Scream Queens episodes 12 & 13 review: Dorkus & The Final Girl(s)

Scream Queens delivers a cruel and ultimately disappointing season 1 finale, but that doesn't take away from its highlights...

This review contains spoilers.

1.12 Dorkus & The Final Girl(s)

It’s hard to come to terms with how disappointing and infuriating Scream Queens‘ ending is. There are different ways a finale can let down its viewers and fans but Dorkus/The Final Girl(s) almost breaks new ground in this sense. I’d go so far as to say that Scream Queens has put Lost to shame. It doesn’t so much fail to stick the landing but miss the landing entirely and break every bone in its body.

Back in July, Ryan Murphy said, “… at the end of the first season there will only be four characters out of twenty-five left” and yet ten remain. The thirteen-episode run has always seemingly been building up to a bloodbath, with Murphy effectively promising lots of deaths in the finale. Over the course of Dorkus/The Final Girl(s) only one named character died, and a pizza guy to boot. For a slasher series, it’s a depressingly low death count but, unfortunately, that’s the very least of the finale’s problems.

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Things started off nicely with Pete (RIP) explaining his involvement in the Red Devil killings. The flashback set-up worked very well initially and it was satisfying to see how Pete, in the Red Devil suit no less, played a part in the murders. Similarly, his death was a thrilling and rather shocking way to kick off the episode but after that, it all started to go downhill. 

Dorkus/The Final Girl(s) doesn’t quite hit rock bottom because it was, without a doubt, the funniest two episodes Scream Queens has ever produced. From ‘Dirty Helen’ to the Jason Voorhees/Freddy Krueger argument to the stripper cops, the two scripts, authored by all three creators, are comedy gold. But the nastiness and downright mean-spiritedness that permeated The Final Girl(s) was overwhelming to the point where it was hard to appreciate even the funniest of jokes.

Of course, Hester was the killer. The reveal was both bizarre and disappointing purely because of the way it was executed. Skipping forward a few months to 2016 to the grand reopening of Kappa Kappa Tau was an unorthodox way of starting off The Final Girl(s) and it was fascinating even if flawed. Hester unmasking herself to be the other bathtub baby (although never the actual Red Devil itself) in the flash-forward would have paid off if it hadn’t occurred two minutes into the actual finale itself. To follow that reveal with half an episode of legitimate accusations felt pointless. Had the twist that the mastermind behind it all was actually Hester come after the finger-pointing, Scream Queens could have ended on a less sour note but, again, the problems continue.

For a while now, I’ve found Scream Queens to have become gradually nicer with each episode. That said, it was still a show fronted by a group of shallow elitist airheads with a serial killer on the loose, but one who had developed a heart. Any fondness Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan had for their characters – namely, the Chanels – feels as though it went out the window the moment The Final Girl(s) started. It was as if the girls would be almost better off dead, such is the awful treatment they receive here. Yes, they have been nasty, nasty people but they’ve softened and thawed and become almost parodies of themselves. Chanel in particular has become a much better person while Chanels #3 and #5 have never done anything terrible. To know that they are innocent (they didn’t murder anyone) and to watch them get dragged through the mud isn’t so much hilarious schadenfreude as just upsetting.

The plot thickens. With Dorkus/The Final Girl(s), Scream Queens pulled out its loudspeaker and tried to deliver a final moral message about how fraternities and sororities are poisonous and should be phased out. While it may be true, in the context of this show, it is not. For some reason we’re supposed to be happy to see three innocent girls who we have grown to like (intentionally or not) banged up in an insane asylum. Given that the show has only expressed these views a couple of times through the too-earnest Grace and Pete (and laughed at them for it), Scream Queens‘ eleventh hour tub-thumping never rings true and has more than a ring of hypocrisy.

There were plot holes, too. It was obvious that Scream Queens would finish with a few questions left unanswered (it could never quite decide on whether it was handling its mystery with conviction or not) but there’s so much unexplained. Who killed Gigi? Was there any kind of method in the killings? If the motivation was a mixture of getting even for those who have suffered under KKT and a vendetta against the Chanels then why were the show’s early deaths all innocent underdogs? And if the targets were the Chanels, why did Ariana Grande’s Chanel #2 die (aside from the obvious casting reason)? If the Red Devils were really trying to rid KKT of the entitled rich then why did they kill Deaf Taylor Swift, Jennifer and Sam? In Dorkus, why did Scream Queens make Dean Munsch give Wes an ultimatum that was never followed up? And the biggest head-scratcher – why didn’t anybody run a DNA test with samples from all the characters and Wes to determine who the bathtub baby was? 

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After showing Hester get away with it, and with twenty minutes still remaining on the clock, Scream Queens padded out its run-time by tidying things up. The tragedy of the Chanels’ situation lingered in the scenes between Denise and Chad (who, like Denise, was underserved in the finale) and the Dean’s confrontation with Hester. It was hard to laugh in light of such a flat-out mean-spirited conclusion.

So, the killer got away with it, the Chanels got sent to an asylum and Grace lives to awkwardly bond with her father another day. It was a cruel ending and, ultimately, a disappointment. Making Hester the killer was predictable but the way they revealed it was inane and genuinely sad (initially, Lea Michele’s post-killer reveal performance jarred with me but on a re-watch, she’s excellent, never falling into the common horror movie trap of the unmasked murderer being goofily manic). Dorkus was fun but The Final Girl(s) was a sour mess; Scream Queens evidently underestimated its audience and, as a result, none of the characters’ conclusions felt remotely satisfying.

But, with all that said, we shouldn’t forget about what came before. Scream Queens was brilliant for the majority of its first season despite the dip in quality around the middle. The performances have all been terrific, too, and some of the standout stars week in, week out include Billie Lourd (who swapped her earmuffs for genuine Princess Leia buns), Emma Roberts, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas and Glen Powell. The only upside to a lot of characters surviving is that there’s plenty of room for them all to return (except poor Nick Jonas) and although the finale may have left some of the characters in a bad place the show seems determined to press on with a second season. If we end up back here next year then it’ll be interesting to see if Scream Queens has learned anything. But if not, let’s remember everything that made this show so great in the first place.