SCREAM: THE TV SERIES - SEASON 1 - Episode Guide and Reviews
Episode 1 - Red Roses
Director: Jamie Travis
Writer: Jill Blotevogel, Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie
Summary: 20 years after the death of a deformed serial killer, a new mystery murderer emerges to stalk the teens of Lakewood.
After posting a shaming video online of classmate Audrey Jensen kissing another girl, Nina Patterson is dropped off at her parents’ mansion by her boyfriend Tyler O’Neill. While Nina is home alone, Ghostface impersonates Tyler and taunts Nina with video clips and text messages sent from Tyler’s phone. Nina’s hot tub swim session is interrupted when Tyler’s severed head is suddenly thrown into the pool. Ghostface then kills Nina.
Emma Duvall studies with her boyfriend Will Belmont before having breakfast with her mother Maggie, who works as the coroner in the town of Lakewood. Emma teases her mother about Maggie’s possible romantic connection to Sheriff Clark Hudson. At George Washington High School, Audrey commiserates with her friend Noah Foster about the “Audrey’s Face Suck Extravaganza” video. Emma and Will discuss the video with their friends Brooke Maddox, Riley Marra, and Jake Fitzgerald. In Language Arts class, Emma and her friends take notice of new transfer student Kieran Wilcox, who recently moved to Lakewood. Nina’s parents return home and discover their daughter’s dead body in the pool.
Word of Nina’s death makes it to school. One rumor regarding the killer’s identity suggests that Brandon James has returned to Lakewood. Serial killer history enthusiast Noah tells the story of how Brandon James, who had a caring older brother named Troy, was a teenager with Proteus syndrome who died 20 years earlier. Brandon had fallen in love with a girl named Daisy, but when she became frightened by his appearance following an unmasking at the school’s Halloween dance, a group of drunken jocks beat him. Brandon then killed five students. Cops later shot Brandon during an arranged meeting with Daisy on the pier. Daisy is revealed to secretly be Emma’s mother Maggie.
The students learn that Tyler is missing and is suspected in Nina’s murder. Emma and Will discuss the situation with their friends. In an effort to renew their former friendship, Emma invites Audrey to the party Brooke is throwing as a memorial for Nina. Will and Jake have a tense confrontation with each other over a secret involvement they had with Nina. Language Arts teacher Seth Branson tries unsuccessfully to end his affair with Brooke. Back at home, Emma finds a package on her doorstep addressed to “Daisy.” Emma’s mother plays coy about the name on the label. After Emma leaves with Will for Brooke’s party, Maggie opens the package and finds a note that reads, “Emma looks just like you at that age” along with a bloody animal heart.
Because of the commotion surrounding her shaming video, Audrey’s unexpected arrival at Brooke’s party creates an initially awkward moment. Audrey and Emma later bond while having a poolside conversation. Riley takes an interest in Noah. Maggie calls Sheriff Clark Hudson about the anonymous package and reveals to him that Daisy was her family nickname. Maggie fears that a cycle of murders could be happening again. Clark promises to track down Emma’s father Kevin. Noah continues discussing Brandon James, Nina’s murder, and teenage horror tropes while partygoers drink around the fireplace. Brooke hints that Will and Nina had some sort of connection and Emma realizes that Will slept with Nina. After confronting Will, Emma walks off alone and finds Kieran in the greenhouse. Kieran explains the family circumstances that brought him to Lakewood. Kieran and Emma end up kissing. Brooke investigates a light turning on in the garage. Will finds Brooke in the garage and threatens her to never come between he and Emma again. Having previously passed out, Noah regains consciousness to find himself stripped to his underwear and alone on the pier. Noah goes into the lake and is pulled under the water.
Kieran rescues Noah. Noah insists that someone grabbed him and pulled him beneath the water’s surface. Kieran drives Emma home and the two of them see Sheriff Hudson speaking to Emma’s mother in the doorway. Kieran reveals that the sheriff is his father. Ghostface stalks Audrey as she visits her girlfriend Rachael.
At school, Sheriff Hudson asks Noah to come to the station for questioning regarding Brandon James. Riley and Noah continue flirting with each other. Emma visits Audrey and admits that she was with Nina when the shaming video was recorded. Ghostface taunts Emma over the phone as she walks home. As Noah continues explaining tropes to Riley, Jake is revealed to have secret video of Nina on his computer, Audrey is revealed to have a picture of Brandon James unmasked, and Noah is seen hiding red fluid on his forehead.
