Last week’s premiere of Scream offered potential amidst the work-in-progress elements. How does the second episode fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
The short answer is “OK.” In last week’s review, I hoped that subsequent episodes would improve the series’ two main faults: characterization and dialogue. Sadly ‘Hello, Emma’ doesn’t deliver on either front, particularly the latter. We’re only two episodes in and I’m already exhausted by characters literally (and continually) spouting tired, supposedly hip, cool and edgy dialogue. Referencing Instagram and Snapchat and dismissing Facebook is not timely, nor are the repeated references to Game of Thrones. More often than not, the dialogue comes off as desperate; you can practically feel the flop-sweat as the writers strive to prove how relevant and “with it” they are.
Unfortunately the characters aren’t much of an improvement. ‘Pilot’ introduced our main crew of teens, who, with the exception of Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and maaaaaybe Noah (John Karma) are an unlikable bunch. If the aftermath of Nina’s murder last week suggested that her friends were a bunch of jackasses, episode two pretty much confirms it. Despite a brutal murder four days ago, no one at the school seems particularly scared or upset. Sure we’ve been repeatedly told how mean and bitchy Nina was, but she was close to these characters. At the very least, shouldn’t they be concerned that the murderer hasn’t been caught?
Like most follow-up episodes, ‘Hello, Emma’ spends a lot of its run time trying to flesh its characters out, but the result is mostly a repeat of what we already know. Take Brooke (Carlson Young): her defining traits in the premiere were a) being a bitch and b) having an affair with English teacher Mr. Branson (Bobby Campo). This week we learn that she lied to Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) because Nina told her to and she flirts with Branson (very publicly IMO) at the school basketball game. Soooo…we learn nothing new about her. If Brooke is murdered in the opening of the next episode (which appears to be how Scream will open every episode), we literally would know nothing about Brooke, nor would we care.
Thankfully we have audience surrogate Emma, our resident Final Girl and all-around semi-nice girlzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….oh sorry, I drifted off there. Yes, Emma is clearly TV’s Sidney, but holy moly is she a bore. With her name in the title, Emma gets the clearest arc of the episode but the result is a complete snoozefest because the character is so damn dull. Emma feels bad about helping the “lesbo” video of Audrey and Rachel go viral (drinking game alert!), then she feels double bad after Rachel hangs herself. She confesses to mom Maggie (Tracey Middendorf), works her waitress job at the posh diner and finds herself caught between two bland not-quite-hot-enough-for-The-CW guys, cheating former BF Will (Connor Weil) and new guy, Kieran (Amadeus Serafini).* Oh yeah, and she gets stalked a bit and talks about how “scary” real life is now. What’s scary is how one-note Fitzgerald’s performance is and the fact that this is supposed to be our strong female lead. Gah.
*At this point it’s completely unclear why Will needs Emma at his basketball games or why Kieran is so interested in her (aside from the obvious/inevitable connection to Brandon James that should be revealed around episode ten).
And yet despite all of these complaints, I still find myself enjoying the show.
Part of this is undoubtedly the silliness of the show’s less successful elements; groaning at the dialogue and mocking Emma’s every move is proving to be rather enjoyable. The other part is the satisfaction of seeing one of my favourite (sub)genres play out in long-form. Scream isn’t a great show, but it is entertaining. Much like its dearly departed predecessor, Harper’s Island, TV’s Scream has weekly kills, a solid number of red herrings and occasionally even manages to affect my heart rate (there was no danger in Emma’s back alley encounter with the killer, but it was still effective in upping the tension). I’ll say it again: if Scream can make us care about its characters and stop trying so hard to be hip, this will be a fun summer show.
- I’ll take this opportunity to congratulate Riley (Brianne Tju) for making good choices. After your friend is brutally murdered, it’s a great idea to sneak up on your crush in an abandoned football field and cover their eyes. She’s lucky that Noah didn’t have a knife for protection.
- Also: Any girl that confuses original Terminator and Terminator: Genisys is no true geek. Hard pass, Noah. She can’t keep up.
- Anyone else confused about Scream‘s position on bullying? Clearly we’re meant to feel bad about the comments people post on Rachel/Audrey’s video and Emma’s only interesting quality is that she was bitchy enough to help Nina film and post the video (but because she feels bad about it, we know she’s good inside <gag>). So what to make of Jake’s (Tom Maden) assault on Noah after his car is tagged? The whole encounter is videotaped by multiple onlookers and would have gone viral (drink!) in seconds, but apparently Jake doesn’t get in any trouble? That seems unlikely.
- This episode introduces Bryan Batt as Mayor Quinn Maddox. His sole purpose appears to be lamenting about what Lakewood was becoming before the Brandon James murders. Good to see you, Sal.
- The other new character is former True Blood actor Amelia Rose Blaire’s debut as Piper Shay, aka Gale Weathers. Thus far she’s a solid meh. The decision to make the character significantly young (and a podcaster! So topical in these post-Serial days) makes it harder to believe that Piper has the cut-throat tendencies that made Gale so formidable in the film series. If anything the young reporter just seems like another attractive addition to a cast of mildly forgettable hotties.
- Good to see Scream adhering to MTV’s terrible hashtag policy. Honestly, #WhoIsEmmasCaller? Even Teen Wolf can do better than this
- Your film franchise callbacks include: mean girls talking shit about Emma in the bathroom (in abbreviated form), yet more classroom discussion hijacked (seriously Mr. Branson needs to rein that shit in and teach the curriculum) and, most obviously, the killer inferring that Maggie’s slutty behaviour is to blame for the current murders. Slut shaming FTW!
- Will (to Kieran): “Just stay out of this, Abercrombie.” An Abercrombie reference, but apparently Facebook is passe? You can’t have it both ways, Scream
- Mayor Madoff (lamenting how Brandon James affected Lakewood’s economic potential): “We had a bike path for crying out loud!”
- Brooke (sitting down to watch the basketball game): “Sportsball. Yay!”
- The Killer (reassuring Emma on the phone): “I like a strong female lead.” Us, too. Where’s Audrey?
Your turn: Did episode two improve on the premiere? Is the dialogue still the series’ biggest problem? Aside from Audrey are any of the characters coming into focus? Would Jake be punished for attacking Noah? Should Brooke learn the art of subtle flirtation? Did any of this scare you? Sound off below.
Scream airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV. Next week: Emma is made to choose between Brooke and Riley? Here’s your preview