Scream season 2 episode 12 review: When A Stranger Calls

Scream season 2 reveals the killer, but there are still questions left to be answered...

This review contains spoilers.

2.12 When A Stranger Calls

Well, I did not see that one coming! Actually, I totally saw the Kieran part coming, but…okay, back up. Let’s go back to the beginning: Once upon a 1996, Wes Craven’s Scream changed how we looked at horror, while simultaneously richly nourishing the genre itself. (Of course, that’s another article, but you’re on the right website if you’d like to read further about these sorts of things.) This movie dared to [SPOILERS, sweetie] kill the pretty blonde presumed heroine within the first scene of the movie, then have the actual heroine’s broody boyfriend turn out to be the killer, motivated by a devastating grudge against her mom, and by extension her and her family.

Nearly two decades later, the updated TV incarnation of Scream, in turn, killed the pretty blonde presumed heroine in its pilot episode. What has followed has been a fun, clever, super-stabby, sometimes sweet, meta-to-the-extreme two seasons of television that has paid homage to many horror classics in many ways, but never so explicitly to its original source material as in that opening scene. Until season two’s finale, that is, when we learn that yep–it’s the heroine’s broody boyfriend!

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Kieran has been a suspect on many viewers’ lists from the beginning, for some based upon his hair alone (or was that just me?). He’s enigmatic, of course, appearing out of basically nowhere with death and mystery in his wake, but also with a connection to Lakewood in the form of his estranged father, the sheriff (RIP). We grow to trust him, mostly, throughout season one as he seemingly looks out for Emma and affects a wounded-emo-puppy-with-a-bleeding-heart posture. In season two, though, he starts to crack here and there–showing up with suspicious timing, letting his temper get the better of him, and alienating Emma along the way.

Not to draw too direct a comparison with Scream the movie, as the plot points leading to each’s conclusion aren’t exactly the same, but Scream the show pulls off a similar slow “gotcha” as the truth dawns on Emma. Kieran then goes full Billy Loomis, wild-eyed, head-bobbing, sneering, and taunting Emma about her naivete in loving and trusting him. It’s so over the top as an unexpected full-scale tribute to his spiritual predecessor that one can–for the moment at least–overlook some of the possible plot holes that got us to this point.

Well, “plot holes” is a strong term. My only real complaint about how the Kieran situation evolved is that I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of him this season in order to gather enough clues that this was how it would go down. His appearances have been rather nebulous and further apart than the other characters’ this season, which could be intentional–to make it make sense at the end that he was the one off being murdery while the rest were trying to figure it all out–or it could just be a weak spot in otherwise effective writing overall. Maybe I’ll change my mind upon a rewatch.

What is clear now is, well, that some things are still unclear. Unlike in the original movie, the murderer has survived and been brought to justice. He has revealed his connection to Piper–that he was her final “surprise”–and his motives in wanting to see Emma, her mom, and his dad dead (though he’s only been successful at 1 out of 3). But there are still questions, most obviously about Brandon James. Is he alive? It would appear so, at least from the sinister message Maggie finds on the tree in one of the last scenes. Where is he and what is his role in all of this? Is that truly him who calls Kieran in prison? If not, who else could it be?

I won’t speculate. As of this writing, it’s not clear yet whether there will be a season three. My understanding is that we’re getting a Halloween special that will hopefully tie up some loose ends in the event that season two is the last. My wish? A season three divided between the past and the present in which we get to understand Brandon James’s backstory better but also see the fallout from current events. There’s still some sordid Lakewood history to explore–and, possibly, some sordid future still to happen.

Read Holly’s review of the previous episodes, The Vanishing & Heavenly Creatures, here.

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