[This is a review of Scream Queens Season 1, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
For all of its campy glory, bold stabs at dark humor and ridiculously complicated mystery, FOX's Scream Queens has easily become one of the few fall shows we've actually enjoyed turning our brains off to. The insanity of its characters and the show's willingness to poke fun at itself by poking holes in its own narrative logic have only made it more endearing and fun to watch. However, there's still a point where those gaps in character and story logic become too large to ignore, even for a show that requires us to not take any of it too seriously.
While last night's hour, 'Ghost Stories,' was a fairly entertaining and eventful entry in the series' rookie season, there were a few too many of those moments where we, as an audience, were asked to suspend our disbelief too far. The characters of Scream Queens are supposed to lack common sense, but in last night's episode, some seemed to go from oblivious and unaware to just plain dumb, which degraded potentially comedic moments to being awkward and seemingly out of place.
The most glaring of these moments came directly after the Red Devil's attack on Denise (Niecy Nash), which played out exactly like the urban legend she had just finished telling the Kappas (apart from the ending). Previously this season - like when her good friend and Secure Enforcement Solutions partner Shondell was murdered - we've seen Denise as one of the show's more sensible characters (admittedly, that's not saying a whole lot) when it's come to handling and reacting to dangerous situations. However, here, with a killer still in the house, she inexplicably decides to lock herself and the Kappas inside to tell scary stories to calm everyone's nerves, instead of evacuating the girls from the house or calling for help (as she was originally trained to do as the house security guard).
Obviously, this was intended to be one of those scenarios that's so ridiculous that it's funny - and as Scream Queens often does, the scene even lampshades the moment by having Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) question Denise's decision, like a normal person would - but the humor is still lost this time, not only because the meta jab at horror movie tropes is very much on the nose, but also because the whole thing is just a little too unbelievable.
Similarly, the entire storyline involving Boone's (Nick Jonas) return stretches what was a funny bit initially into a farce that ultimately wastes a decent chunk of the episode. The idea that so many of the show's characters - including Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) - would believe Boone's ruse that he was a ghost was amusing, but by the time he made his awkward proposal to Zayday (Keke Palmer), it was clear the joke had run its course.
When it came to the real crux of the episode - its ghost-story structure - the show did create a clever device for delivering some scares. We not only saw Denise relive her own tale of horror in the bathroom, but later saw Chanel #5 experience the same terror Hester (Lea Michele) described when she tried to leave campus and get out of Dodge. However, at the end of it all, that central theme was just a device and a distraction, failing to serve the larger story in a really substantial way.
That all said, there was still plenty to enjoy about last night's episode. For all the jokes and bits that failed to land or wore out their welcome, there were just as many that did stick, including Chad's (Glen Powell) top five reasons for why he couldn't date Hester, and when the rest of the Chanels trick Hester into revealing that her pregnancy with Chad's baby was a lie. Like every episode of Scream Queens, there were also more than a couple lines of dialogue that earned their own hearty laughs, like when Chanel (Emma Roberts) refers to Sacajawea as "the third wheel of Lewis and Clark's gay camping extravaganza."
In between the laughs and the moments that fell flat, there were also a few major developments that kept the proceedings interesting. Of course, the juiciest bit came at the tail end of the episode, where we get confirmation that not only is the second Red Devil killer female, but she is indeed the original tub baby whom Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Pete (Diego Boneta) have been investigating all season. This important reveal comes when the second Red Devil turns on Boone, killing him in front of Gigi (Nasim Pedrad), who commends this mystery killer for being more committed to their revenge cause than her brother. Later, Hester's apparent death at the hands of Chanel brings the episode's body count to four (including the sad loss of Lucien Laviscount's Earl Grey and an unnamed bystander), giving us one fewer Kappa to hang our suspicion on as the final Red Devil.
Even though it seemed like advancing the show's core mystery might have been an afterthought for the series' writers this week, ultimately, the episode set the stage for what should be a fun final few episodes of the season. Not only that, but it also managed to finally answer some questions that had been haunting us for weeks, namely that Boone was the one behind Zayday's kidnapping. Of course, the most important reveal is still to come, and the fact that we are still dying to know who the final Red Devil is and exactly why she so badly wants revenge on KKT proves the series still has its hooks in us - even though it tested our patience a bit this week.
Scream Queens season 1 continues next Tuesday with 'Thanksgiving' @9pm on FOX.
Photos: Patti Perret/FOX