Warning: This recap for the “Scream Again” episode of Scream Queens contains spoilers.
Liking a thing is hard. When you hate something nobody can truly disagree with that; you can just slide your sunglasses down while standing in a Buffalo stance and the conversation is over. But when you like something, it begs a follow-up question: “How come, idiot?” And in answering that you are inevitably opening up your ribcage and allowing everyone to gaze upon your heart-treasures where those still-glistening, wet-from-birth feels can be judged and/or swatted down into a mud puddle. That’s why the internet is an electric-powered grid of haterade. It’s safer that way.
A lot of people did not care for Scream Queens even though it is obviously wonderful and unique in a lot of ways. There is a larger essay to be written about the public’s instinctive dismissal of female-focused comedy, but let’s just stick with a more basic argument: Scream Queens is ludicrous. It’s a megadose of raunchy, violent, weird absurdism right smack in the middle of primetime and that makes people uncomfortable. ‘We demand airtight logic and character work only,’ viewers all declare after reading another essay about Peak Television™. And then Ryan Murphy delivers this mean, candy-colored cartoon about dismemberment and unusual sexual positions. If Scream Queens aired on Logo at 2 a.m. it would be a beloved cult hit. Instead it’s a low-rated Fox hourlong that a distressing number of my peers openly wish cancellation upon. I truly love it. “How come, idiot?” Because of all the reasons I just mentioned!
So it’s Season 2 now, and I will be up front with you: I am not sure I love the new premise so far. Last year’s sorority setting felt more conducive to over-the-top ladies doing insane things, but this season’s hospital angle is a little dicier. And I probably will not be the only one to say this, but maybe continuing with the same characters was a mistake. I felt like so much of this season premiere was hobbled by having to explain how last year’s characters ended up in this new situation. Man, a cleaner Scream Queens parody of Grey’s Anatomy would’ve been amazing. Instead I’m just confused about what exactly anyone is doing here and why. Oh well. Still some amazing stuff in the premiere. Let’s talk about it!
We began with a cold open that will presumably be important to the season-long plot (“plot”).
It was 1985 and you better believe an era-appropriate pop song was playing. We were at a hospital where the staff were all dressed up in Halloween costumes and drunkenly gyrating while patients passed away right and left! Head doctor Jerry O’Connell was wearing a sort of green version of The Red Devil costume from last season, which was appropriate seeing as the hospital had a swamp in the backyard that was allegedly the home of local monster The Green Meanie.
So then Jerry O’Connell was forced to leave the party to tend to a very ill man. Fortunately the man was probably going to die soon, so Jerry O’Connell dumped the man’s body in the swamp and called it a day. Right off the bat I got the sense that this was not a great hospital.
Next thing we knew it was 2016 and the sins of the past had long been forgotten (OR HAD THEY?!) and the hospital was now a little bit nicer looking and two hunky brunettes were prancing down its hallways wearing stethoscopes and smirks. Meet your hunky surgeons, Taylor Lautner and John Stamos.
We then met this season’s first patient-of-the-week, which meant maybe it was going to be parodying House a lil? This lady was Cecily Strong with a lot of hair glued to her face, head, neck, and body. She had what the doctors called “werewolfism” and it was an incurable condition. Which was notable in that this was apparently a hospital devoted to treating incurable conditions, at least according to its new boss, DEAN MUNSCH.
It had been two years since Dean Munsch had presided over a mass murder or two at her previous gig, and since then she’d written books and had been featured in magazines, which gave her enough cred to become a famous entrepreneur who gives motivational TED talks and fails upward into positions at teaching hospitals. Or something like that? This was honestly one of the more plausible character journeys in the episode, so I’m not complaining.
We then got an appearance by Denise Hemphill herself! As it turned out, Hester had NOT gotten away with her crimes, as Denise Hemphill was able to garner a confession out of her, which set the Chanels free. (The Netflix documentary devoted to their framing probably also helped.)
In the meantime, and for reasons that were intentionally left cryptic, Dean Munsch personally recruited Zayday to come work and study at her hospital in exchange for free tuition. And while it’s still not clear what Dean Munsch’s game was, it was nice to have Zayday back. (And nicer still that Grace and her hats were sitting this one out. Sorry, I can only do one season’s worth of plaid paperboy caps.)
