A year and a half ago, I was as overjoyed as a queer horror fan can be at the news that Wes Craven’s game-changing horror-comedy franchise was being adapted for the small screen, and not only that, but one of the main characters would be a bisexual girl. I loved the mystery and occasional gore of Scream (rest in peace, Half Of Will and Other Half Of Will), but when it came to queer representation, the show was a disappointment: Bisexual Final Girl Audrey’s girlfriend Rachel was killed off minutes into the second episode, and Audrey hasn’t had a romantic storyline since. And sidelining the show’s queerness hasn’t helped it reach a mainstream audience – Scream spent its second season barely hanging on in the ratings, and until just last week it was unclear whether this Halloween special would be its finale. MTV finally announced that Scream has been renewed for a six-episode mini-season, complete with a new showrunner to be named later.
Attention, new folks in charge of Scream: Queer women are loyal viewers. Be good to us and we’ll be good to you.
Anyway, so I’ve been recapping Scream AKA liveblogging my crush on Bex Taylor-Klaus over at AfterEllen for the last two seasons, and now I’m here to experience the joys of femslash and bifurcation with you fine people. The main things you need to know are: one, I hate all male characters on this show except Noah; two, I’m convinced Noah is a lizard person who does not experience human emotions (but I like him anyway); and three, I ship Audrey/Brooke. #NotHereForEmmaudrey
This episode, produced as it was in the limbo between season two and the as-yet-uncertain season three, has to walk a fine line, tying up loose ends from the last season while still leaving plot possibilities for the future. We open, of course, with Kieran Wilcox, conspirator in season one’s massacre and mastermind behind the slaughter of season two, being sentenced to several hundred years in prison.
Before Kieran can be locked up, however, there’s a surprise cameo from Ghostface, who twists a guard’s neck 180 degrees, then slices Kieran’s throat. Bye, Kieran. I won’t miss you, but the hair product industry definitely will.
At Chez Duval, AKA the farm upstate where Final Girls go to run around and play in the sunshine, Maggie is trying to bond with Emma over not looking forward to Halloween, the anniversary of two of Lakewood’s three biggest murder sprees. Emma doesn’t want to talk about it, and she doesn’t want to plan any college visits, either. They’re interrupted by Brooke, who came over to comfort Emma about Kieran’s murder but ends up being the one to break the news.
In the months between the season two finale and now, my two favorite Lakewood dudes Noah and Stavo (which goes to show how unimpressive the competition actually is) have formed an artistic partnership, writing a true-crime graphic novel about Lakewood’s blood-soaked history. Their publisher, Jeremy, has made a mint off them and wants to know what their next project is going to be. Noah has writer’s block, but Gustavo and Jeremy think a trip to the notorious “Murder Island,” site of a suitably gory urban legend, will be just the thing to inspire him. Murderville, Murder Island – people on this show are crap at nicknaming places.
After being hounded on her way to school by reporters, Emma jumps at the chance to get out of town and accompany Stavo and Noah on their research trip. Brooke is in, too, but Audrey has to check with her girlfriend first. Yes! Audrey has a girlfriend! I mean, it should be Brooke, but I’ll take it. Gina and Audrey work at the movie theater together, and their Halloween plans involved making out in the back of the horror movie marathon. Not gonna lie, this is still my idea of a dream date.
Gina can’t afford to miss work, but she tells Audrey to go without her, even though she’s clearly not happy about it. Gina, I am the ghost of your future! Tell your girlfriend what you want! Don’t just say what you think she wants to hear and then get mad when she doesn’t read your mind!
On the island, the Lakewood Five (if we’re counting Gustavo, although he wasn’t originally one of the Lakewood Six, but he’s survived a murder spree so that must make him an honorary member, right? Am I overthinking this?) are annoyed that Noah and Stavo neglected to mention that they’re here researching a murder, but their irritation fades when they see the fancy digs Jeremy has rented for them. Audrey finds a unicorn tchotchke like the one in Black Christmas (a reference I got before she said it, thank you very much) and has to call Gina to share the horror-nerd glee, but Gina sounds distracted and cuts the call short.
Because relaxing is for suckers and people who get killed in the first act, Brooke has brought her NYU application with her to the island. Gustavo isn’t planning on college, but he wants to know if Brooke wants him to come to New York with her. She’s like “Do you want me to want you to come to New York?” and he gets pissed at her non-answer. Given Brooke’s penchant for snide comments and Gustavo’s prodigious ability to take absolutely anything as a personal affront, I can’t imagine how they’ve stayed together for eight months. Well, I can imagine one way, I guess, but I’m sure Audrey’s better at it.
Speaking of Audrey, she and Emma are exploring the island together – that’s not a euphemism – and Emma is complaining about feeling trapped by her name and her notoriety. She wants to do something Emma Duval: Murder Spree Survivor would never do, like get a tattoo.