When word broke that MTV and Dimension were teaming to bring “Scream” to the small screen, enough venom spewed forth in website comments sections, based on nothing more than a single sentence of news, to make one think Rob Zombie was adapting the series for Platinum Dunes and turning it into “found footage.” Congratulations, “Scream!” With nearly 20 years having passed between your first movie’s premiere and your eponymous television show’s debut, you’ve now existed long enough to be as polarizing of a franchise as “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Halloween,” or (insert idolized video game/film series/TV program here).
There comes a point in every popular property’s life cycle when success and regard reach wide enough that fans feel a need to take self-appointed stewardship over the IP. They and only they know the proper creative course a series can take, like an armchair quarterback insisting s/he knows better than coach what routes to call and which athletes to draft. Deviate from that imaginary playbook and face the fury of internet ire like only a hateful fanboy whip can lash.
“Why couldn’t they make it its own separate thing? The legacy is tainted!” “Where is Sidney Prescott? It should be the same continuity as the movies!” “Wes Craven isn’t directing? Then it’s going to suck!” “What do you mean they changed the mask?” Before jumping to conclusions regarding what “Scream: The TV Series” can, can’t, will, or won’t be, take a brief break from fostering preconceptions sight unseen and keep in mind how much crow was choked down by early naysayers who crapped on the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker.
Who prefers a slavish retelling anyway? That’s what “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” did and its first season plays like a 10-hour extended cut of a 90-minute film we’d already seen.
Since age and affinity for the franchise are apparently relevant in ascertaining alignment with a “Scream” reviewer’s opinion, I’ll offer that I was 21 years old when the first film bowed on the big screen in 1996. I enjoyed the features well enough, and certainly appreciate the influence they had on genre reinvention. However, I wouldn’t rate “Scream” at the top of any personal favorite franchise list that includes “Halloween,” “Phantasm,” Romero’s “Living Dead,” or even “Child’s Play.” I was raised on “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” while audiences reared on 90s horror may have a touchstone passion for “Scream” I don’t possess. Feel free to consider my viewpoint as coming from a casual fan who wouldn’t see sacrilege in anything the television version wants to reimagine, redo, recreate, or remake.
We’re not in Woodsboro anymore. This is Lakewood, a similarly sleepy city in a somewhat macabre cul-de-sac existing somewhere between Dawson’s Creek and Degrassi by way of Twin Peaks. Being a TV town, Lakewood’s George Washington High School is predictably populated by impossibly hot and handsome students, dealing with the usual TV teen troubles of publicly posted shaming videos, bullying, boozing, and the prêt-a-porter character wedge of sleeping with someone else’s boyfriend.
This is also “Scream,” and pilot episode “Red Roses” feels very much in that same vein of self-aware sensibilities that made the movies notable for their meta winks and pop culture nods. That means a script in the know about how many stereotypes are purposefully in play for pastiche of both passé horror clichés and teen soap tropes. Darkly comedic is close to qualifying as a partial classification for “Scream: The TV Series,” although snarkily sly is a more accurate descriptor. This is dialogue, setup, and story proudly presenting itself as trendy and appealing for a tech-savvy MTV set, and it caters to new generation audiences with contemporary entertainment tastes.
Don’t be hasty in passing “Scream” off as a simple CW-style series with a basic cable edge, though. Tipping its cap to origin stories of horror movies past, the urban legend in Lakewood is that deformed teenager Brandon James went on a murder spree two decades earlier, and despite being repeatedly shot into a watery grave, a newly initiated slaughter streak has Brandon pegged as a possible suspect. It’s a slick slasher backdrop founding a larger arc in the background while typical travails of tart-tongued teenagers take up the fore. Or as typical as things can be in a town where severed heads land in swimming pools, and those pools are chummed with red herrings.
(Speaking of red herrings, smart money says to remember seemingly throwaway names like Emma’s father Kevin and Brandon’s older brother Troy, both quickly mentioned in casual conversation but likely playing important roles later.)
