Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 8, “Mommie Dearest”
Written by Ian Brennan
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
Yet another episode where Scream Queens spins its wheels and revolves mainly around repetitive conversations betweens the sorority sisters, Wes, Gigi, and Dean Munsch. With only four episodes left, it is clear the show is content to leave all of the major reveals for the last few hours rather than having the story spread out evenly throughout the entire season. A table-setting episode here and there is okay and mostly necessary for many shows, but when there is only a 12-episode run and the crux of the drama comes from action scenes and dramatic information dumps, the lack of solid forward momentum is a problem, and it’s one that Scream Queens doesn’t quite know how to avoid. Either that or, the more likely option, Ryan Murphy and his team think that watching petty, shrill, sorority girls repeatedly insult each other hour after hour is more entertaining in theory than it is in execution.
Whereas the problem in the early going was that the audience was finding out information that the characters didn’t know yet and the show was taking too long to reveal it (i.e. Boone is alive, Gigi is in on the plot), the issue at this stage in the game is the exact opposite. The audience knows all these details already, they’ve already had the shock of Boone being a part of the plot and faking his own death or of Gigi being the master planner of the killer triangle, so watching the characters come to the same realization a handful of episodes later is no longer a surprise or a thrill to watch. This is especially so because Grace is as vanilla a character as they come and her reaction to Gigi being the Hag of Shady Lane and a potential killer is tied so closely to her dad as to be unrealistic. Pete and Grace feel so accomplished in finding these things out at the insane asylum, but the twists were already so obvious to the audience, or already revealed, that they come off as inconsequential. Yes, Gigi might be manipulating Wes (if he isn’t a killer himself) but that doesn’t have the same excitement as finding out the identity of the dead girl in the bathtub or where the two babies ended up. The least interesting characters are receiving the majority of the storylines and as such, the urgency of any clues and ability to be absorbed in the mystery are both slim.
Even Jennifer’s death, which could have been far more fear-inducing and creepy, amounts to little more than checking the last disposable character off the murder list. Everybody else left alive at this point will be an actual event when they die, if not a surprise, but Jennifer has been a non-factor in KKT since day one and her death here is nothing more than some action in an episode otherwise mostly devoid of it. Even the “human candle” setup of her body is so predictable as to merit barely a shrug. Where things are not boring is with Dean Munsch, as Jamie Lee Curtis continues to enjoy her role as a heel and a constant supplier of sarcasm. Her refusing to give Grace the answers she is searching for is almost satisfying since Grace had no reason to believe the Dean would give her the information anyway. She has been nothing but withholding and smug about her position as a leader on campus and nothing has changed that would make her all of a sudden divulge every piece of information her students desire.
The highlight of the episode, Munsch’s battle with the Red Devil(s) and the homage to Psycho, comes so early in the episode it almost feels like it belongs to a different week’s storyline. Michael Uppendahl’s direction of the Devil’s swirling cape during the fight and the choreography of the fight sequence are especially noteworthy. It’s not entirely clear whether Munsch closes down Wallace University because they finally came after her, if she’s just tired of dealing with the whole ordeal, or if the show just needs the campus to all of a sudden be completely empty of any students besides the central characters and the remaining adults. Regardless, Curtis beating multiple killers with secret martial arts skills and a fireplace poker is impressive and awesome to watch. It is a great example of what she is capable of besides just giving good side eye and delivering quality putdowns. Despite Scream Queens ostensibly being about the sorority girls and the trouble they’re in, it is clear now more than ever that Jamie Lee Curtis is the MVP of the show. If only the rest of this episode rose to similar heights.
- “Those who pill together kill together.” Ok, that’s a little funny.
- Denise now living in the KKT house and proclaiming herself house mom is yet another well of comedy for Niecy Nash to mine. “Why are you the same size as a 40-year-old woman?”
- Chad and Chanel’s “Compliment Night” is yet one more example of Glen Powell being a legitimate treasure. Chad spinoff please!
- The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” playing during Jennifer’s memorial is a fun, if very obvious, detail.
- “I can’t keep living like this! All I do is work out and kill people!”