By Sean Ray | a&e editor
Long time readers of The Duke may recall my review of the first season of “Scream” last year. For those of you who missed out, allow me to summarize: “Scream” started its first season on a mediocre note, weighed down by an overabundance of teenaged angsty drama and poorly timed song inserts so MTV could keep its connection to its musical past. While the show did improve, it never quite achieved the level of quality the original movies had, and I found myself worried whether the show would have a future.
And then season 2 happened.
Never in my life have I seen such a jump up in quality as “Scream” has undergone into its second season. All the negative aspects of the show have been, and pardon the bad joke here, cut out. The teen drama has been largely slashed, with a much greater focus on the actual mystery horror plot. All the boring or unlikable characters have been killed off, with the few stragglers made much more interesting. The music is better timed and integrated.
But above all, “Scream” improved itself in one of the most important factors it could to ensure its longevity: the horror.
Following the events of the first season, main character Emma Duvall (Willa Fitzgerald) has been away from Lakewood, needing time to recover from the rampage carried out by the first season’s killer, Piper Shaw (Amelia Blaire). Meanwhile, local horror movie geek Noah Foster (John Karna) has taken up Piper’s old podcast, The Morgue, examining the Lakewood murders and whether Piper had an accomplice. Sure enough, upon Emma’s return, that accomplice surfaces to get revenge, and the bodies begin to pile up.
“Scream” immediately raises the stakes in the very first episode of season 2, killing off a main cast member in a manner much more gruesome than Piper ever managed. And it only goes up from there. There were several Tuesday nights I spent on the edge of my seat, gasping at the merest sight of the killer lurking in the shadows. Each murder was fresh, creative and filled with enough blood and gore to satisfy any horror aficionado.
But the show went past mere murder. Each death felt personal. Characters reacted in realistic ways, with proper motions of grief. I felt bad for the main cast any time another body turned up, seeing their relationships tested with each corpse.
This might sound weird to non-horror fans out there, but this was one of the rare times I wasn’t rooting for the killer in a slasher story. I liked just about every character, and seeing them die was just painful… and that’s exactly what “Scream” needed.
Where “American Horror Story” too often fills its seasons with unlikeable or unrelatable jerks to be killed off, “Scream” tortures its audience with loveable people just trying to stay sane. The series shows it has the guts to kill important characters, and then makes you wish it didn’t. Audiences will come back episode after episode, praying that their favorites live one more time.
This step up in writing comes with a step up in acting as well. Carlson Young transforms the shallow valley girl Brooke into a hard-as-nails survivor, who is also trying to contend with her bottled up emotions. Bex-Taylor Klaus continues to be an absolute delight as Audrey and I would be lying if Karna didn’t make me smile every time Noah came on screen.
The bottom line is: season 2 showed me that “Scream” the TV show can not only survive, but thrive. As a fan of the entire series, this latest outing ranks only behind the original movie in terms of quality. You need to see this… and luckily, you can.
Embracing the fact that the captive audience is dying, “Scream” has made the wise move to bring every episode of its seasons onto Netflix a day after its premiere on television. For any Duquesne student with some free time, I can think of few things better than enjoying a show that took every criticism its first season had and fixed them all.
Oh, and be sure to check out the Halloween special coming this October. It should make for a killer surprise.