Ryan Murphy and company are at it again, this time poking fun at the horror genre with Scream Queens. As with most of his shows, you kind of have to throw away all logistics and just go with it, and this new FOX series is no exception. It features familiar faces, such as Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele. And we can’t forget pop stars Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande, though the latter doesn’t make it far past the pilot. The two-hour premiere sets up a lot of questions and introduces us to a lot of unlikable characters as well as possible murder suspects.
In “Pilot” and “Hell Week,” a person in a red devil costume wreaks havoc on a college campus, particularly focusing on the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house. Not many people like the KKT sisters, including Dean of Students Cathy Munsch (Curtis) and budding investigative reporter Pete (Diego Boneta). Munsch is out to take the sorority down, while Pete wants to expose the secrets that lie behind the walls of the sorority house.
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20 Years Ago
In 1995, a sorority sister of KKT has a baby in a bathtub during a party. She later dies, and no one knows what has happened to the baby — or the body, for that matter.
Queen Kappa Chanel (Roberts) rules her sorority. She has minions, who she calls Chanel #2, #3 and #5 (#4 died of meningitis). They follow her around and worship the ground she walks on. She believes a sorority is the only place you can truly pick and choose who you hang around with. However, Dean Munsch is about to change that. At first, she accuses Chanel of being responsible for an incident involving hydrochloric acid and the former president of KKT. She then informs Chanel that she will be revoking the chapter’s charter; however, president of the national chapter Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) tells her she can’t. Once Chanel is out of the room, Gigi informs Munsch that she too wants to put an end to the sorority.
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A Means to an End
During a pledge party, Munsch and Gigi inform the KKT ladies that they must accept anyone who pledges. This group includes Neckbrace Hester (Michele), Deaf Taylor Swift, Predatory Lez, Jennifer and roommates Zayday (Keke Palmer) and Grace (Skyler Samuels). Grace is only joining to honor her mother’s legacy, as her mother was a Kappa Kappa Tau years ago. Unfortunately, Grace never knew her mother, as she died when she was 2 years old.
As a way to scare the pledges, Chanel comes up with a plan to fake-burn the maid, Ms. Bean, in hot oil, except the oil wouldn’t be hot. However, something goes wrong (or does it?), and the oil is turned on. Chanel burns Ms. Bean’s face off “by accident” and forces all the girls to help her hide the body in a meat locker.
A Private Investigation
Grace immediately doesn’t like Chanel and everything that KKT stands for now, so she joins forces with Pete to uncover the truth about what’s really going on. She agrees to be the inside eyes for his expose. While going to find Ms. Bean’s body, they hide as Chanel and her annoying man-friend Chad arrive. Chad and Chanel realize the body is gone, and Chanel immediately thinks that Ms. Bean is alive.
Fearing that someone will blab the truth about what happened, Chanel makes her minions take a blood oath. They all argue, and Chanel #2 (Grande) leaves to go home. As she’s packing, she gets a text from an unknown number to answer her bedroom door. It’s the Red Devil, who was also at the scene of the former president’s accident. After a brief text exchange — yes, while they are in front of each other — the Red Devil kills Chanel #2. When the girls find her body, Chanel thinks it’s Ms. Bean seeking revenge.
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Hell Week Takes on a New Meaning
Despite the murder of Chanel #2, the sorority goes ahead with hell week, coming up with different ways to haze the new pledges. When Grace stands up to Chanel, the pair goes for coffee, leaving Chanel #5 in charge. She buries the pledges up to their necks on the front lawn of the house. In the middle of the night, the Red Devil fires up the lawn mower and proceeds to ride over Deaf Taylor Swift.
By now, the media has gotten wind of the murder and the dean is not happy. While the investigation is going on, the ladies are told to stay in the house and not leave. Gigi hires a security guard, Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) to watch the house, though it’s clear she won’t be much help.
During a deep cleaning as part of hell week, Grace heads to the basement for supplies and stumbles upon a secret locked door. The Red Devil stalks her but doesn’t make a move. She’s interrupted, but after she meets with Pete, she heads back down and breaks into the room. She finds old costumes and the bloody bathtub from 1995, as well as a locked trunk with the dead girl’s bloody clothes. Chanel comes down and tells her about the girl and the baby. She claims there’s a rumor that Ms. Bean and Dean Munsch helped cover up the body but doesn’t know how much truth there is to the story.
Meanwhile, Pete breaks into the dean’s office and finds a list of names from the 1995 incident. Before he gets any more info, the Red Devil knocks him out and hangs up him outside with a note to mind his own business. When he relays this information to Grace, she finds a Red Devil costume in his closet. He claims it’s his mascot uniform, but who really knows?
A Faked Death
During an awkward lovemaking, Chanel decides she wants to break up with her man-friend Chad, even though they aren’t really dating. She kicks him out. Later, she goes to apologize and finds him cuddling with his gay roommate, Boone (Jonas). He tells her nothing is going on, which it wasn’t, and then proceeds to say he’s breaking up with her. Back at the KKT house, Denise is sitting watch outside with her friend. Also sitting outside the house is Grace’s father, Wes (Oliver Hudson). Gigi goes out to assure him that everything is fine and they drive away to get coffee. As they drive away, the dean is standing outside the house.
As Denise sits watch, she hears a scream from inside. Chanel informs her and the girls that the Red Devil attacked her. All the girls head up to Chanel’s room, while Denise runs outside to tell her friend to call for backup. The girls find the bloody words ‘Sluts Will Die’ on her wall, while Denise finds her friend dead by the hands of the Red Devil. She drives away and pushes the body out of the car; later, she reveals that the body is missing. At the frat house, Boone, who told Chanel earlier that he’s going to come out and wants to join KKT, is working out when the Red Devil comes in his room. His frat brothers find his body laid out surrounded by candles with his throat slit.
And as the ladies fight over who the killer could be and try to process the latest deaths, the Red Devil heads to the mortuary and pulls out the body of Boone, who is actually alive and has faked his death with the Red Devil.
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Who is the Killer?
This is a question I can only assume won’t be answered for some time. There are many possibilities. Is it the dean, who is weirdly connected to the sorority from 1995? Or maybe it’s Pete? Why is he so focused on the sorority? Is he the baby that was born and is he seeking revenge for his mother’s death? Maybe it’s Gigi, who was probably one of her sorority sisters form 1995. Grace clearly has a connection too. Maybe she is the baby? Maybe there is more than one killer? Boone is in on something, obviously. Perhaps he and Pete are lovers? Or maybe Ms. Bean is out for revenge after getting her face burned off.
There’s lots of cheesiness to Scream Queens. The whole Ariana Grande scene was a bit much. The writing is pretty on point and you have to really listen for quick jabs at society, social media and other things going on in the world. Roberts does a really good job at playing someone to hate. And Curtis’ Dean Munsch reminds me a lot of Glee‘s Sue Sylvester. Though it is a quick and clever show, I could see it getting old pretty quickly. Perhaps it’s because there’s a lot going on. I can only assume that as the season progresses, things will play out and get a little less confusing. Or maybe that’s the point, to leave the viewers guessing.
Scream Queens airs Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)