[This is a review of Scream season 2 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
The first season of MTV’s Scream – based on the 1996 slasher flick written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven – introduced viewers to the town of Lakewood and its legend of Brandon James, a spree killer connected to Emma Duval’s (Willa Fitzgerald) mother. As the season unfolded, Scream set up and unraveled the mystery surrounding a new string of murders carried out by a pair of co-conspirators working together.
In the season 1 finale of Scream, one of the killers was revealed to be Piper Shaw (Amelia Rose Blaire), the podcaster who arrived in Lakewood to investigate the murders and turned out to be Emma’s long lost half-sister – the child of Emma’s mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf) and Brandon James. However, the finale also revealed Audrey Jensen (Bex Taylor-Klaus) to be Piper’s partner, though she made sure her relationship with the killer was never discovered.
Now, season 2 of Scream picks up some months later, with Emma having spent time away from Lakewood in therapy in an attempt to move on from the events of season 1. In ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, written by Michael Gans and Richard Register and directed by Brian Dannelly, Emma attempts to find some kind of normalcy in her return to Lakewood as she tries to pick up her relationships where they left off. Meanwhile, Audrey begins receiving threatening texts and phone calls from a mysterious new tormenter who presumes to know everything about Audrey’s relationship with Piper. Plus, the first official murder of the season closes out the episode.
The opening sequence of Scream season 2, like the opening of season 1, pays homage to classic horror movies. However, while the season 1 opener was directly influenced by the original Scream film, season 2 takes the route of parody: A teenaged girl is murdered in her home by her best friend, “Why? Because I’m so sick of your slut-shaming!” However, this sequence is revealed to be a movie within the TV series and the real opening follows Audrey through the movie theater as she and a classmate, Haley (Mary Katherine Duhon) are chased by a killer. But, it turns out the killer is merely a prankster – who Audrey stabs in self-defense – and Haley is in on the prank.
The opening sequence veers on the side of incredibly unrealistic – though decades of horror movies may have helped prepare viewers to suspend their disbelief that teenagers could be so stupid as to prank a girl who has shot a killer by presenting her with a new life-threatening killer and expecting no violent consequences – but it effectively helps to set up Audrey’s character arc for season 2. Given her role in helping to take down Piper in season 1 and her previous connection to Piper, Audrey is attempting to balance her status as a hero in Lakewood with the truth that she helped set into motion the events that led to many deaths in the town.
Switching the focus of the killer in season 2 away from Emma to the new target of Audrey (at least, for now) gives the season somewhat of a fresh start. Since the mystery of season 1 concluded with the explanation of Piper’s relation to Emma giving her motive to murder residents of Lakewood – and the death of Piper at the hands of Audrey and Emma – the one last loose thread was Audrey. Now, season 2 is using that loose thread to spin a new mystery that’s still part of the larger violent story of Lakewood – one that Noah (John Karna) is slowly putting together thanks to his “murder board.”
Emma, meanwhile, returns home to her newfound fame as part of the Lakewood Six – the six teenagers involved in the murders in season 1 who were left alive: Emma, Audrey, Noah, Kieran Wilcox (Amadeus Serafini), Brook Maddox (Carlson Young), and Jake Fitzgerald (Tom Maden). However, Emma and Kieran struggle to resume their relationship given all that they went through in season 1, Emma being the focus of the killer’s wrath and Kieran losing his father. Still, Emma is able to take at least one step forward and go on Noah’s podcast, The Morgue, to talk about her experience as a “Final Girl.”
As for the other two members of the Lakewood Six, Brooke and Jake have built a tentative relationship in the aftermath of season 1. But, after an abrupt relationship-ending fight featuring some unkind words from both parties, Jake sets out to prove to Brooke that he loves her. Unfortunately, he is captured, tortured, and killed by the new murderer before he can accomplish his mission, and before viewers are given too many hints as to how he would accomplish said mission anyway.
Although the murder of Jake helps to set the stage for the season ahead – one where no one in the Lakewood Six are safe, let alone any of the number of new characters populating the high school – his storyline in ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ is poorly realized from beginning to end. From his fight with Brooke that ends with Jake posturing loudly while she leaves (at which point he mentions his love for her), to the sequences of his torture and death, which are at the same time both drawn out and rushed, Jake’s arc is hurried along in order to fit within the season premiere episode.
The fate of Jake is held over the audience throughout much of the episode, with the viewer left to believe he has been killed, then saved, only to have his guts spilled by the murderer’s scythe in the final moments. As a result, though the audience is meant to feel attached to the first death of season 2, the treatment of Jake’s storyline in ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ fails to give the character a worthy sendoff. But, given his relationship with Brooke, it’s likely his death will have a lasting impact on her storyline in season 2.
All in all, the Scream season 2 premiere seems to kick off a worthy sequel to the mystery of season 1, establishing a new killer with a new motive and new stakes to the secrets being kept in Lakewood. While the first murder of the season helps to elevate the stakes of this year, Jake’s death comes off as an unsubtle message to fans that anyone is expendable this season – even those in the Lakewood Six who survived last year.
But, as with season 1, the relationships and the mystery of who’s behind the killing is the most compelling aspect of the series, and that shines through in ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. Though it remains to be seen whether this season will wrap up the mystery of the new killer in a way that’s much more thrilling than in season 1, Scream season 2 certainly seems to have avoided many of the tropes of most horror sequels. Plus, season 2 means plenty more meta horror movie analysis from Noah, though hopefully it will feel more natural than his explanation of dream motifs in horror movies in ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’.
Scream continues next Monday with ‘Psycho’ @11pm on MTV. Check out a preview below: