When a reader left a comment in response to my last Scream Queens review referencing how they hope Chanel #5 is the next one to go I honestly had no idea which Chanel that was. I had to grab EW’s Scream Queens cheat sheet from its October 2, 2015 cover story to jog my memory on the names of all the characters. At this point, for some of the characters I simply go by descriptions, such as the Jonas brother, the Abigail Breslin Chanel and the pink earmuff Chanel who’s not Abigal Breslin, Emma Roberts or Lea Michele. I have no idea who any of the non-Chad Radwell Dickie Dollar Scholars are. There’s the one without arms. There’s the black one. Then there’s…nope. Nothing. Wait. Roger and Dodger, but that’s easy to remember since their names rhyme (in fact, the show uses a lot of tricks like that to try and help us remember character names). As for the Kappa recruits, beyond Grace, Zayday and Hester there’s…um…the lesbian who looks like Bruce Lee as a DJ, the candle vlogger and…wait, is that it?
I’ve inadvertently adopted Chanel and Dean Munsch’s attitude toward all the side characters. I know them by nicknames because that’s how the main characters (and thus the show in general) know them, and I don’t care when they die because no one on the show cares when they die. At the end of “Seven Minutes in Hell,” Scream Queens’ slumber party episode which didn’t turn into a massacre, per say, but did knock off two more cast members, Dean Munsch humorously waves the carnage away, “You and I both know that that lesbian was cannon fodder, and think about it – what kind of life was that guy going to live with no arms, really?”
That’s exactly what these characters are – cannon fodder. That’s because we are only just now approaching the halfway point of a slasher movie which is being stretched across 13 episodes. It’s not as noticeable in an actual slasher movie that you generally couldn’t care less about all of the killer’s initial victims, but in translation to Scream Queens it has meant that the deaths tend to lose their effectiveness after a while.
For example, I know that I should have laughed at the armless Dickie Dollar Schollar’s death in “Seven Minutes in Hell.” After delighting the fraternity with new his newfound expertise for bobbing for pasta (just re-watched the scene to verify that that’s what actually happened), he joins the group in an impromptu panty raid of the Kappa house. However, when the Red Devil shows up of course the guy with no arms ends up as the last guy on the ladder leading to Chanel’s window. Chad calls down, “You climb, you armless bastard!” Said armless bastard defiantly cries out, “I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna make it. Tonight is not the night Caulfield Mount Herman dies!” Within a minute of that proclamation he has the Red Devil’s axe in his gut, and seconds later he’s decapitated as the Dickie Scholars and Chanel look on from above.
I know that the construction of the scene is pretty funny. I picture Ryan Murphy and his two Scream Queens co-creators laughing hysterically at the idea of an armless idiot trying to climb a ladder as a means of escaping the killer. I would have been laughing too, but for some reason in the actual context of this episode and at this point in the season it did nothing for me. This is the show which gave me the truly random death of Coney, for which I will be forever grateful, but I’ve reached the point where just random, cartoon violence isn’t quite enough anymore. Or maybe it’s just that this is two episodes in a row now that a walking cartoon Dollar Dickie Scholar character we barely knew was killed in a theoretically funny way.
Don’t get me wrong. The show is what it is. Any kind of depth will never be in the offering. This is pure camp, 100% Ryan Murphy, but I’m ready for the murder mystery to advance and for the deaths to matter.
Theoretically, the other death in this episode, of the Asian lesbian, should matter. She hasn’t been the walking cartoon that most of the victims have been, but she hasn’t exactly been an actual character either. She’s Asian. She’s lesbian. She likes the non-Emma Roberts, non-Abigail Breslin, non-Lea Michele Chanel. That’s about it. She’s just another slasher movie victim you’re not surprised to see die, and once she’s gone you mostly remember her for one external characteristic, such as that hat she always seemed to wear.
By the end of “Seven Minutes in Hell,” I was left mildly amused. The pink earmuff Chanel’s monotone line deliveries are always great, which made her forceful insistence on playing spin the bottle at the sleepover even funnier. Chad’s rejection of Hester had some great lines (something about her being the kind of crazy which could end up with his dick literally in a jar). Jamie Lee Curtis easily nailed Dean Munsch’s gleeful anticipation of the PR points on the way for her now that they’ve established that since the killer is targeting the Kappas everyone else on campus is probably safe. Chanel’s rundown of the horrible-sounding former Kappa presidents and Chad’s faith in the sacred and straight-forward rules of Truth or Dare were additional highlights.
However, I was also left feeling like nothing much was accomplished. The Kappas finally found out that there are at least two Red Devils, a fact Chad and the Dickie Scholars kept to themselves this whole time, yet there’s no time spent on letting that realization alter their entire investigation. Chanel revealed that this whole time she’s been setting everyone up to elect Zayday to replace her because with the Red Devil running around and targeting Kappa she’d rather not be the one in charge and thus with the target on her chest, which, eh, sure, why not. Grace and Zayday held a slumber party to test the Kappas, and somehow concluded that at least one of the Kappas knows who the Red Devil is. Confirmed conspirators like Gigi were left off-screen as were suspected conspirators like Pete and (for the most part) Grace’s dad. The non-Emma Roberts/Lea Michele Chanels made a pact to embrace love and stick together. We even found out that the pink earmuffs Chanel wears those earmuffs because her ex threatened to cut off her ears. And apparently the Red Devil has been getting into the Kappa house through a series of underground tunnels.
When I write it all down, it actually seems like some important things went down, yet it didn’t feel that way when I watched the episode. Maybe I was just too busy waiting for Denice to show up because this show seems to improve exponentially when Niecy Nash is around.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sometimes, there is a tone to Scream Queens that sorta screams, “Aren’t we clever? Isn’t it great how postmodern this is?” They usually give those observations to the pink earmuff Chanel, such as her summation of the dance party at the end of the episode, “What a great way to pretend that these people we know weren’t brutally murdered.” Jokes like that are why Scream Queens is arguably more Scary Movie than Scream. Are you supposed to care what happens to Anna Faris in Scary Movie? Not so much. But you are meant to root for Neve Campbell in Scream. My frustration with “Seven Minutes In Hell” is then probably not that I still don’t totally care about any of the characters, although the meaner Chanel is to her other Chanels the more I start rooting for them. It’s more that Scream Queens is a horror comedy, and other than Chad Radwell the parts of the show that make me laugh the most were either MIA this week or starting to get old real fast.