The Scream Queens finale identified the Red Devil and brought the comedy, but with its lack of cast deaths, it failed to deliver its promise of being in the comedy and horror game.
Ryan Murphy promised Scream Queens would be a comedy-horror (or horror-comedy) series. Murphy isn’t exactly one to be relied on, but for whatever reason, viewers — including myself — continually trust him and his partners Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk. Comedy-horrors, such as a personal favorite Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods, have happened before. The works manage to elicit a healthy dose of laughs while still knowing how to bring the scary or kill its actors.
All season long, Scream Queens failed to be a horror show.
It’s been griped about dozens of times. Murphy and co. were utterly unwilling to dispense of its army of actors on the series. The list of names is impressive. Who wouldn’t gawk at seeing Jamie Lee Curtis, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Keke Palmer, Emma Roberts and more on one show? But even The Cabin in the Woods had Chris Hemsworth, and Joss Whedon wasn’t afraid to kill him off part of the way through the film.
The series premiere started off strong as it featured the deaths of two high-profile actors: Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas — his was at least for the time being. Those deaths created the illusion that Murphy and co. might deliver on their promise that the series would be a weekly slasher thriller in which no one was safe. Instead, viewers got a sometimes-slasher-of-side-characters-comedy-with-a-dash-of-scary series. As Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) described in “Seven Minutes in Hell,” the deaths that actually happened were “cannon fodder.” Their impact was minimal because they were side, filler characters. Candle-loving Jennifer (Breezy Eslin) gave a strong performance, but the remorse for her character subsided after the next scene in the episode.
Holding out to kill the famous actors until last could have been acceptable, but Murphy and co. chose to kill only one of them, and that is where the show burned its bridges with viewers.
In the two-part season finale, the Red Devil was finally revealed (SPOILER!) to be Hester (Lea Michele). Shocker. Ryan Murphy-darling Michele would of course come out on top. In one of the many guesses made after watching the season premiere, I initially suggested Hester might be the Red Devil but never continued to point at her because the show never let any one character be the main suspect for too long. It was exciting to go into the finale unknowing, but the playing field might have been too even for Hester’s reveal to be that shocking. After all, she was the nerdy girl who was obsessed with the Chanels and death.
The finale failed to really impress as it became inundated with exposition and monologues as Hester explained her every hope and dream with the plan, Pete (Diego Boneta) tried to explain his involvement and in the epilogue as everyone was annoying peachy keen. Instead of the expected action — when we thought Murphy would keep his promise that only four would survive, meaning seven had to die in two hours — we got dialogue, and it was a let down.
Despite the finale failing in two major ways, it did succeed in one: the comedy. Scream Queens did manage to maintain its outlandish, funny appeal throughout the season. Most of the time, episodes were just filled with quips that were biting, sassy, sly or peculiar. The two-part finale managed to be funny in not just one-liners, but also components of actual plot.
The first part, “Dorkus,” begins with Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Pete, which would normally be a snoozefest. Instead, it was one of the best scenes the duo has ever had together. Samuels exhibited raw emotions as Pete tried to explain his involvement with the Red Devil. It was the first time he was tolerable. Congrats. Apparently, Pete has known the identity of the Red Devil since the night Shondell was murdered — aka the pilot — but didn’t disclose the information because he felt his and the Red Devils’ mission was the same: To take down the “dinosaurs” of the Greek system and stop its reign of terror and hazing. He ended up getting in deeper than planned when the Red Devils made him kill Rodger (Aaron Rhodes). However, they didn’t force Pete to put a nail gun to Rodger’s head — that was his own sick mind.
Example of the acting talent in this scene: Grace tries to get away, but Pete holds her back, saying “No, no, no. I’m not going to let you go from my life that easily,” as she cries against the wall. THAT is the kind of scene featured in a horror show. Really A-plus work to Samuels for that scene. Maybe the newsboy caps had been cutting of the circulation to her brain and forced her to be a terrible actress for the previous parts of the season.
The biggest shocker of Pete’s involvement might be that he is the one that killed Boone because he knew Boone was the muscle behind the operation. He also inexplicably was the Red Devil who chased the Chanels through the mall in “Black Friday.” His motive for that mini killing spree is unknown.
Continuity error: Watch Boneta’s hair during the scene right before he reveals that he killed Boone. Initially as he stands in his closet, Boneta’s hair is down and messy. A cut to Grace and back to him then shows it gelled and styled. Blatant errors like that don’t happen often, so that was weird to see.
Pete’s involvement makes sense. He would be the one who would be persuaded to somewhat join the Red Devils’ cause, as he was severely burned by the Greek system after being denied from the Dickie Dollar Scholars and being made a fool of by Chanel (Emma Roberts). Plus, that slow motion shot of him walking down the secret Kappa tunnel before he killed Rodger was chilling. Boneta proved his worth in the final moments. And I say final moments because just before Pete is about to tell Grace who the Bathtub Baby Girl is, the Red Devil jumps out of his closet and stabs him. THAT was also the scene viewers needed more of not just in the finale, but also in the season overall. It was so quick, terrifying and shocking. I won’t lie. I actually screamed.
Also in the “Black Friday” episode, Chanel promised to write the “missive to end all missives” to her Kappa sisters after they abandoned her by the pool when they were all supposed to join together to kill Dean Munsch. The missive was typed out on the walls or statues near the Kappas, which was cool, but the actual content was more of just a recap rant than a message with purpose. Regardless, the Red Devil forwarded it to the campus, and now the entire world hates Chanel.
Without her overwhelming popularity, Chanel decides to kill herself Cleopatra-style and lays on her bed while she waits for the asp (Egyptian cobra) to sense her body heat and kill her. It was so dramatic that it was funny, and Roberts knows how to play overdramatic well.
It’s not until Zayday (Keke Palmer — who was grossly underutilized in the series) partners with Chanel — remember that little-used storyline that they’re co-presidents? — that the Red Devil attacks them. Though this time, it was just the pizza deliveryman who was forced into the suit. Unfortunately for Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd), he doesn’t have the pizza, but he does have tons of dynamite strapped to his body.
What ensues was an eye-opening sequence. The Kappa girls run in slow motion away from the doomed deliveryman. After what appeared to be a goof, the bomb and the man violently explodes in the foyer. That is the kind of violence and horror that has been missing from the season. With Pete’s death and the explosion, it would seem Scream Queens is finally on track, yet those are the only two deaths featured in the finale.
Now, it’s all dialogue from here.
Grace enlists Wes’ (Oliver Hudson) help to distract Dean Munsch while she and Zayday steal records on the Kappas to figure out which sister is the Bathtub Baby Girl. By distract, I mean finally have sex with after Munsch had lusted after Wes all season. They spend way too much time on this scene, which is made even more awkward with Hudson’s weird dad bod. Somehow, Wes falls for Munsch because it was the best sex he’s ever had. She seems hesitant at first and then says that Grace needs to go because she finds her unbearable.
As out of the blue as this sudden romance is, what’s weirder is how Wes doesn’t protest this ultimatum. All season long, he’s been preaching about how all he wants is what’s best for Grace and that he’s trying to protect her — he’s a #goodfather, remember? — yet he doesn’t say a word when Dean Munsch proposes that he get rid of her. It was completely out of the blue and unnecessary.
To lick her wounded reputation, Chanel decides to go on an apology tour whose first visitor will be Melanie Dorkus (Brianne Howey), the former Kappa president who received an acid spray tan the year prior to the start of the events of the series.
After a bit of a drawn out yet still hilarious bit between Chanel and No. 3 about Dorkus looking like Jason Voorhees and The Toxic Avenger, Chanel attempts to stab Dorkus, thinking that she is the killer. Roberts shined in that scene.
