Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 7, “Beware of Young Girls”
Written by Ryan Murphy
Directed by Barbara Brown
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
The closing sequence of this episode is one of the best, if not outright so, things that Scream Queens has done thus far. From the decision to have Munsch completely admit to killing her husband, while dancing around with a glass of wine and a satisfied look on her face nonetheless, to the decision by the Chanels to go after suspected murderers Grace and Zayday and take the house back, more is accomplished in the last five minutes than in much of the rest of the season. The pan from Grace and Zayday entering the sorority house as a happy pair up to the shadows of the four Chanels’ heels and skirts, before shifting over to them standing on the staircase, is a great way to make the shot more interesting and a nice artistic touch. At this point it doesn’t really matter who the girls think the killer actually is based on facts, only that everybody is starting to crack and turn against everybody else in drastic ways. In this episode alone Chanel is again a bully, then a target, before targeting her co-president and other KKT sister for the guillotine. The characters thinking logically about who the killer is and why they’re doing this is much less entertaining than all involved starting to jump to even more drastic conclusions and deciding to do something about it. Until now the interpersonal relationships have been based on everybody mostly being on the same side, even if they had their doubts about sisters and colleagues and friends. But the collective mental snap of a group under pressure will be a sight to see.
Ground zero for the first legitimate trip into crazy town is Dean Munsch, almost accidentally on purpose. This is the first time that Jamie Lee Curtis has gotten to do more over multiple scenes than just chew scenery and act menacing. Here, she actually is menacing and not even in the campy way that much of Scream Queens has made their villains. Munsch is fully into the deep end throughout the hour, even before it is revealed that she is indeed the murderer of her philandering ex-husband. The sight of Curtis in the same outfits as fabulously appropriate guest star Tavi Gevinson is perfection, especially the beret and plaid dress. The audience already knows Munsch is slightly off because of her behavior in 1995 and the fact that she guiltlessly sleeps with students, but watching Curtis’ pitch perfect descent into smugness and false concern over something the viewer only later finds out she is actually guilty of is essential to the character’s worth in the larger ensemble. Instead of just being a symbol of the administration and a faux-villain because of her decisions regarding campus safety, now Munsch is a legitimate threat: it is confirmed she has crossed the line into killing someone, rather than just acting threateningly. This probably takes her out of the running to be the actual killer—that would be too easy and not much could happen between now and the end of the season if it were her—but this is finally a great showcase episode for the most high-profile actress involved in the show.
Shifting back to the final sequence, exploring why the artistic choices made throughout are so acutely well done requires a dive into the music choice. “Beware of Young Girls”, from which the episode gets its name, is a song written and performed by Dory Previn, originally released in 1970. There are multiple levels as to why this song is such an apropos choice for this episode, all of them well-matched to the ongoing plot lines. The most obvious reason the song is used is that much of the cast are “young girls” who are going after each other with all of the scheming and violent plans they have in their holster in order to take each other down. It also includes lyrics about young girls craving to “cry at a wedding and dance on a grave”, and dancing on Chanel 2’s grave is exactly what Chanel is relishing in as the episode opens. As a straight warning, “Beware of Young Girls” seems like a good choice. But going deeper, Previn’s backstory and romantic strife around the time of the song’s release has much in common with the episode as well.
For those unaware, Dory Previn was married to André Previn, a famed orchestral conductor known worldwide. In the late ’60s, approximately a year before the song was written, André began an affair with Mia Farrow while both were working in London and subsequently got her pregnant. D0ry found out about the affair and the child and was finally spurred to divorce her husband, who then went on to marry Farrow. There are enough similarities in that situation alone to match up with the in-show situation between Munsch, her husband, and naïve young Feather (not to mention Dr. Munsch being a professor who teaches a class on The Beatles, a band popular during Previn’s era). Going even deeper though, is the fact that Dory spent time in a psychiatric facility both during her marriage to André and after he left her for Mia, similar to Feather’s ultimate fate. In turn, Tavi Gevinson’s overall aesthetic in this episode is very similar to that of Mia Farrow. It all fits together so well that if that piece of the script was written specifically with Previn’s life story in mind, it would not be surprising. One of the best TV music cues this year.
That the show is relying more and more on character interactions and less on story as the season goes on is a great sign for a strong finish, now that it is closer to the end of its run than the beginning. Rather than magically giving an answer to who the killer could be via seánce, Ariana Grande’s return as a ghost and a corpse uproots an entirely new layer of Chanel’s insecurities that weren’t completely apparent before. Grace and Pete are still the worst investigators of all time, yet their dorky romance is a detail that adds some sort of layer to their work together without tying directly into the murders (unless one of them is the murderer, that is). Everything could be blown to pieces quality-wise as soon as the next episode, but this is easily a series high.
- Feather discovering her lover’s dismembered head and body parts is a perfect evocation of classic slasher films, where the audience and the on-screen damsel know exactly what they will find behind the final door.
- “Didn’t you see the movie?” “The movie Ouija? No. No one did.”
- “I wish this jacket had some fun patterns. Like something the Fresh Prince would wear.”
- “Last time she went to jail she immediately got bailed out! I mean, yeah, by me. But still.” Once she isn’t the central focus of the episode anymore, Billie Lourd’s one-liners shine much brighter.
- “I am running an institution of higher learning. And designing dresses for awards season. Give me a break!”