Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 5, “Pumpkin Patch”
Written by Ryan Murphy
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
Even though many things happen during “Pumpkin Patch” that can rightly be described as important developments, this episode is the closest to a table-setting hour that Scream Queens has had so far this season. At the end of the episode, most of the things that were up in the air at the end of the previous installment are still in the same place. The status quo remains unchanged in most ways, which allows time to explore the characters more fully and be more creative with the horror sequences and action scenes. This makes sense, as the episode is technically the middle piece of a trilogy within the season, and as in most trilogies, the storytelling in the second slot is not necessarily weaker than the others, but more incidental. And yet, though much of the plot is not advanced, there is still the feeling of “Pumpkin Patch” being overstuffed, with multiple elements that would have done well to have a few more minutes or detail dedicated to their corner of the episode.
“Pumpkin Patch” includes two of the best horror sequences the series has done so far: the maze sequence and the night vision perspective of the Red Devil in his lair. The maze sequence has all of the panache and stylization that Ryan Murphy and his team are known for and Brad Falchuk’s direction takes it to another level by successfully representing the claustrophobia and confusion that the real-life The Shining recreation entails. The lit columns that the pumpkins are placed upon set the stage with an ethereal feel before the danger even begins, and the snow banks that Chanel wanted so badly for her pumpkin patch party end up being an important piece of the danger once Rodger, Dodger, and Chanel #5 enter the maze. It’s a testament to Scream Queens’ storytelling that although many details are throwaway pieces amidst the larger mystery, there are some things that remain important and deftly tie into later scenes in the same episode or further along in the season. Some of them could be important to the identity of the murderer (like how many candles Chanel had in her closet—about how many were in the haunted house when Hester and Chad found the bodies?) and some contribute directly to the aesthetic of the series as it does here. It isn’t completely necessary for the show to bring up Chanel #5’s Eiffel Tower experience with Roger and Dodger again, but if it means watching Roger die simply because he doesn’t understand why his brother is telling him to walk backwards in the snow, then those tiny details are worth another visit.
Grace, Denise, Wes, Pete, and Gigi finding The Red Devil’s lair is not filled with quite as much flair and suspense as the maze sequence, and the misdirection with Gigi’s attack is entirely transparent, but as far as a traditional trapped-in-the-murderer’s-bunker scene goes, it works like gangbusters. There was bound to be an attack on this makeshift detective’s crew once they entered the lair with nothing but tasers as attack weapons and staging parts of it from the perspective of the killer in night vision goggles is a fun gimmick, even if it isn’t exactly a new idea. There are plenty of clichés while the show’s version of a Scooby Gang explores the killer’s weapons and gadgets, including but not limited to the little old lady who is not suspicious at all of a man renting out her basement in cash and somebody leaving behind the killer with another member of the team while he is knocked out. The winks from the team and the night vision concept don’t entirely make up for these repetitive nods towards horror, but it is still a good time and there isn’t going to be a perfect way to let the killer escape at this point, since it is way too early for their identity to be revealed.
Amidst all the fun with finding the killer’s home base and another low-key murder happening while a KKT sister is out alone, there are also a few storylines that still seem shoehorned into the proceedings with no real payoff. Chanel’s arrest for the murder of Ms. Bean is a win if only because it is the first thing that the audience can root for purely and guilt-free. Chanel is an awful person and definitely killed her housekeeper and as such, should indeed be arrested, but it still says a lot that instead of looking forward to the killer being revealed or the KKT sisters and DDS brothers staying alive, this is the most satisfying development thus far. Of course, she is conveniently bailed out by Chanel #2 and “Predatory Les” after being in jail for only a few hours, not even enough time to sufficiently learn any sort of lesson about her behavior which would have been even more of a winning proposition.
The entire subplot about Hester pretending to turn against her president only to use the pretense to throw Chanel #5 under the bus could have filled up an entire episode and doesn’t really go anywhere other than to further prove how far from grace #5 has fallen, which was already fully apparent. This episode could be easily compared to how Glee operated in the middle of its run, with enough bright spots to be entertaining and make it worthwhile, but not enough to fully sustain each episode’s stated purpose. Besides Zayday’s triumphant return to the KKT house, alive and well and ready to rumble with Chanel, no major developments happen in “Pumpkin Patch” that the audience isn’t already aware of. A table setting episode is fine once or twice in a season, but if the mystery is already slowing down in episode five of a short season, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to worry whether there is enough story to support the full run or if it will simply be more piles of pastiche with the occasional impressive scene sprinkled throughout. It is already semi-difficult to care about who lives, who dies, and who the killer is, so any further lag in the storytelling would be catastrophic to the entertainment value of the show.
- “I told my dad college textbooks were getting crazy expensive. He wired me $300,000 no questions asked.”
- “I’m burping like Robert Durst, they’ll definitely know I’m guilty!” Between this and the Serial reference from the pilot, Scream Queens definitely has its finger on the pulse of recent true crime stories.
- Last week when Hester and Chad entered the haunted house, it was already filled with candles. Jennifer’s obsession with candles is well-established, but could that set Chanel up as a suspect now that is has been revealed she has so many barely-used designer candles?
- Chad’s confused speech about JFK and his ideologies is another bit of hilarious comedic monologuing by Glen Powell.
- Chanel’s Jackie Onassis Kennedy outfit is spot on for her personality, but the fact that there was no blood-spatter homage is slightly shocking based on how much Ryan Murphy usually pushes the envelope and how easy it would have been to work into the episode.
- “I can’t be the president of this joint if I’m dead!”
- “Just wondering where he found a house with a pit, the market for them would be pretty limited.”