Red alert! Grab your bloodiest knives and your sassiest pop-culture-laden putdowns because it’s time for Scream Queens, the show for anyone who ever went to a sorority party and said, “What if everyone just got murdered?” Ryan Murphy is here for us. Along with a giant shiny serial-killing devil. You had me at serial-killing devil.
We begin in the year 1995. Oh God. The horror. This is already the scariest show on television. But try to stay strong in spite of the 90s because twenty years ago, something awful happened. And not just flannel shirts. Something else, almost as bad.
On the night of Big Important Party, one of the pledges of the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority had the poor taste to give birth into a bathtub. Ugh. There’s one at every party, isn’t there?
The Kappas were about to do the sensible thing and throw her out a back entrance or laundry chute or whatever so that she wouldn’t get baby goop all over the party, but then “Waterfalls” started playing. So, like any warm-blooded people, they dropped everything, ran downstairs, and danced. Come on. It’s TLC. Contraband babies can wait.
Sadly, while the Kappas were busy not going chasing waterfalls, the girl died in the bathtub. It happens. What can you do? I’m sure it won’t come up again and that baby won’t turn out to be one of the main characters.
In the present, there’s yet another congealed blood stain at Kappa Mansion, but this one goes by the name Chanel Oberlin. She’s the worst person in the world, and in the grand tradition of Heathers and George Foreman, she has a team of underlings all also named Chanel. We meet Chanels #2, #3, and #5. Apparently, #4 couldn’t be here because she died of meningitis. And by meningitis, we obviously mean murder.
Just to confirm that Chanel is the queen bee to end all queen bees, she wins the strutting-down-the-stairs-while-being-racist contest by a landslide (just like how the GOP nominee is decided), and then unleashes a torrent of abuse on a maid costume named Ms. Bean.
But don’t worry. She’ll get her comeuppance because Dean Jamie Lee Curtis has summoned Chanel to her office for a duel. The weapon of choice is crazy eyes. The winner is Dean Jamie Lee. Of course. She politely informs Chanel that she is a festering pustule of sadistic misery who should probably just jump into a volcano and die. (BEST FRIENDS ALERT.) A lot of terrible things have occurred at Kappa under Chanel’s watch, like bestiality and that time that girl got her skin burned off in a freak spray-tan accident. Oh, sororities! What will you crazy kids do next?
Dean Jamie Lee would love to shut down the sorority, but she can’t because of a jean skirt. Gigi Jean Skirt bursts in to announce that she has a Caribbean law degree and that the dean doesn’t have the authority to shut down Kappa or its white party (“where everyone is encouraged to wear/be white”). Hm. Time for Plan B.
But not everyone is a vindictive hell beast. For instance, Grace. She’s an innocent sunflower full of hope and excitement about heading to college. Meanwhile, her dad Wes is crying an ocean of tears. Because his little girl is leaving, but also because she’ll probably join a sorority and get murdered instantly.
After Grace unpacks all her possessions in a single nanosecond, she meets her roommate Zayday, who is a breath of fresh snarky asides. We’ll get along. But in a fit of terrible reasoning, both Grace and Zayday decide to join Kappa. Grace to be closer to her dead mother (that can be arranged) and Zayday so that she’s more likely to become president (that's not a thing).
Later, at Schmooze With Pledges Night, everyone is standing around being Republican until Dean Jamie Lee adopts an evil Grinch smile to announce that this year, Kappa has to accept every single pledge, even the weirdos.
At the news, several hurricanes break out in the crowd, and all the Republicans flee because of socialism or something. The only ones left are Grace, Zayday, and the reject pile. The reject pile features Lea Michele’s Hester, who wears a neck brace and suffers from Stage 4 windbreaker and cat sweater situations, along with a lesbian (HORROR), a deaf girl (DOUBLE HORROR), and a girl with a vlog about candles (TRIPLE HORROR). Chanel isn’t pleased.
(On Wednesdays, we dress like corrupt Russian figure skating judges.)
She runs to the quad to cry to her sort-of boyfriend, Fratty von Preppington, Earl of BroTown. Or Chad, to his friends. He’s there with his BFF Nick Jonas, who’s playing the role of Look, Nick Jonas Is Gay On This Show. They’re busy hitting golf balls at hippies (like heroes do), but Chad also finds the time to let Chanel know that she must not associate with losers. “I can’t date a garbage person, Chanel.” Important words. Meanwhile, Nick Jonas gives a short monologue about how hot and awesome Chad is (excellent work), then stands around practicing his instagram faces.
