Willa Fitzgerald

Now that’s slightly more like it. Last week, I called out Scream the TV series for lacking a fundamental key to the equation of being a proper part of the Scream franchise: fun. For all the bad of the episode, it never achieved “so bad it’s good” level and very little praise in response to that went past “it was decent” or “it was fine for what it was.” It simply existed, which may work for a by-the-numbers procedural but shouldn’t be the case for even the most basic (which this shouldn’t be considered) of teen dramas. Hoping the series would exceed expectations and wishing that it would at least make a good time out of it didn’t pan out, but series premieres aren’t exactly known for being the perfect versions of a series. Episode two, “Hello, Emma,” is still a mess and infuriating in quite a few ways, but at least here it shows a possibility of the “so bad it’s good” status. It’s actually kind of fun, as unintentional as it may be.

As mentioned in the now infamous (as hyperbole is always the best way to approach this sort of thing) Friday Night Lights speech from the pilot, the audience is supposed to care about these characters. We’re also supposed to care about the big game, which actually segues into this week’s quietest basketball game ever. For some reason, the audience is supposed to care about the potential reconciliation between Will and Emma (not the Glee characters), despite the fact that nearly every scene they’ve had together since their character introductions has had him lying to or trying to manipulate her. Plus, there was the whole thing where he was cyber stalking (at the very, very least) the now-deceased Nina, who he also slept with. As for the other part of the triangle, new boy Kieran, he has no personality outside of the quiet rebel-without-a-cause mold from which he was carved.

This week’s episode also introduces another character, the Gale Weathers of the piece; and since no one watches the news, the modern version of this is in the form of podcaster Piper Shaw (a solid name, if nothing else), host of Autopsy Of A Crime. The less-than-catchy-podcast title—unless you’re hip enough to call it AOC—is the most blatant riff on Serial there could possibly be, another instance of Scream the TV series bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. There’s a difference between movies and television dissecting clichés and tropes—or even amplifying them, the way Cinemax’s Banshee does, extremely well—and simply being made up of them, and Scream the TV series is currently content with the latter. That’s why the fact that the show has the jerk jock, the jock who’s never good enough, the promiscuous girl, and the quiet loner is so laughable. The first Scream film had two of those archetypes in Casey and her boyfriend Steve in the opening scene, but they were never the movie. It’s not a deconstruction if that’s all they are, and nothing points to the contrary.

But a big part of that stems from the fact that Scream the TV series’ motivations are so muddled, to the point where making Emma and her “whore mother” the focal points of the story doesn’t quite work the way it did in the case of Sidney and Maureen Prescott. Much of that is as simple as the fact that Scream the TV series is an ensemble show that just so happens to have an ensemble that’s hard to latch on to if you’re looking for characters that are likable, compelling, or much of anything really. The pilot killed off the worst one of the bunch, but then this second episode goes the direct opposite. And then there’s the one we’re supposed to root for, Emma. As mentioned with regards to the pilot, Emma isn’t much better than her uncaring friends.

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Emma is supposed to be the Sidney Prescott of the piece, but the differences between these two protagonists are staggering. Emma’s very existence as a character is one of passivity, as a character who goes along with the terrible flow of her friends, no matter how much she cries about it. She’s in the middle of a love triangle between a bad boyfriend and a brooding loner. What does she want? Why should we root for her, other than the fact that this is all supposedly about her? What does she want? Sidney Prescott was one of the most active, physical female protagonists in the horror genre, and Emma Duval can barely think to turn two feet around to a corner when she’s in an alley she can easily get out of (though she does get points for grabbing a weapon). And her interactions with Ghostface Filler (BrandonJamesface just isn’t as catchy) so far are one-sided conversations where he waxes philosophic to her in some of the episodes’ worst (but unintentionally funny) writing:

Emma: “You don’t know me.”
Ghostface Filler: “But I do. That’s the real horror show.”

It’s the Scream 3 “Hey Detective, what’s your favorite scary movie?”/”My life.” moment of the episode, only the cringeworthy lines and delivery apply to most of the dialogue of the series. This show is awash in a sea of Patrick Dempsey line deliveries, with no land in sight. See also: the girl’s restroom scene, where an extra earns that pay bump (and loses a little bit of her soul) with the line “So tragic. Whoever posted that video has even more blood on their hands now.” It’s ridiculous to read, and it’s even more ridiculous to hear out loud. That alone make this episode an improvement over the pilot.

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Getting back on track, what makes Ghostface Filler’s motivations the most incomprehensible is the fact that he/she kills Rachel in the opening scene, a scene which is brutal not because of him/her but because of just how troubled it turns out Rachel really is. If Scream is the revenge scenario it claims to be, it makes sense when the first kills of the series happens. But when “Hello, Emma” begins with one of the victims of the cyberbullying being killed instead of one of Nina’s co-conspirators, it’s not a matter of all bets being off. Because as of right now, the best possibility at the moment is the idea of two Ghostface Fillers with different motives, which would bring the show into Pretty Little Liars’ ‘A’ territory, only making much less sense so early on.

It all even leads to the case of Ghostface Filler being supernaturally intelligent until he/she simply isn’t. See, one of the best parts of this episode is Emma’s mother realizing what Ghostface Filler should have known himself/herself: Hanging Rachel from the balcony only to then stage it so she’d be hanging from the ceiling fan screams foul play. The inconsistencies are even obvious to someone like myself, who barely passed any science classes in high school. But that shouldn’t something the omniscient Ghostface Filler misses, now should it? Of course, it’s the one thing that constitutes as some sort of evidence or a clue, which makes it an even more transparent of a choice for the show to make. The show says it’s not a conventional whodunnit, only to then throw in a sloppiness that wouldn’t otherwise exist for the villain, so someone can figure out whodunnit.

Scream the TV series alternates between being seemingly hyper aware and being the most derivative teen drama there can possibly be. But at least this week that’s kind of fun. That’s all it needs to be, consistently, but I’ll throw in one more thing it can be, for the road. If Scream the TV series can do one thing to prove that there’s something of substance to be found—when it’s not using pop culture references as a crutch—it’s exploring the culture of fascination (instead of absolute fear) that comes with being a “Murdersville” when a serial killer is on the loose. If the show were to specifically comment on that culture of numbness that its characters are living in instead of just accepting that these are the characters we’re stuck with, it could be interesting. Or maybe that’s what Autopsy Of A Crime the TV series would be about.

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Stray observations

  • I will admit I got a strange kick out of Ghostface Filler calling Emma’s mom her “whore mother.” It’s one of those things that was so deeply a part of the Scream film franchise DNA that I just have to tip my hat to Scream the TV series for it. It doesn’t really make the Brandon James/Daisy plot more interesting, but it’s something.
  • Without commercials but including previouslies, this episode came down to 39 minutes of content. That’s also something.
  • In theory, the Scream movies can exist within this universe, right? Or even the Stab films?
  • As someone who has a deep appreciation for teen dramas, I really need there to be an end to teacher/student relations. None of them are going to get any better than the Ben/Ms. Young storyline from Life As We Know It, and it’s at a point where the very concept makes you wonder what exactly the goal of these relationships are supposed to be anymore. Especially since no one is reinventing the teen drama wheel with them. It’s not hot. It’s a gross abuse of power.
  • Upon noticing in Jake the jerk’s first scene of the episode that he both looks and sounds like The Vampire Diaries’ Steven R. McQueen, it became the only thing I could notice about the character. To all of you who are now thinking the same thing, you’re welcome
  • So the “blood” on Noah’s forehead was (allegedly) paint from him vandalizing Jake’s truck with “douche” misspelled as “doosh.” The lack of outrage over the misspelling felt oddly appropriate.
  • There should be no lack of outrage over Mr. Branson calling Noah “Will Graham.” It’s absolutely too soon. The same goes from Bryan Batt as the Mayor. It’s also too soon.
  • The confirmation that the new Ghostface mask is supposed to be a mask of Brandon James’ face makes things clearer, but it’s still a ridiculous mask.
  • Based on the phone call from the beginning of the episode, does Ghostface Filler have a voice changer à la Scream 3? If so, what do we have to do to get Parker Posey on this show to save everything?
  • Based on the phone call from the end of the episode, however, Ghostface Filler might actually be Jimmy Fallon in his Z105 sketch from Saturday Night Live. “And we’re back!”

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