Warning: This contains spoilers.
A dead body has turned up a school assembly. The local kids are freaking out. Do you a. Reassure them that everything will be alright and order them home with a curfew? or b. Lock them up in the school and stop them from leaving so that tensions can only rise higher? Take a bow, Sheriff Acosta. You’re doing a bang-up job.
As a decision from the writers, though, Episode 5 (Dawn of the Dead) is a great move – after Episode 4 saw our teens escaping reality with Ayahuasca-induced trippery, this bottle episode doesn’t give them any choice but to face the reality of what’s going on.
Brooke, who has just had a dead body dumped on her, is in full-on shock mode – Carlson Young’s visibly shaken expression only adds to the development her character’s gone through since Season 1. The show reminds us how fleshed-out Brooke now is by cruelly forcing her to wear a cheerleader outfit – the only clothes left around that are spare and a brilliant signifier of the stereotype she could have been reduced to. It’s telling that the show ends with her going into the swimming pool and, beneath the surface where no one can see, emitting a desperate, silent scream.
Emma, meanwhile, seems to have less and less of a grip on reality – at a time when the whole school is waking up to the fact that a new Ghostface is on the loose, she seems to be checking out: after a few suspicious looks and taunts (“There’s always a crazy Duval left standing”), she flips and punches Hayley, the girl who pranked Audrey at the beginning of the season. Enter Ms. Lang, the world’s worst psychology teacher, who decides the best thing to do is separate Emma and lock her in a small room – the only thing stupider than locking the whole cast in the school to begin with.
Sure enough, Ghostface 2.0 appears – but, and this is how you can tell Scream is doing its job well, we’re not sure whether he really does. Emma yells and panics but, because of Ms. Lang’s contrived decision to isolate her, we have no way of knowing whether she’s imagining it all or not. The best way to convince us? Shatter a window and yell “I’m not playing your games anymore!” at thin air. Great work, Emma.
But there is something concrete to prove she’s not insane: Jake’s phone in her bag. Eli, everyone’s least favourite red herring, pops up to offer to get rid of it for her – if these two do end up getting it on, we’ll be writing strong letters to MTV – but it’s too late and Emma is whisked off by the Sheriff (it’s that interview that leads to her flipping out upon her return).
In a way, though, the phone’s biggest impact is the wedge it starts to put between Emma and Kieran. Kieran, who was not so long ago our Season 1 suspect, is also snapped up by the Sheriff, who grills him on all the details, after they catch him trying to get his gun from his locker. The result is the standout scene of the episode, as Anthony Ruivivar relishes the chance to show Acosta’s real colours: he starts off pretending to be nice and paying respect to Kieran’s dad, but really is just playing him to get a spy within the Lakewood Five. When Kieran’s gone, and grassed up Emma’s possession of the phone, he grins (Ruivivar has great, shark-like teeth) and shows no remorse about locking the students up – he has zero moral qualms with putting people at risk to get the job done. It’s not that he’s incompetent: he’s just horrible.
His son, Stavo (Santiago Segura), meanwhile, continues to be the main suspect, as far as the show is concerned – which, of course, means he’s not the main suspect at all. But his drawings of the others, covered in blood, on his iPad cause the lockdown to boil over, as Audrey has a go at him. In no time at all, the whole room’s ganging up on him, his iPad getting smashed in the process. So much for quiet in the library.
All the while, we continually go back to Noah for his meta-commentary on the situation. Noah, trying to apologise and make good with Zoe, is promptly psychoanalysed by his crush, who suggests that he likes to dress up these killings as a puzzle to be solved as a coping mechanism for his friends’ deaths – an on-the-nose remark, but a surprisingly smart bit of characterisation for the series’ comic relief. Heck, we would’ve been happy with him just being the post-modern guy for the sake of it.
Noah, of course, loves nothing more than broadcasting his theories and he points out (correctly) that we’re now entering Act Two of the season – and that everyone has a bullseye on their head. Nobody is safe. His discovery, finally, of Audrey’s phone and her messages to/from the killer gives him yet another shock to process – the only criticism is that it hasn’t happened sooner, especially for someone so smart and genre-savvy (did he really not notice that she talked Emma out of handing in the phone to stop herself begin exposed?). Indeed, Scream’s two bottle episodes in a row have been effective in building both character and tension, but the second season is at risk now of stalling, should no further progress be made anytime soon. The town is starting to face the reality of a second killer, but that reality needs to have weight. How will Audrey react when she finds out Noah knows? Is Emma really crazy enough to be the killer? And how long until the Sheriff gets fired for gross misconduct? Scream’s asking all the right questions, but we need some more corpses (and fewer spooky iPad pictures) to provide the answers.
Scream the TV series is available to watch online on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. Episodes arrive every Wednesday at 8am, within 24 hours of their US debut.