[This is a review of Scream Queens season 1, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
It figures that a person as morally bankrupt as Chanel (Emma Roberts) would absolutely revel in the very ugliest parts of what's become America's most anticipated consumer holiday. For someone like her, the hordes of frenzied discount hunters and the mere possibility of a chaotic stampede equals some damn fine entertainment. But for the rest of us who cringe at the sight of such a violent trainwreck, we'd rather watch something else, even from a Scream Queens episode titled 'Black Friday.'
So, it's a good thing that this week's episode didn't spend too much time in the shopping mall setting it opened in. While it may have been fun to turn the mall into an oversized house of horrors and play out an extended cat-and-mouse chase between the Red Devil killer and the Chanels, we're glad the episode avoided the temptation, instead returning the show's focus back to the central whodunnit murder mystery that its characters and audience have only one more week and two more episodes to solve.
Oftentimes during its rookie season, the series hasn't shown the same restraint. Case in point was last week's Thanksgiving-themed hour, which wasted a significant chunk of time squeezing in holiday-related jokes and introducing characters who wouldn't be valuable to answering any of the season's big questions. Earlier in the show's run, such diversions (often fun-filled, entertaining and hilarious) weren't much of an issue. They were actually part (or most) of the show's initial charm, but last night's hour managed to combine its throwaway moments and even its Black Friday horror sequence with some useful information and important reveals, moving the murder mystery storyline along while keeping the absurd humor firing at a nice clip.
First, there was Denise Hemphill's (Niecy Nash) re-introduction to the show as the town's new police chief. Not only was the scene filled with laughs - from Denise's awkward pistol twirl attempt to her announcement that her hiring was due to the "gross incompetence" of the former homicide department - her career promotion could also be a key plot point heading into next week's two-part finale, considering she's actually been one of the show's more adept investigators. With her new powerful position and authority, perhaps Denise will finally crack the case by unmasking the final Red Devil killer (that is, if she bring herself to point her finger and her newly assigned service weapon at someone other than Zayday Williams).
And if it's not Denise who gets her Scooby Doo moment, maybe Pete (Diego Boneta) will be the one to put an end to Wallace University's bloody serial murder spree. In last night's hour, he certainly made some major strides by discovering that payback for Gigi's (Nasim Pedrad) sister's death was the real motive for her revenge against Kappa Kappa Tau.
However, even more interesting were the clues that could implicate Pete himself as the last remaining (we think) Red Devil killer. Aside from being an owner of the killer's devilish get-up, it appears Pete was also pretty close with Boone (Nick Jonas), at least close enough that Boone would bequeath all of his possessions (including his secret stash of lube) to Pete in his will. After last night's episode, we know that Boone was Pete's inside source for investigating Kappa house, but was he more? Were they brothers? Lovers? Or perhaps simply partners in crime? In the episode, Pete also gets a mysterious phone call (from the killer?) and later admits to Grace (Skyler Samuels) that he's a murderer, but as we've seen on Scream Queens before, being a killer doesn't necessarily mean you are the Red Devil killer.
After all, a few episodes back we learned that Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) was also capable of murder, but the killing of her philandering ex-husband still didn't directly implicate her in the on-campus slayings committed by the Red Devils. However, she too is still very much a suspect, at least in the eyes of the Chanels, who make it their mission to eliminate the Dean before they pop up next on her hit list. The following murder attempts of the Dean were definitely some of the funniest bits of the episode, as she somehow survives consuming a mason jar worth of poisoned apple cider and an extended session in a sub-zero cryotherapy chamber. Perhaps the best part of it all was the episode's self-aware humor (something we've loved about this show all along), as the Chanels refer to the Dean's superhuman ability to escape death as being similar to killer Michael Meyers from the Halloween films (which famously launched Curtis' career).
All in all, 'Black Friday' proved to be another entertaining installment of the series while managing to advance the season's complicated mystery and add even more intrigue as the guessing game of the final killer's identity continues. We're certainly looking forward to seeing how things unfold next week and finding out who is unmasked as this irresistibly fun season of horror/comedy television comes to a close.
Scream Queens season 1 concludes next Tuesday with a two-hour finale starting @8pm on FOX.