Just when you thought a TV show version of a slasher movie couldn’t work, every horror fan’s favorite punching bag is back. Scream: The TV Series had its second season premiere last night, and the results are more of the same, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you weren’t a fan of the first season then you probably won’t find much to latch onto in MTV’s rebranded tale of a group of teens terrorized by a masked killer copying the deadly deeds of a deranged serial murderer. But if you were on board with the melodramatic meta tale of creeped out teens then it’ll be like you never left, especially with the surprising kills. Scream pulled no punches in its return, and even offed a less-than-liked main character to make things interesting.
Things pick up more or less a few months after we left off in Season 1. Podcast wannabe Piper Shaw (Amelia Rose Blaire), who we found out was the masked killer known as Ghostface who set out for revenge on her half-sister Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) and her mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf) with the help of high school classmate Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus), is dead and Emma is set to return after some much needed psychological R and R. Know-it-all comic relief character Noah (John Karna) picked up with Piper’s faux Serial podcast called “Autopsy of a Crime” and renamed it “The Morgue” as a way to cope with the fallout that he and his fellow victims (aka the Lakewood Six) have gone through. And Audrey, who was heavily hinted at being Piper’s accomplice has to live with the guilt of allegedly helping in the deaths of more or less nine people.
Taking its cues from the original film’s director Wes Craven, the Season 2 premiere’s cold opening apes the movie-within-a-movie opening construct of Craven’s Scream 2. Whereas that movie’s gloriously bloody fake-out was meant to be a commentary on the ironic popularity of the first movie’s grisly story, the Season 2 opening can’t muster up the same kind of subtext. Here, an alleged return of Ghostface ends up being a prank by a few of Audrey’s classmates trying to poke fun at her fame and trauma.
It was a bit of a lazy switcheroo, and yet the TV series has the benefit of cleverly protracted dramatic irony heading into this season. We know Audrey is feeling guilty about the hand she had in Ghostface’s murders (even though we don’t necessarily know what she did), and the audience can revel in the fact that the season will mostly be about her getting her comeuppance, if not trying to clear her name. From the get-go Noah is suspicious that Piper had to have some kind of accomplice, so look for this to fan the flames as Noah becomes his own mini detective.
But would the show really do something as obvious as have Audrey be the second killer? Probably not. The convenient big reveal of the first episode was that serial killer Brandon James had a brother named Troy, which was never mentioned in the first season. But long-lost siblings have been a staple of the horror genre for decades, and it’s good to see Scream taking its initial second season cues from genre classic sequels.
The rest of the episode is essentially playing catch-up to increasingly snooze-worthy ends while place-setting for things to come, starting with the emotionally scarred Emma returns to regain some sense of normality only to find her budding relationship with local tough-dude Kieran (Amadeus Serafini) beginning to fizzle. There is also some particularly grotesque PTSD stress dreams involving a little Emma and some pig intestines that delivered what horror fans undoubtedly came to see, and the show should continue to push the boundaries of good taste like that if it wants to keep them tuning in.
We’re also clumsily introduced to Zoe (Kiana Brown), who was briefly mentioned in season 1 but never seen, and she breezes in as if she’s been Emma’s BFF all along. This effortless friendship makes her one to watch out for. But the more interesting introduction, undoubtedly meant to throw the audience off to the new Ghostface’s identity, is the new sheriff’s son Gustavo (Santiago Segura). He’s immediately seen as a weird creeper hanging around Emma and the group, and kudos to the surprise creepiness of him sitting in class drawing Emma covered in blood. It’s just the right hint of crazy-weird.
But the biggest and best moment of the episode was the fond gut-busting farewell to Jake (Tom Maden), the jock that nobody really liked but who somehow survived the first season anyway. The first season’s biggest weakness was that it kept all of the Lakewood 6 alive and essentially not taking any risks. But doing away with what was still the most expendable person of the group this early on puts the fate of the other for rest of this season up in the air. It might have been a bit more effective had they done away with Jake in the opening scene, but it’s definitely the best way to start things off.
Hopefully the rest of the season can continue to deviously capitalize on the way the second film portrayed Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott character, a woman dealing with the fallout of unwanted infamy while having to go through the same ordeal over again. At least at this point in the TV series, Emma, Audrey, Noah, and the remaining Lakewood Six are in the best possible positions to be terrorized one more. Here’s hoping Season 2 gives viewers something more to scream about.