It’s been a hard day, so Chanel really needs to diva out all over Pete the barista. It’s a truly epic meltdown, juxtaposed with Grace, who meekly orders a regular coffee to show that she’s down to earth and make Pete fall in love with her. It’s definitely love because he even overlooks the fact that she called herself Senorita Awesome (unacceptable no matter what). Then, Chanel reappears in a cloud of smoke to announce that she skinned a baby yeti and made it into a cape. Great.
In case you were wondering what Dean Jamie Lee is doing right now, she’s being a legend, smoking up in bed and having midlife crisis following some terrible blackmail sex with Fratty Chad and his mommy issues. A+ forever.
That night, the pledges arrive at Kappa House looking like Simon Cowell’s biggest challenge yet.
They’re here to witness Chanel’s ridiculous plan to scare the fatties and ethnics out of Kappa. Stage one involves a collage of pictures of Chanel with her eyes scratched out.
You really have to admire the dedication that went into making that thing. Who says millenials have no work ethic? That’s a damn fine murder collage. Stage two of the plan involves Chanel “pretending” to “almost” burn Ms. Bean’s face off in a deep fryer. Obviously, the deep fryer is actually on, and Ms. Bean dies instantly. This is normal.
Like a loser, Grace threatens to tell the police about the murder, but under the threat of Chanel’s powers of blackmail and manipulation, Grace’s morals turn immediately to dust. So instead, she helps the gang move the body to a meat freezer.
Pete saw the whole thing unfold because he was watching Grace’s every move from the bushes. For journalism reasons. Also for journalism reasons, he makes Grace take him to inspect the body. But they’re not the only ones. Chad and Chanel got their first, only to discover that Ms. Bean’s body is gone!
Since she was dead, this makes no sense. So, Chanel takes the next logical step and organizes a Norse blood oath about it. Sure. The Chanels all dress up in the red ceremonial cloaks they just have sitting around, and are about to touch bloody fingers (the universal cure for serial killing), when the ceremony is aborted over concerns about getting HPV from drinking water in Mexico. Science!
At this point, Chanel #2 (the Ariana Grande one) reveals that she’s leaving Murder Central. Tsk tsk tsk. That’s exactly how you get murdered.
Immediately, someone in a red devil costume materializes to text-kill her. Text-killing is all the rage, you guys. Here’s how it goes: The Red Devil texts Ariana Grande that it’s going to kill her, and then it stabs her in the neck. Thankfully, she has the good sense to blood-scoot over to her computer to live tweet this murder. Absolutely the best moment of the episode is when she dies, comes back to life to press send, and then dies again. We’re learning already that this show is best when it's the silliest.
Still, Ariana Grande’s murder is no excuse to cancel Hell Week hazing. The show must go on. Except for Grace, who forces Chanel to get coffee with her so she can make several speeches about sisterhood and puppies and rainbows. Chanel does a really good job of tolerating that for 45 seconds before declaring a completely appropriate fatwa on Grace.
The remaining Chanels stay behind to lead the rest of pledges in a rousing game of Oops, Your Head Came Off. The rules are as follows: Chanel #3 buries all the pledges in the ground up to their necks, and then the Chanels leave to go get “banana daiquiris at the White Stallion” (which has to be a euphemism). Then, the Red Devil shows up to play Riding Lawnmower Roulette and mow the deaf girl’s head off. Murder #3!
The truth can no longer be denied. Someone is killing the residents of Kappa House. Which means the police are here. Awesome. Because of competence, everyone decides that the surviving Kappas should all stay together in the house, presumably so that they can be killed off as efficiently as possible. Got to streamline these days.
But the biggest problem with the police being here is that Ariana Grande is still lying in a pool of blood upstairs. But how will they get rid of the body? Chanel #3 suggests hiding her in a poop lagoon. Also, Chanel #3 is my hero. But just when poop lagoon seems like the winner, Neck Brace appears to go, “Hi, I’m a psychopath and know literally everything about chopping bodies into little bits and disposing of them without a trace. Can I call you mom?” Fun personality.
In other news, Grace found a secret locked room of mysteries in the basement, and as per usual, teleports directly to Pete to tell him about it. She gets one and a half sentences into her explanation before they start kissing about how much breaking and entering they’re about to do.
Grace is really eager to get her horror movie merit badge this week, so she goes, “I need to wander around an abandoned basement by myself in the dark.” I’m so proud. Grace, you’re part of a tradition now.
She breaks open the locked room and emerges into the Murder Smithsonian, featuring memorabilia from all Kappa’s best deaths, including the bathtub and bloody dress from 1995. Which they kept. BECAUSE MEMORIES.