At the Murder Island Historical Society, Noah, Stavo, and Jeremy check out the mask and murder weapon of Anna Hobbs, the island’s own Brandon James. New evidence has recently come to light suggesting that at least one of the murder victims was moved after being killed. Noah’s still not feeling the story, until he sees a picture of Anna Hobbs and she’s hot. Good news: this time the person Noah has a boner for is already dead! We don’t need any more women dying to further Noah’s character arc, thanks.
At the coffee house/bait shop/tattoo parlor, Emma’s flipping through the Big Book of Shit You’re Gonna Get Covered Up In Ten Years, when a scruffy-cute dude walks past and gives her the eye. Audrey asks for his input on Emma’s body art and he suggests a heart with “Carpe Diem.” Speaking of carp: when he leaves, the Final Girls realize he’s taken their bag of pastries and left them with his bait fish. This gives Emma a chance to chase him down and introduce herself. She’s not seizing the day yet, but she’s definitely checking out the day’s ass over her shoulder as she walks away.
The crotchety historical society dude was always going to either be the killer or be on the chopping block. The good news is that he’s not the killer! The bad news is, well, you know. With pruning shears.
The girls are hanging out on the dock, Audrey stressing about Gina’s failure to answer her last few texts and Brooke second-guessing whether she wants Stavo to follow her to New York. To take their mind off their relationship worries, they grill Emma about Sexy Fish Dude and she notes that it might be nice to hook up with someone who doesn’t know her last name and her history.
They see Fish Dude docking his boat and Emma realizes he’s Alex Whitten, sole heir to the murder house Noah is researching and all its nooks, crannies, and ghosts. He invites her to a lunch of fresh-caught fish the next day.
Noah, Stavo, and Jeremy knock on the door of the Whitten estate looking for the caretaker, Billy, who turns out to be not a grizzled curmudgeon but a young, cute girl. Stavo flirts with her and I hate him forever, but she agrees to come over to their rental that night to tell them about the legend of Anna Hobbs.
Sitting around the bonfire that night, Billy tells Emma that she used to have a thing with Alex, but he’s hard to get to know – sometimes she’s not even sure when he’s in town. Then she gets to her real purpose. Anna Hobbs, the daughter of the Whitten estate’s former caregiver, was known around the island as a dangerous and unstable girl. Supposedly, one Halloween night in the 1930s, Anna found out that her mother was trying to have her committed and snapped, stripping naked, donning a mask, and slaughtering her mother, brother, and the Whitten patriarch with pruning shears. Then, crushed by remorse, she killed herself.
Noah says the story has been twisted beyond all resemblance to reality through generations of retellings. Before the discussion can go anywhere, someone in an Anna Hobbs-style mask bursts out of the trees. Emma, who’s not a Final Girl for nothing, takes the intruder down without messing up her hair and unmasks Jeremy. He thought a real-life scare would inspire Noah.
As Jeremy makes his douchey exit, Billy offers to give the gang a tour of the mansion the next day. Gustavo walks her back to her caretaker’s cottage, and she tries to kiss him, but he deftly averts her with his unappealing personality and goes back to Brooke. Ugh, how embarrassed will Billy be in the afterlife when she realizes that she spent the last few moments of her mortal existence trying to put the mack on Stavo? Anyway, someone in an Anna Hobbs mask is waiting to prune Billy’s guts out. Bye, Billy.
Over lunch the next day, Alex and Emma talk about their absent parents. Alex’s are absent because they died in a plane crash, not because they’re a waste of space like Emma’s dad Kevin. Being wealthy and famous and orphaned young put Alex in a spotlight he didn’t want, which is why he’s spent so much time traveling, sailing, and avoiding human contact.
Gustavo comes into Brooke’s room to apologize – he doesn’t say for what, so I’m going to assume it’s meant to encompass everything he’s said or done since he first appeared in season two. He tells her that he acts like an ass because he’s afraid of losing her, and at least if she’s pissed at him, he knows she cares. She says she does want to be with him, for reasons the human mind was never meant to comprehend.
When Audrey, Noah, and Stavo go to the mansion, they find a pair of bloody pruning shears. Noah insists on cracking jokes, but Gustavo thinks the blood is real and Audrey calls the cops. The sheriff is black and I am worried – I’m still pissed about what happened to Deputy Dwayne last season, especially because unlike other deaths on the show, Dwayne was never mentioned again. I know Scream plays with meta-horror and tropes, but if you’re going for subversive commentary on the short life spans of people of color in horror, you have to actually make a joke about it. Otherwise, you’re just another show that kills off all its black characters. Pardon the detour; I’m sure the sheriff will be fine.
