'Scream Queens' S1E8: Mommie Dearest

★ ★ ★ ½

Anyone else not screaming?

Sure, there are a couple of shockers here and there, but for a series spawned by the minds behind American Horror Story, this "horror"-comedy seems to want little to do with the slasher genre it claims to be a part of. Scream suffered the same issue, but that show was trying to shoehorn itself into Pretty Little Liars territory with a killer who cyber-bullied. Scream Queens, on the other hand, can’t manage to figure out if it’s wanting to please horror fans or Gleeks.

The two audiences don’t have to be exclusive. American Horror Story has a surprisingly young fan base (you can thank Evan Peters for some of that) and Glee turned heads of all ages. And also, while comedic horror isn’t a Murphy invention, it’s been a niche genre that has pleased people for decades. What Murphy probably intended (and what Gigi described back in episode one) was to create the first horror sitcom: a Friends-type series where characters are frequently and brutally killed off. But if you compare Scream Queens to Ash vs. Evil Dead, another freshman series, you can tell just how well Ash vs. Evil Dead understands the balance between comedy and horror.

The momentum Scream Queens once had has been obliterated due to its inability to kill off characters in an order more random than their order of importance. Now that Jennifer’s been snuffed out (sorry), Scream Queens will have to start killing its darling series regulars. While this prospect would have been exciting a couple of episodes ago, Scream Queens decided to keep characters safe for as long as they possibly could. Time is up for them, so things should get more exciting from here on out.

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Character deaths aren’t the only thing being dragged out. The extended joke of characters being incapable of discerning the identity of the killer was funny at first — especially when Denise was accusing Zayday — but we’re eight episodes in and none of them are really intelligent enough to make strides on their own. Even the Chanels needed someone else to dig up information on their two "suspects." It’s in this kind of case that having killed off some series regulars would have kept things interesting. Imagine just how many twists and turns could have sprouted from the death of a red herring of Zayday’s caliber.

And, as much as it still pains me to say it, this is where Scream did a good job. As messy as that series was, its storylines gave characters something to do when they weren’t being attacked by the killer. Instead of the "Night of a 1,000 Compliments," ditzy blonde Brooke was dealing with her mother’s disappearance and the shallowness of her popularity; the jocks dealt with a blackmail storyline. What do the Chanels have?

Grace and Pete are still boring. It’s not their forced chemistry or expositional plot, but their complete inability to put two and two together. The "super sleuths" spend more time falling for what people tell them than actually making strides in the underlying mystery of the series. When the do figure something out, though, it breathes life into them.

"Mommie Dearest" not only revealed that Grace’s mother was actually Bethany, the KKT girl who got the Sophia killed, but that she was killed in a drunk driving accident after Wes gained custody of Grace. Plus, another trip to the asylum exposed that Gigi wasn't institutionalized with one child, but two. A boy and a girl. (I have a theory as to who these two children are.) Boone’s reveal in the episode wasn’t too exciting; like Gigi, it was something we already assumed.

While "Mommie Dearest" wasn’t the best recovery from "Beware of Young Girls," it did move the plot forward, and it revealed information that people cared about. The homage to Pyscho and Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother and the original Scream Queen) was a nice, entertaining touch that could have, possibly, been handled slightly better. Actually, that's something that can be said for the episode as a whole...

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