If high school-set melodrama with a smirking streak of murderous madness isn’t your style, then that is a more rational reason to be indifferent to or uninterested in “Scream: The TV Series” than an artificial change to a previous prop. To weigh in on an already useless debate, I always found the films’ Ghostface mask cheap and cartoonish. That its Tex Avery elongation could inspire terror instead of laughter is a notion over my head. While scuttlebutt claims the design was altered to avoid a royalty fee, a new origin is introduced for the mask that makes contextual sense for the story while offering an updated look. I say good riddance to the previous mask. Put the two Ghostfaces side by side in a dark alleyway and tell me if the new version wouldn’t put more color in your shorts.
As a standalone story, “Red Roses” doesn’t fully satisfy. After a double homicide opener, the episode settles into exposition before climaxing on a conclusion that is more ambiguous pause than clear-cut cliffhanger. There’s also the matter of a robust roster of characters coming and going faster than impressions can register, although this is likely a necessary evil in a slasher series requiring bodies for future kill counts. There is clemency for these sins seeing as how only so much can be accomplished in 44 minutes and this initial installment has the greater task of establishing a season-sustaining macro-mystery. In that regard, “Red Roses” works as an intriguing introduction to the episodic incarnation of an iconic film franchise.
Slightly sexy and cheerfully cheeky, the first hour of “Scream” showcases enough of the series’ personality and planned direction for viewers to make an informed decision firsthand as to whether or not another nine episodes is worth the personal investment. The TV show might still tie into the film world’s fiction. Or maybe it never will. Either way, just don’t let impossible standards build a hurdle the series cannot jump. Especially when we are only one episode deep.
Episode 2 - Hello, Emma
Director: Tim Hunter
Writer: Jill Blotevogel
Summary: The mystery surrounding Nina's murder intensifies as an investigative podcaster arrives in Lakewood and another student turns up dead.
Ghostface impersonates Audrey over the phone to lure Audrey’s girlfriend Rachael Kay Murray outside and hang her with a noose.
Emma, Brooke, and Riley discuss reporter Piper Shaw’s “Autopsy of a Crime” podcast that is covering Nina Patterson’s death. Emma and Brooke reconcile over Brooke not telling Emma about Will’s affair with Nina. Sheriff Hudson interviews Noah about Brandon James. Jake and Will confer over recent events. Piper Shaw tries interviewing Audrey and Noah and then records Jake threatening Noah after finding his truck vandalized. Kieran interrupts Will’s unsuccessful apology to Emma. While Emma tries apologizing to Audrey about the shaming video, every student is simultaneously texted a photo of Ghostface posing with Nina’s body and the phrase, “payback’s a bitch.”
Mayor Quinn Maddox pressures Sheriff Hudson to locate Tyler O’Neill after the Ghostface gif goes viral. Noah and Riley continue flirting. While Noah discusses Nina’s killer with the rest of Mr. Branson’s class, news comes in that St. Mary’s student Rachael was found hanged, distressing Audrey. Clark and Maggie are called to the scene of the crime.
Noah consoles Audrey. With Rachael’s death presumed a suicide, Emma feels guilty over her involvement in the shaming video. Piper briefly asks Emma about her father Kevin Duvall, the sole survivor of the original Brandon James massacre. Emma flees from a hooded figure in the alleyway outside the Grindhouse coffee shop where she works. Emma escapes around the corner and runs right into Will.
Emma tells Will that she did not send the text that brought him to the coffee shop. Will apologizes for sleeping with Nina. Emma tells Will that she kissed Kieran. The couple discusses a possible reconciliation. Emma visits her mother while Maggie performs Rachael’s autopsy and Emma confesses to her involvement in the shaming video. Maggie discovers that Rachael was likely murdered. Audrey edits a tribute video for Rachael. Maggie tells Clark about Emma’s role in the cyberbullying incident.
During a basketball game between the Lakewood Lancers and the Stanton Bulldogs, Kieran suggests to Emma that Will staged the alleyway encounter in order to seemingly rescue her. After the game, Will kisses Emma in full view of Kieran. Riley and Noah kiss while stargazing on the football field. Mr. Branson and Brooke begin rekindling their affair. Emma tells Audrey that she holds herself responsible for Rachael’s death.
Ghostface torments Emma while she is home alone by threatening her over the phone.
