This review contains spoilers.
1.2 Hello, Emma
The new Scream TV series has a built-in explanation for any accusations of being derivative or cliche-ridden–it’s meta! It’s a self-aware homage to a self-aware homage that inspired its own derivatives that created their own cliches that formed themselves into in-jokes that shaped a genre that is now ouroborosing into an homage…to…itself? Like I said, meta.
And it’s totally fine with that. As am I, at least so far. Last week’s pilot episode reinforced the framework of the original Scream movie, just using some upgraded materials. Geek Noah, who serves as a sort of Greek chorus, expertly ticked off the slasher genre’s typical patterns in a delightful classroom discussion. So, now the rules are set and we’ve got a mystery to solve, which kicked off last week with the murder of Nina, the catty popular girl–who we’re learning wasn’t so popular after all.
This week, another teen’s death shocks the community in a less thrilling and much more tragic way. Rachel, a deeply sensitive Catholic school student, is found hanging from her ceiling fan. Ostensibly, she is unable to cope after a video of her making out with another girl, Audrey, goes viral. While Nina’s murder was darkly comedic, Rachel’s is heartbreaking, and suicide in her case is all too believable. Maggie, main girl Emma’s mom, later discovers that this wasn’t a case of suicide after Rachel’s autopsy, but no one else questions it.
This is an example of how the show could resonate with its audience as more than a dark comedy. The terrible truth is that high schoolers today get this kind of news way too often. Rumours have always had the potential to do great harm to the fragile teenage psyche, but now that humiliation is instant and irrefutable with a tap on a touchscreen, that harm has become destructive and even fatal. Even more troubling is that some variation of “kill yor self” is now as common an internet comment as “lol” or “first!” When Rachel reads this and several other heartless comments on the video of her and Audrey, her first reaction is to cut herself (another way-too-realistic detail). It’s not at all far-fetched that her next desperate act could very well have been what the killer in the ghost mask stepped in and did for her.
Rachel’s death is not a case of suicide, though, as we the audience know, so now we have a second murder on our hands. In the meantime, Lakewood is still reeling from Nina’s death, with makeshift memorials popping up at the high school, and everyone still speculating about the whereabouts of Nina’s ex, Tyler. Arriving on the scene this week is Piper Shaw, a Warby Parker bespectacled podcaster serving as the updated version of reporter Gale Weathers from the original movie. She’s here to wade through the “faux-BFF BS,” alluding to another very real phenomenon that social media has bred exponentially–the dogpile of grief hags as they try to exploit any tenuous connection they might have had with the recent dearly departed. Piper has no interest in this transparent sentimentality. She’s looking for exclusives for her podcast, Autopsy of a Crime (that I, by the way, totally wish were a real thing).
Meanwhile, conscientious heroine Emma is dealing with guilt from not having stopped Nina from posting the salacious video. She and Audrey, after all, were once best friends, but as happens in many a teen movie, she went the pretty and popular girl route in high school while Audrey became the brooding misfit. Emma’s guilt is compounded when news of Rachel’s supposed suicide hits, further widening the rift between her and her childhood friend.
She’s also struggling with the infidelity of boyfriend Will, whose indiscretion with Nina (RIP) was revealed last week by coquettish gossip girl Brooke. I’m sad, incidentally, that Brooke can’t be long for this world, what with all the action she’s getting from Mr. Branson the English teacher. Everyone knows–thanks to the original Scream–that being sexually active is a death sentence in a slasher movie. Carlson Young as Brooke, though, is giving one of my favorite performances so far, so I hope we get to keep her a while longer. And is it just me, or does she look like a blonde version of original Scream heroine Neve Campbell?
Back to Emma. It’s not just her guilt that won’t let go of her. She’s now officially being harassed by the killer via phone and possibly in person in the alley behind the coffee shop where she works. As enigmatic new hottie Kieran–with whom she shared some steamy greenhouse liplocking last week–later points out, though, the latter situation could have been set up by Will so that he could show up to “rescue” her.
So many tropes, so little time. There are eight episodes left, and just as many–if not more–characters in jeopardy. Scream the series is 2 for 2 so far in clever scares and sardonic commentary. I have very few complaints as of yet; one for me is that the writers need to make up their minds about the names of social media sites–sometimes, for instance, a character is said to “tweet,” but there seems to also be Twitter stand-in called Chirpster. I’m all about some cheesy parody monikers, but I’d prefer some consistency–either use the real world site names, or make up your own, not both.
Minus that and maybe a few other minor quibbles, I think Scream the series is on point. As long as its dramatic tension remains in balance with its humour and thrills, I don’t think it can go wrong.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Red Roses, here.
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