[This is a review of Scream Queens season 1, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
Although many Americans think of Thanksgiving as a time to gather with family and friends to share a delicious and bountiful meal, the holiday is really all about showing gratitude for all that one has. For many, that gratitude is indeed directed at the lasting relationships and connections loved ones share, but for the tormented characters of Scream Queens, thanks should be given for the mere ability to stand after 10 episodes of a bloody season that served up a major reveal along with another victim (literally on a silver platter this time) in the holiday-themed episode 'Thanksgiving.'
Like almost every Scream Queens episode, last night's hour was also injected with plenty of laughs and some juicy story turns. However, by overstuffing its runtime with some narratively useless (albeit comedically satisfying) filler, it made its hungry audience wait for the real meat of the episode until the end, which made for a slightly unbalanced meal.
Of course, the meal Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), Wes (Oliver Hudson) and the Kappas sat down to enjoy was even less appetizing. In fact, it was outright ruined by the horrific sight of Gigi's (Nasim Pedrad) severed head where their prized turkey Tiburon was supposed to be. Sudden, but not all that shocking -- given Gigi's demise had been teased earlier in the episode -- her off-screen death leaves Wallace University with just one homicidal maniac on the loose, the identity of whom is still very much a guessing game at this point.
That whodunnit guessing game (which we've been playing all season) is still one of the most fun and appealing parts of the show, and it's also one of the best parts of the episode - as the series' surviving main characters point the finger at one another while explaining their own theories about the killer. Wes initially wrestles with the possibility of Grace (Skyler Samuels) being a mass murderer while Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) makes a compelling case against Dean Munsch. But the real shocking bit of evidence comes from Pete (Diego Boneta), who proves that Wes is Boone's (Nick Jonas) father (via a Maury Povich paternity test). Of course, this also means that Wes is the father of Boone's fraternal twin, whom we all presume to be the final Red Devil killer.
The clues and reveals provided in the episode's final minutes will certainly sustain enough interest in the show's core mystery to intently look forward to next week's hour, but with 'Thanksgiving,' Scream Queens diverted its focus too often in following two separate Thanksgiving dinners that really only served the purpose of delivering laughs.
First, there was the completely unnecessary stop at Chanel #3's family home for dinner with the Swensons. Aside from a few funny frozen dinner jokes, there wasn't a whole lot for the show to play with here. We learn that Chanel #3 despises her filthy rich family and the TV dinners they are famous for, but the only real purpose of the scene was to give Chanel #3 a reason to travel back to Kappa house to be with her sisters. Obviously, this could have been accomplished without meeting a whole new group of characters we will probably never see again.
Similarly, the pitstop at the Radwell's Thanksgiving celebration also did little to push the main story forward, serving more as an excuse for some fun cameo performances from the likes of Alan Thicke as Chad's (Glen Powell) father, Chad Michael Murray as elder brother Brad Radwell and Patrick Schwarzenegger as little bro Thad. Together, and along with Chad's despicable mother Bunny (Julia Duffy), "the worst family in America," as Chanel (Emma Roberts) appropriately referred to them, certainly provided the episode with some of its most entertaining and laugh-out-loud moments. Still, the whole sequence doesn't show us anything we couldn't have easily surmised knowing Chad (that his family is a bunch of self-obsessed nuts). Even the surprise of Hester (Lea Michele) crashing the party was a little telegraphed, after her body was suddenly missing from the Kappa house meat locker. Perhaps the only valuable takeaway from the entire chunk of the episode was the seeing the uber-jealous Ms. Oberlin and a forgiving Hester mend fences and possibly form an unlikely alliance after enduring an emotionally traumatic game of Radwell Pictionary.
Considering we've given Scream Queens a pass at other points during the season for being narratively unfocused, it might seem a little unfair to begin criticizing the series for the same exact thing now. After all, the show has prided itself on being a silly romp, rather than a serious drama. However, with just three episodes left in its rookie season, it would seem time for the show to tighten the focus of each remaining hour and place the whodunnit mystery we've been taking part in all season at center stage. Let's hope there's a more deliberate attempt next week to at least start assembling the final pieces of the season's puzzle for the reveal of the big clear picture we've been waiting for.
Scream Queens continues next Tuesday with 'Black Friday' @9pm on FOX.
Photos: Patti Perret/FOX, Cook Allender/FOX