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Scream, Ep. 1.08 to 1.10: Strong direction makes for an exciting finale

Scream, Season 1, Episodes 8 to 10
Created by Jill E. Blotevogel, Jay Beattie, and Dan Dworkin
Aired Tuesdays at 10pm (ET) on MTV

There’s something we’ve got to talk about before we can talk about the final three episodes of Scream, and that’s about the sad passing of Wes Craven on Sunday, August 30th. There’s a thousand things to say about Wes Craven and what he did for the horror genre, especially in the Scream franchise, and there are plenty of great pieces on the man all across the internet, so I won’t repeat was has already been articulated. We wouldn’t have this show without Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s Scream franchise, which is one of the only horror franchises without a single bad installment. Even the weakest entry (Scream 3) is still pretty good. Horror, at one level, functions as an interplay between what the audience knows and what the characters know, with the filmmaker inserting themselves into and controlling the conversation. Wes Craven understood that, and knew how to engagingly double-cross his audience. His loss is felt, and may he rest in peace.

Alright, now onto the show.

I have to be honest, I do play favorites. And Ti West, who directed episode nine, “The Dance”, is an all-time favorite. When I found out he was directing an episode of Scream, well, that’s when I decided I would be watching this show. No disrespect to the other episodes and directors, but the Ti West episode is everything that I had been looking forward to. It is the peak of a three-episode finale that features a lot of strong directing work. Rodman Flender took episode eight, “Ghosts”, and bounced off the gory death of Will to create an exhilarating hour of visual rush, most notably in the surreal sequences where a head-sliced Will haunts Emma. In “The Dance”, West keeps the ball rolling and makes the episode truly his. One of the greatest things about West as a horror filmmaker is that he understands tropes and stereotypes and how to cleverly and engagingly subvert them. Essentially, he’s perfect for telling this type of story.

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His episode begins in an intriguing flashback to the killer stealing the iconic Brandon James mask from a records building a year previous, a sort of beginning to the madness. West shoots his scenes in drawn out takes, amping up the tension of climactic moments in a fashion that plays with the audience’s engagement with the material. The episode continually shifts suspicion of the killer’s identity across multiple characters, and West is able to visually compliment the storytelling. A standout moment occurs when Sheriff Clark is going through an empty house he believes has something to do with the killer’s identity; West films the sequence in an engaging single take. His one-take sequence subtly amps up the tension as Clark rounds each corner, giving it a real-time and cinematic feel. When the killer sneaks up on Clark to end the shot, West has given that reveal to the audience the buildup that it deserves.

Jamie Travis picks up the directing baton from West and keeps the tension and excitement going in the finale, “Revelations”. The direction feels appropriately big and climactic for the finale, and it certainly is a satisfying one across the board. Sheriff Clark’s death, with his guts pouring out while Maggie tries to free him, is some brutal footage. It is also perhaps the first death of a genuinely sympathetic character, and works to help get the audience back on the side of the hot teens. The series had spent the better half of its run delighting in the torment of its characters—and was all the better for it—but it had to win viewers back to their side in order to satisfy the reveal and takedown of the killer.

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The reveal of the killer is satisfying, a double twist in the fact that Brandon James’s son is actually his daughter, Piper Shay. Amelia Rose Blaire handles the reveal of the psychopath well, busting out some camp chops as she monologues to Emma. The mythology of Brandon James is enriched in these final three episodes with the realization that the killer would most likely be his offspring (a nice little nod to Scream 3). That mythology comes to fruition with the double twist of Piper being the offspring. Even though she gets shot into the lake by Audrey, she comes back for one final scare before Emma takes the pistol to blow her away. It’s an expected moment of slasher iconography, but it’s still pulled off well. It’s also worth noting that the police are still searching for Piper’s body in the lake when we last leave them, so is this really the end of Piper?

Thankfully, nobody forgets that Piper was attacked by the killer with Will when he was captured. The showrunners give some enticing nudges to the audience about Audrey as the second accomplice. She has letters from Piper and the case records from Brandon James’s killing spree that were stolen with the mask in the intro for “The Dance”, which she burns, and this explains how she knew to be at the lake to shoot Piper before she could reveal her involvement. It reframes her entire arc and makes the season worth rewatching, especially her involvement in the death of her girlfriend Rachel. This new revelation stokes interest in a second season, and I personally am looking forward to it.

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The cast continues to do well in these final three episodes. Tom Maden continues to be the MVP of the hunks in his hammed-up psycho-bro Jake “Wifi Password: TheJakeStopsHere” Fitzgerald, Carlson Young manages to find some sympathy in popular girl Brooke, Amadeus Serafini continues to brood mysteriously as Kieran and is convincing in the brief time the show wants you to believe he is the killer. John Karna finds his footing in the Randy Meeks surrogate of Noah, and Willa Fitzgerald continues to be a steady hand in handling the protagonist role. The prospect of seeing Bex Taylor-Klaus take on the full-time villain role in season two is certainly something to look forward to.

One of the great joys of the Scream films is the genuine engagement and anticipation in trying to figure out who the killer is. These final three episodes successfully replicate that feeling. This season went from a show I was watching in anticipation of Ti West’s episode to a show I was watching in genuine anticipation of each episode. It was never prestige television, but Scream got quite good at being the work of pop horror that it wants to be, and that’s all you can ask for from a show, that it gets good at being itself.


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