Warning: This recap for the “Dorkus” and “The Final Girl(s)” episodes of Scream Queens contains spoilers.
Quick Question: What even WAS Scream Queens? After weeks and weeks, at no point did Scream Queens ever present itself as an easily explainable entity. I’m pretty sure it was a TV series, but anything beyond that is up for debate. In my opinion it featured tons of incredible actors and high production values and truly brilliant one-liners and I laughed very hard very often. But did Scream Queens even TRY to make sense? Was it even technically a story? Did it somehow embrace AND reject horror simultaneously? Was the show itself hateful, or was it simply hating on haters? All of these things are debatable!
Yes, one could easily criticize Scream Queens for not being “good” in the traditional sense — many critics and legions of non-viewers sure wrote it off quickly — but what is even traditionally “good” anymore? In this era of so-called Peak Television where everything is a gritty, super-serious Emmy grab, maybe the most subversive and valuable thing to do was present an avant garde mélange of Heathers references and slasher homages as an hourlong network PRIMETIME whodunnit and then Trojan Horse in some of the weirdest and committed alt-comedy this side of Adult Swim. I am honestly not even sure what to make of Scream Queens, and that’s possibly the highest compliment I can pay a TV show in 2015. God, I loved this thing.
With the back-to-back airing of “Dorkus” and “The Final Girl(s)”, Scream Queens ended its first (and maybe only?) season by somehow making the reveal of the killer(s) both unimportant yet completely entertaining. If the midseason was slightly too wheel-spinny, these episodes more than made up for them by mixing surprising reveals with some dark, dark, dark endings. But more important than the mystery, as always, were the laughs. And I am STILL laughing about that Chad-Denise breakup scene. Truly wonderful. Let’s talk about this finale!
We began right where last week’s episode left off: Pete maybe-sorta confessing to being the final Red Devil killer…
And it turned out that was no fake-out! Well, sort of. It’s complicated. Basically he HAD donned the costume and murdered people, but he wasn’t the true killer, he was more of a hobbyist who got swept up in the excitement after discovering a few months earlier that Boone had been a killer. Apparently the two had become fast friends and Boone had convinced Pete that perhaps murdering bad people was a cool thing to do. So he went and killed Roger (for the crime of having ripped off Dodger’s nipple while in the womb) and then attempted to kill Chanel in the mall. (Oh yeah, and he killed a cop.) But Pete was still a GREAT GUY who begged for Grace’s understanding. She had, after all, nearly murdered someone last week for being a bad person, so she’d have to be a hypocrite to judge him too hard.
His vendetta against Chanel (and maybe girls in general) stemmed from the time she tricked him into dressing up as Darryl Hannah’s character in Clan of the Cave Bear for sexual purposes, but then revealed that it was a prank and all her sorority sisters laughed at him. Okay? Seemed like a reasonable motive to murder people. On the other hand, as Pete explained to Grace, he later felt kinda guilty about committing murder and had been the one to personally murder Boone and Gigi. So, that made it even, right?
Unfortunately, just before Pete could reveal the identity of the ACTUAL third killer (and the other bathtub baby), that person jumped out of the closet and stabbed him TO DEATH. Grace struggled to rip off his/her mask but ended up getting knocked out. So… It was going to be another hour until we found out who the other killer was. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Chanel had made national news by writing an unhinged email screed to her sisters for having ditched out on her when she’d tried to murder Dean Munsch. Yes, this email bit was pretty much an homage to that one hilarious sorority email that went viral a few years ago. You remember the one. (Honestly, just re-read it right now, you may have forgotten how brilliant it is.)
I especially loved this sequence because it was just a normal montage of her sisters going about their day as Chanel’s words scrawled across every surface. It was actually a fairly striking visual trick, and it was all in the service of broadcasting Chanel’s nasty, hilarious insults. Unfortunately, Chanel was now infamous nation-wide, and all the protesters and TV pundits were wearing her down. So it was time to commit suicide.
Her method? An asp she bought online (which ended up just being a Garter snake in a macrame vest). Fortunately Zayday interrupted her suicide “attempt” and pep-talked her into funneling her angst into solving this murder spree once and for all. But they were interrupted when a pizza delivery man dressed in a Red Devil costume ran into the house with dynamite strapped to his chest! You probably know what happened next.