Grace and Zayday find that Hester is the one with the faked records, and stop Chanel just in time. By fake records, we mean Hester’s Social Security number was 123-456-789, and her permanent address was listed as Sesame Street for Christ’s sake.
They race back to Kappa House to find Hester stabbed in the eye with a high heel. Disgustingly, she wakes up and accuses No. 5 (Abigail Breslin) as being the Red Devil. Cue the eye roll because any attention given to No. 5 is the worst kind of attention.
But wait until the second part of the finale, “The Final Girl(s),” to find out that Hester is the Red Devil and — maybe most annoyingly of all — she got away with it.
Hester spends half of “The Final Girl(s)” explaining her backstory and then successfully convinces everyone that the Chanels are the killers. Everyone loves to hear the villain give their motive speech, and while the scenes of Hester in the asylum were hilarious, it didn’t leave enough time for other things to satisfy as well. However, Murphy and co. weren’t planning on satisfying viewers in any other way beside monologue, so we’re left listening. Had Murphy and co. actually planned on killing any more characters, they would have been pressed for time. Instead, they chose to make everything peachy keen and wrap everyone’s storyline up fairly nicely.
As much as it is annoying to be denied the killer scary finale it felt we were promised, Lea Michele’s domination of the screen makes some of it worth it. She’s ultra-funny in the asylum where she proves how much smarter she was than Boone and how she was the brains behind the entire operation. I dare you not to laugh out loud when Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) quizzes a young Boone and Hester on weapons. Michele is an accomplished actor, and if someone had to monologue for 30 minutes, I’d rather it be her than Abigail Breslin, who was hinted at as another plausible Red Devil.
Hester’s accusations against the Chanels take a little too much time, but it still remained hilarious as the Nickelback jokes continued and as it was revealed that Hester easily convinced No. 5’s parents to falsely testify that No. 5 is the Red Devil because they just hate their daughter so much.
I would also definitely watch a spinoff where Billie Lourd plays Dirty Helen, No. 3’s supposed split personality. A-plus.
The cherry on top of the sequences is when Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” plays as Denise’s (Niecy Nash) deputized former strippers arrest the Chanels. This is what makes the finale so upsetting. Both parts are the funniest episodes of Scream Queens. Nearly every moment has something to make the viewer crack up. The comedy was never stronger, and it’s more than disappointing that it couldn’t be paired with chilling horror.
Even so, there is one major problem with the plot that goes back to Scream Queens’ biggest problem: the characters it chose to kill. Hester’s motivation was to correct the wrongs of the Greek system and take down people like the Chanels. If that really was her plan, why didn’t she kill the big guns instead of just let them be victims of the justice system? The Red Devils killed fodder: the Kappa pledges, Shondell, Coney (RIP), Dickie Dollar Scholars and 1995 Kappa Mandy Greenwell. This plan was 20 years in the making. Would they really only kill one Chanel (No. 2)? How does killing the weird pledges and idiotic Dickie Dollar Scholars help make their point that the Greek system is problematic or that “the Chanels of the world” deserve to be taken down? It doesn’t make ANY sense.
The epilogue set in May 2016 is the least satisfying of all of the scenes. First and foremost, it’s the first time we see Chad Radwell (Glen Powell). Powell is absolutely the MVP of the entire season. Chad was one of the only consistent characters throughout the season. Powell’s delivery was out of this world. Yet, he only appears for three minutes as the show hookups then breakups him and Denise. They’re my favorite characters, but even I knew that didn’t really work. It just goes to show that Murphy and co. probably weren’t planning on keeping Chad around but realized how talented Powell is and decided to keep him. But it’s illogical because there is no chance that Hester would have allowed Chad to live if it wasn’t a life with her. He only remained alive because she was obsessed with him, so why keep him alive when he gets with Denise full-time?
Dean Munsch wrote a book about “new new feminism” and actually hurt real feminism, as the “new new” movement, she said, can be summarized as “Women are better.” Murphy continually makes series featuring somewhat strong female characters and almost always female casts — just look at Scream Queens itself or American Horror Story: Coven. He even likes to have random moments of feminism in his shows. The “women are better” joke isn’t funny. It’s exactly the reason people don’t support feminism. It could be classified as commentary on the issue, but it wasn’t satirical enough to truly be worthwhile.
Dean Munsch reveals she knew it was Hester all along as she could never forget the faces of the Bathtub Babies — it’s burned into her memory like “Two Girls One Cup.” She threatens to expose Hester, and Hester then threatens to reveal that Munsch killed her ex-husband and that she covered up the 1995 incident. After a momentary stare down, the two decided to move on with their lives and just shake hands and say, “See ya!” As insane as it is, those two characters are incredibly self-serving, so it makes sense, and it was such a treat to see Michele and Curtis work together. There needed to be more of that.
As for the Chanels, Chanel’s outburst in court landed the three of them in the Palmer Asylum for the Insane — Gigi’s legacy. Bless Billie Lourd for maintaining that eerie smile throughout the arrest and trial.
In an unfunny turn of events, the Chanels love the asylum. Their own brand of crazy finally has a home. No. 3 is a lesbian, and No. 5 and Chanel are actually friends. Everything is hunky-dory until Chanel goes to bed one night, opens her eyes and then sees the Red Devil standing over her with a knife.
The final moment isn’t even worth addressing because it’s so cliché. Michael Myers never dies because the franchise has to continue. Or, it’s a dream, but honestly who cares at that point? The end was so dissatisfying that the continuation of the series is unlikely to draw crowds as its freshmen season kind of did. Though if the show does continue, it would probably be set in the asylum. Interesting how that’s just like American Horror Story in how its leaving a “murder house” to go to an “asylum.”
The finale is worth watching for a good laugh, but Scream Queens could have done so much more to make the plot just as worthwhile. It needed to kill its darlings but proved to be too fearful of its own Red Devil to actually let the villain do his/her job.
Best Quotes of the Finale (there were a lot):
- Chanel: Yes, I would like to comment to all the so-called mainstream media, including the weird websites that nobody has heard of who’ve used my name as clickbait. … You can all suck it!
- No. 3: Wait, there’s pizza?!
Chanel: Can you not make it about you for one second?! Stop wallowing and start concentrating on what’s really important: restoring my reputation.
No. 3: Is that what’s really important?
Grace: No, dad! No, we didn't. ... I was going to though.
Wes: That’s nice
Wes: I mean, if that’s the way our bodies talked together
Dean Munsch: That’s a gross way to put it.
- Melanie Dorkus: I know. I recognize the island splash scent of that douche you use.
Chanel: You’re saying you would’ve been OK if it was the guy from Nickelback?
No. 3: I lost my virginity to a Nickelback song.
No. 5: This is horrible!
Chanel: I know! That was such a fabulous pair of shoes.
- Dean Munsch: I thought ‘Why not?’ especially since the new Kappa seems to be aligned so clearly with mine and the rest of the student body’s almost militant commitment to political correctness and acceptance of different and unusual points of view — as long as they’re always left-leaning.
Hester: You might have noticed that I’m the only Chanel left. That’s because I got away with it.
Gigi (in a flashback): I think he’s dead (after stabbing the original Red Devil dozens of times)
Denise: Excuse me for a second while I drop the mic
No. 5’s mom: As soon as she learned to talk, I wanted to disown her. … I mean, she just sucks. Our daughter sucks.
No. 3: Yes, I’ve become penpals with my biological father Charles Mason. I wanted my read dad to help me with some growing up stuff like how to French kiss a boy or how to know when I met Mr. or Miss Right, but when he replies backs his advice is always ‘Maybe you should murder your sorority sisters.’
Rating: 2.5/ 5 (1.5 stars for the comedy; 1 for Lea Michele’s A-plus delivery)