Netflix UK TV review: Scream Season 2, Episode 8 (Village of the Damned)
James R | On 21, Jul 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
“This is the stupidest thing ever. Having a carnival after everything that’s happened in this town?”
That’s what everyone in the audience will be saying during Episode 8 of Scream Season 2 and with good reason – who the hell does decide to hold a carnival (known to horror film fans throughout the world as guaranteed deathtraps), when your town is already a deathtrap in in its own right? But hold a carnival Scream’s second season does – and, not for the first time, a trip to its funhouse ends in disappointment.
With another four episodes to go after this, the show needs to start answering some questions or stacking up some bodies. It’s the second issue that remains the problem. Season 2 began promisingly, with the arrival of corpse after corpse – and, the last time we were talking about the carnival’s Lady of the Lake beauty pageant, the ceremonial dumping of one of those corpses upon Brooke. Since then, though, the body count has radically reduced, despite the introduction of a host of new characters, who could easily get the chop without too much damage to the narrative.
Village of the Damned attempts to allay any concerns on this matter by beginning with Audrey waking up in bed with “12 DEAD” painted on her ceiling in ketchup – maybe blood, but let’s be realistic – and dripping on her. How did she not hear the killer do it and wake up? Goodness knows. And how have there only been 12 in total so far, including Season 1, given how many near misses we’ve witnessed? (Remember, it took several attempts to get rid off Mr. Branson for good. And Ms. Lang is still not yet out for the count.)
Speaking of Seth, the burnt house from last episode is found by the police here, which prompts the Sheriff to bring back Maggie into the fold, because let’s face it, he hadn’t hired a replacement medical examiner anyway. Emma even decides to help the cops out (finally) and explain what she and Eli were doing there – progress is surely on the cards! But what we get instead is the reveal that Eli has a history of breaking into other people’s houses (and bedrooms), which, during a conversation with Audrey, is jumped upon by Emma’s BFF as a reason to suspect him. In other words, we’re now sure more than ever that Eli isn’t the killer – no slasher worth their salt is that obvious.
It’s an answer, yes, but one that’s delivered in the most frustrating way – the more Scream spins its wheels, the worse it seems to get at waving its red herrings in our faces. At least with Stavo – who, we learn, was possibly involved in someone’s death years ago in Phoenix – there’s an element of actual mystery to compensate for his Ghostface 2.0 mask (that his dad already knows he has). Why on earth does he have a drawing of Mr. Branson tied to a bed among his portfolio of sick doodles? And how would he know Branson was handcuffed before being bumped off?
Zoe, on the other hand, is still an intriguing threat, because we don’t get any hint of her duplicity this week: we just see her team up with Brooke to ace the beauty pageant, with Noah even turning up with a colour-co-ordinated bow tie and bouquet. They genuinely make a cute couple, and it’s that which makes her so interesting; she’s capable of extreme two-facedness. Brooke, on the other hand, decides to do away with any pretence, instead getting smashed and delivering a speech about how stupid the whole thing is – a breath of fresh honesty and a reminder that the show is still trying to do more than merely rehash convention.
Outside, Eli and Kieran are busy having fisticuffs, because he’s angry about Eli telling Emma what happened with their parents – an account that, inevitably, proved to be half-true. (The full story is that he was in the car with them and caused them to be distracted, which may have led to their fatal crash.) Can we finally say this Eli/Kieran/Emma love triangle is over now? After all, Eli’s had a restraining order put against him for creepy bedroom snooping. He’s hardly romantic interest material.
Kieran’s day only gets worse at this point, because he turns up on Emma’s phone, having been kidnapped by Ghostface 2.0. Emma does her duty by him and runs to the abandoned funhouse to save him – yes, we’re back in the funhouse again, kids. The result is a spooky enough sequence, which makes the most of the eerie lighting and mirrors. There’s even a token cop thrown into the mix, so that when the killer does turn up, we have someone ready to get stabbed – but why, you wonder, couldn’t we have a more substantial, shocking death? Why not have Emma joined by someone else who’s disposable but more surprising? (The answer, perhaps, lies in the nature of this as a series – while the characters are better drawn than in a film, the programme also needs to keep its characters around for future seasons. It would far be more exciting if it just threw caution to the wind and was happy to throw anyone under the bus.)
With Red Ensign Cop out of action, Emma grabs his gun and tries to shoot the killer, but we just end up out the front of the funhouse, surrounded by cops, and a killer who turns out to be… Kieran, with his mouth covered in duct-tape. Framed! It’s a twist we see coming – again, how much better would it be if the show was willing to have her mistakenly execute him? – but let’s give the show more credit than that: what if this is all just a ruse by Kieran to stop us suspecting him? With such obvious red herrings floating about, a double-bluff is exactly the kind of trick Scream would pull.
With at least two suspects ruled out firmly, the show returns to its other “killer”: Audrey. She continues her knack of interrupting Noah and Zoe whenever they’re getting it on – unlike Kieran, Eli and Emma, this sort-of love triangle really does work, especially with all the secrets we know about buzzing between the three of them. Before they can get too annoying, the series is smart enough to resolve one big one: our cliffhanger leaves Emma hearing Noah’s recording of Audrey admitting her connection to Piper, just as Audrey walks in to ‘fess up. Cue awkward silence.
What will Emma do? Is there more to Audrey’s story? And did Zoe email Emma the recording? We’re going to get at least one of those questions resolved in Episode 9 – even with its flaws, Scream continues to step up its stream of answers. With the weakest element of the season hopefully wrapped up, there’s a promising dash to the finish line in store. 12 DEAD. All the show needs is to make that figure a little higher.
Scream the TV series is available to watch online on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. Episodes arrive every Wednesday at 8am, within 24 hours of their US debut.