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Scream Queens returns not with a bang, but with a hell of dud

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As far as episodes for a show to come back from after a break go, “Beware Of Young Girls” is a horrible episode. It’s not a particularly good episode of Scream Queens in general, but the fact that it’s supposed to get the audience back into the groove post-World Series makes it even more clear that it is a subpar episode. It’s not like the show was gone for a long time, but even one week is all it takes. The World Series can easily break a show, so the return episode needs to be one that gives non-die hard viewers a reason to even return to it. This is not that episode.


Until now, I hadn’t addressed the ratings for Scream Queens, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Beware Of Young Girls” have less viewers than the season’s low of 2.39 million for “Pumpkin Patch.” That’s not even so much for the episode quality itself as it is that Scream Queens is a very out of sight, out of mind type show—and “Beware Of Young Girls” isn’t the episode to bring it back into mind. In fact, thanks to previouslies (such as the kind that remind us of Grace’s stupid hats), a person can go on in their Scream Queens viewing without ever watching this episode. That is, unless you really want to see a chattering teeth toy in action and spend more time on a new character’s story than the ones we’re actually supposed to care about.

With the episode “Seven Minutes In Hell,” I praised Scream Queens for finally finding a pretty good balance in its ensemble and character interactions. It was an episode that realized Zayday and Chanel made better foils than Zayday and Grace, which could only mean good things moving forward. And when it came to Grace, the episode actually worked well in pointing out how much of a dweeb she was—whether it was shown in Chanel completely disregarding her “hero” speeches or in Grace herself brooding while everyone else danced to “Tubthumping.”


Unfortunately, “Beware Of Young Girls” ignores the power of the ensemble almost completely, and it’s not in favor of Scream Queens’ strongest characters like Denise Hemphill or even Chad Radwell (who is barely present in this episode but makes do with what he has). Instead, it goes back to a focus on some of the weaker parts of the show: the Chanels separate from everyone else, the Pete/Grace mystery machine, and Dean Munsch (and her marriage woes that no one asked for). Even Gigi is a weaker part of this episode, as the episode’s decision to just confirm the known (no longer leaving it up for debate) and lean into her villainy doesn’t work as well as it expects it to—especially given her lack of screentime in comparison to the aforementioned characters and one of her scenes having her give into Grace’s boring makeover.

Plus, it’s really not a fun or funny episode. Call the show “absurdist” or “campy” if you want, because it is. But there’s such a thing as trying too hard be those things, and that’s the case with this episode… to the point where it fails to be either. And to anyone who actually cares about the mystery of the Red Devils, this episode is particularly useless. Again, that’s even with the Gigi “reveal,” if you want to call it that. “Beware Of Young Girls” can be called filler, and it can be called a stall tactic. But it can’t really be called a good episode of Scream Queens. Yes, Gigi intentionally points Pete and Grace in the direction of Dean Munsch, but what does that do? Other than prove how incompetent the two are as investigative journalists and get an innocent simpleton locked up in Scream Queens: Asylum?

We already know Munsch is ridiculously shifty and guilty of more than one thing, and this episode has her confessing such to the audience; the same goes for Gigi. The argument might be made that it’s simply dramatic irony at play, with the audience knowing know what the characters—Pete and Grace, specifically—don’t, but it really feels throwaway and not like the expected “OMG” moments the episode actually wants. As a horror-comedy, these are where the comedy bits are supposed to shine through, but Nasim Pedrad’s “reveal” on the phone is nowhere near as funny as the show thinks it is (especially when she eventually does the “touched” bit, as she can all of a sudden no longer keep a cover). Then there’s the fact that everything about Munsch only works because of Jamie Lee Curtis’ very existence.


With the Chanels, their one-liners don’t land as well when they’re not surrounded by chaos or placed in contrast to the other characters. The former is a major problem with this episode and one that creeps into every weak moment of it: The threat of the Red Devil isn’t looming over everything as it has in other episodes. In fact, all of the girls have so much free time this week that they can even give Chanel No. 2 a belated Heathers-esque funeral, while also being able to just ditch the KKT house freely. This is not the first time uneveness in storytelling has been brought up about a Ryan Murphy show, but on a show that’s supposed to be as balls out as Scream Queens, there’s an obvious shift when it’s simply not. Watching the episode, I found myself asking when it would kick it up a notch like it usually does; this week, it never did.


Also, as much as I enjoyed “Seven Minutes In Hell,” brought up how Scream Queens’ refusal to kill off important characters would be its downfall—separate from any preconceptions anyone has about the work of Murphy, Brennan, and Falchuk—and an episode like “Beware Of Young Girls” is a huge reminder of that. The single best moments of Scream Queens have been the ridiculous kills and the aftermath of said kills: Chanel No. 2’s social media-based murder; Deaf Taylor Swift’s death by lawnmower, Boone’s homoerotic “death;” Coney’s entire Rules Of Attraction style build-up to his death (and, well, the death); Caulfield’s dismemberment and eventual death. All of these are the most memorable parts of the show for a reason, yet how many of them were series regulars, let alone actually “important” characters? There’s an argument for Chanel No. 2 and Boone to fit the latter, but Boone isn’t even dead, and Chanel No. 2 is now an omniscient spirit who astral projects into people’s dream from Hell. That last bit isn’t even a fraction as cool as it sounds.

