What do you get when you mix the best elements of Ryan Murphy’s comedic series and sheer horror? The spectacularly delightful new fall show Scream Queens. Over the years we’ve established that Ryan Murphy can handle just about any genre he wants to tackle, and Scream Queens mixture of his past work with a major Mean Girls/Clueless influence in an 80’s slasher film may just be one of his finest works yet. We quickly learn that the series brings a slew of narcissistic characters to the forefront of the story, but each character’s self centered personalities is used so eloquently that you find yourself forgiving the brutal sorority sisters who are bound to be picked off before the seasons end. We begin the first episode (of the two hour premiere) with a flashback from 1995 where a few of the Kappa (KKT) sorority girls come across one of their own in a bathtub having just given birth. The blood filled tub and dying young mother is instantly placed on the backburner when the other sorority sisters claim they aren’t willing to miss TLC’s song “Waterfalls” and it accurately sets the outrageous comedic tone you will see in the first two hours. Moments later the girl is noticed to be dead, and the sisters try to determine what exactly they can do with a newborn baby.
We cut to the Kappa house 20 years later, now led by Chanel No. 1, (played by the comedic genius Emma Roberts) who controls the tight sorority ship with an iron fist and her Chanel minions. Chanel No. 2, (Ariana Grande), Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin) make up the female clique, but it’s also worth mentioning that Chanel No. 4 is dubbed dead from events before the series from a bout with meningitis. The Chanel squad each desperately wants to be the original, and they are the closest to power in the shadow of their sharp witted leader. Opposite of Chanel No. 1 is Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), a former student at the college and now slightly scorned from witnessing the cruelty of the Kappa house for countless years. Munsch believes that Chanel (I’ll refer to her as simply Chanel, with the others names including their numbers) was responsible for the death of the previous Kappa sorority after a freak-accident from a deadly spray tan singed her skin. “Someone turn me into Jada Pinkett Smith” she screams at her sisters before ultimately meeting her demise. We do see that the Red Devil (the masked murderer of the series) is responsible for the murder, but at this point in time, nobody has any idea of potential danger. Dean Munsch explains that she hopes to revoke the Kappa charter, but Kappa alum and lawyer Gigi who graduated from a random Caribbean law school (Nasim Pedrad) arrives to place the plan on pause and bring some 90’s style and humor to the table.
We next meet Grace, (Skyler Samuels) who is headed off to college, and her father tries to convince her to stay away from a vicious sorority, but she hopes to join as a chance to follow her deceased mother’s path. This seems like a major mislead, trying to persuade us that she could be the baby from the flashback. She seems like a very coy individual, but meets her first friend and roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer.) The two quickly bond, and Grace tries to talk Zayday into joining the Kappa pledges alongside her (successfully I might add.) At the Kappa mixer, Gigi and Dean Munsch come to an agreement to force Kappa to allow anyone as a pledge, shedding the exclusive membership for decades. Chanel No. 3 and 5 share the news with Chanel, and are introduced to the group of new pledges. The group includes Hester, or neckbrace (Lea Michele) an eccentric girl who “smells like hotdog water”, predatory lez, deaf Taylor Swift, and Jennifer the candle vlogger (along with Grace and Zayday.) Chanel shares her pledge troubles with her semi-boyfriend Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), president of the Dollar Scholars Fraternity. He tells her that without her popularity, he really serves no purpose in her life and states that he can’t “go around dating garbage people.” With his best-friend and homoerotic frat brother Boone at his defense, he makes Chanel leave so the two can continue to hit golf balls at hippies.
