[This is a review of Scream season 2 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last summer, MTV debuted the teen horror drama Scream, an adaptation of Wes Craven’s classic 1996 slasher flick for a new generation of fright fans. While the first season was successful in establishing a new killer legend and original characters, including Final Girls Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) and Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus), Scream stumbled to seamlessly blend meta-horror humor with an actual slasher mystery. At the end of season 1, Emma and Audrey faced down Lakewood’s resident slasher, Piper (Amelia Rose Blaire), whose campy villain speech and convoluted motive weighed down the finale.
Season 2 of Scream went in a slightly different direction thanks to new showrunners Michael Gans (Make It Or Break It) and Richard Register (Make It Or Break It, Recovery Road). Although Scream continued to imbue the show with references to classic horror films while working within its new mythology, season 2 managed to weave all aspects of the story and characters together for a slightly more cohesive narrative. In the season 2 finale, ‘When A Stranger Calls’ (a nod to the 1979 film, following in the trend of each season 2 episode being named for a classic horror movie), Emma and Audrey confront Piper’s final surprise — her true accomplice and the new main killer.
‘When A Stranger Calls’ picks up where the previous episode left off, with Sheriff Acosta (Anthony Ruivivar) believing Emma and Audrey to have killed Mayor Maddox (Bryan Batt). But, when the killer frees Emma and Audrey, they go on the run while the sheriff continues to make his case against the girls. Ms. Lang (Austin Highsmith) offers the sheriff her own theory on Emma and Audrey, that they have folie à deux, or madness of two, believing in the same hallucinations and delusions.
Although season 2 has focused on the effect that season 1’s events had on Emma, specifically her violent dreams, the topic is largely dropped once ‘When A Stranger Calls’ moves on to unmasking the killer. As such, any ambiguity attempted to be established throughout season 2 about whether Emma could be the killer or whether her beliefs could be trusted is dispelled quickly in order to resolve the identity of the murderer.
While hiding out in the movie theater, Emma and Audrey meet up with the remaining Lakewood Six: Noah (John Karna), Brooke (Carlson Young), and Kieran (Amadeus Serafini). After Emma antagonizes the killer, baiting him to attack the movie theater, the Lakewood Six load up on weapons from the horror movie display. The scene is a nice callback to the season 2 opening sequence, which featured Audrey using a weapon from the display to stab a prankster in a Brandon James mask.
As the characters wait for the killer to arrive, Noah and Brooke are offered a moment of levity from the horror as he brings in his slasher movie knowledge. The meta humor still feels somewhat forced into the Scream finale as if it’s a box that needs to be checked before the final showdown can commence. But, now with two seasons of character development for Noah, including his brief break from horror movies in the wake of Zoe’s (Kiana Ledé) death, the moment feels more natural — helped along by Karna’s performance, which has always been one of the show’s strengths.
However, ‘When A Stranger Calls’ maintains a breakneck pace and quickly moves on from Noah’s meta moment to the arrival of the killer, signified by the projector being turned on and playing scenes from the deaths of Zoe and Jake (Tom Maden). As the Lakewood Six attempt to gather in the main theater, the killer attacks Brooke and stabs her. Kieran then reveals that Audrey is missing and urges Emma to leave before the police arrive. But, Emma discovers Audrey was captured by the killer and taken to the abandoned children’s home where Piper grew up, with Emma instructed to follow alone.
When ‘When A Stranger Calls’ moves into the final act with the show’s Final Girls, all other story threads are put on hold as Emma comes face to face with Lakewood’s new killer: Kieran. Emma catches Kieran when he uses a phrase too similar to one the killer used during their last conversation in which he promised, “You will never feel safe again.” Kieran, however, says, “You will feel safe again.” Viewers may be left wondering how Emma would notice the similarities in what is a fairly banal sentence (even in a town nicknamed Murderville), but ‘When A Stranger Calls’ blows past anymore explanation of the revelation and dives into Kieran’s flip from boyfriend to serial killer.
In his first order of business as the unmasked killer, Kieran uses Emma’s gun to shoot his cousin Eli (Sean Grandillo) multiple times; the change is quick and effective as Serafini leans into a performance somewhat reminiscent of Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard in Craven’s original film. Additionally, ‘When A Stranger Calls’ forgoes the overly explanatory villain speech of season 1, simply condensing it down into the most important points: Kieran knew Piper before moving to Lakewood, he had daddy issues, and, in his own words, “Killing people is way more fun than therapy.”
Certainly, the reveal that Kieran is the season 2 killer may lead to more questions than answers — or, at least, unsatisfactory answers to questions the show has spent an entire season asking — but it provides a compelling twist on Scream’s status quo in the same way as Jake’s death in the season 2 premiere. At this point in horror movie history, most plot twists have already been done (with many of the classics referenced in the season’s episode titles). But the reveal that Kieran was a killer all along at least has dramatic ramifications within the world of the show and on its characters.
That said, the quick resolution in the final minutes of Scream does the twist a disservice since the characters are seen simply going back to their normal lives — back to the status quo the twist was meant to subvert. The only indication that Scream season 2 hasn’t wrapped up all the dangling threads of Piper and Kieran are the messages from Brandon James — one to Emma’s mother warning her to “stay away from her” and one to Kieran, asking why Kieran would wear his mask. In terms of keeping up a fast-paced finale, the final moments work to tie up the season nicely, while providing a tease for a third season.
All in all, although ‘When A Stranger Calls’ has certain highlights among the characters, the actors’ performances, and the twist that may have been shocking to some viewers, the episode struggles to resolve all the lingering themes of the season. Still, the Scream season 2 finale does seem to indicate the series has found its groove within the horror TV show genre, balancing its teen drama with the horror of adapting a classic slasher flick.
We’ll keep you updated on Scream season 3 as more information becomes available.