Jessica Morris ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
After last week’s back-to-back episodes, “Pilot” and “Hell Week,” the girls of Kappa Kappa Tau are back, and still dealing with the Red Devil’s serial killing spree in any way they can. Grace (Skyler Samuels) and Zayday (Keke Palmer) have their own premonitions about who the masked killer could be while Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) is more concerned about making her pledges into a less embarrassing batch of recruits. More is at stake across campus, this episode sees a pivotal confession from Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), a new college mascot (an anthropomorphic ice cream cone aptly named Coney), and Chad Radwell (Glen Powell) and his frat boy posse learning there may, in fact, be two Red Devil killers at the school.
This episode featured considerably less Chanel than the episodes that aired last week did, which perhaps made for positive change. While Roberts is scarily good as the despicable president of Kappa Kappa Tau, some of Chanel’s lines last week were, at best, lazily offensive. One line in particular had Chanel refer to her sorority’s white maid as their “white mammy”, which raised a red flag for many viewers. This is revealing of a problem that seems to plague Ryan Murphy’s and Brad Falchuk’s creations. While Glee, American Horror Story, and now Scream Queens all feature diverse casts and characters, many of the characters in these otherwise exciting casts are written as stereotypes. Offensive jokes in these shows also seem to be spouted off for laughs under the guise of being “satire”. Still, even without blatantly offensive humor, “Chainsaw” managed to be much funnier than last week’s two episodes. The episode focused more on creating comedy from ridiculous situations and lines, rather than anything derogatory.
From Coney’s brief montage that ended with his tragic death at the hands of the Red Devil, to Denise Hemphill’s (Niecy Nash) insistence that if it looks like blood and you think it could be blood, it’s almost always blood (not just ketchup), “Chainsaw” was funny. Still, rather than being a happy medium between comedy and horror, Scream Queens instead leans too heavily on the comedy side. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the show could be improved if there seemed to be more at stake. Jokes are great, but a show like this has to take itself semi-seriously in order to keep the audience invested. Does it matter to the audience what happens to these characters? Is it worth it to watch a satiric hour-long slasher movie each week solely for laughs? The concept is great- and funny is fine- but viewers should also want to know who the killer is, for anything slasher-related to work. Despite the name of the episode, “Chainsaw” was much less suspenseful and scary than the previous two episodes.
The characters, so far, are not all that developed or interesting. Rather, they exist as caricatures. Chanel Oberlin is the Heather Chandler of the sorority; the stereotypical mean, rich girl who is edgy because she lives to offend. Hester (Lea Michele) is the weird and slightly creepy character who dreams of becoming popular. But, Hester gets a makeover in this episode and becomes Chanel #6 which somehow makes her even less interesting. Grace is just boring; she is a cardboard cutout of every female protagonist from every slasher franchise ever. That might be the point, but that doesn’t change the fact that she provides no reason to keep watching. At least Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), from the Scream franchise, made for an interesting female lead who was capable of carrying the series for multiple movies.
“Chainsaw” was undoubtedly entertaining. But, it was also only the third episode. What happens when the gimmick behind Scream Queens becomes tired? It’s funny with pretty costumes, easily identifiable characters, and a fast-moving plot. It has a star-studded cast and the acting is pretty good. But otherwise, the show, so far, lacks substance. Fans of Glee might be better off finding another comedy, and fans of American Horror Story might as well just stick to American Horror Story.
Shout-out to this line: “Aren’t we all running from the chainsaws in our past?”
Episode Grade: B