Ryan Murphy actually becomes glorious with stellar writing in the "Seven Minutes in Hell" episode of Scream Queens. Billie Lourd and Glen Powell also prove they are the tours-de-force to be reckoned with this season.
People like to use Ryan Murphy as a scapegoat and a punching bag. He is the face of his shows. Everyone associates Glee, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story et al with him and no other production crew member, even though Murphy is often co-creating these shows with frequent collaborators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan.
Critics, myself included, generically blame Murphy for anything that isn’t phenomenal on his shows, especially when it comes to the writing. But Scream Queens’ latest episode, “Seven Minutes in Hell,” should help to quell this scapegoating.
“Seven Minutes in Hell” is the first episode Murphy wrote since the two-part premiere, which were the only episodes that have knocked it out of the park — until now. Brennan wrote the outlandish “Chainsaw” episode, which notably featured Coney and an odd use of the Backstreet Boys. Falchuk wrote the two-part Halloween arc, which saw some great moments like Chanel-o-ween but also had the weakest writing out of all of the episodes so far.
“Seven Minutes in Hell” had the strongest writing overall, even if it was in sake of any advancement of plot. The quips were even more outstanding than usual because they weren’t unnecessarily racist, bigoted or mean.
With Murphy in charge, Emma Roberts really shines. Truly. She isn’t just the one who has the most lines and is on screen most. She’s heavily featured but her screen time means something. She delivers outstanding quips — one time calling Grace “Haggie Gyllenhaal” — and finally becomes the actor we loved in American Horror Story: Coven.
Now, just please stop putting Grace (Skyler Samuels) in those utterly ridiculous hats. Again, this is probably scapegoating but Murphy, you have the power to make it stop.
The episode kicks off strong to the impossibly catchy Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” as the members of Kappa Kappa Tau vote — with white and black marbles, mind you — for their new president: Chanel (Roberts) or Zayday (Keke Palmer). For the first time in Kappa history, there’s a tie.
Despite her storming off and shrieking up the stairs, Chanel is actually pleased. She wanted Zayday win so that the “Chanel Dies Last Plan” can take full swing. Her theory is that the person in charge has the power but also has the most risk; therefore Zayday can incur the wrath first, allowing Chanel to outlive the others. That’s actually not a bad idea.
“Seven Minutes in Hell” also came with another realization: Grace is not Chanel’s foil. Zayday is. Grace is about as interesting as it is to watch paint dry. In reality, she’s more Robin to Zayday’s Batman than Batman herself. She is supposedly somehow connected to the events in 1995, but until that moment, she’s unnecessary. Zayday, on the other hand, is the perfect foil to Chanel, hence why this episode pairing them as co-presidents was amazing.
Zayday’s first action as president is to hold a slumber party because it comes with two guarantees: someone will experiment with lesbianism and secrets are spilled. A lesbian joke at a slumber party? How original. That’s just lazy.
No. 3 (Billie Lourd) is adamant about playing spin the bottle, despite Chanel’s objections that there are not any men present. No. 3 wants to figure out her feelings for Sam (Jeanna Han), and everyone else’s reactions are stupendous.
From backstory to more potential motives for being the killer, Lourd has a lot to do in this episode, and she nails it every time. She and Glen Powell are the definite breakouts and MVPs of the show.
No. 3 admits she has feelings for Sam but can’t act on them because she actually can’t feel and, as the daughter of Charles Manson, the people who love her go crazy. This is evidenced by the ex who committed suicide by being run over by a golf cart and last year’s boyfriend who became so obsessed with her ears that he still writes and threatens to cut them off — hence why she wears the earmuffs. One can’t really kill oneself by being run over by a golf cart. That inherently implies someone helped that man.
The slumber party goes awry when the girls learn the Red Devil has locked them all inside the house. Hold on. Zayday literally said let’s “lock everyone in” for a slumber party. Now, they’re all actually locked in and terrified. Coincidence? I think not!
Thus, the Dickie Dollar Scholars’ panty raid becomes a rescue mission. Step aside everyone; this is when Powell takes over. After making a hilarious quip about bombproof windows, Chad ascends a ladder like a true Prince Charming, though this Prince Charming doesn’t his princess’s pledge of eternal loyalty. He literally makes Chanel take back her declaration of love before breaking through the window to help.
Fortunately, he does so before the Red Devil appears. Caulfield (Evan Paley) isn’t so fortunate as he is finally killed for good. The Red Devil not only drove an axe into his stomach, but the villain also chopped off his head with a golf swing-esque motion, making it likely that Boone is under the mask.
The group all meets for a game of Truth or Dare. Don’t even try to lie, or Chad Radwell will come for you. That rather impassioned monologue about the sanctity of Truth or Dare was bizarre but Powell’s delivery was top notch.
Sam ends up spilling No. 3’s secret about being Charles Manson’s daughter, which antagonizes No. 3 to dare her to take a nap in the bathtub in the scary basement. Yes, the same tub the 1995 Bathtub Baby was born in. It’s an obvious set up for her death. Guess what? She’s killed. But before the Red Devil suffocated her, the villain took off the mask, making Sam say, “I knew it was you” before she was killed.
Following the namesake of the episode, Chad and Chanel do seven minutes in heaven and Chad ends up pledging to be monogamous with Chanel, which comes to the fortune of the Dickie Dollar Scholars who thought it was gross that he was sleeping with so many older women. Isn’t that a male fantasy? Regardless, let’s see how long this lasts for Chad. It’s a hilarious step in his part of the plot.
No. 5 (Abigail Breslin) and Roger (Aaron Rhodes) continue the game after the star couple of the night. The two kiss awkwardly before the Red Devil shoots Roger with a nailgun, ultimately making him look like Hellraiser.
The group then discovers a secret tunnel system, with an entrance from Chanel’s closet. Coincidence? I think not! Chanel and Zayday volunteer to traverse the new discovery, which ends up being a hall of portraits of past Kappa presidents, who all come with a weird, robust legacy from bringing cocaine to Kappa to banning Creedence Clearwater Revival in the ‘70s. We get it, Murphy, you know a lot about pop culture. Obviously, the co-presidents encounter the Red Devil, wielding two axes. While trying to run away, Zayday trips and then does some sweet martial arts moves to avoid being axed. Ultimately and strangely, Chanel comes to her rescue by hitting the Red Devil over the head with a lamp. Of course, neither tries to unmask the killer.
Cut to No. 3 and No. 5 mourning their recently deceased loved ones and ultimately pledging to outlive Chanel. Lourd, your cold, blank face is haunting and amazing. Keep it coming. Breslin, “you’re tacky and I hate you.” Please get killed off the show.
Which brings to be a problem I have with the show: “No one is safe” except for apparently all of the featured actors. Scream Queens came in with the promise of killing someone off every week and so far, it has only dispensed Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas, kind of. Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) even said Sam and the others were “cannon fodder,” aka their deaths were solely done so that the show could say it killed off the most characters in one episode. The value of these deaths was the most minimalistic, however. Killing off Grande in the series premiere was rather expected yet incredibly exciting. That’s why people love Scream and Psycho. Drew Barrymore was on the poster and believed to be a main contender in Scream, yet — spoiler if you somehow haven’t see the Wes Craven masterpiece — she is brutally killed in the opening act. Big-time old Hollywood actress Janet Leigh starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but the master of suspense broke the rules when he killed her in that all too famous shower scene. Ryan Murphy needs to break some rules and start saying goodbye to his saturated credits list of famous names. I nominate Breslin to be the first to go.
The episode ends with girls admittedly having a “wonderfully random” dance party with their new, pink nunchucks. Hester (Lea Michele) proudly holds hers up in the air and shouts “Kappa!” — just like the one girl did at the 1995 party her solo cup. Coincidence? I think not! Then the camera cuts and the Red Devil is peeping through the window. No one is safe. Ever.
“Seven Minutes in Hell” was a pretty strong episode for Scream Queens but it mostly helped to formulate new theories on who the Red Devil is. Fans have plenty of time to think about it as a new episode doesn’t air until Nov. 3 thanks to the World Series.
- Earl Grey (Lucien Laviscount) — He convinced the Dickie Dollar Scholars to go to Kappa because he knew they were having a slumber party and would be locked in. He seems to be in love with Zayday, and we know the Red Devil seems to be infatuated with her after “Pumpkin Patch.” Plus, he is friends with Boone is most certainly in on the plan. He also has annoying British accent that doesn’t fit with the sound of the show.
- No. 3 — She was present on campus when the Red Devil first attacked Kappa House. She probably knew of the secret tunnel system. She admitted to not being able to feel anything, which could easily lead her to kill people. She was probably furious at Sam for admitting her secret and, despite loving her, killed her out of revenge. She is a girl with parental issues — who really knows who her father is and she doesn’t talk much about her mother — and so is the Bathtub Baby.
- No. 5 — She was picked on the most this episode and last and people have a tendency to snap. However, I’d much rather her die then become the one who lasts until the season finale.
- Zayday — She was a little pushy with Grace about having a slumber party and exploring the tunnel system. She was shown being kidnapped by the Red Devil but never trust someone’s word. On a different note, maybe she was kidnapped and then persuaded to join the Red Devil’s mission.
And special shoutout for this interaction after Chanel gifts the nunchucks to the Kappas:
- Grace: “Guys, I joined this sorority to feel close to my mom — to get a taste of the sisterhood that she was so inspired by, and after last night, I really feel it. I’m with you guys, no matter what."
- Chanel: “Thank you for making that announcement that no one cared about.”
Rating: 4.5/ 5