Scream: The TV Series” Season 3, long delayed because of the Weinstein scandal that put the ownership in limbo, isn’t exactly worth the wait, but still, it deserves more attention than it’s getting. It has been dumped onto MTV’s sister station, the celebrity reality show bastion VH1, for a three-night, six-hour airing (continuing at 9 p.m. Eastern Tuesday and Wednesday), at a time when everyone is bingeing and discussing “Stranger Things” Season 3.
Sometimes dubbed “Scream: Resurrection,” which has both a marketing and a plot meaning, Season 3 isn’t as good as the engrossing Season 2 (which followed the same Lakewood group from the first season), but does start with more confidence than the rocky Season 1. And it’s cool that the movie version of Ghostface and its original voice actor are back.
Set in Atlanta (where it is filmed), Season 3 is paint-by-numbers in a lot of ways, allowing Gen Z teens to go through the same experiences as the Gen Xers from the 1996 movie. They form a Breakfast Club in detention, and only know of the “Breakfast Club” reference because the teacher makes it. They look up the movie on their smartphones, causing the faces of all Gen X viewers to fall.
Cute goth girl Beth (Giorgia Whigham from Season 2 of “The Punisher”) is a horror nerd, the Randy equivalent who points out after teens start getting picked off that they are in a horror movie. It’s not so meta that they know they’re in a TV show, like Noah from Seasons 1-2 did. Or in this case, a six-hour miniseries. Given the mask, it’s somewhat odd that Beth doesn’t point out the specific parallels to the “Stab” franchise, the Ghostface movies within the “Scream” narrative.
The lack of originality is striking off the bat, as the opening segment finds a teen in Drew Barrymore’s situation from the first film. But to the credit of a new producing team that includes Brett Matthews (a veteran of the Joss Whedon school), they are establishing the touchstones in order to (at least somewhat) undercut them. The girl gets stabbed with a prop knife by a trick-or-treater in a Ghostface mask. She’s annoyed to be fake-stabbed in her fake boob, which was expensive and was also a joke used 19 years ago in “Scary Movie.”
But then we get to the scene around which Season 3 pivots. The young trick-or-treater is the twin brother of Deion. The twin is killed – or is he? – by the crazy Hookman (horror legend Tony Todd) in a scrapyard. In present day, this moment haunts Deion (RJ Cyler of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) not only because of the loss of his brother but because he wonders if he could’ve done more to save him.
Cyler, with a timeless quality that would work well in period pieces, is a great lead. He’s also superficially different from the previous “Scream” leads, both white girls. He’s probably the Final Guy, but mixed-race girl Liv (Jessica Sula) also has Final Girl potential, Beth points out.
In a kind-of-cringey “we already know all of this” moment, Beth outlines the rules of horror, which hold that Kym (Keke Palmer) isn’t likely to make it till the end because she’s black. Also, the gay kid (Manny, played by Giullian Yao Gioiello) and the nerd (Amir, played by C.J. Wallace) are likely to be picked off, along with cakey-makeup-wearing Beth herself.
But if Season 3 sets the stage with utter bluntness, it at least does so in order to dodge the cliches, and also to move the franchise into modern times. Equal-rights activist Kym – who mentions Trump seven minutes into the first episode – reminds Beth that “Get Out” has already shown a black Final Guy. (These are impressive references given the season’s long delay.)
And the group runs with the idea of beating Ghostface at his own game, shattering the expected narrative and attempting to trap him. Emma, the Final Girl from Seasons 1-2, kind of got into a groove of standing up for herself in Season 2, but here the Breakfast Club sets up a grand sting.
But they nab the wrong guy. And then, in a scene that’s frustrating for what happens and for its clichéd nature, Kym and DJ/drug dealer Shane (Tyler Posey) stand around arguing while Ghostface lies unconscious at their feet, rather than removing his mask.
I guess if they did remove the mask, it’d be a shorter miniseries (or the rest of it would be devoted to finding the second killer, I suppose). “Scream” Season 3 is good enough that I’m glad it’s not quite that short; I am looking forward to watching the rest of it as a light, fun diversion. Still, that moment does illustrate that not all the clichés will be dodged.