The eighth episode of Scream Queens, “Mommie Dearest,” is one of the strongest episodes of the series so far, though the show still needs to figure out how to best use its characters.
Not since the two-part premiere has an episode of Scream Queens truly made an impact. Small reveals — Gigi’s (Nasim Pedrad) involvement — and biting quips all around kept the audience going, but it was starting to not become enough. Fortunately, “Mommie Dearest” delivered the kind of excellent storytelling, sharp wit and kick ass scenes viewers needed to continue.
Ian Brennan wrote the episode — the first one since the infamous Coney episode, which was probably the strongest episode since the premiere. How can anyone beat the “hashtag cahoots” line? I mistakenly thought Ryan Murphy should pen most of the episodes after “Seven Minutes in Hell,” but “Beware of Young Girls” proved that point was wrong. Maybe Brennan is the key to worthwhile content on Scream Queens. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Either way, thank goodness. It’s about time.
Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) remains elusive about the Bathtub Baby even though she said in “Beware Young Girls” that she would tell Grace (Skyler Samuels) all about it. She threatens Munsch, saying, “You’re going to ignore what’s happening on campus until it personally sneaks up behind you and stabs you in the heart.”
It’s no coincidence that almost happens in the next scene.
In homage to the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho — of which Curtis’ mother Janet Leigh stars — the Red Devil tries to stab Munsch in the shower, but she’s seen that movie. A mind-blowing scene of Curtis kicking ass then ensues. If that scene played on a continuous loop, there wouldn’t be any argument here. After surviving Halloween, Curtis is the ultimate “final girl,” and it would be utterly unbelievable to see her perish in Scream Queens. Plus, that moment just finally gave her some time to shine because she hadn’t really been given much to work with yet. Now, it’s rational to see why she signed on to the show.
Munsch fights off two Red Devils and someone — Gigi, obviously — in an Antonin Scalia mask. There’s no beating this quip: “The homosexual lifestyle is not destructive to the fabric of American society!” A-plus work all around.
Chanel (Emma Roberts) furthers her investigation into Zayday (Keke Palmer) and Grace. Hester (Lea Michele) — I refuse to call her Chanel No. 6 — has discovered that Grace and Zayday’s cycles have synced and “those that pill together, kill together.” Chanel immediately shuts her down, and Michele’s reaction is stupendous. Michele was Murphy’s darling in Glee, and it’s rather surprising she hasn’t been featured that much in the show yet. After her transformation into Chanel No. 6, she’s really only delivered an occasional witticism per episode. Michele has incredible comedic chops but she’s not getting to do anything with them here.
While Michele isn’t that vocal, Roberts is overly so. She plays the spoiled, bitchy character well, but she needs to stop yelling all of her lines. The strain in her voice is quite apparent.
Adding to the awesomeness of the episode, Denise (Niecy Nash) has moved into Kappa house! No more “whore’s baths with Wet Naps” for her. Nash hasn’t been in an episode since “Pumpkin Patch,” which aired about a month ago. It was an absence that sorely hurt the show. Nash is a comedic queen whose lines of improv cannot compare to anyone else. Hopefully, the show will realize its mistake and make sure to keep her in the remaining episodes.
Thank goodness for Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd) hiring Denise to prove Zayday is the killer. I sincerely hope she gets to own Sandals Resorts. God bless “Denise Hemphill from Secure Enforcement Solutions is on the case.”
Jennifer (Breezy Eslin) doesn’t believe Zayday could be the killer, except she does know of one story in which Zayday vowed “real revenge” against “entitled little rich girls everywhere.” AKA the Chanels. Zayday overhears and threatens both Denise and Jennifer. Palmer also really hasn’t had much to do. Thankfully, however, her token racist statements have given way to badass monologues asserting her power.
Once again, it’s no coincidence that Jennifer ends up being killed, with candles melted atop her head and hands. It was a death that seemed more akin to American Horror Story. It was also another fruitless death as Jennifer was, while enjoyable, an unnecessary side character.
Dean Munsch eventually gives Grace the name of the Kappa who died in the tub — Sophia Doyle — and Grace is actually disappointed it isn’t her mother’s name. Fortunately, Munsch calls her out for having that agenda.
Grace’s “mommy issues” drive the entire episode. She preaches that Jennifer has to be the last death, although it’s unclear how she knows this information. From what viewers see, only the Chanels and Denise find Jennifer, and Munsch doesn’t announce that they’re closing the university because of it until later in the episode. Does this mean she’s involved? It’s likely she knows just because she’s in Kappa, but it still makes her suspicious.