Having limited options, Chanel seeks out the Kappa house maid Ms. Bean (who she had cleaning the floors with a Barbie toothbrush) and explains to her that if anyone can join it will bring “ethnics” and “weird spices from their home countries.” Chanel takes a second from sharing her offensive views to order at boiling pumpkin spice latte and chew out the barista (or as she calls them, coffee donkey) named Pete (also a journalist at the college). Grace meets Pete moments after, and after a few minutes of flirtation he warns her of the potential danger from the Kappa house, but Chanel finds the two talking and claims he was obsessed with her for his freshman year and he claims to have been led on. Chanel comes up with a plan to frighten the pledges, hoping to dip Ms. Bean’s face in a deep fryer that will be turned off, but the other Chanel’s discover a hate shrine in her room, targeting the OG Chanel. This causes Chanel to hold her in the fryer slightly longer, but in a twist courtesy of our killer, it has been heated up and melts Ms. Bean’s face off. “Ms. Bean was a servant – she knew the risks!” Chanel barks at Grace, who hopes to go to authorities. Chanel talks them down by bribing with trips to Cancun and popular boyfriends, and of course all of the oddballs oblige. They hide the body in a freezer, and Chanel changes the tone by offering to take them all out for drinks (three cheers for Chanel!)
Dean Munsch lays in bed, upset by the egotistical young women of Kappa, and details her life choices that she has come to loathe…oh, and that includes sleeping with/blackmailing Chad Radwell to keep him off academic probation. Though Chad claims to love her, she is using him and proves that even the school officials have their own secrets to hide. Elsewhere, Grace shares the death of Ms. Bean with Pete and they both agree to have each other’s back while expose the secrets that lie buried by the Kappa sorority. To begin, the pair breaks into the freezer where Ms. Bean is being kept, but are forced to hide when interrupted by Chanel and Chad (Chad is hoping to become aroused by the deceased because he’s clearly got his own issues.) When opened, her body is missing and Chanel then assumes that she must be alive; bad call Chanel, it’s far from over! Now concerned over news spreading, Chanel gathers her minions and begins to read a blood oath she discovered online. Chanel No. 2 expresses concerns over spreading STD’s from their bloody fingers, but Chanel clarifies to them that they can only get them from drinking the water in Mexico. Oh Chanel, you entertain in simply every fashion. Chanel No. 2 decides she doesn’t want to jeopardize her job as a future newscaster and goes to pack to leave before the Red devil arrives in her room. The suspense is shifted when he approaches her in close range…before texting “So you want to dance with the devil?” and Chanel No. 2 responds with “Maybe.” She flirts with him by playing with her hair, but the killer hilariously texts “I’m going to kill you now.” Possibly the best text response ever comes from Chanel who simply says, “Wait whaaaat???” and is then stabbed by the masked murderer. A tearful and dying Chanel takes to Twitter to request help and update her extra curricular activity (dying) and even comes back for a moment just to ensure she can manage the tweet. This moment provides the best example of the attitude throughout the series, while there is death at every corner you are forced to laugh in between.
The remaining three Chanel’s find the body of No. 2, and Chanel claims it must be Ms. Bean, glad that she is off the hook for murder. (Ehh…not quite, but kudos for staying optimistic!) They agree to hide the body, but are pulled back into the sorority fever when realizing hell week is about to begin. Chanel and grace agree to speak, with Grace hoping to sway her from hazing. Chanel offers her a spot as Chanel No. 6, but she turns it down saying she can see through Chanel’s fake persona. “You’re so confident without being mean. What anti-depressants are you on?” Chanel asks trying to gain her trust. Chanel notes her distant family, cheating boyfriend, and other problems. Grace uses the opportunity to convince Chanel to change for the better, but quickly shoots it down and says the niceness just isn’t her method (and it’s a big part of why I love Chanel as a guilty pleasure character.) At the same time, Chanel No. 3 and 5 dig holes for the pledges that are buried carrot style, when the killer starts up a lawn mower and heads straight for poor deaf Taylor Swift (who thinks they are singing “Shake It Off”) and adds another Kappa to the death list, concluding the pilot episode.
