“Scream: The TV Series” (11 p.m. Eastern Mondays on MTV) gradually got better over the course of its first season, and with the second-season premiere, it is now rewarding people who stuck with the series. It’s not great TV, but it is now good, solid, fun TV.
Season 1, as you’ll recall, ended with the revelation that the visiting podcaster, Piper (the TV series’ equivalent of the film series’ Gale Weathers), was the killer. But we viewers knew – and Noah (the series’ equivalent of Randy) suspected – that Piper had an accomplice. The Season 2 premiere reaffirms that Noah’s bestie, Audrey, blatantly seems to be that accomplice. The traditional creepy-voiced phone guy taunts Audrey with calls and text messages and ultimately with photocopies of Audrey’s presumably damning letters to Piper.
While I think it’s safe to say Audrey is not guilty of plotting murders with Piper – “Scream” doesn’t play things THAT straightforwardly – she certainly is hiding something. As Noah continues to add evidence to his bedroom’s “murder wall,” Audrey insists there’s no accomplice. Since she doesn’t want to let her best friend in on her secret, it’s obviously damning in some way – even if it doesn’t paint her as a murderer.
In his podcast, “Morgue,” Noah dubs himself, Audrey, Emma, Kieran, Brooke and Jake as the “Lakewood Six,” a bit of an arbitrary grouping of the six people who were targeted but survived Piper’s killing spree. The least essential of those six doesn’t survive till the end of episode one (titled “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” kicking off a season of titles named after horror films). And then there were five.
But “Scream” is replenishing its roster, largely in the Lakewood High psychology class taught by Karen Lang (as ever, I’m looking up these names on IMDB, as they don’t stick with me when I’m watching the show). Zoe agrees to help long-absent Emma with her homework. Sheriff’s son Gustavo challenges Noah’s movie references by noting that horror comics are a better parallel to the Lakewood murders because while movies have an ending, comics continue into the next issue – the murders never end. Throw in the new sheriff, Michael Acosta, and that’s four new possible victims for Season 2.
The killings are staged very well for a TV series. The prologue offers a creepy scene of a girl venturing into her attic. Much like the start of “Scream 2,” it turns out that this is actually a movie-within-a-TV-show, and the girl is pushed out the window to her death by a friend who is sick of her slut-shaming. Audrey, it turns out, works at the Lakewood movie theater, and an empty movie theater is a solidly creepy setting, something the writers immediately take advantage of, as she’s stalked by a masked killer who turns out to be a prankster.
Emma, the show’s equivalent to the films’ Sidney Prescott, continues to be haunted by the James family in her dreams (Brandon James, Emma’s mom’s former boyfriend, was the first season’s red herring). His brother, Troy James, owns an abandoned hog farm Emma keeps dreaming about. So she investigates it. At night. Dragging Brooke along under the false promise of a mall trip.
Brooke provides the 10 percent of verisimilitude I ask for in order to not hit my remote’s “off” button: “We couldn’t have done this in the daylight? Or tomorrow? Or never?” As Emma ventures into the creepy-ass barn and house, Brooke wisely stays outside. Although Brooke is the stereotypical dumb blonde archetype, she is often the savviest about the fact that she’s living in a horror TV series – sneaking into public swimming pools after hours notwithstanding.
The main problem with “Scream: The TV Series” continues to be the same as in Season 1: I don’t really like any of the characters. We’re obviously supposed to suspect Audrey, but I also sort of suspect Noah, just because he’s so emotionally detached from the killings – he didn’t seem to care about his girlfriend being killed in Season 1, and he’s way too gleeful about horror movies considering his personal experiences. But is that bad writing, bad acting, or a hint that we’re supposed to suspect him?
Still, the Season 2 premiere offers some good mysteries – Kieran is somewhat cold toward his girlfriend, Emma, for unknown reasons – and maybe it’s the case that in a horror-mystery show, we simply can’t get to know these characters too well if they are to remain suspects.
But “Scream: The TV Series” seems to have layered backstories in mind for Emma’s weird family history and Audrey’s seemingly conspiratorial relationship with the late Piper, and it knows how to deliver creepy settings and moods. I’ll continue to stay on board for Season 2.