MTV’s Scream – Hello, Emma Review
Hello, Emma, the second episode of MTV’s Scream, doesn’t come close to fixing all of the problems present in the show’s presentation, but it does display enough competence to at least be moderately enjoyable, despite some rather frustrating scenes. If the pilot fell short as both a thriller and a drama, then Hello, Emma sought to fix the problems that were crippling its dramatic elements. The first scene in particular left me with the concern that the episode might be a disaster, as the killer eliminated another target, but did so in a way that lacked any legitimate tension and chose a target that I feel would have best been saved for later. Fortunately, much of the episode succeeded in avoiding the tired tropes that I feared it would implement, and was able to maintain my interest, even if it did ultimately turn in another weak ending.
The killing of Rachael Murry, the girl Audrey had been filmed kissing in the pilot, felt manipulative in a way that I didn’t expect. This is to say that it felt like kicking a character while they were down, and, while I understand the narrative purpose behind it, it would have probably been better if the audience had had the opportunity to actually connect with her as a character. As it stands, she only had one scene in the previous episode, and her death here, which is posed to make it look like a suicide, makes her little more than a narrative tool to force Emma to reflect on the consequences of allowing Nina to post that video. My problem with the scene lies in its manipulation of the audience. Yes, we feel sad that Rachael dies, but it isn’t because we have any actual connection to the character. The show tells us rather blatantly that she is depressed, hurting, and is being tormented by her classmates because of the video, right before it throws her off a balcony with a noose around her neck. This is one of the instances where a less direct approach would have been appreciated.
Fortunately, from that point on Hello, Emma is largely a notable improvement over its predecessor. Emma is humanized a bit by her sense of guilt over the video’s release and Rachael’s death. Also in this episode, Audrey’s friend Noah is also given a bit role outside filling in for the Jaime Kennedy character and pointing out horror tropes. He gets to interact a bit more with Emma’s friend, Riley, and they actually have a modicum of chemistry, though there are a few moments where it feels forced. Likewise, Emma’s boyfriend Will and his best friend Jake don’t spent too much time on screen in this episode, which is fortunate as I found both of the characters to be rather contemptible in the pilot. In fact, the character drama turned out to be one of the stronger elements of this episode. It wasn’t great, but it was at least adequate, with only a few exceptions. I still dislike Emma’s friend, Brooke, and their teacher, Seth Branson. It was revealed in the first episode those two had been sleeping together and that Seth wanted to end their relationship, and the story continues in this episode with Brooke trying to seduce him in an annoyingly unsubtle fashion. Carlson Young, the actress playing Brooke, might be 24 in real life, but it doesn’t do much to make this storyline less creepy. As it currently stands, the narrative has done little to endear either character to me, so I’m hoping that this story gets sidelined rather quickly, whether it be by death or by arrest.
The slasher ultimately turns out to be the weakest part of Hello, Emma, as the few scenes he has end up feeling like the most contrived and predictable moments in the episode. Aside from the opening which I’ve already talked about, there is a scene where Emma gets approached in an alleyway by a hooded figure. It’s not clear whether or not this figure was the killer, since he doesn’t say anything or, for that matter, do anything. What is clear is that it was a rather limp and tensionless scene that only served to drive her into the arms of her boyfriend, Will, with whom she had been having a fight. The opening also has some fallout that doesn’t really make that much sense. Apparently the killer moved Rachael’s body from the balcony into her bedroom and made it look like she hanged herself from her ceiling fan. There is only one reason for this to happen and it is so that Emma’s mother, the coroner, can realize that Rachael’s wounds weren’t consistent with where she was found, thus making it clear that there was foul play involved. The killer then caps the episode by breaking into Emma’s home and then calling her while posing as a security operator who is checking in due to the alarm going off. Much like the first scene of the series, this feels like a less effective amalgam of elements from the first film and is more than a little predictable. If MTV’s Scream is going to succeed as a horror series then it needs to improve upon its sense of tension and atmosphere.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- MTV’s Scream seems to be trying to hit home some kind of message regarding social media, but I’m not sure what message it is going for. If it is condemning the exposure provided by social media, then that comes off as more than a little disingenuous given MTV’s tendency to put up hashtags relating to the music that is playing at given points during the show or posing the question #WhoIsEmmasCaller.
- In Hello, Emma, Seth Branson once again provides Noah an opportunity to talk about slasher villains during class. This contrived platform by which Noah gets to speak would annoy me a bit more if it wasn’t for the fact that Seth called Noah “Will Graham” and asked him “What is this killer’s design?”… sometimes I’m easy to pander to.
- Apparently, this is filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This, of course, had no impact on my reception of the episode. I simply hadn’t realized that it was filmed nearby.
- I haven’t really talked about the character of Kieran Wilcox yet, but, so far, his role has primarily been to serve as a wedge between Emma and Will. Still, I’m trying to commit these characters’ names to memory, so I figured I should at least bring him up here.
- This episode introduces a reporter name Piper Shay, played by True Blood‘s Amelia Rose Blaire, who apparently runs a podcast in the same vein as Serial. There’s not much to her character yet, aside from being a more polite version of Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers.
Hello, Emma is not all that great of an episode, but it is passable. It shows signs of improvement over its predecessor in terms of drama. It still hasn’t done an effective job at establishing tension, and a number of its characters are still quite unlikable, but it is at least a step forward.
While I wouldn't go so far as to call Hello, Emma good, it succeeds in functioning as a drama and delivers on humanizing qualities for some previously unlikable characters.