[For Scream Queens‘ “Pilot; Hell Week” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Pilot; Hell Week The most popular sorority, Kappa House, faces changes and a devil-clad killer wreaks havoc on campus.
There are several reasons to watch the newest iteration of charm and fright from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, creators of the respectively charming and frightful Glee and American Horror Story. Scream Queens has a cast loaded with certifiably talented stars and the show creators’ solemn promise that they’ll kill off at least one main character per episode. This cast’s promising amalgam of cuteness and aptitude includes such teeny-bopper-beloved talent as Ariana Grande, Keke Palmer, Lea Michele, and Emma Roberts. No matter how you may feel about the verisimilitude of said “talents” before watching Scream Queens, you will certainly be assured of their many abilities after the experience.
We begin with a bit of backstory for the sorority Kappa Kappa Tau, the primary haven of horror in Scream Queens. Our story begins on a wretched dark and stormy night when one of the sisters has a surprise baby (she totally didn’t know about it, guys!) and then dies the minute her sorority sisters leave. They do what any good sisters would and immediately hide the body, though we don’t find out what happened to that incredibly unlucky baby.
Then the 2015 story opens on current Kappa, a sorority where all the prettiest girls are named Chanel, just like in real life. And they all wear pastel Chanel suits, just like college girls so often do these days. It’s clear from moment numero uno that this is a mean girl’s world and Emma Roberts plays queen mean girl, Chanel #1. Within mere minutes of episode onset we’re already wondering if she’s an actual killer or just a killer bitch. The new Dean of the University, played by real-life scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, has a major league bone to pick with the Greek System and she starts off on her mission to destroy by calling Chanel #1 into her office for menacing threats and accusations.
Next we meet innocent curly goldilocks, Grace chatting sweetly as her widowed Dad drives her to the first day of college. She may have a link to the opening Kappa Kappa Tau scene, so guess where she’s headed? Yes, Grace will pledge Kappa Kappa Tau, right after a waterworks hug goodbye with daddykins in her bleak dorm room. But then the room gets a helluva lot sexier when the stunning and sprightly Keke Palmer enters tp announce that she’s Zeyday and they’re roomies. Grace quickly convinces Zey to rush Kappa with her because how else is Zeyday going to fulfill her dream to be the first black woman President?
Unfortunately for KKT, that night the Dean extracts every last drop of elitism from their first pledge party when she declares that according to new school rules anybody can become a member of Kappa. This is where Lea Michele comes in as Hester, a disabled Kappa wannabe and now pledge. Hester wears a ridiculous neckbrace and thus suffers with that nickname henceforth. Still, her character is a gem and not just fodder for stereotypical disability cheap shots that fall easy from the totem of wisecracks – a stultifying medical device.
One of the funniest scenes involves a text conversation between murderer and victim standing just feet away from each other. In this scene we laugh and laugh because the only sad part is that the writers take out Ariana Grande, a fan fav for certain in this fabulous mockup of the movie Scream. But she died honorably, for the sake of the funny. The truly funniest scene, though, is the heart to heart Hester (Lea Michele) has with the top Chanels about her obsession with death and body disposal. She tries to help them deal with Chanel #2’s (Ariana Grande’s) body with her perfectly executed awkward and vulnerable yet all-knowing Hester. This is followed by a slapdash security guard visitation to the sorority house. Sent to protect the sisters from imminent death, the guard manages to only frighten them further. If you’ve ever been utterly flabbergasted by the inadequacy of an alleged professional sent to do a job, this scene rings true and funny too.
Scream Queens has it all, even a Veronica Mars side plot with goldilocks Grace and an intrepid barista/reporter digging up dirt on Kappa. They fall for each other in a stock scene hilariously ripping on multiple Taylor Swift videos. Grace does all the investigative work (of course) and finds out all the info but barista boy appears to kiss well enough for her to keep him on as partner. Problem is he happens to own the outfit the killer wears… though barista boy claims it’s his school mascot costume. Another subplot involves the Dean getting the hots for every male character while also seeking some sort of revenge on all female characters. Yet another side story involves a closeted gay Jonas brother who faces an outing by Chanel #1 but then gets his throat slashed – the last of many characters killed by the shiny devil in the seemingly inexhaustible sequence of death after death after death. But then a surprising twist at the end brings him back to life when the glossy red devil opens a morgue drawer and awakens the not-actually-dead Jonas brother. Turns out they were in cahoots! Still no clue really about who the devil actually is but we certainly know a tiny bit more than nothing about him now and that’s something – right?
Pilot; Hell Week is packed with action, sillyness, and mystery – a splendid smoothie composed almost entirely of pretty girls in tiny cute costumes. The music is perfect. The tone resplendent. The story gripping. The horror satisfies even though it’s not particularly horrifying compared to most gorefests these days. Even though shocking things happen and there’s lots of blood, it stays tame because of this funny, glittery, over the top world where jokes land like gold medal gymnasts doing cartwheel after backflip after roundoff. It’s a laughfest that indulges us in the comforting balm of familiar cultural references. There’s also a glorious mockery of everyday events like when divas scream at baristas for extra hot, no foam, half caff, pumpkin spice lattes. And throughout we revel in the teasing mystery of a murderer/conman who’s working the whole campus in a gleaming red devil suit.
Tonight’s guess for who the devil that killer is: The Dean