It’s seems deeply strange to say this, but I now judge Scream Queens based on whether or not it tops that one scene where the Red Devil cut off the head of the college’s new ice cream-themed mascot Coney. I am watching this show for the laughs, and the short life and tragic end of Coney is the funniest thing to happen in the first three episodes. By that measure, last night’s episode, “Haunted House,” was a disappointment. There simply wasn’t anything nearly as funny as a decapitated ice cream mascot or dismembered fraternity idiot. Instead, “Haunted House” was more about advancing the murder mystery, forcing me to realize that if I am going to continue writing about this show I’m going to need to start learning the character’s names.
Let’s see if I can get this right. Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Pete (Diego Boneta) followed up their lead on one of sorority girls from that terrible 1995 bathroom, and found a scared older woman living in a trailer and forever waiting for someone to come asking about that poor “tub baby.” She reveals that Dean Munsch’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) method of covering the whole thing up was to drive the girls to an unknown location (humorously covering their heads with pillow cases on the drive there) and watch as they buried their dead sorority sister’s body. They then had to drop out of school and were not allowed to see each other ever again. The experience left all of them emotionally broken, although one did end up working at Fox News. Crucially, this lady shatters Grace and Peter’s theory that Chad (Glen Powell) is the “tub baby” by revealing the baby was a girl, not a boy.
Back in sorority land, Zayday (Keke Palmer) announced her intention to run for sorority president, challenging Chanel (Emma Roberts) who naturally threatened to murder her as retaliation. Undeterred, Zayday hosted a haunted house for charity (to stop sickle cell anemia in Lifetime Movies, if I heard correctly), but the spooky, off campus house she picked is said to be genuinely haunted by a black-clad woman known as the “Hag of the Shady Lane.” When Chad (Glen Powell) and Hester (Lea Michele), having bonded over their shared necrophilia, crashed the haunted house hours before its opening they were horrified to find the actual bodies of The Red Devil’s victims strewn all over the place. Of course, after they escape and warn the student union to stay away from the house the entire study body all decide the house sounds amazing and head over anyway. They won’t leave when a stunned Zayday sees the bodies, and while talking to a remarkably unhelpful cop on her cell phone she ends up being kidnapped by The Red Devil (or so it seems).
Yet Munsch, who has the locals cops wrapped around her little finger, looks like she’ll be able to cover everything up, and Grace and Pete are unsure how much they should share with the cops, especially since Grace now suspects she might be the “tub baby.” They end the episode having figured out that the “Hag of the Shady Lane” must have been the person who raised the “tub baby,” and we close on the reveal that the “Hag” is probably Gigi (Nasim Pedrad), which might explain why her fashion sense is still stuck in 1995.
As ScreenRant argued, “After three weeks and four episodes, it’s pretty clear what narrative formula FOX’s Scream Queens will follow each week. First, the episode will feed us a few new clues to the identity of the killer(s); then, in delving into a character’s backstory, present possible motives for new suspects; and kill off a character (or two) along the way with plenty of dark humor mixed in.”
The new clues this week are that the “tub baby” is female, not male, and Gigi most likely raised the baby for at least a while. The new peeks into back-story reveal that Dean Munsch is remarkably ruthless while keeping up appearances for her job, and Denise (Niecy Nash) pledged Kappa back in 1995 but was turned away by the racists girls at the sorority. The character killed off is one of the survivors from the 1995 bathroom incident, and Zayday’s status is left up in the air.
The more important question might be whether or not you actually care. The biggest detraction so far has been an inability to connect with any of the characters, but the more I watch this show the more I adjust to its rhythms and learn to appreciate most of the characters for what they are, particularly Denise. I am also starting to seriously enjoy just how hard this show leans into its red herrings. Chanel threatens to murder Zayday, and then goes upstairs to sharpen her knives, mindlessly waving one of them around the room while complaining to her increasingly startled minions. Last week, Zayday just happened to have a red chainsaw that her grandma gave her to have as protection on campus. Going back to the first two episodes, there were multiple held shots of Pete staring a bit too intensely, and every time Grace’s dad Wes (Oliver Hudson) watches a horror movie in his film class his eyes slip into the thousand yard stare of a serial killer.
For lack of a more eloquent description, they are seriously fucking with us. For example, Chad breaks out some disturbing dirty talk during sex with Chanel, something about wanting to choke her out and have sex with her corpse, and has a knife fetish. Plus, that “tub baby” was probably a boy. Oh, Chad’s a total murder suspect. But now an episode later we learn that he’s just a total idiot with a necrophilia fetish. Wait, though, does that actually mean he’s not a potential suspect now? After all, we know there are at least 2 killers.
The same type of rug pulling could easily happen next week. We’ll probably learn more about Gigi which indicates Pete and Grace were somehow wrong about the “Hag of the Shady Lane,” but we’ll still be left with our suspicion about her.
Is the way Scream Queens is building up its mystery enough for you? Honestly, if that’s all this show had going for it I probably wouldn’t care enough to keep watching. However, when Pete does an insanely spot-on impression of McConaughey’s nonsense pseudo-philosophy babble from True Detective while interviewing a suspect I’m totally on board. The same goes for when Grace accuses her dad of being the killer, but concludes, like a girl throwing a tantrum, that if she is right she’ll never talk to him again. When the show uses editing to create jokes, like cutting straight from this:
There was nothing as funny as the brutal death of Coney in “Halloween,” but did I mention how great Pete’s True Detective impression was?
2. Feeling Old: If I was a younger and/or an Instagram user, I’m sure that opening with Chanel tormenting her Instagram followers would have been hilarious.
3. Funniest Moment of the Episode: Scream Queens most random moments of humor are usually my favorite, and the out-of-nowhere beat down the Kappas delivered to that frat guy in the lunch hall was beautifully accentuated by its use of slow-mo and way in which a totally innocent passerby got dragged into it and no one seemed to care.