This week, there’s the reveal of Steven Munsch’s dead body, which banks on a suspense that isn’t there built from a character that is barely a character. In fact, Feather makes all of the Chanels appear well-rounded and full of depth, and Steven Munsch… Was anyone clamoring to know more about Steven Munsch and his love of the Beatles and sorority girls?


Plus, the music cues for this episode are the weakest of the series so far, despite music being the one consistently good thing about this show. Funnily enough, the best music cue in this episode is the muzack version of “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built For Two)” from the mental hospital; a song MTV’s Scream also used it in its first season, in relation to a character nicknamed “Daisy.”


What’s worst about “Beware Of Young Girls” is that it’s neither aggressively bad nor aggressively good enough to make it even a middle of the road episode. Instead, it’s merely a nothing episode. It’s a nothing episode that kicks off November sweeps (as much as those even exist any more) and is supposedly tasked with getting audiences back into the groove of Scream Queens. As such, it’s really a disappointment to see, especially on the show’s behalf.

Stray observations

  • Scream Queen Of The Week: Tavi Gevinson’s Feather wins, simply by default and the most literal use of “Scream Queen.” Unless you count Rammy the Goat, which I almost do.
  • As much as there is to enjoy about the Chanel No. 2/Chanel “dream” sequence—dinosaurs!—it just brings up so many questions. Especially in the “how?” department. The Chanels plot honestly feels as though it belongs to another episode, one that would give it more screentime (the minion Chanels’ murder plot comes and goes; Chanel Oberlin’s killer leap at the end) while also better utilizing the rest of the ensemble.
  • Chanel No. 5: “Well I found this old talking board in the basement.”
    Chanel: “Those things don’t work.”
    Hester: “Yes they do. Didn’t you see the movie?”
    Chanel: “Ouija? No. No one did.” Remember that come sequel time.
  • The episode title is taken from the Dory Previn song Dean Munsch plays at the end, a song about a young Mia Farrow’s (Rosemary’s Baby being the horror connection) affair with Dory’s husband, Andre Previn. And of course, Feather is a spitting image of a young Farrow.
  • In the shopping scene, is someone watching Gigi and Grace, or is it just director Barbara Brown getting her Scandal on with all the glass?
  • There are three things Scream Queens could stand to let up on, because over kill is only good in the literal sense on this show: 1. The cotton balls “joke” has never been funny, but the constant reminder that it’s a thing makes it progressively more annoying. Especially when an idea like a “sugar party” is instantly funnier in just one scene. 2. One Nancy Drew reference from Emma Roberts is good. More than one is just lazy. 3. Speaking of laziness, Detective Chisholm’s incompetence is much less funny than Scream Queens appears to think it is.
  • We’ll all have to agree to disagree on Diego Boneta’s Matthew McConaughey impression (it’s really not a hill I want to die on), but I’m hoping there’s not a correlation between him doing it and an episode being a dud. Because so far, we’re two for two here.
  • Speaking of Pete, all I could think about when he and Grace were making out was that the show has really glossed over his “past” obsession with Chanel. Actually that makes a bit more sense than Grace glossing over it. (Also, he really appears to have a grudge against Munsch. A grudge that would put him in cahoots with Gigi?)
  • Whether Ryan Murphy has ever had a real conversation with a woman or not, I absolutely need him (and Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk) to stop writing about periods and tampons—if for no other reason than the fact that no actual woman talks about periods and tampons as much as he believes they do. We talk about murdering people more than we talk about periods and tampons.
  • Is there an actual reason as to why neither Dean Munsch nor Feather go to a prison in this episode, instead ending up at a mental hospital? Other than an opportunity for Silence Of The Lambs references, Cuckoo’s Nest ambiance, and the “I paint them all” lady (who hopefully has a point)?
  • As obvious as it is that Munsch is framing Feather for Steven’s death, there is a solid moment in the episode where she’s actually convincing as innocent. It’s the line “Please tell me they killed that bitch Feather too,” in reaction to her ex-husband’s death. She makes sure to instantly react in a way that implies some innocence, but that type of quick thinking is ignored later, when she basically lets the fact that she dropped the transistor radio in the tub slip out to Pete and Grace.
  • The final shots of the Chanels’ silhouettes and them on the balcony works so much better in the context of a better episode. Their decision to point the finger at Zayday and Grace really comes out of nowhere in this particular episode.