There’s a storm coming in, and Emma and Alex banter about the unpredictable forces of nature and then make out, predictably. Emma gets back to the rental and finds it empty, which is the perfect setting for the phone – an actual vintage land-line telephone – to ring. There’s a familiar voice on the other end. In a charming hat-tip to the original Scream, whoever’s wearing the Ghostface mask this season tells Emma to turn on the porch light, revealing the Billy Formerly Known As Alive.
Sheriff I-Hate-My-Agent stops to avoid hitting something in the road, which turns out to be the body of the crotchety historical society guy. When he gets out of the car, the killer in the Anna Hobbs mask – can we call them Hobbsface? – snips off his fingers, then his head.
The Lakewood Six (I’m just gonna keep calling them that, regardless of their actual numbers) worry that whoever killed Kieran followed them here. Noah suggests that someone is doing a Freddy vs. Jason with Brandon James and Emma Hobbs.
Audrey’s theory is that Jeremy planned this attack to bring attention to the Anna Hobbs legend, and thus to his next book release. No one’s seen him since before Billy died, and he did have an Anna Hobbs mask. On the other hand, Audrey has never once been right about who the killer was.
There’s a scream from outside, where Gina, having arrived on the island to surprise Audrey, instead surprised herself by finding the sheriff’s head. Why are her hands bloody? Did she pick up the head to check its pulse? That seems unnecessary. But this is no time to review which body parts or combinations thereof can benefit from CPR; the Lakewood Six (I’m counting Gina now) need to get the hell off Murder Island and back to safe, comfortable Murderville. If only Emma knew someone who had a boat. Oh, wait, she does! Oh, wait, she doesn’t – Alex’s boat has been stolen.
They go back to the Whitten mansion to call for help, but the land line isn’t working and the cell reception is gone. Noah and Gustavo head out to try fixing the broken CB radio in Alex’s truck, despite Brooke pointing out that “let’s split up” is never the right call. Alex is like “So who’s Kieran?” and Emma tells him the whole story, since it’s not like she has anywhere else to be. He goes all starry-eyed about how she’s a survivor. Ew, a Final Girl groupie.
Audrey finds Gina upstairs and tries to comfort her, remembering how traumatic her own first encounter with a severed head was.
They get off track, though, when Audrey starts to wonder how Gina knew where they were staying. Gina says Audrey suspecting her of murder means she’s got intimacy issues (she’s careful to phrase it as an “I” statement, though, because who we are in times of crisis reveals our true character, and Gina’s true character is just a gigantic lesbian), and storms out. She’s here, she’s queer, and she’s wandering around a murder house alone: things do not look good for Gina.
Emma is sympathizing with Brooke about her fight with Stavo when Jeremy shows up outside, soaked and panicked. Audrey votes to leave him outside, but Alex suggests letting him in but holding a gun on him until they know what he’s up to.
Jeremy says he passed out drunk at the beach, woke up in time to see Hobbsface leaving Billy’s cottage, and has spent the day half-deliriously trying and failing to get help. Audrey gets up in his face about how his story, like Billy’s corpse, is full of holes, but Alex is all about non-confrontational resolution, so he just tricks Jeremy into an empty room and locks him in.
While Audrey looks for Gina, Alex shares a fancy murder-house fruit plate with Emma and Brooke. He says they should drink the most expensive wine in the house, like the guy in the parable who eats wild strawberries while clinging for his life to the edge of a cliff. Brooke clearly finds this boring and pretentious, but it’s kind of working for Emma, or maybe she just doesn’t want Kieran to be the last person she banged before her death.
Audrey doesn’t find Gina, but she does find her phone – and it’s full of stalkerriffic pictures of Audrey and Emma from earlier in the day, before they knew Gina was on the island.
Audrey confronts Gina, who says she was following them around to see if Audrey was cheating. She’s insecure because Audrey always drops whatever she’s doing for Emma, including plans with Gina. Of course, Emma picks that moment to demand that Audrey come see the message the killer has left for them in blood on the wall. Of course, Audrey does.
Noah is doing less radio-fixing and more meltdown-having about how this is all his fault, he shouldn’t have brought them here, his writer’s block inspired the spinoff, etc. Gustavo says Noah doesn’t have writer’s block, he has survivor’s guilt. He feels shitty about making money off the tragic deaths of Riley and Zoe and, um, whoever else; most of them weren’t that memorable. Before they can get into that, Noah finally gets the radio working and calls the Coast Guard.
The indoor faction of the Lakewood Six (I’m not counting Alex) go to check on Jeremy, but he’s broken a window and escaped. He finds Gina sulking by herself, but she brandishes a poker and escapes. Alone, Jeremy discovers a photograph. Whatever it depicts must be awfully damning, because Alex appears and sticks the ubiquitous pruning shears through his chest. Okay, where was he hiding those all this time?