Just then, Chanel appears to go, “OMG! You were down here openly trying to get murdered?! I was down here openly trying to get murdered! SISTERS!” Then she retells the 1995 story, with the added nugget that Dean Jamie Lee and Ms. Bean helped cover the whole thing up. Oooooooh.
With that exposition out of the way, it’s time for Chanel to make some sex sounds with Chad while we see their feet wiggling at the end of the bed. Chad is thinking about corpses, which is weird, and according to Chanel, grounds for breakup.
Super grumpy, Chad runs back to his fraternity to cuddle Nick Jonas about it. Kind of. Not really. There’s a history with that. Apparently last time they had a cuddle session, there was an unauthorized “wiener touching” issue. Wiener? Really? You’re going with wiener? The whole scenario is a tired little trope, but mostly I’m concerned about the use of the word wiener. But because they’re BFFs no matter what, Chad ultimately gives cuddle permission again so that we get this moment.
Time for Chanel to show up! She’s very confused by this, mostly because of Nick Jonas’s alleged boner (well Chanel, when a man crawls into bed with a hot guy…) and the fact that she’s a horrible homophobic snake charmer. Chad has to break up with her right now because she just can’t open her narrow mind to understand that everyone wants to have sex with him, even Nick Jonas and plants, and that's OK.
Because the Chanels are terrible, they gather together to go “homophobic things, let’s out Nick Jonas,” right until he shows up to announce that he wants to come out and then join Kappa in order to ruin all their lives. Noble. Chanel #5 has 15 seizures and then shatters into a million pieces.
At the dean’s office, Pete is terrible at burglary. Yet in spite of himself, it takes 15 seconds for him to find a folder labeled “This is the file you’re looking for.” Just then, Red Devil knocks him unconscious.
Once Pete wakes up, he returns to his dorm room with Grace to go, “I’m going to get undressed while we solve this crime.” Correct. One problem: he has a Red Devil costume in his closet. For some reason, that makes Grace think he’s the Red Devil. Even more suspiciously, she learns that he’s 19. BUM BUM BUM, That’s the same age the 1995 baby would be! Conclusive!
Outside Kappa, Daddy Wes is lurking in his car, so Gigi Jean Skirt goes, “Judging by the none of him that I can see from here, he’s probably hot. I’ll go say hi.” Surprise! He is hot. She instantly convinces him to forget that his daughter is about to be killed and drive off with her instead.
You guys, murder is bad. So to keep everyone else safe, Niecy Nash is here. Her security qualifications include owning a walkie-talkie and nothing. Problem solved!
Unfortunately, she wasn’t in Chanel’s room as the Red Devil allegedly attacked her, but it’s OK because Chanel instantly learned martial arts that minute and was able to kick her way to safety. Niecy only appears later to offer the sage advice of RUN AWAY, YOU MORONS.
The Kappa morons ignore this and head right toward the murderer instead, discovering “SLUTS WILL DIE” written in blood on the wall. Good subtlety. But of course, this was just a diversion so that Red Devil could sneak outside and stab Officer Niecy’s best friend through the throat for some reason. Murder #4!
Now, we’ve put a lot of time into this epic two-hour premiere, so as a reward, the show has provided us with an extended Nick Jonas shirtless workout montage. Thank you for your kindness. And it’s nice to know that after only one episode, Nick Jonas has already entered the “less talk, more pecs” character phase.
Only one thing can ruin this. RED DEVIL TIME. Nick Jonas gives the Red Devil a total “my arm muscles are too nice for me to get murdered” face, but sadly that’s not a thing, so his throat gets slit. For good measure, the Red Devil then places him mostly naked on an altar. Well played. The more I see of this Red Devil, the more I like its style.
The rest of the totally heterosexual members of the golf fraternity see this display and act correspondingly heterosexual about it.
“Congratulations stupid hippos!” is the title of my autobiography. And Chanel’s latest greeting as she sits down for a dinner of nervous breakdowns, accusations, and forcing Hester to drink poo-hand water. In summary: everyone thinks the murderer is everyone else.
Just then, Chad and Niecy Nash burst in to announce that all the bodies of all the victims have gone missing. Shock! Alarm! Does this mean they’re not really dead? Yes, at least in the case of Nick Jonas, whose arm muscles wouldn’t go gentle into that good night. Sitting in the morgue, he pulls off a fake throat scar with a little smirk. Not really dead! Just kidding! Twist!
Well now, that was pretty much exactly as advertised. Silly, shiny, fun, dumb horror with a wink. What did you think of the premiere? And who do you want to see (maybe) killed next?
Quote of the week:
“No one forced that goat to get as drunk as it got. That’s on him.” – Chanel, on bestiality.