Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 6, “Seven Minutes in Hell”
Written by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
During the episodes where Scream Queens is more mediocre than edgy or shocking, as many episodes have proven to be, the watchability comes down to the characterizations of each Greek member and the actors’ performances. In “Seven Minutes in Hell”, neither of these raises the stakes enough for the episode to feel like much of a worthwhile installment. Much of the horror is repetitive after six weeks of violent terror at the hands of The Red Devil(s) and once again, the victim or victims have no consequence in the grand scheme of things. The episode reestablishes that most of the Kappas are incompetent, some are too petty to pay attention to their own safety, and the rest are not even worth caring about when they are inevitably killed off. Even Grace, once the bastion of intelligence and mystery-solving hutzpah, can’t even muster more than a second shiver when yet another “beloved sister” gets the axe (pun intended), yet still foolishly decides to stay on campus out of some misguiding sense of commitment to a sorority she is not even an official part of at this stage. As predicted, the show is now treading water until a sufficient number of episodes have passed and legitimate main characters can start being killed off—not just the Dickie with no arms.
That Dickie with no arms, Caulfield, is naturally one of the funniest parts of the episode, even in the midst of being murdered as all of his friends and peers look on. An armless fraternity brother trying to climb a ladder, failing, and immediately getting beheaded for his trouble doesn’t sound like a humorous situation, but Scream Queens‘ camp sells it. Chad too is having a ball during the panty raid and Truth or Dare; his speeches to Hester and Chanel are overtly misogynistic as always, but he continues to have some great one-liners, which makes his screeds at least forgivable for a fictional character. That the funniest and most emotional parts of the episode stem from the Dickie Dollar Scholars is telling though; even the frat’s brief intervention for Chad because he is sleeping with so many older women is a cute side-story.
Like the Red Devil sequences, much of the political machinations and popularity tomfoolery that the Kappas are involved in is becoming repetitive only six episodes into the season. Chanel is terrible, her minions all hate her on various levels, and the Grace/Zayday duo is watching from the sidelines with no additional clues about the murderer. The world spins blandly on. Much of the overload of Kappas this episode stems directly from the near complete lack of adults throughout. Without the evil empire presence of Dean Munsch or the aloof idiocy of Papa Wes there is no letting up from the pink lacy terror that is Chanel and her underlings. The world of Kappa Kappa Tau is fully realized in all of its puffy and terrifying glory, but sorority row is still better in medium doses. The brief appearance of all the remaining adult supervisors, save Queen Denise Hemphill, near the end of the episode feels like a breath of fresh air and a necessary interlude in the stylish monotony of a sorority sleepover.
The over-commitment to KKT is nowhere more apparent than in the overuse of Billie Lourd’s Chanel #3. Previously her one-liners and dead-eyed gaze were a form of comic relief, and it is usually nice to go deeper into the motivations of characters rather than using them as background fodder, yet Lourd can’t handle what the show hands her in her default spotlight episode. The reason for #3’s earmuffs, and Lourd’s delivery of that fact, falls flat. It’s not so much that Lourd acts like she is a dead-eyed sorority girl, but that she seems like she isn’t acting at all. Her interactions with Sam are not an intriguing dive into her feelings or justifications for why she behaves the way she does because the show uses her lesbian leanings as yet another perch for its faux-edgy sexual commentary. By filling time with Lourd’s Chanel #3 instead of other already-established characters, the show loses any of the story balance it found after the first stretch of episodes.
With the president position now occupied by both Zayday and Chanel, and one or both of them trying to get the other one killed, the importance of The Red Devil is now even more intriguing. Zayday has escaped his or her murderous attempts multiple times, which is lucky at best and extremely incriminating at worst. Pete isn’t even in this episode due to a murky excuse about “studying”, which goes a long way towards cementing him as at least one of the killers and Grace as the other. To speculate further based on the amateur detectives’ relationship, Grace and Pete being two sides of the same coin makes a lot of sense. Pete’s lack of attendance at the sleepover means he could be the primary killer this episode, while Grace could have done the honors in the tunnel below the house. Sparing Zayday is true to their seemingly legitimate friendship, and if this were indeed the case, Grace’s nonsensical insistence on staying in the house instead of leaving with Wes at least has a motivation. Sam definitely knew the killer, but that is possibly the most obvious clue the show could have given based on what the audience already knows from past murders. Otherwise, Gigi and a mystery participant is the next best option. Next week’s episode promises to finally kill off a major character and bring back some of the already-dead-but-not-really Greek members to wreak havoc on the rest. With any luck, the even-keeled action and character balance from previous weeks will return to life with them.
- “I’ve had to develop some serious acting skills to have sex with Chad.”
- “I’ve learned a few things from learning A&E documentaries about the mafia.”
- “Secretly I was hoping you’d be killed so I didn’t have to hurt your feelings…”
- “I love Space Mountain. Best ride at Disney Land. But I love my penis more.”
- “…banning macrame, fringe vests, and Creedance Clearwater Revival songs.”
- “What a great way to pretend all those people we know aren’t brutally murdered.”