Scream Queens, Season 1, Episode 9, “Ghost Stories”
Written by Ryan Murphy
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on FOX
For at least one episode, temporary that it may be, Scream Queens found a solution to its problem of putting decent to great actors in situations that are either boring from a plot perspective or poorly executed by the dialogue or acting involved. As easy as it may seem with 20/20 vision, simply putting all of the characters who are the most over the top in either a villainous or purely campy way in scenes together cracks the code of how to make the show less of a slog between murders. There are still multiple spots in “Ghost Stories” where the momentum lags, mostly in scenes that involve two or more of the Chanels, but the return of Boone, some great Denise Hempfield moments, and some major clues in the murder mystery make up for those few boring parts. It is also probably not a coincidence that Oliver Hudson’s Wes is nowhere to be seen this episode and Gigi only gets a brief but important scene. Paring down screen time for the majority of the cast instead of spreading it out to include the entire ensemble makes a huge difference in the tightness of the action.
The most important development in this episode is obviously the reveal of Boone as still alive, until he isn’t. There is a lot to cover in regards to what part of the plan he was explicitly involved in and all the ways he is planning to use his “ghost” status to get what he wants. His plan to sleep with Zayday and steal her away from Earl Gray is half baked at best, and makes the one-off line about him pretending to be gay in order to infiltrate the Dickie Dollar Scholars stand out all the more as a retcon of his character’s motivations, but Nick Jones is having so much fun being part of the action again for an episode those details are easy to forgive. He vacillates between cheeky jokes and serious scene chewing with such ease it is easy to feel like having him around more would smooth over a lot of the issues the show has been dealing with, but his commitments to his music career and Kingdom obviously reduced his availability to almost nothing. Looking at it from an optimistic perspective, his scenes with Chad, Zayday, and Gigi and the Red Devil are made all the better specifically because Boone’s absence made the goofiness stand out. Even if it is mostly obvious that he will meet his fate for real in this episode, watching him bounce around freaking people out as a faux-ghost and spill most of the plan to Gigi and his sister in the Devil costume is very enjoyable while it lasts.
As a way to fill in the blanks that the audience doesn’t know about the revenge master plan it is a bit of a data-dump from one character to another, but the direction of the Red Devil stalking Boone from behind while Gigi backs into a corner is interesting to the eye and sensical for the scene. Now that the audience knows exactly what pieces of the plan were Boone’s responsibility (as well as small details like training for four years so he could make his heart rate slow to almost nothing) he doesn’t really have a purpose anymore and the clues he left behind can be examined on their own. The audience knows that the other Red Devil, or the only Red Devil left now, is a girl so it just comes down to which girl is behind the mask. Twins is an interesting wrinkle and one that mostly rules out Zayday unless the father of the dead sorority sister was black. Zayday has been the most telegraphed murderer possibility by the other characters so it makes sense that she is all but ruled out by that little detail, and it will most likely be better for her to be an all out victim as the season enters its final stretch.
Elsewhere, the Chanels continue to be pretty bland with a couple of exceptions. Denise’s ghost stories are hilarious and fit her character to a T, but then Hester’s kills all good will by being an old wives tale that everyone knows already. It’s entirely derivative of folk tales of the past (or, for the generation that this show is targeted at, ripped from “Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark”) and as such isn’t that scary. It is plain as day what is about to happen to Chanel #5 when she drives away from the sorority house and Abigail Breslin isn’t about to just drive out of danger that easily. In fact, she is quickly becoming a prominent possibility as the murderer if only due to how dumb she consistently acts and how many times she has avoided being killed by a Devil so far. The death of Hester comes off as more of a way to reduce the number of Chanels involved in every scene rather than a climactic demise of a major character, which is how it should read. It’s not a shock that Chanel pushed her down the stairs because she has already been established as a murderer when she shoved Ms. Bean’s face in the fryer and by the sheer amount of threats she spews from scene to scene. Given that she has been out for blood for one or more of the KKT sisters since the beginning this is more of a standard thinning of the herd than a shocking death. All in all, “Ghost Stories” lets the fun characters have a blast and minimizes the dedication to the KKT sisters and their plans which is the most that can be asked for at this stage in the game. It’s clear that the show has a preoccupation with the sisters and their survival, so it shrinking away from placing them overwhelmingly front and center in every episode is a satisfying development even if it will be reversed soon based on the requirements of the murders still left to come.
- Glen Powell continues to be the breakout performer of the show, his explanation of the Radwell’s Thanksgiving weekend only the latest example. It is going to hurt the most when he gets knocked off.
- The studio behind The Grudge and The Ring should definitely consider adapting Denise’s ghost stories as their next movies.
- “Nice shirt.” “Thanks. You know what it’s made out of? Boyfriend material.”
- “I’m pretty high on Aderrall and I’ve been on the road for 35 hours but I swear he was there!”
- “Boone you are…the weakest…link”