At this point we learned more about the two hunky doctors. Taylor Lautner’s doctor was cold, not only in his fatalistic philosophies about mankind, but also literally cold to the touch. Meanwhile John Stamos had had a hand transplant after accidentally grinding his own appendage off in a garbage disposal (!). In other words, neither of these guys were at the top of their games anymore and both had more in common with Frankenstein’s monster than you’d expect.
Then, as is tradition, the Chanels returned. Here’s where the impossible logic gymnastics of the premiere began to get dizzying. See, after they were released from the asylum they graduated from a technical institute and got jobs as dental assistants, sperm bank janitors, and phlebotomists. But they were now broke and getting shouted at in the streets by common rabble for their involvement in last season’s murders. Which was why, when Dean Munsch pulled up to their backyard pout-party in a limousine and lit up a joint in front of them, they agreed to her offer of employment at her hospital. Again, the “WHY” wasn’t exactly laid out for us, so we just had to go with it.
I loved Zayday’s reaction when she first saw the trio enter the hospital:
Yeah, that was the biggest scream in the episode. Which, maybe now is the time to point out that this episode had barely any horror? Sure there was the swamp incident in the beginning and an accidental hand amputation, but we’d have to wait until the very last scene for a proper slasher moment. I was getting restless!
Fortunately the episode was able to distract me from my horror thirst by appealing to my actualthirst. By this I mean John Stamos had a shower scene set to Roxette’s “She’s Got the Look.” But yes, Scream Queens‘ music cues remain impeccable in Season 2. (I’m STILL laughing about the “Toy Soldiers” moment in the Season 1 finale tbh.)
After a few amusing scenes in which Dean Munsch orientated the Chanels to the hospital (which was confusing in that they didn’t particularly want to be there and it was unclear what exactly Munsch needed them to do), they began making the rounds antagonizing the one and only patient (werewolf girl). And the episode antagonized US with more fish-eye lens stuff. I had thought that Ryan Murphy got fish-eye lenses out of his system during Coven, but guess not!
At this point we met the rude resident head nurse, sort of Scream Queens‘ answer to Nurse Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy. Here she’s played by Kirstie Alley, and I will admit, I was so happy to see Kirstie Alley again. I am for sure an S.P. when it comes to her religion but that doesn’t mean I don’t value her as the comedic treasure she is. Welcome back, Kirstie Alley! Her character seems very mean and I laughed out loud when Chanel’s first reaction upon seeing her was “Ew.” This is gonna be a fun plotline.
Later in the episode, the Chanels suddenly decided they wanted to work at the hospital now, for the reason that maybe they could parlay their medical school educations into gigs as talking heads on Fox News. So Chanel took it upon herself to cure werewolf girl, and she did it by seducing John Stamos into… I mean, who knows. Long story short, werewolf girl’s hair fell out, which meant it was now time for a makeover montage!
Scream Queens might not have any interest in realism or even a slightly plausible hospital culture, but it remains fully committed to pink outfits and makeover montages set to The Go-Gos. Phew!
The only thing better than one scheming jerk is TWO scheming jerks. I loved when we found out that BOTH Munsch and Kirstie Alley were scheming to destroy the Chanels, but separately. This should be good.
Finally, a horror scene! After Chanel and Chanel No. 3 scored dates with the two hunky doctors, Chanel No. 5 was tasked with bathing werewolf girl in the hydrotherapy tanks. For some reason this resulted in both of them being locked inside their respective tanks, which left them vulnerable to a masked slasher!
Suddenly someone dressed as The Green Meanie was putting “Be My Baby” on the record player and decapitating them with a rectangular machete! Poor werewolf girl got her head lopped off first, and the episode cut to black before Chanel No. 5 was put out of her misery. (I’m guessing she did not die but don’t quote me on that or anything for that matter. No quotes!)
Honestly this season premiere felt light on content, probably because it had to devote so much time to catching us up to what the characters had been up to, and how exactly they came to work at the hospital. If only Scream Queens had reset itself, we could’ve gotten more into the season mythology/threat and maybe the character motivations would be more compelling or interesting. As it is, this was merely a welcome return to a hilarious and weird show. Hopefully it’ll come into its own much more next week? The previews promise a naked Chad Radwell, after all! Welcome back, Scream Queens, you glorious idiot hooker.
What did YOU think of “Scream Again”?
Scream Queens airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox