Scream episode 9 review: The Dance

The penultimate episode of Scream's first season leaves us with plenty of tantalising questions for the finale...

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 The Dance

You know it’s going to be good when a bunch of teens in the middle of a slasher show end up at a dance, especially when that show is Scream. After all, one of the major instigating events–if not the event–that propelled Brandon James into full Lakewood urban legend boogeyman mode happened at the Halloween dance 20 years ago.

There’s a lot of ground to cover before we even get to the dance this week, though. First, it caught my eye during the opening credits that this episode is directed by Ti West, whose The House Of The Devil is one of my favourite horror movies of the past few years. West’s ability to set a moody tone is potentially great for a series like Scream. While, of course, he has less than an hour in this case to create such a mood, I think he adapts well to this episode–its subplots are tense and effective, and each moves steadily forward until crashing headlong into a cliffhanger (that will hopefully receive a gratifying resolution in next week’s finale, but we’ll see) at the dance.

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The dance this year is a little different, serving as a fundraiser for the victims’ families, and Halloween itself has a few more stipulations–no masks, for instance. Since Hudson and the gang think they have their man–Seth Palmer/Branson–though, the community doesn’t have to go on lockdown or anything more extreme. Their man, though, may or may not be the right man, as Emma and Piper come to find out.

Emma and Seth’s interrogation room showdown is one of the better scenes this week. The two square off across the white table in the shadowy room, Emma barely controlling her anger and Seth trying to keep his cool-guy wall up while looking much younger and more vulnerable than he does in the classroom. He even attempts to set a Silence Of The Lambs vibe with his smarmy “Hello, Emma” (which, if you didn’t catch it, is lampshaded by Noah’s later “fava bean by fava bean” comment). She, meanwhile, is trying to draw out some clue or feeling that he really is her half brother via her mother’s relationship with Brandon James–and getting nowhere. He can’t talk about his past, he says, and he doesn’t have much else to offer, either, besides a creepy comment about how Emma looks like her mom.

Seth’s is not a completely open and shut case, however. Brooke can’t shake the feeling that–despite the unsavory look of things–Seth can’t have killed anyone. Her hunch seems to be bolstered when, while having to stay at Jake’s house, she catches her laptop camera light come on as she undresses for a shower. Seth’s in jail, so that rules him out. Sheriff Hudson, too, finds evidence leading away from Seth’s guilt. Cell tower pings from the killer’s phone calls are nowhere near where Seth lives. Unfortunately, Hudson finds out the hard way where they’re coming from when he visits a house in the area–and is promptly bludgeoned by Ghostface.

In the meantime, Audrey and Noah (a.k.a. “Bicurious and The Virgin”), sleuthing as always, find some significant dirt in a completely different direction. Screening Rachel’s extensive collection of raw footage backed up into the cloud before she died, two familiar faces appear–faces that until now, no one knew were familiar to each other–Nina and Kieran, leaving a bar together. Though Kieran has a feasible-ish explanation for Emma later, it’s understandably worrisome–especially to Audrey, who already rightfully has a chip on her shoulder about Rachel’s death and how it’s being treated as second-rate among the other victims. Kieran doesn’t come out looking so great this week, what with the look he gives Rachel behind the camera, the Edward-Cullen-esque stalking he does of Emma in front of her house, and his tardiness to the dance at around the same time Sheriff Hudson is being knocked out by Ghosty. He does, though, along with Emma get extra points for their Pulp Fiction couple costume and its accompanying dance.

None of this is the most significant revelation about Kieran, though. Earlier, a visit to Brandon James’s mother convinces Piper and Emma that the old lady has identified Seth as Brandon’s son, who’d recently paid her a visit. At the dance, however, after Emma deals with tension regarding the footage with both Audrey and Kieran, Piper appears to her with another bombshell: she’s been back to visit Mrs. James, this time with pictures…and it’s not Seth she pointed out, it’s Kieran.

As if this isn’t enough, immediately after Piper gives Emma the news, all the lights go out, and what looks to be a live feed is projected onto the big screen for everyone at the dance to see. It’s Sheriff Hudson, still alive but tied to a tree and in obvious distress. Immediately thereafter, we see Seth’s guard bleeding out and tied to his now-empty jail cell; Seth has escaped and is armed and dangerous, the police dispatch says.

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As for me, I’m worried more for Seth’s safety than about his escaping. I’m not at all sure all of that blood was the policeman’s. I want to know what Piper is up to, as well as what Brooke ended up doing with her evening (and if Audrey actually joined her or not). Kieran…I don’t know, it’s all a little too easy with him, right? And who stole the mask from Brandon James’s file last year? Where did the bloody knife in Seth’s classroom come from? Who is Brandon and Maggie’s actual child?

Any last-minute theories? I’ll meet you here next week with, hopefully, some answers.

Read Holly’s review of the previous episode, Ghosts, here.