Brooke and Gustavo are having a touching reconciliation in the master bedroom when Audrey and Noah come in looking for Gina. Noah realizes this is where Reginald Whitten’s body was found after Anna Hobbs killed him – the one who might have been killed somewhere else and moved postmortem. Audrey is like “Can we focus on not dying?” but Noah is in research mode, finding an album full of pervy pictures Whitten took of women, including Anna. There’s something quaint about the days when a guy had to invest in equipment and a darkroom in order to be this big of a creep.
The bookshelf turns out to be a secret door, which Noah spends an embarrassingly long time trying to figure out the mechanism for opening before Brooke has the novel idea of, like, pushing on it. Beyond the door is a secret passage. Noah Foster did not come all this way just to NOT explore the secret passage in the murder house.
Emma feels trapped once again – this was supposed to be her vacation, but murder and mayhem followed her, like they always do. Alex suggests that they bail on everything and travel the world together. Read the fine print on this one, girl. He might be offering to cut you up and carry you around in his suitcase.
The secret passage leads to the caretaker’s cottage, and Noah is starting to put the pieces together about what happened the night Anna Hobbes allegedly snapped. Meanwhile, Emma and Alex hear a noise. She hides while he goes to investigate. He realizes the rest of the Scoobies are in the tunnel, and he locks the bookshelf door behind them.
Noah’s theory is that the lecherous Whitten used the passage to sneak into the Hobbs’ cottage and proposition Anna. When Mrs. Hobbs tried to stop him, he lashed out, killing her and her son and wounding Anna. Anna fought back and killed him, making it as far as the pier before bleeding to death. In Noah’s version, Mrs. Whitten moved her husband’s body to frame Anna and hide Whitten’s misdeeds. Brooke is like “So what does this have to do with us staying alive right now?” and Noah’s like “If I don’t get to deliver creepy, self-indulgent monologues, what even is the point of surviving?”
This discussion is cut short when they find Jeremy’s body. Still clutched in his hand is the photograph he found – of Billy with the real Alex Whitten.
Back in the main house, Hobbsface bursts in on Emma, but she fights him off and chases him away. Moments later, Fake Alex comes in through the other door. It’s all so delightfully Scooby Doo. Fake Alex leaves again, giving Emma plenty of time to wander around the room and step in a puddle of partially congealed blood, which leads her to where he stashed the body of Real Alex.
Emma asks Fake Alex what the fuck is up. It’s murderer monologue time! Fake Alex aka I don’t care enough to rewind and catch his real name is sad because his parents were murdered and he was the subject of a horrible, retraumatizing media circus. That is understandable! What’s less understandable is that he’s decided that he and Emma are the same, destined for true love because they’re survivors. He pointed Jeremy in the direction of the Anna Hobbs legend just to lure the Lakewood Six out to the island, so that he could kill a bunch of people and ask Emma out. All the victims were people who knew the real Alex and would have blown his cover. He tells her they can still leave, assume fake identities, disappear.
Emma manages to act like she’s into it for long enough to get I Can’t Believe It’s Not Alex to tell her that he locked her friends up, and that he didn’t kill Kieran. Then she knees him in the junk and runs. Hunting for her, Alex gets distracted by the sudden reappearance of Gina, giving Emma the opportunity to stab him in the shoulder with his own shears. He chases her onto a balcony, trying to tackle her, but she’s like “Motherfucker, I’m Emma Duval” and throws him over the rail to his skull-cracking death. The rest of the Lakewood Six, having taken the long way back from the cottage, are just in time to gather around the body while Emma looks down like a vengeful god.
As the late-to-the-scene cops take statements, Audrey reassures Gina that, no matter how important Emma is to her, she’s not competition for Gina.
Brooke tells Gustavo she wants him to come with her to New York. I don’t care about their relationship problems and I’m glad this storyline is resolved so I don’t have to think about it anymore! Back in Lakewood, Noah overcomes his survivor’s guilt by realizing that he’s actually a hero for telling the stories of those silenced too soon. It’s a little self-serving, but whatever. Emma gets her last name tattooed on her wrist and starts applying to colleges, because she’s done running away from her life. And of course we end with a friendly reminder that Alex didn’t murder Kieran – but somebody did, and that somebody is still at large.
Honestly, despite a respectable body count, this special was pretty uninspiring. Noah’s Freddy-vs-Jason idea was interesting, but Scream failed to meld the Brandon James legend with the Anna Hobbs one in a compelling way, and I never had a moment of fear that any of the main characters would actually die. Even in a stand-alone episode, the stakes should feel higher than this. Also, maybe it’s petty to complain about the love interest for Audrey I’ve been demanding, but Gina could pretty much have been played by a piece of cardboard with the words “JEALOUS GIRLFRIEND” written on it in Sharpie, right? Here’s hoping the writers give her more to work with in Season 3. I just want Audrey to be happy.