Scream Queens: “Seven Minutes in Hell” Season 1 Episode 6 Review

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Now that’s more like it.

I feel that I owe Ryan Murphy a bit of an apology. Up until this point, I’ve pointed to him for most of Scream Queens‘ faults as it works out the kinks of its freshman season. His is probably the biggest name of the series’ creators, and so he became the scapegoat by default.

Scream Queens was created by Murphy, as well as Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuck, who have each been his partners in crime on shows like GleeAmerican Horror Story, and even Nip/Tuck. All three had hands in writing the two-part series premiere, but afterwards each episode had a solo writing credit. Murphy hasn’t actually written an episode of Scream Queens himself…until now.

“Seven Minutes in Hell” is a refreshing change of pace from the show’s recent mean-spirited, camp-obsessed downturn. It’s focused, has some definitive plot points to base its usual character wackiness around, and—most importantly—it’s super fun. This is the Scream Queens I signed up for, and I certainly hope there’s more to come.

Removing Denise, Gigi, Pete, and essentially Dean Munsch and Wes (the two only appear briefly at the episode’s end) from this week’s festivities proves to be a smart move, as it allows the show to hone in on what really needs the most work: the Kappa sisters.

Sure, it’s fun to watch them bicker with each other, but up until now there have been so many distractions that none of their characters have had a chance to really solidify. This week the plot centers around all the sisters, and the Dickie Dollar Scholars, being locked in the Kappa house for a slumber party, and it allows for some interesting revelations and great one-off moments.

The most important thing that came out of the slumber party is a true sense of sisterhood. Okay, I shouldn’t really say true, because it was born out of the political schemes of Chanel making Zayday her co-president, as well as the fact that there’s a killer targeting all of them, but it’s sisterhood nonetheless. I can’t really blame this show for it’s venomous dialogue since the majority of the characters are broad stereotypes, and purposefully so. Still, listening to Chanel constantly rattle off discriminatory slurs can grow tiresome, so it was nice to see her admit to “actually kind of liking” Zayday, and to rally her sisters to bring the fight to the Red Devil instead of waiting to be offed.

It was also enjoyable to see a noted distinction in the show’s tone that we’re supposed to be laughing at Chanel and not with her. She’s a fun character for sure, and Emma Roberts seems to be having a blast—her “thank you for making that announcement that no one cared about” line to Grace made me laugh out loud—but it’s hard to really enjoy her stone-cold bitchiness when the show keeps positioning her as some sort of twisted hero.

“Seven Minutes in Hell,” however, does the opposite. We see Chanel for the ridiculous human she is. Her misguided obsession with Chad, her idolization of a sorority that’s clearly done some terrible things, and her nonsensical need to chew out Chanel No. 5 are all played for laughs instead of glamorized, and the result is a total riot.

Another important outcome of this episode is that it placed Zayday as the frontrunner for the season’s Final Girl. At first I thought it would be Grace since her family may be directly linked to the Red Devil killings, but her character has proven far too bland to matter that much in the end. Also, she clearly has a terrible hat addiction and needs help.

Zayday emerged as a true heroine this week, banding the sisters together in the search for the Red Devil, and not backing down when things began to get bleak. Keke Palmer is a magnetic actress, and her scenes of sleuthing around the house and interacting with the other sisters were made all the more engaging because of her performance. I especially enjoyed her scenes with Chanel. Now that the two are on good terms—sort of—I think their dynamic could prove to be a great source of both comedy and plot momentum.

The one issue I had with this episode is the same issue that I had with last week’s. No one important has died yet. I suppose Sam was more of a central character than the others, and her plotline did allow Billie Lourd’s Chanel No. 3 to come into her own a little more, but she’s still not one of the core cast, so her death wasn’t all that shocking.

The premise of this series is that no one is safe, but all of the tension is quickly being sucked out as it appears that all of the series regulars are very safe until perhaps the final few episodes. OMG moments are very important on a show like Scream Queens, and the lack of risk-taking going on is disconcerting. Caufield and Roger also die in this episode, but it doesn’t really matter to anyone except Chad and Chanel No. 5.

Still, I can’t fully hate on an episode that’s perhaps the most entertaining entry in the season since the premiere. The slumber party premise proves to be great fun, and whether it was watching these kids duke it out over a game of truth or dare, or seeing Zayday and Chanel escape through the secret tunnel system within the sorority house, I was pretty much game for anything. Now this show needs to be equally as game and up its stakes. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Glen Powell was on fire this week as Chad. His assertion of the very clear rules of Truth or Dare was hilarious.
  • This week’s direct horror movie spoof was most certainly Nightmare on Elm Street, from the very Wes Craven-y music that plays when Chanel and Zayday are in the tunnels, to the fact that the Red Devil drags his axes along the walls like Freddy Kruger would drag his claws.
  • We now know the reason behind Chanel No. 3’s earmuffs (besides Billie Lourd being Carrie Fisher’s daughter).
  • Does anyone else think Earl Grey might be the killer since he’s the one who suggested the panty raid in the first place? Also, does anyone else fall into a dreamlike trance when he uses his accent, or is that just me?
  • Chanel No. 3 on the impromptu dance party at the end: “What a great way to pretend all these people we know weren’t brutally murdered.”
  •  Pink nunchucks are definitely the way to go when looking for a killer, and just in general.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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