So much has happened since the last episode of Scream Queens. There was a World Series, an election, at least two celebrity deaths that you care about, I had some really good churros for dessert at this taco place on the Lower East Side, and the world’s most shocking oversight was finally corrected by naming Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
Do you know what did not happen during those intervening weeks? I didn’t miss Scream Queens even once. And now that it’s back, I can hardly remember anything that happened in the first four episodes. As I sat down to watch “Chanel Pour Homme-icide,” I was entirely convinced that the role of Chamberlain had been recast and a totally different actor was playing him than the one who did before this hiatus.
But no, it was the same Chamberlain. Know what was also the same? The lack of joy I have about these episodes. The funny thing is, I’m not sure what the problem is. The bitchy and zippy dialogue is in full effect this week, like it hasn’t been all season. Still, I barely cracked a smile when Chanel No. 5 said that Chanel had her moved out of the hospital so that she’d be “more convenient to insult,” or when John Stamos said that sex with Dr. Munsch was as good as when he had sex with Sean Young just as she started her crazy phase. Those are great lines, and the show is clearly embracing its daffy and soapy plotting in a way it never has before, but it doesn’t have the spark it had last season.
Maybe it’s just packing way too much into each episode. Last season introduced a huge cast of characters, but it only focused on a few things each week. In this episode alone, we get an influx of patients, the Chanels looking for new recruits, one class of new recruits, a second class of new recruits, their gay superfan Tristan and his weird fanfiction, Denise Hemphill in a cryogenic chamber, Zayday launching an investigation, and a major twist at the end. It is absolutely exhausting, isn’t it? We jump so quickly from one topic to another that we can’t savor any one of them. It’s like shoving 12 churros down your gullet all at once instead of taking the time to chew one (or three, let’s not be stupid) and really appreciate the taste.
My favorite story line of the night had to be the woman who had a different accent each time she opened her mouth, which ended up being contagious and contaminating Dr. Brock Holt, Chanel No. 3, and that hunky kid from Twilight. (I forgot both his real name, which is Taylor Lautner, and his character’s name, which is Dr. Cassidy Cascade.) This is funny for two reasons: It gives everyone a chance to sound like they are in Remains of the Day, and it’s an opportunity to make fun of the ludicrous accents that actors try on for different parts. I would have really loved Ryan Murphy if he had used this plot device to call out Sarah Paulson’s atrocious British accent on American Horror Story, but that is asking a little bit too much.
The plotline gets bungled, though, when Chanel No. 3 mentions that this also happened to Madonna. Later, Dr. Brock Holt (a.k.a. John Stamos) tells them that he found a paper claiming this condition is called “Madonna Syndrome.” Was someone supposed to delete one of those jokes so that the punchline would really land? Did they forget to do their job? Is that why both Madonna references made it into the script? The first reference, while cute, killed the momentum of the second and much more powerful joke. How do they expect us to care about this show when it barely cares about itself?
The Chanels trying and failing to add cannon fodder to their ranks is a rich vein of comedy and well-mined (mostly at Chanel No. 5’s expense), but yet again, it seems to lack something. Chanel explaining the plan to Chanel No. 3 and their quick exit to go get their vaginas steamed is the ludicrous engine that keeps this show running. It gives us a chance to revisit their old glory, but much like going back to your high school after your freshman year of college, it didn’t work out as planned. And then, as soon as we meet Chanel No. 11, she gets her distinctive 11th finger cut off by the Green Meanie and she’s shuffled off to her demise.
Maybe this is the problem with Scream Queens: We still have no idea why the Green Meanie is killing. Last season, the Red Devil was getting revenge on the sorority. This season, does anyone really think the Green Meanie is taking revenge on the hospital? If he were, he would only be killing the staff, not the patients and the various and assorted Chanels who run around the halls in their fuzzy pink nurse outfits. Without any real motive, it’s hard to care about who might actually be in danger. Instead, the Green Meanie is carving up girls we’ve never met and the gay guy who no one wanted in the Chanels anyway. Snore.
At least we get a little bit closer to learning the identity of the killer. We can cross Chamberlain off the list since he doesn’t seem to have any connection to the pregnant woman whose husband was dumped in the swamp. He’s just a weird dude who wants to give out Beanie Babies to the terminally ill. Is that so bad?
It turns out Dr. Cassidy Cascade (a.k.a. Taylor Lautner, a.k.a. hunk from Twilight) is the guy’s son. When he shows up to his mother’s house, it’s quite the shocking reveal, but let’s not forget that this season still has to fill five episodes of airtime. According to the preview for next week’s episode, “a killer will be revealed.” (Note the use of the indefinite rather than definite article.) Maybe it’ll be him. Maybe we’ll find out that he’s working with Hester (or Grace, it’s gotta be Grace) to get rid of the Chanels. Maybe a little bit of knowledge is the spark this season needs to really ignite.