Ryan Murphy and co. went a bit overboard with horror film references in the last Scream Queen episode. 

In satirizing a genre, it’s typical for a work to give a nod to the original. In Scream Queens, which is supposed to be a type of satire of the horror tropes, Ryan Murphy and co. head bang to the classics.

The second installment of the Halloween episodes, “Pumpkin Patch,” throws its love of The Shining and Silence of the Lambs — and even a little Empire of the Ants, if you will — in viewers’ faces. Every episode has referenced a film of note in the horror industry, from Halloween to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The only one to really care about is, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis’ homage to her mother Janet Leigh’s — the actual original scream queen — famed shower scene in Psycho. They’re expected. Murphy loves to show off how much he knows about society and pop culture. “Pumpkin Patch,” however, was particularly blatant in its references. Chanel (Emma Roberts) screams about her need to have a perfect replica of the maze from The Shining, which ends up looking just like the one in the film. Though, The Shining’s maze didn’t include a fountain with cherub pee vodka and Red Bull. Pity. Interesting how they can make that whole thing in what seems like a day. Later, Zayday (Keke Palmer) incurs the Red Devil’s Silence of the Lambs-esque tendencies as the villain lowers items into her trapdoor cellar. The use of night vision goggles is also a less than subtle nod to the chilling scene with Jodie Foster.

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References are fun, but don’t throw so many big names into one episode. It’s too much.

“Pumpkin Patch” was also the first episode to feature the show’s actual opening credits. For the past four episodes, only a title screen has been used. The credits are long, but there’s quite a long cast list to get through. The opening credits aren’t exactly riveting. The song “You Belong To Me,” sung by Heather Heywood, is beautiful and offers the perfect chilling vibe, but we could really do without the dozen cuts of the actors screaming. We get it. The show is called “scream queens.” But let’s analyze the sequence as Murphy often likes to hide Easter eggs in these types of things. For one, Grace (Skyler Samuels) is first shown engulfed in flames. Is this a nod to her potential fate? It would mean she dies the way her mother supposedly did. Eerie. Zayday is shown struggling with either a plastic bag or plastic wrap, which means someone might try to asphyxiate her. Nasim Pedrad’s name appears while a pair of heel-clad feet walks over someone’s apparent dead body. The Red Devil pops out of the bathtub Billie Lourd is soaking in, so that could either mean she also dies in the bathroom or it’s a nod to the 1995 bathtub incident that sparks the action. Grace is shown hiding in a mini refrigerator. Same. Glen Powell is screaming while submerged in a bathtub, and, lastly, Diego Boneta screams and then winks before closing the lid to a coffin. 

Here’s hoping they don’t play it every week. Once every five weeks will be just fine.

The tension between Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin) and Chanel finally implodes after No. 5 fails to acquire Led Zeppelin for Chanel’s haunted pumpkin patch and Chanel forces No. 5 to dress as Mary Todd Lincoln for Halloween because she said they’re both psychotic. It’s finally the time that No. 5 actually can’t take it and leaves.

Hester (Lea Michele) approaches No. 5 later, telling her to take her anger out on Chanel by helping Hester acquire votes against Chanel and for Zayday in the Kappa president election. The two go to lobby candle vlogger Jennifer (Breezy Eslin) for her vote. They still want her even after they discover she’s also an ant farm fanatic and has an entire colony set up on her bedroom wall.

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Next thing we know, Chanel is arrested in class for the murder of Ms. Bean. As she is put into the cop car, she sees Hester, No. 5, No. 3 (Lourd) and Jennifer standing off to the side, looking fierce as hell.

With Chanel now in jail, No. 3 is in charge. I’m all for it, but I cannot let the scene in which everyone is fake eating slide. Ryan Murphy, you preach all of the time that you stand for the underdog and champion the average person. How does sending a message that these girls have an eating disorder help the people you claim to write to?! It’s toxic. The cotton ball thing was weird and bad enough in the last episode, but this is ridiculous. It’s not funny. It’s sad. Cut it out.

Even though she made friends with a Laverne Cox lookalike, Chanel doesn’t stay in jail for long. That Orange is the New Black reference was just lazy, Murphy. Again, cut it out. Two seconds later, the chic HBIC is back and strutting down the hallway.

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The rivalry between Chanel and No. 5 experiences a second explosion as Chanel catches No. 5 wearing her Jackie O costume. That’s the last straw, and Chanel forces No. 5 to get the pumpkin patch ready or else she’ll reveal the video showing No. 5 masturbating to Dora the Explorer. Go figure that “masturbating” and “Dora” are in the same sentence. Really, Murphy? Do you actually think that was a sly, funny line?

While at the patch with Rodger (Aaron Rhodes) and Dodger (Austin Rhodes), No. 5 is chased by the Red Devil. Interesting how that happens after Chanel sends her to that location. Coincidence? I think not! To evade the Red Devil, the trio naturally runs into the maze. Logical. Despite the fact that they are literally running for their lives, Rodger and Dodger decide to force No. 5 to pick between them. She picks Rodger, and then the Red Devil embowels Dodger with hedge clippers. That’s a valid order of events.

Breslin is the absolute weakest link of the show. Remember how stellar she was in Little Miss Sunshine?! What happened?! Breslin is the worst actress, especially in comparison to the phenomenal talent on the cast list. No. 5 is a pointless character. She’s a minion that tries to be the HBIC. No. 3 at least has her shtick with the monotone, deadpan delivery and earmuffs. No. 5 has nothing. She tries to be just like Chanel, which might be the point, but it makes her incredibly dispensible and if someone has to die, she can easily go.

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Grace and Pete (Boneta) walk in on Wes (Oliver Hudson) and Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) having sex, or as Gigi called it “high-fiving.” Emmy for guest actress anyone? Unfortunately, that prompts a storyline in which Grace whines about how she isn’t pleased that her dad has moved on from her mom. Oh come on. That’s unfair. Also, Grace, STOP WEARING NEWSBOY CAPS. Please go back to being held captive by Twisty.

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The four then casually go to Dean Munsch’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) office where she is already chatting with Denise (Niecy Nash) about how they are both having sex with Chad Radwell. “You have the right to remain sexy.” Now, THAT’S a duo whose spinoff comedy I would watch regularly. Munsch has actually hired Secure Enforcement Solutions to find Zayday — even though Denise is convinced Zayday is the killer: “Bitch had a chainsaw under her bed.” I mean, valid.

After an unbelievably pointless and annoying discussion scene, the group just traces Zayday’s cell phone to an old woman’s basement that someone has been renting monthly with cash payments.

Grace, Pete and Wes explore the Red Devil’s sewing lab aka lair aka the place Zayday was held captive. Red Devil masks are sitting on mannequins — one even has night vision goggles on it. Coincidence? I think not!

Next thing we know, the lights are out, and cue the night vision POV lens as the camera switches to the POV of the Red Devil as the villain stalks Gigi and Denise in an apparent operating room that is full of weapons. It’s Silence of the Lambs all over again.


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Denise jumps and accidentally tases Gigi, who then tases the Red Devil. Wow, what a chain of events! Instead of ripping off the Red Devil’s mask and discovering who it is, Denise runs into the other room to Grace, Pete and Wes. Of course, when they return, the Red Devil is gone and Gigi looks incredibly suspicious as she relays a tale of how the Red Devil hit her over the head and ran up the chute.

Zayday apparently escaped shortly before the crew arrived. Of course, that was after the Red Devil basically confessed its love to Zayday by preparing a candlelit dinner of "Oakland nachos," Zayday's favorite dish. She doesn't reciprocate the feelings and instead is shown stabbing the Red Devil's hand with a fork before running away. Again, no one has tried to take off the mask?! That should be your first instinct.

Cut to this week’s cliffhanger being Gigi interacting with the Red Devil! “He’s gotta go,” she tells the Red Devil. WHO?! Oy vey, now this is how to end a solid hour of TV. Keep the Gigi cliffhangers coming!


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Theory: Gigi raised the Bathtub Baby and it is now running around as the Red Devil.

Scream Queens has become an unending roller coaster of quality. Many of the quips hit the bullseye, but then there are the blatant and uncreative nods to classic horror films, Grace's newsboy caps and Chanel's unceasing rants. Roberts is great in her delivery — and surely has given herself a few sore throats — but while the performance is well delivered, it isn't always welcomed. Watching someone be a boss and a HBIC is amazing when he or she has the look that slays in and of itself. Roberts has that. That's why she was such a breakout in American Horror Story: Coven. But something is off here. Things aren't campy enough to make Scream Queens a truly campy show. It still looks and feels as if it is trying to be a quality show when its core is leaning more toward campy satire. Unfortunately, it might not be until the end of the season if, and hopefully when, the Red Devil is revealed that the audience can determine what the show is actually going for.

Rating: 3.5/5