The second part of the premiere, titled Hell Week, begins with a voice over of Dean Munsch reminiscing of a college dean having real power, now unable to hide things from media. “I can confirm that an incident occurred that may have injured one of our students” but changes the subject to the fact that Frogurt will return to the campus dining hall. Munsch isn’t feeling sympathy for the selfish students making it about themselves; best explained when she states “I’ve got news for you self involved junior…just because you know a guy who was in class with the dead girl’s roommate does not mean that it could have been you.” This is yet another prefect example of the culturally smart comedy and accurate take on today’s youth. Between the Dean and Gigi, they decide it’s safest (and she threatens them by failing the girls) if they stay located in the house. “If any of you die protecting a sister you can skip the rest of hell week!” Chanel tells them, before deciding to enlist security. Chanel takes her remaining two minions to make a decision on hiding No. 2’s body, but Hester lurks and offers the creepiest and most accurate methods to disposing of Chanel No. 2. including food processors, dismemberment, and other gruesome manners. Hester explains her fascination by sharing “When I was six years old my father died and my mother made me kiss the body at his funeral, ever since I’ve been obsessed with death.” Chanel concludes that Hester must be completely insane (she is, but she’s also one of my new favorites.) and just wants to hide it in the meat locker freezer for the time being. Because it worked so well with Ms. Bean right?
Hester gets this chance to showcase how creepy and utterly amazing her character is by telling the girls they need to close the deceased Chanel’s eyes or she could take one of them with her, and that if they touch her they won’t haunt their dreams. Hester changes the subject and asks to call them mom, and Chanel No. 3 explains the pop culture trend (often seen on Twitter) and they become role models to the quirky Hester. This makes the Chanels and Hester the only ones to know the fate of No. 2. Gigi enlists Officer Denise Hempville, (Niecy Nash) a private security company who embraces a three step program:
Step 1: If you are in danger, scream Denise Hempville’s name.
Step 2: If she isn’t near, call 1-866-KLJ-0199 where she will be paged.
Step 3: If the line is busy, run away. Run as fast as possible, can refer back to step 2.
When searching for soap to clean the Kappa house, Grace stumbles across a secret locked door in the basement that leaves her curious. She attempts to mess with the lock, but Chanel No. 5 stops her from further searching, and Grace takes the information to Pete. Pete and Grace decide they know something has been covered up from Kappa house (like he inferred earlier) and they agree to search the dean’s office for clues…but not before lip locking. Grace will find a way to enter the secret Kappa room and Pete’s job includes finding out information from Dean Munsch’s records. Munsch meets with Grace’s father, trying to persuade him it’s in her best interest to stay at Kappa for her own safety, all while striking up a flirtation with him and offering him “anything he might need.” Back in the Kappa basement, Grace gains entry to the dark and mysterious room, discovering a party mix with “Waterfalls” written on it. Chanel finds Grace snooping, and explains the rumor of the death from 20 years ago. When Grace expresses her sadness for the girl’s death, Chanel retaliates “I don’t know, supposedly it was a super fun party!” and goes on to add that Dean Munsch was an accomplice in covering up the story.
Later while Chanel and Chad begin to sleep together, Chad’s…oddities begin to appear as he refers to choking her out and sleeping with her corpse, clearly the guy has some eerie necrophilia interests budding or something. Chanel becomes agitated by his behavior and her desire to have a legitimate relationship with him, so she breaks up with I’m and kicks him out of her room. “You’re gonna be sorry. Nobody breaks up with Chad Radwell.” He states firmly before storming out. When Chad arrives back to his own dorm room, Boone requests to share a bed with he best friend out of fear. Chad relates it to a similar moment, that also led to Boone trying to “touch his wiener.” and Chad confirms that Boone is actually gay, and he will allow him to share a bed. Just – without any “wiener touching”. Yes, these are real lines and I can’t stop laughing at the hilarity that Scream Queens sparks. Chanel feels regret for her previous statements and discovers the two in bed. “He has a huge boner!” she exclaims before exiting in a hurry. When Chad tries to explain he was simply having a bro-ment, Chanel tells him he might as well go and “ogle his big ‘ol broner”. Reconciliation isn’t quite an option yet when Chad now takes the time to turn the tables and dump Chanel for being a “spoiled homophobic little girl who can’t deal with the fact that everyone wants to get with me.” The name Chad Radwell suddenly is making so much sense to me.
