Netflix UK TV review: Scream Season 2: Episode 9 to 12 (spoilers)
Ivan Radford | On 28, Aug 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
“Sometimes the people closest to you are the ones who keep the biggest secrets,” says Noah towards the end of Scream’s second season – a sentiment that fuels the whole of MTV’s small-screen adaptation of Wes Craven’s franchise. While the Scream films were very much a wham, bam, hack and slash affair, having the story span multiple episodes means that the revelation of the killer’s identity actually has to matter; the strength of the show lies in its emotional weight, rather than pure gore.
Emotional weight, of course, is relative – this is still a knowingly cliche-strewn genre affair – but that’s where Season 2 has really succeeded: it makes us feel the impact of each death. That’s both the inherent nature of a sequel and the fact that the cast, particularly Bex Taylor-Klause as Audrey, are so good; with her juggling the revelations of Season 1, and the threat of exposure they pose for her now, she brings an entirely unexpected perspective to the story.
With the final episodes, that perspective pays off in greater and greater dividends, as the show rushes to wipe out its red herrings before the final killer is unmasked. That means we finally get the full dirt on Audrey, who knew Piper was Emma’s half-sister and did bring her to Lakewood for revenge (albeit not the kind involving knives). While they repair their friendship, we say a surprise farewell to Hayley (killed at a party she organised for Ghostface 2.0, whom she was dating), Brooke’s dad and even Zoe.
The Zoe reveal is a masterful bit of work, because it occurs at the same time as another possible shock death: that of Noah. Yes, everyone’s favourite podcaster and comic sidekick is taken by the killer, waking up to find himself buried alive. A coffin bottle episode in the middle a TV series? It’s the kind of thing Tarantino was praised for when he helmed a similar episode of CSI years ago. From a teen slasher series, it’s an equally impressive flourish – after all, it would be effective if it were the only standout episode of the show, but it occurs in a run that also included a stunning bottle episode involving the world’s trippiest party – testament to how bold, visually and conceptually, the show has become. It doesn’t need to do this to impress its young audience; the fact it puts in the effort to be creative as well as creepy does the programme huge credit.
That diverse format also means the story can feel equally unpredictable – you spend most of the episode convinced that Noah really is about to die. His eventual rescue is a relief for the show’s laughter count, but also comes with the one-two punch that Zoe has also been buried alive, but doesn’t get saved. Bye bye, red herring, hello, emotional trauma. (Noah briefly decides to stop his podcast, before he comes across a photo of Eli in the background of Season 1 and, thanks to some rousing advice from Stavo – plus a copy of his graphic novel – gets back on the investigative horse.)
These last chapters are so good at blending the two that they highlight how uneven some of the show’s middle has been, often trying to spend so much time doing twists and character development that the tension dries up – the decision to extend the show to 12 episodes from 10 has done the writers no favours, leaving them repeating themselves and stretching things out with no real benefit.
That uneven nature is perhaps fuelled by the show’s limbo status between the old franchise and the new – who, exactly, should be its target audience?
It’s interesting, then, that the finale is one of Season 2’s strongest episodes – and is also the one that’s closest to the original films. While everyone suspects Emma of being behind the whole thing – after the killer steals her dream notebook and stitches the goriest nightmares together with footage of the actual murders to make a video that goes viral – Emma, Audrey, Brooke Noah and Kieran hole up in a cinema to face the killer – a sequence that recalls Scream 2’s lecture theatre set pieces. Audrey and Emma even get in a car crash, with a dead police officer in the front seat, which echoes Scream’s equally nail-biting scene. And, in a tradition that stems right back to Scream’s initial opening with Drew Barrymore, Audrey is kidnapped and tied to a chair. and Emma tries to save her.
The final reveal, though, is the biggest reference of all, as we discover that Kieran – congratulations to all of you who guessed it – is Ghostface 2.0, getting revenge on both Emma and Audrey for killer Piper, who was his bae. It’s straight out of the pages of Craven’s textbook, with Kieran’s haircut even looking similar to Skeet Ulrich’s character. In true Scream TV fashion, that bloody discovery also gives a chance for character growth, as Emma becomes someone who can see other forms of punishment that don’t involve death.
Looking backwards and forwards also drives the show to its cliffhanger ending – because, of course, there’s a cliffhanger. While Emma is unmasking her boyfriend of several years, Maggie has been attempting to communicate with her own troubled ex – none other than Brandon James. Leaving a note in the garden tree for him, as she used to, she finds it re-pinned to the trunk with a dagger through it – a sign that someone is still out there who knows something. And, sure enough, while Emma and Audrey are moving on with life and Brooke and Stavo are playing happy families with Stavo’s dad,
Kieran is being called in prison – by someone claiming to be Brandon himself.
If Scream the film managed to spawn three sequels, it’s the kind of twist that suggests the series could just keep going on indefinitely. While Season 2 has proven that the programme can do impressive things with multiple seasons, it also demonstrates the pitfalls of the show being given too much rope to play with. MTV’s spin-off continues to offer up enjoyable, smart, creative scares for new and old fans alike. Does that mean it should do more? Perhaps not. Or perhaps it would benefit from changing story and characters completely. The news that MTV has commissioned a two-part Halloween special, which will wrap up Season 2’s cliffhanger, is certainly nothing to be afraid of.
Scream the TV series is available to watch online on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.