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Friday, 21 October 2016

Scream: The TV Series Halloween Special

Scream: The TV Series
Halloween Special.

(Contains heavy spoilers.)

In truth, I had completely forgotten that Scream was meant to have a Halloween Special. It is, however, interesting to look at how the series handles a smaller, more self-contained story: Much of its writing, and its development as a serial over time, has been about stretching a self-contained story to fill a series of television, while also leaving things open for future series, after all. Can the writers, having already stretched out a subject matter intended for short form fiction, compress their series conceit back down into a short form?

Set eight months after the end of the second series, the one-hour-twenty-minute special sees Emma, Noah, Audrey, Brooke, and Stavo spend their Halloween at Shallow Grove Island (trip courtesy of Noah and Stavo's book editor, Jeremy, because now those two are apparently a bestselling author duo), home to a century-old murder case in which a young girl killed her family and a local landowner before committing suicide. As people on the island start dying and Emma is taunted by a new killer who combines elements of the Brandon James murders with elements of Shallow Grove's own Anna Hobbs murders, they take shelter in the old mansion where Hobbs committed her last murder, now owned by Alex, the descendant of her last victim.

His murderer name is 'the Suspense.'

First off, it's kind of jarring just how quickly we're meant to accept the changes to the characters' lives, and I feel like there's an entire series missing here. The special starts on Kieran being sentenced, but wouldn't it have been much more interesting to see the characters have to go through Kieran's trial, to cope with being called as witnesses, and to see how a cunning attorney might try to clear Kieran of charges -- all the while dealing with another murderer in town? It would have changed the format of the show, sure, but I've said before that this is a show that needs to reinvent itself if it's going to survive.

Instead, we start off with Kieran being sentenced and then immediately murdered, and then pick up with the rest of the kids, who are now considering university applications and/or are bestselling authors and/or are moving to New York. It's a lot of changes, and we're never really given time to get used to any of those changes, because we're immediately thrown into another murder plot -- and not, in all truth, a particularly compelling one.

Which leads me onto the question I asked at the start of the review.

So, the answer to 'how do the writers cope with compressing their basic series conceit down into a form roughly equivalent to its source material' is 'not terribly well.' A lot of this is down to needing to keep their core cast alive for the six episode third series airing in 2017: Instead of any of the main characters actually ever truly being in danger, we instead have a small parade of new characters introduced, most of whom eventually die in gruesome circumstances.

I was about to make a hair gel in prison joke and then I realised he'd just left his trial.
The one place a convict might wear hair gel.

Sometimes this becomes a little bit silly: Two of the victims appear for all of about two minutes before they're violently murdered, and after the first three bodies drop it becomes very apparent that this special is only going to kill off new characters -- thus leaving only the question of 'will Audrey's cute new girlfriend Gina die' as the only thread of suspense in the plot.

(Gina does not, in fact, die, and that's nice because honestly, we've had so many fictional LGBT women dying this year. So, so many.)

There's also basically no suspense around who the killer is: It's obvious from very early on in the story that it's Alex, the mansion's owner and Emma's new love interest. Quite apart from the fact that he's written identically to Kieran, he's also one of only two new characters who doesn't swiftly get killed off, and the only one of the new characters to neither die nor come under suspicion for murder, despite having no alibis for any of them.

By the time he starts evilly pouring wine and menacingly talking about strawberries, it's already blisteringly clear that he's the killer -- and the story still has thirty-five minutes left in it.

Everyone is very upset.

It's clear also that this will all never be brought up again. By the end of the episode, everyone has moved on with their lives, with Emma applying for pre-med (oh, sure, go and study a course that involves a lot of blood and dead people, that seems wise) at Lakewood University (oh, sure, stay in the murder town where murderers keep appearing); Noah getting over his survivor's guilt; and Brooke and Stavo electing to move to New York together, which I suppose means they'll be absent for the third series.

That third series is scheduled for an undisclosed date in 2017, and will apparently be six episodes -- the shortest series yet, by quite a long shot, which might be a hint that it'll be the last one.

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