Scream Queens: “Chainsaw” Season 1 Episode 3 Review

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“Aren’t we all running from the chainsaws of our past?”

At the end of this week’s episode, Oliver Hudson’s character Wes—aka Grace’s dad, aka #TokenHotDad—accuses Dean Munsch of being the Red Devil Killer. It’s more than a little preposterous, considering the intense quick-change that would have had to happen in order for her to sneak back upstairs and reappear only moments later in her nightgown. Yet, I was still excited by the possibility. After all, can you really blame an absurdist comedy for being nonsensical? Not really, especially when it’s this much fun.

In it’s second episode, Scream Queens gets even more farcical, and rips through the horror genre with gleeful abandon. A professor that shows his students The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the first day of their Intro to Film class? Check. A mascot fight to the death between the Red Devil and a giant ice cream cone? Check. A group of frat boys, dressed in all white, who get viciously attacked while “Backstreet’s Back” plays in the background? Check, check, and check. Anyone looking for any semblance of realism in this series should probably abandon ship now. But for those who want to stick around for the highly entertaining thrills, I have a feeling it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Despite the winking, self-satirizing nature of the show, “Chainsaw” continues to posit some interesting food for thought. The way that Dean Munsch tries sweep the notion of a serial killer under the rug feels all too real in a world where many universities care more about their reputation in the face of public scandal than they do the individual students. The fact that this occurs during a so-called “Take Back the Night” march makes the parallel more than a little obvious, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

Munsch, herself, is a fascinating character as an authority figure who clearly puts self-interest above all else. Jamie Lee Curtis seems to be having a ball of a time, and even somewhat cheesy scenes—like the one in which she plays through her ridiculous white noise machine—come off as highly entertaining due to her lively performance.

Equally as engaging is Emma Roberts’ depiction of Chanel, who might be the worst human in the world, and yet is still endlessly watchable. This week we see her makeover Hester in a selfish attempt to win Chad back. Chanel is only doing a good deed so she can seem like a better person in the eyes of her on-again-off-again beau—I do enjoy the running joke of how desperately she pines for him despite how horrible he is—but she’s making Hester happy either way.

Still, is she really doing a good thing, or is she making another monster? I will admit, I was a little disappointed at how quickly they removed Lea Michele’s back brace and tacky attire, as she did fully commit to the dorkiness of the role. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I grew excited at the potential that Hester now has. The reason she’s such a funny character isn’t because of her brace or her terrible clothing, it’s because of how intensely she wants to be in Chanel’s clique. That desperation could become amplified now that she’s wearing her clothes and sporting her jewelry. There’s no telling what kind of mayhem will come next.

Speaking of which, this week featured a slew of riotous scenes that stood out on their own as perfect examples of pop campiness. Coney’s voiceover sequence and subsequent murder is a thing of comedic genius, but the dehumanizing nature of it—we never actually see the man beneath the mascot costume—is what stuck out to me the most. Later in the episode, Grace points out that serial killers often dehumanize their victims, so it’s intriguing to think about the show’s overall message when the main villain hides behind a plastic devil mask, and the first victim of the week is a giant ice cream cone. Is it really that easy to become desensitized to violence?

Before we get too deep here, I’d like to point out that “Chainsaw” features a moment where one of Chad’s frat bro’s arms sawed off, which merely causes him to pause before bending over to pickup the bat still being held in his severed hand. It’s clear that the violence here is extremely surrealistic, so it’s purpose isn’t to mimic any real life tragedies. Rather, I think this heightened sense of danger is meant to draw out basic questions in a much more life-threatening manner. What secrets are those closest to you hiding? How brave are you, really? Who can you surround yourself with in a time of need? These are things that many of us have wondered at some point, but only on a show like Scream Queens are they brought to the forefront.

Grace and Pete are—to be totally honest—two of the most boring characters on the show, yet their purpose is clearly to propel the mystery forward. One flaw I have noticed in the series is that it’s yet to find the perfect balance between it’s twisty plot and it’s over-the-top set pieces.

It’s hard to really follow the thread of potential suspects when you have characters like Niecy Nash’s Denise, who accuses a different person of being the killer every five seconds. Nash is a talented comedic actress—seriously, if you only know her from Reno 911, you should check out her extremely underrated HBO series Getting On—but her character’s commitment to being the most foolish security officer on campus is a little overbearing. That being said, I’m not going to lie and pretend I didn’t laugh when she claimed Chanel No. 2’s parents might have lost her somewhere in their oversized house.

For all it’s faults, though, Scream Queens continues to be a delight. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a show where everyone seemed to be having so much fun. The energy is infectious, and with more brilliance like Coney and the “Backstreet’s Back” sequence, there’s no way I’m tuning out anytime soon. Grade: B+


Some Other Notes:

  • Okay, I know this is terrible, but part of me still views Abigail Breslin as Olive from Little Miss Sunshine, so it was a little weird hearing Chanel No. 5 talk about getting Eiffel Towered by two dudes.
  • So, Chanel No. 2 might still be alive? If not, then who is posting pics on her Instagram? Either way, her mom is played by Charisma Carpenter aka Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, so this episode was a win in my book.
  • Nick Jonas is 100% still alive, and I’m mad he did not make an appearance this week.
  • I really want to meet Zayday’s grandma, since she apparently has an arsenal of tasers and chainsaws at the ready. What a badass.
  • Chanel No. 3’s dad is Charles Manson…so, nbd, everyone, but she might casually be the killer (but probably isn’t).
  • It feels like Wes’ class is setting up to be the place where some movie nerd explains “the rules” of horror movies to everyone else…but this show has been smart at simply paying nods to the films that inspired it instead of outright copying them, so we’ll see what happens.
  • Also, classic move for the show to have 2 killers. It’s an excellent way to extend the mystery, especially since this is a network TV show.
  • There were way too many jokes about salad tonight.
  • #RIPConey


By Mike Papirmeister

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