Pete takes the opportunity to break into the Dean’s office, and it results in laughs when his sly spy skills are nothing more than clutzy tendencies that end up getting him knocked out by the killer. He awakens to a note that says MYOB (mind your own business) and Grace and Pete realize they must be getting close to truths that the killer isn’t fond of. Pete begins to change, and when Grace notices his half naked body she tries to find something to cover him up and save her from awkwardness. She opens his closet to discover the Red Devil ensemble, which he claims is from his time as the mascot for football games. Grace doesn’t feel she can trust him anymore and leaves, telling him she can’t believe she was willing to go to third base with him. I don’t think that Pete is the Red Devil killer, but sometimes a red herring as the killer actually makes more sense than you would think.
While the Chanel’s attempt to come up with new methods to haze the other pledges, Boone confronts them and asks if he can have the chance to come out on his own, and embrace his sexuality in addition to joining Kappa Kappa Tau. The other Chanel’s (mostly No. 5) despise the notion, with Chanel No. 5 even threatening him if he ruins Chanel Oberlin’s reputation. He leaves the girls to think about his idea, and Chanel comes around realizing she could make headlines and connections to the powerful gays of the media (more or less her words mind you.) In the evening, Grace notices her father lurking in his car watching over her, and Gigi decides to take in upon herself to convince him she is safe, and the two bond over ’95 men’s power ballads (just like the playlist on the CD.) When they drive off for a coffee date, Dean Munsch watches from the darkness and she is clearly not pleased by any competition. The hazing begins later, and Chanel heads off to find white eyeliner to write on Zayday (I kid you not) and is allegedly attacked by the killer, only showing us her recollection of events. Chanel fights him off, and screams for help which sends Denise inside armed with her nightstick; when the sorority begins to head upstairs to find the masked person, Denise tells them the smart decision would be to run away, and since they aren’t willing to do it – she flees. By the time she arrives to her car, she finds the body of her partner stabbed in the neck. The security officer screams, and shoves her comrade out of the vehicle so she can continue to make her escape. The Kappa ladies discover a message written in blood that reads: “sluts will die” and they let out a panicked shriek with a change of lens color like a 80’s horror revelation.
Boone’s fraternity discovers his body sprawled across a table surrounded by candles and his throat slit, making the Dollar Scholars Fraternity targets as well. But wait, there’s more to it in just a minute… As hell week winds down, Chanel tries to get the pledges to drink from a bowl of water she used to rinse her hands and says it’s “something I didn’t do all day despite dropping turdlets off at the pool. Twice.” They then take the time to question each other to determine the killer (and Chanel still claims it must have been Ms. Bean) and Hester chugs the tainted beverage. Before they can finish making their assumptions, Denise and Chad both barge in to share their news. Denise first explains that her partner Shondell was murdered, and the body is missing after she – well…left her body on the street. Chad then breaks the news that his best friend Boone is dead, and in the final moments we see a shot of the Red Devil finding a very much alive Boone in the morgue, smiling and asking the killer, “What took you so long?” What does this mean?! We’ll have to wait next week for more answers to our burning Scream Queens questions!
Overall Grade For Pilot: A
Overall Grade For Hell Week: A
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-The series might just be one of the best comedic series on television in years, and is definitely the standout series of the season.
-Each character feels fully fleshed out with their own traces of distinct individuality that make them easy to enjoy.
-The horror in Scream Queens feels like an authentic 80’s slasher film, but the horror isn’t enough to scare off casual viewers because of its insanely adept comedic timing.
-This may just be Emma Roberts best work yet. Her abrasive and direct attitude with her mean spirited demeanor provides a Regina George-esque character, but even better. I dare you to fight laughing at some of her outrageous remarks, it’s damn near impossible and that’s thanks in large part to her delivery.
-Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas prove that they are both versatile stars, bringing plenty to Scream Queens (even if Ariana’s involvement is slightly brief).
-If I had to make a few first guesses as to who the killer could be – Chanel No. 5, Chanel No. 3, and Chad are my current suspects which will likely change a million times before the season ends.