remember who you are.Derek Hale
Going from that mysterious, grumpy lone wolf to a softer, selfless member of the pack; there will only ever be one Derek Hale.