That’s right, the Red Devil had resorted to terrorist tactics! But why? And for what purpose? Probably for the .GIF-ability, if we’re being honest. Also, the marble foyer was now finally covered in blood splatter just like it was always meant to be.
This new attack forced the girls to get more aggressive in their tactics to end this scourge, so Grace pimped out her father to seduce Dean Munsch so that she and Zayday could go through Dean Munsch’s laptop like a couple of raccoons pawing through a Sizzler dumpster. But wouldn’t you know it? Wes and Dean Munsch ended up having the SEX OF THE CENTURY. But it was probably just because Wes’ Spotify playlist had tons of Heart on it.
At the same time, Chanel concocted a scheme to atone for her nasty email by going on an “apology” tour. The first stop on this tour was the home of Melanie Dorkus a.k.a. the previous president of the Kappa house, who had fallen prey to an acid-in-the-spray-tanner attack. She wasn’t looking great these days, and Chanel didn’t care: She wasn’t there to apologize, she was there to MURDER. Yes, Chanel believed Meredith had been the true murderer, and she would have executed the poor girl with a pair of scissors right then and there had Grace and Zayday not interrupted. As it turned out, their infiltration of Dean Munsch’s records produced a prime suspect… HESTER.
But when the girls arrived back at the house, they found Hester seemingly lifeless in the closet with a stiletto jammed in her eye socket! At which point Hester awoke and raised a finger of accusation at Chanel No. 5!
Buuuut, as we came to learn, she had staged it all.
It was here, at the top of the second hour, that Scream Queens jumped forward in time a few weeks! Grace and Zayday were now in charge of the Kappa house, and Hester was giving tons of voiceover about how she had been the mastermind of the Red Devil killings. And even though it didn’t really matter anymore why she had done it or to what lengths she’d had to go to in order to pull it all off, Scream Queens used the opportunity to build a lengthy montage of comedic setpieces around it.
So we flashed back to Hester and Boone growing up in the asylum with Gigi, and Gigi training them from a young age to become revenge-murderers. We even saw Hester adopt her fake scoliosis brace! (Which was stolen from a fellow inmate.)
From there we got glimpses of Hester’s involvement in many of the murders (she only personally killed Pete), including Miss Bean’s fryer incident and Meredith Dorkus’ acid attack.
But the true fun and games of this episode was how Hester proceeded to pin all the murders on the Chanels. Hester had meticulously planned for all three of them to take the fall, so as soon as Police Chief Denise Hemphill arrived, the living room turned into the People’s Court!
By far the funniest part was when Chanel No. 5′s parents showed up and sold her out completely. Not because they’re just passive idiots, but because they decided to willingly go along with Hester’s scheme simply just to get rid of their daughter. The mother’s dialogue was particularly amazing…
We tried to love her, but… She’s not great… As soon as she learned to talk I wanted to disown her. I mean, maybe she’s the killer on campus, maybe she’s not. But she probably is. Right? I mean, she just sucks. Our daughter sucks.
Like, that’s DARK. But honestly? Agreed. Chanel No. 5 was not a great character (and Abigail Breslin never seemed fully capable of delivering her lugubrious lines of dialogue), but I had chalked it all up to being misdirection. People I’ve talked to IRL (I talk to people IRL sometimes) agreed that Chanel No. 5 was probably the killer, because why else was she so useless and pathetic? Except the ultimate joke was that she really WAS just pathetic. Up to and including swiping right on the lead singer from Nickelback. Anyway, yeah. Her mom looking upon her with disgust for no reason was both heart-breaking and completely hilarious. This show.
Hester also pointed out that Chanel No. 3 was Charles Manson’s daughter, and his letters to her contained suggestions that eerily matched up with some of the murders that had occurred on campus. Even more incriminatingly, Hester revealed that Chanel No. 3 had a split personality and her alter ego was named Dirty Helen. Chanel No. 3 didn’t deny this, and even seemed to believe Hester’s accusations, which was upsetting for those of us who had immediately become fans of Dirty Helen the second we heard that her name was Dirty Helen. Poor Dirty Helen! Dirty Helen had been framed!
