With “Revelations,” Scream the TV series’ first season is officially over. With that comes the identity of “the killer” or “Ghostface Filler” or “the Lakewood Slasher” or whatever you want to call the villain of this story. Like even the most basic of mystery stories, there were red herrings and plenty of motives for nearly each character.

Back in the pilot, as Noah gave the backstory of Brandon James, the bit about James having a protective brother stuck with me; my initial reaction to it all was that Sheriff Hudson was said brother, and he and Kieran were on a father-son killing spree. Surprisingly, the show never even tried to hint anything like that—completely ignoring the Chekhov’s brother entirely—and instead moved on with much more obvious options, the type of options that were too obvious. The biggest examples of too obvious were tweedle dum and tweedle dee, Jake and Will. Jake’s too obvious nature came in the form of him constantly threatening to kill someone on a weekly basis. Will’s too obvious nature was that he was “the boyfriend.” But despite my love of Billy Loomis, I never once saw Will as a retread of that: The character never appeared as smart or crazy enough to eventually be able pull off the final reveal. A dumb, jock pervert, yes, but not smart or crazy. There were characters like the mayor, who actually ended up being a waste of episodic space: Did anyone honestly believe the mayor was the (or, even, a) killer? Or Mr. Branson, who despite his love for his students, was even less of a believable killer choice.

Then came Piper Shaw, in all of her Sarah Koenig meets Lisa Loeb glory, supposedly filling the Gale Weathers role in this series. Almost immediately, this character inserts herself into Emma’s life. constantly providing Emma with information about the case and being a strange, older shoulder to learn on. By my final regular review for the season, I pointed the finger at her (motive stemming from being the illegitimate daughter of Brandon James and Daisy) and went off on my merry way. While other characters were “mysteriously” absent at suspicious time to build arguments for them possibly building the killer, Piper would show up at crime scenes as press and also show up to help and provide Emma with even more information, even if it was just about her own dead father whose death the cops never investigate. That was just in the first five episodes—in catching up with the season to prepare for the finale, I learned that Piper became even more of an active participant in Emma’s life. With every episode, it became laughable how obvious it was—especially with the confirmation that Brandon and Daisy had an illegitimate child—as it was simultaneously a result of the show’s attempt to be subtle in a way it never was with any other character.

So of course she ended up being the killer, even channeling a little bit of Emma Roberts’ looks in this particular reveal. To believe that Scream the TV series would zig or zag in such an obvious case would be to ignore everything Scream the TV series has been since its pilot. It’s not a shocking show; it’s barely able to be a scary or suspenseful show.

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The finale—and really every episode of this season—is a reminder that, in order to fulfill any sort of promise or potential shown, Scream the TV series season two needs to become a legitimately smarter series instead of pretending to be one through pop culture references. That potential is clearly there if you squint, as the second half of the season figured out that the slow and steady approach to the story was not (always) the way to go. The show was smart enough to make sure to keep its best actor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) alive for another day and with a meatier role for take two. The show eventually figured out a way to have interesting kills (Will) instead of just cribbing from the movies (Nina and Tyler in the pilot).

But the world this show created is not one where it makes any type of sense for the final girl (or “survivor girl,” as Scream the TV series considers the appropriate jargon) and her model beau to recreate the dance sequence from Pulp Fiction at a high school dance. This is the same show where one of the characters assumed a Terminator reference was for the new movie, and that was probably the character with the most pop culture knowledge after Noah. Yes, a version of Scream the TV series without self-awareness and meta humor is a reason to argue that it shouldn’t even be called Scream, but self-awareness is so much more than being able to reference Hannibal or The Walking Dead every other sentence. Knowing what a “meet cute” is doesn’t make the characters sound like they’re in the know. That knowledge has to be shown in the work itself, otherwise it’s just a Seltzer and Friedberg spoof.

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Scream the TV series, while without a doubt cranking up the horror and fun factor in recent episode, still hasn’t graduated from its sophomoric dialogue or stilted acting (which is especially troubling in the case of the lead). It would be fine if the show were trying to be a B-movie, but this is one of the slickest shows on MTV, and B-movie isn’t even close to the goal here. Scream the TV series wants to be (or thinks it is) high concept—the pilot has an early Noah monologue where he talks about how you can’t make a slasher show on television, and that’s what Scream the TV series wants to do. Then again, this show comes from a person who wrote for Harper’s Island, but that reference (and contradiction to the non-monetary point of this show’s existence) hasn’t been made yet.

Even by the end of these 10 episodes, these surviving characters still aren’t completely worth rooting for. That’s what Noah’s cringe-inducing Friday Night Lights monologue in the pilot was all about—it’s not about the killer’s identity, it’s about the characters and the journey—but to put it bluntly, the characters suck. One can argue that the characters suck because the first season was/is trading in archetypes, but then you have an impending second season where the same tricks can’t work and you’re left with a show with mostly underwritten characters. Noah the nerd is a character that grows on you like an annoying sibling, despite his inability to stop talking, because every once in a while, he’s a character that gets a good line: “I am not in favor of splitting up, nor am I three days away from retiring. I will not be right back.” But he’s not exactly at a level where he can pull off any line, and he often comes across as being slightly off as a person (and annoying): “You got your classic showdown at the lake, tying together the past and present.” Brooke has gone from completely unlikable to just plain stuck in terrible plots, but Carlson Young has kept afloat as the season has gone on, and she’s honestly the best part of the finale, character-wise and in terms of creating actual suspense and genuine emotion. But the most honest character moment of the episode—of the entire season, even—comes from a strange place:

Noah: “Are you okay?”
Audrey: “Not really.”

