‘Scream Queens’ Season 1 Finale Recap: Nothing Made Sense and Everything Hurts


In retrospect, how else was this season of Scream Queens going to end but with a parody of — nay, a loving homage to — the infamous Sorority Email of 2013? Sure, last night’s two-hour finale also revealed the final Red Devil’s identity and M.O., but Emma Roberts’ final raging monologue feels like the true culmination of what Ryan Murphy was trying to accomplish here. And if there’s anything “Dorkus” and “The Final Girls” taught us, it’s that Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan never gave a sauce-soaked cotton ball about plot anyway.

So, let’s get all those reveals out of the way: Pete technically isn’t one of the Red Devil killers — as in, not one of the Babies in the Bathtub, which come to think of it is a pretty great band name someone should snatch up while it’s still up for grabs. But he’s still managed to murder more people than the real Red Devils once he got on board with their mission of obliterating the Greek system. This is when the show lets out its inner After School Special and Pete starts rattling off statistics, like the fact that half of all fraternity and sorority members are subjected to the psychological reign of terror known as hazing.

Before Pete can tell his horrified now-ex (“You’re quoting Nietzsche?! You’re already a murderer, you don’t have to be a douche as well!”) who the other killer is, though, she jumps out of the closet and murders him, but leaves Grace alone. So she sics her dad on Dean Munsch and breaks into the school records with ZayDay, where they realize that one of their sisters went to “Sweet Valley High” and took both sewing (for the costumes!) and human anatomy (for the dismemberment!). Last week, I bet on Chanel #5, but turns out I was one off: it’s Chanel #6!

At this point, unfortunately, the mystery just doesn’t hold much urgency anymore. We already know the killers’ motivation, origin stories, and 2/3 of their identity; we already knew the killer wasn’t Grace, ZayDay, or Chanel Oberlin. Why wouldn’t the vocally whackadoo new pledge be the final piece of the puzzle?

Scream Queens seems to know this, and gives us comic set piece after comic set piece to compensate: Wes and Dean Munsch’s disturbingly intense tryst, soundtracked by the dad playlist to end all dad playlists; the Chanels’ arrest, assisted by police chief Denise’s stripper deputies and #5’s own parents; Denise and Chad’s tearful goodbye before Denise’s super-sleuthing skills take her to Quantico and the FBI.

If nothing else, “Dorkus” and “Final Girls” felt like an accurate microcosm of this show’s priorities — humor first, halfhearted preaching a distant second, and making any kind of sense dead last. Hester’s effortless framing of Chanels 1, 3, and 5 almost feels like a meta-commentary on the audience, who has to be just as willing to swallow the implausible as Denise, Grace, and ZayDay in order to make it this far. No one who actually cares about coherence over spectacle could have survived Scream Queens, either as a character as a viewer, and it’s clear Murphy and his collaborators know it.

So we end with Hester scot-free, Wes and New York Times bestselling author Dean Munsch in a happy, misandrist relationship (in one final flourish of nonsense, the “daughter or me” subplot is dropped as soon as it’s brought up), and all three Chanels in an insane asylum, which — heavy-handed moralizing alert! — is actually just like a sorority house, because it’s full of crazy women!

More than a little offensive, yes, but it also highlights the fundamental paradox of Scream Queens, and ultimately all Ryan Murphy shows. At the last minute, Scream Queens decided it wanted to be a harangue against the Greek systems and its many classist, racist, patriarchal evils. Yet its sympathies ultimately lie with its awful antiheroines, to the point where it’ll both replicate their prejudices (Niecy Nash may have powered through it, but the concept of Denice as a character was suspect from the get-go…and let’s not dwell, again, on all the “gross! women’s bodies!” jokes) and, as many critics have pointed out, consistently refuse to kill them.

Except for that final Red Devil appearance, all three — technically all four — Chanels survived this season of a “horror” show. So did Grace. And ZayDay. And Chad. And Dean Munsch. And any number of secondary characters who one would think, given that this is an anthology show, might be expendable. But this isn’t a surprise; it merely proves that, halfhearted condemnations of “casual racism” and “rich dumb hoes” aside, Ryan Murphy can’t bring himself to kill his darlings. He simply loves them too much.