Framing Chanel Oberlin was as easy as dressing up like her when purchasing tons of murder weapons (including a riding lawn mower) and then letting Chanel herself act crazy when confronted with security camera footage.
All of this air-tight logic provided what Police Chief Denise Hemphill would call a “mic-drop moment.” But just when Chanel decided to make a run for it (in slow motion set to Martika’s “Toy Soldiers,” which nearly melted my brain it was so funny) a horde of sleeveless arresting officers descended!
That’s right Police Chief Denise Hemphill had deputized dozens of male strippers to the police force. In other words, she was doing A+ work already.
We then jumped ahead five months, and it was Dean Munsch’s turn to tell us how her life was going. She’d written (well, hired a ghostwriter to write) a bestseller about New New Feminism, and had devoted herself to making sure the campus honored people of all beliefs so long as they were left-leaning. Also, the Radwell Family paid for a monument to the student victims of the Red Devil Killer (who included Mrs. Bean and Shondell, for some reason), and his personally penned inscription was nothing less than stirring.
Dean Munsch might be a sexually liberated sociopath, but that didn’t make her a dummy. So upon running into Hester at the monument she decided to CALL HER OUT for being the actual killer.
But in perhaps the darkest twist all season, Hester simply reminded Dean Munsch that she too had been a murderer (and had covered up the bathtub death from years prior), so the two of them simply shook hands and agreed to not tell anybody. And that was IT! Hester got away with it, and Dean Munsch proceeded as normal. It was a flip, funny resolution to a season-long killing spree, and it felt borderline audacious.
Oh gosh, this scene should be in a museum. Chad and Denise Hemphill called it quits officially, so that she could move away and start her training at the FBI Academy. From quoting TLC’s “Waterfalls” to dry-humping, to getting one last glimpse at Denise Hemphill’s behind, this scene was as passionate and romantic and perfect as any breakup has ever been, in real life or otherwise. Yep, the show’s two best characters shared maybe its best ever scene. So good.
We finished with the fates of the Chanels. Through a series of poor decisions, they decided to represent themselves, and after one Chanel rant too many, the jury changed its mind at the last minute and found them guilty on all charges. (LOVED that Chanel No. 3 wore Princess Leia buns in these scenes. We kinda knew it was coming at SOME point.)
But rather than being sent to prison, the three were thrown into a mental institution. The final twist was both charming and dark: They LOVED it there. The institution bore several major similarities to their sorority house (Chanel was elected president here as well), and each of the girls seemed to thrive. Add to that a spirited rendition of “Don’t You Forget About Me” and the ending seemed about as perfect for these characters as one could hope for. Yes, they’re horrible sociopaths who deserve to be locked up (wrongfully or otherwise), but at least they’re happy?
But because this show is about horror, we had to have our traditional final scare-tease. Just as Chanel laid her head to sleep, she saw an old friend lurking over her bed.
Whoops! Who was that? Why go after Chanel at this point? Like most things on this show, it was just a trope, a flourish. Don’t think too hard about it.
With this colorful cartoon of horrible people finally at its end (end of Season 1, anyway), I have to admit I’m coming away with one distinctive emotion: gratitude. Scream Queens was not challenging, but it was stimulating. It didn’t ask me to have extensive knowledge of horror tropes, but it rewarded me for it anyway. It never asked to be taken seriously, but its next-level dialogue was undeniable. It’s a ‘dumb’ comedy written by very smart people. It riffed on low-budget horror but with the huge financial backing of a billion dollar corporation and still felt grimier and riskier at times than the movies it was actually commenting on. And ultimately part of me is sort of happy it wasn’t a huge ratings success. Sometimes an aspiring cult hit should actually BE a cult hit. You know? This is a secret success I’ll be talking about (and quoting) for a while.
What a weird, special, messy, divisive, hilarious show. I hope Fox gives it another season, but even if it doesn’t, I’m grateful for this one. Well done, everybody.
What did YOU think of the Scream Queens season finale?
Scream Queens airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox