Ryan Murphy Halloween episodes are tricky. How does one up the crazy on a show that pole-vaulted the shark in its pilot?
Scream Queens is doubly screwed thanks to last week’s Chanel-O-Ween opening, a clip that distilled everything this show is trying to be into two flawless minutes of punching up at Taylor Swift. So for “Pumpkin Patch,” Murphy and friends settle for the next best thing: a Shining tribute, co-starring an Orange Is the New Black interlude, an “ant family,” and a Wives of the Fallen Presidents group Halloween costume.
Let’s start with Chanel’s arrest for the murder of Ms. Bean, a tiny breath of reality in a show that’s previously demonstrated zero regard for it. How did a murder with more than a half dozen witnesses go un-investigated for this long, anyway? And why hadn’t it crossed Chanel’s mind that shoving someone’s face in a deep fryer might come with consequences? Probably because her brief imprisonment turns out to be an excuse for trotting out knockoff versions of the Netflix characters we know and love before #3’s dad bails Chanel out. Five bucks we never hear a word about those pending murder charges again.
So while “Pumpkin Patch” is, in theory, a Kubrick homage, it begins with Peak Murphy: an insane twist that starts off as a promising subplot only to fizzle out as soon as the writer gets bored. Ultimately, Murphy, Falchuk, and Brennan are too dedicated to their own M.O. to slip into anyone else’s, which is why the episode’s Shining parallels begin and end with a spit-roastin’ frat boy entombed in ice.
Chanel’s quest to rescue “the sluttiest night of the year” (I like Chad Radwell so much more now that we know he digs “extensively researched” roleplay with Denise) from Dean Munsch’s begging-to-be-violated curfew may give the episode its name, but Chanel’s half of the episode is sort of a mess this week, mostly boiling down to Emma Roberts’ yell-acting and some boring double-crosses among the Chanels and poor Jennifer the candle vlogger, who wins the title of Scream Queen MVP for her reaction to Chanel’s blatant abuse of her Diptyque supply. The real action lies with the rescue mission for ZayDay, headed up by Grace.
Gigi and her salad dates are a whole lot more interesting now that she’s definitely in cahoots with the Red Devil gang, so Grace’s whole “oh no, I walked in on my dad who has somehow never dated in the last sixteen years” schtick is more tolerable than it should be. Still, Denise is obviously the star of the rescue party, ensuring everyone’s fully armed with tasers—but no flashlights!—before they raid the cellar where the Devil’s keeping ZayDay’s smartphone, and presumably ZayDay.
ZayDay, however, is not one to let a psychopathic kidnapper stand between her and the Kappa house presidency, so she’s already escaped the Red Devil and his romantic dinner of “Oakland nachos,” a term I’m 70% sure Ryan Murphy just made up. With ZayDay gone, Grace and friends are night-vision ambushed by the Devil for nothing, leaving Gigi with a tased boob and the Devil himself suspiciously escaped. Gigi later tells one of the devils the confrontation got “way out of hand”; does this mean a Devil really is in love with ZayDay and went rogue to kidnap her, or is the person who needs to be “taken care of right away” Grace’s dad?
It’s left up in the air, as is the outcome of the surprise election Chanel wrote into the Kappa bylaws with some marker. Will “Black Die Hard” (oof) and her proven ability to deal with Red Devil-level crazies get ZayDay the win? Or is “switch-hitter”/double agent #6 on Chanel’s side after all? We’ll find out next week!