Scream Queens: “Dorkus” / “The Final Girl(s)” Season Finale Review

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Ryan Murphy’s horror-comedy ended with an elongated thud.

I’ve stated before that Scream Queens would be much better served to a half-hour sitcom format, or even as part of a sketch variety show. The series deals in quick, provocative moments, making the spaces in between where it tells its “story” feel boorish and overwhelming.

So, the fact that the first season of Scream Queens went out the way it came in—with a two-hour special—was already overkill. The fact that the final killer was revealed halfway through, with the remaining hour used to merely explain everything, was more than enough reason to not tune in for a second season. Unfortunately, as disappointed as I am with the way things turned out with this show, I have a feeling Mr. Murphy will find a way to get me to at least give season 2 a look (most likely with the bait of even more enticing A-list guest stars). He may not be able to sustain a coherent story, but he can certainly pique my interest.

That’s actually the perfect way to describe the hot mess that was the two-parter of “Dorkus” and “The Final Girl(s).” It certainly had its intriguing moments, but it was hardly a succinct enough ending for this series. First of all, if the title for the second half of the finale indicates anything, it’s that this show once again did not make good on its promise to kill off anyone important. I mean, seriously, a killer is running loose on the campus seeking vengeance against a particular sorority, and NONE** OF THE PROMINENT FIGURES IN SAID SORORITY END UP GETTING KILLED? How does that make any sense?!

**Technically we don’t know the fate of Chanel Oberlin, but let’s be real. There’s no way Emma Roberts isn’t being asked back for season 2.

I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. “Dorkus” showed promise when Pete was offed in the opening minutes, and revealed that the final Red Devil Killer was one of the other Kappas. Here was a juicy setup worthy of a finale episode. Grace’s character would’ve had real purpose as she went through her sisters one-by-one to discern whether or not they were the second baby in the bathtub. It could’ve been any of the Chanels, or even Zayday. The possibilities were very exciting.

Perhaps it’s because the mystery has already been dragged out long enough as it is, but the show decided to go a different route. After a few quick red herrings, it is revealed that Hester was the other baby in the bathtub. Of course, this is only after she fakes an injury and points towards Chanel No. 5.

I’m conflicted about Hester being the final Devil. On one hand, her initial creepiness made her seem like way too obvious a choice to be the killer from the outset, and the show hasn’t exactly put her in any compromising positions (except for wanting to steal Chad Radwell). On the other, the surprise of finding out she was the killer was more “what? Oh, that makes sense,” than it was “no way! I can’t believe it!” Scream Queens has never been good at building suspense, and this moment was no exception. Finding out the killer was Zayday or Chanel No. 5 would’ve actually been a bit unpredictable. This, on the other hand, was way too practical to be exciting.

This brings me to “The Final Girl(s),” aka the final nail in the coffin of how frustrating this show can be. The second half of the finale spent most of its time explaining how Hester was able to commit all these murders, and how she successfully framed the three Chanels for her crimes. Yes, Police Chief Denise Hemphill returns and has some hilarious lines. Yes, Chanel No. 3 sincerely believes she has split personality disorder and her alter-ego is named Dirty Helen. Yes, Grace where’s more stupid hats. All of these things are entertaining, but they don’t detract from the fact that the final hour of Scream Queens‘ first season is a big case of telling instead of showing. In short, it’s pretty boring.

The story ends with Hester getting away with all the murders and becoming Kappa House Treasurer—with Grace and Zayday as co-Presidents, obvi—Dean Munsch having a book on “New New Feminism” ghostwritten for her, and the Chanels being sentenced to life in an asylum, where they actually find themselves to be perfectly happy…except Chanel Oberlin who may or may not have been killed in the episode’s final 10 seconds.

The whole thing is a bit confusing for a few reasons. First of all, Murphy has stated that he intended for this to be a show where characters were killed off until the murderer was revealed, and then the remaining “few” characters would go off and have a different adventure in the next season. Yet, WHO ARE THE REMAINING FEW CHARACTERS? Literally everyone is still alive.

Then there’s the whole “message” sentiment that the episode tries to push in its final minutes. What is the show saying by featuring Dean Munsch’s “New New Feminism” mantra—which is essentially just misandry—in a world where females like the good-natured Grace and Zayday, and the evil-hearted Hester, Chanel, and Dean Munsch herself coexist? Is Hester let off the hook so easily because the “real” monsters in this show are the vapid sorority girls and douchey fraternity brothers, and not the serial killers? Did we honestly need an entire season of misdirects to prove that point? Is that even the point at all?

The absolute absurdity of Scream Queens makes it difficult to take anything it says seriously. That’s why moments like Munsch and Hester’s final face-off, the cafeteria rant in “Haunted House,” or the Munsch vs. Justice Scalia fight in “Mommie Dearest” feel totally out of place. The statements they bring with them are serious and topical. But, with the tonal nature of the show, are we being asked to view them as a joke?

Perhaps the point is that there really is no point. Maybe Murphy and co. are making their own statement by showing how easily it is to draw viewers in to something totally nonsensical, simply because it involves some of our favorite celebrities (hey, it worked on me…)? Are we, as a society, just as shallow as the Chanels?

Who knows and, honestly, who cares? There’s a very high chance that I’m reading way too far into something that just wants to be a silly good time. In which case, have at it Scream Queens. I will be spending my time elsewhere.

Grades:

“Dorkus”: B-
“The Final Girl(s)”: C-

Scream Queens Season 1 Grade: C+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Let’s give it up for the performances this season, which remained strong despite the inconsistency of the narrative. Emma Roberts was wonderfully vicious, Lea Michele was fascinatingly intense, Keke Palmer was perfectly astute, Niecy Nash and Abigail Breslin were great comic relief, and Ariana Grande’s ponytail never faltered during her entire time onscreen.
  • Also, Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing. The end.
  • Pete dying in the opening sequence is the smartest thing this show has ever done. Having it happen shortly after his horrible Matthew McConaughey impersonation was brought back was this season’s final moment of brilliance.
  • Using Chanel to spoof the infamous Rebecca Martinson email is a joke that should’ve happened a lot earlier in the season, if at all.
  • I did like how Billie Lourd was rocking full-on Princess Leia buns at the hearing. Who else is excited for Star Wars?
  • Wes is so earnest in his terribly playlists that his sex scene with Dean Munsch had a sort of so-bad-it’s-good quality. Also, Oliver Hudson was rocking a total dad bod. Way to commit to the character, dude.
  • Chad Radwell was only in the finale for one scene—for shame!—but it was with Denise and it was incredible.
  • I know Scream Queens isn’t really a scary show, but if anyone was wondering, the most terrifying and brilliant thing Murphy and co. have ever created—yes, better than anything on American Horror Story—is their villain The Carver on Nip/Tuck. It is sheer genius and will scare the daylights out of you. I highly suggest you look into it.
  • For those who stuck it out with me until the very end, thank you for enduring the madness! Scream Queens‘ first season was uneven to say the least, but it was often quite funny and usually very entertaining. The energetic performances were certainly worth sticking around for, as was the show’s general absurdity, but I think the writers often wanted the show to be too much at once, which got in the way of the fun. Scream Queens would’ve been a great absurdist satire had it not tried to make “relevant” points about young women in today’s society, and the way they’re viewed/view themselves. Additionally, a slasher show that refuses to be a slasher show is just boring. That being said, any thoughts on what sort of stunt casting will go on next season? I will not be tuning in. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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