[This is a review of Scream Queens season 1, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
Like sugary Halloween candy, the satisfaction that comes from every hour of Scream Queens is admittedly fleeting and probably devoid of any real intellectual nutrition, but the colorful package it's wrapped in (and the show's comfortably familiar campy flavor) continue to make it irresistible. And after another deliciously entertaining episode with 'Pumpkin Patch', our sweet-tooth craving for this new fall series will probably only get stronger, especially as All Hallows' Eve approaches.
While it boasted more treats than actual tricks, last night's episode still included enough surprises within its fairly formulaic framework to keep the season's murder mystery interesting. However, as has been the case with almost all of the show's previous episodes, the biggest twist came at the end, as we learn that Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) is in cahoots with the Red Devil killer -- if she's not actually a killer herself.
For those who tuned in last week and saw that Gigi was also the adoptive mother of the infamous Kappa Kappa Tau "tub baby," this revelation doesn't come as a complete shock, but it certainly sets up some juicy dramatic irony for upcoming episodes -- with our amateur sleuths still being very much in the dark. And her ominous line to the Red Devil, "He's got to go," has us curiously wondering who "he" might be. Could Wes (Oliver Hudson) be the killer's next target? Perhaps something from his family's mysterious past has him due for some violent payback.
Of course, the fact that we are even asking these questions bodes well for the remainder of the season, and speaks to the show's ability to continue to build real intrigue and tension. Even when the series presents seemingly reliable information -- like Zayday's (Keke Palmer) story about her getaway from the killer's lair -- it still has its audience questioning every character's move based on evidence that has come before. For example, it's easy to see how Denise (Niecy Nash) could be right about Zayday being behind the murders. It certainly would have been easy to make up an escape story when Zayday may have really been captured and released to get others, like Denise, off her scent. After all, Zayday did have a chainsaw under her bed -- something Denise continues to remind our other characters of.
With nearly every character pointing the finger at someone else, the series is spinning an increasingly vast narrative spiderweb of potential story threads that will surely keep audiences guessing right up until the end. This week, that web expanded even further as Chanel (Emma Roberts) was ratted on for Ms. Bean's murder by someone else in the house. While she doesn't have any definitive proof as to who went to the cops, the fact that she suspects and accuses Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin) causes a rift between the Kappa sisters, setting up some sorority rivalries and dramatic spars we'll undoubtedly take joy in seeing play out.
When you consider that all of these potential narrative trajectories arise from a premise as silly and campy as Scream Queens', the whole construction of the show is just that much more impressive. While other, much more serious dramas seem to struggle balancing story lines and giving characters the proper amount of screen time each week, Scream Queens has the enviable ability to provide everyone in its ensemble with great character moments in each hour. Even though Chad (Glen Powell) only appeared in one scene this week, his moment was certainly memorable and hilarious as the blatant misogynist delivered a speech about the importance of dressing slutty on Halloween.
And even though the show's story turns will likely by what's most talked about heading into next week, its clever, self-aware humor continues to be its biggest asset. While the writers seemed to revel in their own pop culture and historical references (for perhaps a little too long in the former first ladies costume scene), the episode injected plenty of laughs into the hour, including jokes around hiring Led Zeppelin to perform at Chanel's fundraiser. Then, in completely ridiculous fashion, the show brought back Caufield (Evan Paley), whom we naturally assumed had died after having both of his arms sliced off by the Red Devil in 'Chainsaw'.
The episode also had a fun time paying homage to classic horror films, with sequences taking place in a recreation of the famous Shining hedge maze and a Silence of the Lambs-inspired home dungeon. Sure, these references were far from subtle, but they were most certainly enjoyable while lending some visual splashes to the episode.
While its deliberately slow unraveling of the central mystery is becoming more admirable and appreciated as the series rolls along, the show's approach to its subject matter makes it even harder to dislike. Since Scream Queens knows what type of show it is and where its strengths lie, it seems to be able to get away with almost anything - and we won't have a problem with that as long as it keeps staying true to the over-the-top slasher story it sold us before first airing.
Scream Queens season 1 continues next Tuesday with 'Seven Minutes in Hell' @9pm on FOX.
Photos: Patti Perret/FOX