Only two hours in the can and pre-air concerns many vocalized about “Scream: The TV Series” living up to the film franchise’s signature blend of self-aware snark and stylish scares appear less and less founded. Meta winks and slain bodies continue notching respective bedposts as “Hello, Emma” submerges the first arc one fathom deeper to follow-up the pilot’s initial mystery. Worth more immediate evaluation is how well the TV series balances millennial melodrama and beaucoup bloodshed without overemphasizing pop culture references.
“Hello, Emma” tries so hard to be current as to be perhaps foolishly unafraid of dating itself to 2015. “Scream” has its work cut out for itself when someone finds the series down the line and cannot make heads or tails of copious references to “Scandal,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” “Terminator: Genisys,” “Game of Thrones,” “Hannibal,” or a specific identification of “The Walking Dead” having five seasons. Those watching when the program originally airs can dismiss such a critique as irrelevant. But consider that Audrey already has yellow yolk on her face for bemoaning the illegality of her lesbian love affair in an episode filmed before but airing after the Supreme Court made its landmark ruling on gay marriage.
With its MTV branding and teen target demographic, I wondered if I might be too far distanced from high school myself for an optimal vantage point on how well “Scream: The TV Series” hits its intended marks. Then I remembered that although I have twice as many years on primary audience members, I’m no older than the people actually producing the show. Perhaps I’m not as out of tune as I feared.
Whether or not the show’s older creators are out of tune on the other hand, is something only a current teenager can determine. It seems odd to me for dialogue to swipe at Facebook for being passé when another character makes a “21 Jump Street” comment in the meanwhile. Do high-schoolers today even know “21 Jump Street” as a television show, or is it only a Channing Tatum movie? Kieran is also derided by Will when Emma’s on/off boyfriend dubs the model-esque heartthrob “Abercrombie,” presumably indicating that the chain clothing store is something sneer-worthy. Someone like me is either learning what “kids these days” think is hip, or I’m just learning what a writer my age believes “kids these days” think is hip.
Where the pilot episode established relationships between the Lakewood teens of George Washington High School, hour #2 sees those same teens apologizing for broken bonds between those relationships. Brooke apologizes to Emma for not telling her about Will’s indiscretion with Nina. Will apologizes (twice) to Emma for having that affair. And Emma apologizes to Audrey for her role in the shaming video.
Emma accepts her apologies easily, but not so much for Audrey. While Brooke makes it back into Emma’s inner circle and Will takes one foot out of the doghouse, Audrey’s only friend remains Noah. It’s somewhat strange how stubborn Audrey is when it comes to bygones with Emma, seeing as how she can get over her girlfriend Rachael’s horrible death with Road Runner speed during the span of a commercial break.
This is where “Scream” requires tinkering to balance its soap opera and slasher elements. “Scream” aims to bullseye both genres, but the mix ends up like oil and water when in between scenes of the huffing and puffing mayor pressuring the sheriff to stop a killer and students learning of another death at a different school, an awkward nerd-flirting scene between Noah and Riley is inserted that stilts the tempo. The intended cuteness in their courtship is lost in the shuffle when typical TV teen drama is shoehorned hard into a high stakes whodunit. “Scream” can tick all of the necessary boxes it wants. it just has to be careful about where those beats fall in an episodic rhythm.
The script doesn’t need to work this hard to jam everything together, either. As the overly attractive actors settle into their archetypes, the cast’s natural charm is capable of lightening the load of maintaining intrigue. John Karna’s Topher Grace-like demeanor makes Noah a more than suitable Randy surrogate. Bex Taylor-Klaus has a soft-featured edginess perfect for Audrey’s dual layer of emotional girl with a street smart sass exterior. From Connor Weil’s subtle iciness as jerky jock Will to Amadeus Serafini’s catalog-ready handsomeness, everyone has enough of a handle on his/her personality to keep “Scream” captivating on characters alone, no matter how clichéd they might be.
It’s still too early to tell if “Scream: The TV Series” is shaping up to satisfy reasonable expectations for the filmic shoes it has to fill. Yet even with shoehorned pop songs and forced attempts at contemporary cleverness sticking up sore thumbs, the show still has enough bite behind its backstory and enough style to its setup that hopping such hurdles is worth it at the very least to see who Ghostface hits next.
Episode 3 - Wanna Play a Game?
UPDATE: New Scream reviews will resume and catch up soon...
Episode 4 - Aftermath
Episode 5 - Exposed
Airdate: July 28, 2015