Grace and Pete (Diego Boneta) decide to dig more into the Hag of Shady Lane, finally realizing they shouldn’t have ignored the crazy lady from “Beware of Young Girls” who paints all that come to the asylum. The patient gives them portraits of a woman who looks like Gigi — one is just a portrait of her and the other is of Gigi holding a baby boy and a baby girl.
That reveal should throw viewers into a frenzy, but it doesn’t. It feels too tried. Grace and Pete are also the most annoying team so it might just be because it involved them.
With this information, Grace confronts Gigi while she is making falafel enchiladas, a recipe to match her “vague” and “enigmatic” skin tone — the quips were in rare form. Gigi pushes back against Grace’s accusation, saying she just wants to take down “two with one slice of the knife” and get the murders to stop and her dad all to herself again. It’s even more pertinent now that Gigi and Wes (Oliver Hudson) are apparently engaged.
Meanwhile, Chanel has hired Scotland Yard, no joke, to investigate Grace and Zayday. At first, they only reveal that Chanel No. 5’s (Abigail Breslin) real name is Libby Putney and that she has affinity to go on the “deep Web” and post about poisoning Chanel. Nevertheless, Chanel forgoes this information for the dirt they scooped up on Grace’s mom and happily dishes it to Grace.
As I guessed in the review of the series premiere, Grace’s mom was the bitchy Kappa president who chose to play “Waterfalls” instead of helping the pledge who was bleeding out in the bathtub. That gem then went on to commit several acts of larceny and drunk driving. It was so bad that Wes had to sue for custody to get Grace away from her.
— Scream Queens (@ScreamQueens) November 13, 2015
Now that her mother is no longer the angel she thought she was, Grace is inconsolable and is furious with her father from keeping this — and the fact that he burnt down their old home just to hide evidence — from her. Naturally, she threatens him, saying she is her “mother’s daughter” and that he should stay away if he wants to protect himself. Gigi takes this outburst and couples it with Grace’s dismal GPA to prove to Wes that he should commit Grace.
It seems drastic, but she proved she isn’t exactly stable when she threatened her own father, who she has also accused of being the killer twice. None of these verbal abuses have come with any consequence. Who talks to their parent like this?!
On another note, what exactly is Grace and Wes’ relationship? In the premiere, they seemed like best friends — remember their awkward goodbye and car jam session? — but honestly as soon as Wes got involved with Gigi, Grace treats him like an enemy. Gigi is involved with the Red Devil, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about her insight into Grace and Grace’s need to have Wes all to herself.
Now that Denise is the new house mother — just when you thought she couldn’t get any better — she forces Chanel to apologize to Grace for talking so badly about Grace’s mom, saying that no one should talk about another person’s mom like that. We should respect the people that produce life, but this fellow like a really niche soapbox moment from Murphy’s team. Chanel’s response is killer:
Ultimately, Chanel caves and apologizes while also sharing stories about her backstory and her mother, Happy; brother, Harvard, who was disowned at birth because of cradle cap; and Muffet, who brought great shame to the Oberlins by joining the Peace Corps. Then, the audience is blessed with a flashback of a young Chanel, strutting down the hallway. That child actress is going to go far. She slayed.
While Chanel says she joined Kappa to get the girl bonding she never got with her mother, Grace retorts that she is just continuing the cycle of horror with how she treats everyone in Kappa. For once, Grace’s gag-me heroic speeches make a point.
In a much welcomed, surprise turn, Nick Jonas has finally returned as our beloved, cryptic Boone, who appeared to be killed in the premiere but was then revealed to be a part of the Red Devil plan. This time, though, he isn’t working out a hot routine to “Sunglasses at Night;” he’s wearing a horrible wig and being mistaken for Joaquin Phoenix. Murphy and co. just love their ridiculous references.
Boone is stressed because all he does is “work out and kill people.” He’s on the phone with the other Red Devil, saying they need to get rid of Gigi because she’s the one killing their brand. He says they need to “take her out and finish what they set out to do.”
How does Jonas always manage to create the greatest cliffhangers?
“Mommie Dearest” was definitely one of the best episodes of the season. Scream Queens still needs to work on finding the best balance between characters. It’s either heavily saturated with someone or that character isn’t featured at all. Note the use of Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) this episode. The “Night of 1,000 Compliments” bit was not enough for one of the MVPs of the series. The same goes with No. 3, Denise and Munsch. They are the show’s heavyweights, and the creators need to know how to best use them.
Nevertheless, “Mommie Dearest” was solid all the way through, but there was really nowhere to go but up from “Beware of Young Girls.” At the same time that Curits and Nash shined, the wit was sharper than normal. There’s not much more you can ask for from a Ryan Murphy production.
- Chanel No. 5: Why are you wearing my clothes?
Denise: The bigger question is, “Why are you the same size as a 40-year-old woman?”
- Chanel: I’m an American. I don’t have to understand anything.