TV Review: Scream – 103 – “Wanna Play a Game?”

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“Do you really want to compare lists of secrets right now?” – Emma

Find all my reviews of MTV’s Scream here.

The latest episode of Scream actually managed to surprise me. Episode 2 left such a poor taste in my mouth that I put off watching “Wanna Play a Game?” for several days. Hence, why I’m once again late with my review.

SPOILERS HEREIN

Scream 103As annoying as the previous episode was, with its reliance on buzzwords and aping the Scream movies, episode 3 nearly redeemed the show.  In fact, “Wanna Play a Game?” was the first episode of Scream that actually managed to feel like it wanted to earn the title of Scream. Of course, I hold the Scream franchise in high regard, so I’m not quite ready to say the show is deserving of its title, but “Wanna Play a Game?” was a step in the right direction.

This episode opened with a flashback to the Brandon James massacre and gave us a glimpse into what exactly happened and how there’s more to the story than the established lore. It also gave us some nice tension and gore without cutting down the cast of characters any further in the opening scene. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more things like that throughout the rest of the season. Frankly, I even look forward to it.

The content of the present day story in the episode itself was a mixed bag. Brooke’s slutty seduction of Mr. Branson managed to escalate without actually escalating. We see her video chatting with the teacher but it’s all so tame that it’s distracting. I couldn’t care less if Scream pushes the limits of what they can show on MTV as far as teacher/student illicit behavior is concerned. But this subplot is getting annoying in the coy way the writers are presenting it.

At this point it’s somewhat unclear whether Brooke and Mr. Branson have actually had an affair or if Brooke is just toying with him. It plays more like the writers are hesitant to actually write a sex pot teenager having sex with a teacher in a show depicting teenagers being brutally murdered.

It’s a common double standard and an MTV series based on a 90s slasher movie franchise is the last place I would care to see it tackled. But there’s something to be said about how annoying it is for Scream to insist on teasing an affair without committing to it. This is especially noticeable when you consider that tangentially connected (as in, created by Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson) teen series Dawson’s Creek actually went for a teacher/student sexual relationship in it’s pilot episode on network television in 1998.

scream 103-3However, something I found far more annoying in this episode was the continuation of Jake and Will’s lame clandestine video subplot. Now it’s known that Tyler was involved and Jake is worried that the money they’ve made (presumably selling videos of Tyler’s girlfriend and others online) is compromised. Will has the money and is holding it until Jake shuts everything down for good. Jake is an idiot though.

Maybe it’s a bit unfair of me and a stretch to draw this comparison, but ABC aired an event series (back in 2009 when they were still called miniseries) called Harper’s Island. I wasn’t a fan of the show, but it gained a following in its 13 weeks on the air with the premise of being about a wedding weekend with a killer on the island. There was one subplot in that show involving a group of guys fighting over money, accidentally killing someone, and then concealing the death. It was a really weak attempt to bring drama into an already shoddy suspense story.

I bring that up because the scene between Jake and Will makes the subplot in Harper’s Island feel like high art. Granted, Jake and Will don’t know yet that there’s a masked killer on the loose, but the plot itself goes against Noah’s thesis statement of the show in th premiere episode. “You root for them. You love them. So when they are brutally murdered…it hurts.”

Further developing Jake and Will’s pervy project to hint that they’ve turned a profit by distributing what could be legally classified as child pornography makes me actively root for their deaths in the show. Sure, Jake was a lost cause from the start and the show’s failed attempt to make him the comic relief made me hate him in the pilot. But the show is trying to get us to care about Will’s broken relationship with Emma.

The show seems to be setting up a redemptive arc for Will. It will most likely lead to Will’s grizzly death in what I’m guessing will be the penultimate episode in which Will sacrifices himself so that Emma can escape from the killer. But the show has already shown us that Will has cheated on Emma, who upon learning about it, makes out with the brooding new guy. And now Will is not only involved in secretly recording his female classmates in various states of undress, he’s also turning a profit on it. He can give Emma all the iPods in the world and I still wouldn’t care about their relationship arc.

scream 103-2Onto a more positive note, Noah and Riley were the standouts in this episode. I am genuinely enjoying Noah’s whole “Randy-like” character and really hope he makes it to the end. By association, I was really liking Riley as well and I hated to see her get killed off. Although her last words were some of the cheesiest dialogue I’ve heard in a while, I liked the way her death was handled.

If I may backtrack slightly, this episode’s biggest strength was in the way the killer toyed with the police through the teenagers while still framing Tyler. The actual “game” the killer played with Emma in this episode was pretty clever and surprisingly tapped into my deeply rooted fandom for the Scream franchise.

Emma exchanging DMs with the killer felt to me like some of the scenes in the movies where the killer asks the victim trivia. Only this was framed in a way that made it feel like Emma had a choice and followed a logical path to make that choice. In the movie, there was never a chance Drew Barrymore would have survived the opening scene if she would have answered Mrs. Voorhees. Here, Emma thought Riley was safe and didn’t answer the killer so much as tell him not to hurt her friend.

The show is building itself on the deaths of characters for which Emma feels responsible. With her family involvement in the Brandon James massacre, I think Scream is setting up its “final girl” surprisingly well, given the circumstances. I’m shocked to find that I’m actually excited to see where this leads.

Episode Rating6.0

Current Season Average5.5

Still-from-Scream-episode-3

So, who’s the killer?

I’m still going with Mr. Branson. We’re three episodes into a ten episode season. I’m disappointed I’m not going back and forth with my theory. But nothing has been shown to clear Mr. Branson in my eyes. For God’s sake, his name is Branson. They could go the I Still Know What You Did Last Summer route and make his name a “clever” hint that he’s hiding in plain sight.

  • Is Mr. “BranSON” Brandon James’ son?
  • Does the math even work out on that?
  • Can I be bothered to check?

The answer to at least one of those questions is no.

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