It’s almost a throwaway exchange during the ambulance chaos at the end of the episode, but Bex Taylor-Klaus’ delivery of the line of one of the most pained, innocent deliveries you could have. At that moment, it’s almost easy to forget that the very fact the character even survives a solo confrontation with the killer is extremely questionable (before the reveal at the end). There’s a reason Bex Taylor-Klaus’ lack of material in this show has been brought up again and again, and it’s little moments like that. In one second, she’s more relatable and worthy of sympathy than the protagonist that the show practically begs the audience to care about with every single episode.

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This is the season finale, but most of the suspense that could possibly be gained from that alone is instantly removed by the emotionless, voids of characters (and, more importantly, actors) that are Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) and Kieran (Amadeus Serafini). The former is our protagonist, but she doesn’t even react differently in the very different scenarios of murders taking place right in front of her, righteously being angry at the killer, or finding her mother tied up and on the chopping block. It’s all a blank slate; everything depends on her, but she gives back nothing. On the other hand, Kieran’s saving grace is that he’s not the lead (or he wasn’t, until the deaths), but his reaction to his father being gruesomely murdered barely even registers as a bummer to him. A strained relationship between Kieran and the Sheriff could be an argument for that, if not for the fact that it’s a lack of reaction to the kid becoming an orphan and losing all of his immediate family in such a short amount of time. That’s not an “oh, I’m fine” situation, but you would never be able to tell on this show. It really Carlson Young’s Brooke who shoulders the responsibility of creating suspense—and actually acting—which is almost too much to ask of the character who’s supposed to be the promiscuous airhead. Luckily, Carlson Young is certainly up to the task, and if there’s ever a moment of relief in a character surviving, it’s when Emma’s superhearing comes into play to hear a struggling Brooke in that garage freezer. Brooke even gains some self-respect in this episode, which is basically all anyone could ask of the character.

Then there’s the fact that Scream the TV series wants to have its cake and eat it too. This isn’t even about the fact that six people (seven if you count Emma’s mom) survive the killer’s mass attack in this episode. (I did say in my last review that the killer was awful at this.) It’s the “shout-out” to the Scream movies that comes in the form of Audrey and Emma killing Piper (with the head shot to finish the job):

Audrey: “Nice shot.”
Emma: “They always come back.”

It’s the most Scream movie aspect of the series that hasn’t come from the pilot, and it’s also something the show has to be able to handle moving forward. If the show wants to be its own thing separate from the films—which it really probably should be to avoid constant comparisons—it actually has to be its own thing separate from the films. A fun wink or nod to the movies is only a reminder of the vast gulf that separates the two in terms of quality, and it also backtracks everything the show might be doing to be its own unique thing. Plus, a pithy one-liner is just out of character for Emma, despite (or because of) the fact she’s barely a character.

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The funny thing is, based on the fact that the series mostly tied up loose ends and didn’t get too bungled up in its own mythology, this isn’t even the worst season of a genre show on MTV this year. “Revelations” isn’t the worst 40-ish minutes of Scream the TV series, which is a success in and of itself. Even with everything before it, it’s as satisfying of a season finale as one could get from this season.

Stray observations

  • This is a brief reminder that shows are graded against themselves.
  • “Thanks for the screams.” Yes, thank you, Wes Craven.
  • Here are a couple of loose ends that aren’t completely tied up, but I think I’m on the same frequency as the show with this one: Audrey had Piper kill Rachael because of the footage of Audrey threatening to kill Nina from the SD card a couple of episodes back. As for Audrey’s DNA on the Brandon James mask, that’s because—as implied by the voice over at the end of the episode—Audrey was in the killer costume when grabbing Will and leaving Piper behind. As for Brandon James’ mom, I believe the “boy” she saw as Brandon’s son was also Audrey.
  • With the season over, I will say the killer’s most inventive killings were that of Sheriff Hudson and Will. But the only one that actually felt true to the slasher genre and the Scream franchise as a whole was Riley’s. That was back in episode three.
  • Honestly, everything about Brooke’s father the mayor was like if Principal Henry Winkler from the first Scream movie had a real plot and arc.
  • Speaking of, where was the pandemonium and culture of fear in Lakewood during all of this? We barely even saw that in the regular and guest cast.
  • So, Mr. Carson’s excuse for the precinct murder was that the killer killed the deputy, and then he ran, realizing how it would look if he were at the scene. I’m pretty sure if he’d stayed at the scene, with or without any blood on him, even those idiot deputies would eventually realize he didn’t do anything. Running made him look guilty. Also, I guess he was never charged with statutory rape? And the show never explained his identity change, did it?
  • My favorite part of the killer reveal in this episode is how all of a sudden there are clearly breasts under the smock. Then the acting came in, and nothing was my favorite part.

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