by Bethany Rose
Episode 1 Recap, Thoughts, and Theories - Spoiler Warning.
Recap: A young woman arriving home after a terrible date, a different setting, a phone call—it all seems like something straight out of a Stab film. When the woman (Lele Pons) goes to find her cat (because apparently she can’t just set down the bowl of food and assume the cat will eventually find it) she is surprised to find that Butterscotch has made it all the way to the attic. After picking up Butterscotch, the woman returns her friend Becca’s call, just as a sinister figure drops from the ceiling. It turns out that Becca is fed up with this woman’s “slut shaming,” so she stabs her and pushes her out of the window. But between the stab and the push we see an audience in a movie theatre jumping and spilling popcorn, and realize we really are watching something like a Stab film. One member of the audience who is a familiar face is Audrey, whose connections with Season 1’s killer, Piper Shaw, were shown in the final moments of that season. Except Audrey isn’t really there to watch the movie—she now works at the theatre. Her movie-watching break is interrupted by a series of disturbing texts. Someone who knows about a party she’s been invited to, and then refers to her as partner, which immediately concerns Audrey. A call from Noah eases her tension, and she agrees to have him pick her up and take her to the party.
As she cleans up at the end of the shift, she runs into a stray moviegoer who recognizes her as the person who put a bullet in Piper’s head (to which Audrey reminds her that she wasn’t actually the one who shot her through the head). The girl seems excited to meet Audrey, even though she “hates everybody,” and just when Audrey agrees to have her picture taken with her new fan we see a glimpse of the killer in the background. Audrey can’t find the keys, so she has to let the girl out another exit, but just before they get there, the lights go out, the girl disappears around the corner, and the projector is turned on. Audrey at first assumes it is just a straggling patron who is playing a stupid joke, but then she sees the killer and attempts to escape. Back in the lobby, she runs right into her fan, who barely has time to warn of the killer before she is attacked and stabbed. By this time, Noah has arrived and helplessly (well, not completely, as he is able to call 911) watches as the killer faces his friend, ready to attack. The killer looks very much like the masked culprit(s) from the first season, with one notable exception: this time there is a camera strapped to him or her, recording every grisly detail. Audrey thinks fast, breaks a prop case, and stabs the killer with a screwdriver. The killer immediately breaks character, going from a silent masked stalker to a stunned teen who laments about being stabbed. Right away, the fan arises from her pool of blood and is just as shocked. The entire thing was a prank.
Fortunately for Audrey, the “killer’s” camera saved his life, and the stabbing ended up being nothing more than an easily treatable puncture. Though she is shaken by the experience, she and Noah persevere, and decide to head to the party anyway, but not before meeting the new sheriff in town (played by Anthony Ruivivar, who recently played Richard Ramirez on the latest season of American Horror Story). Sheriff Acosta seems nice enough (but so did Piper Shaw), but he does mention that even though he recently just transferred to Lakewood, he is originally from there. Expect that to circle back at some point.
At Kieran’s house (formerly Sheriff Hudson’s house), the party is almost ready. Brooke is putting the finishing touches on the cake, while flirting with her now official (but still not officially known to everyone) boyfriend, Jake. And Audrey’s newest video has already gone viral, which Jake thinks is great and Brooke thinks it shows how Audrey is a tough bitch. The group, now known as the Lakewood Six (a moniker given by Noah in his podcast) wait for their sixth member and the reason for the party, Emma, to arrive. Emma had a breakdown shortly after Piper’s killing spree, so she spent three months in an institution to help her cope. She is welcomed with a big group hug, and for a moment, it seems like everything will be all right again, even though Jake almost makes the homecoming awkward with his Girl, Interrupted reference, which he gladly defends by reminding Brooke that it is a compliment, since Angelina is hot.
As the party winds down, Emma decides that even though she told her mom she was staying with Audrey, she wants to stay the night with Kieran, and he has not one moment of hesitation. (Aside: I get it, Kieran, you really, really, really like Emma. You had to compete with Will for a while, but not long after he died Emma seemed ready to be with you again, and she definitely was all in right before her breakdown. So I am sure it is really nice to see that after three months away, she seems more than willing to rekindle things. But really, did you think that made sense? Did you think it was the right move? Were you thinking with your brain?)
Meanwhile, Audrey seems to have long forgotten her incident from the theatre, and is leaving the party seemingly happy—that is until her phone rings and she sees the caller is listed as UNKNOWN. At first she tries to play it cool, letting the caller know that using a 99 cent voice changer doesn’t scare her. But then it seems that this is not a prank. This caller might actually know her secrets.
Kieran and Emma’s night goes exactly as everyone but Kieran and Emma would have expected. Em realizes she cannot have sex, at least for right now, and she ends up going to bed and having what I think will be one of many nightmares of the season. In it, she approaches a little girl who has walked into a barn at a pig farm. The girl seems happy enough, even when Em enters the barn and finds the girl giggling while digging through pig guts. Perhaps even more terrifying to Emma is that when she wakes up she discovers Kieran has slept on the couch.
Brooke and Jake were on their way to having the best night out of the group, enjoying a rendezvous at the school pool. But that too quickly fizzled, and Brooke decided that maybe she and Jake weren’t going to work out after all. She leaves in a hurry, too fast to hear Jake proclaim his love. Jake is upset by the potential split, and it seems like he might take action to prove to her he has changed (he had no problem blackmailing Brooke’s father after finding a video of him disposing of a body, so he might not handle a break up in a completely healthy way), but before he can do anything, he comes face-to-face with the killer.
At school the next day, Brooke laments about Jake, and Em seems more than prepared to return to school (which, um, looks way bigger than it did last season). She has a brief moment of hesitation as she ascends the stairs and flashes back to her breakdown, but she snaps out of it and Audrey grabs hold of her hand, letting her know that the Lakewood Six are all tough if they stick together.
Last year we got to see the group in their English class, and this year we are treated to their Psychology class, which will likely heavily come into play since it seems there will be many psychological themes and happenings explored in this season. (Major Aside: Dear Hollywood, Can you please, please, please stop creating the “cool” teacher? Mr. Branson was gross but his method of teaching was probably closer to what an actual “cool” teacher would be like. He brought in some pop culture, came up with some unique group projects, and wasn’t opposed to having some valid “tangents” pop up during class discussion. This psychology teacher is not a “cool” teacher. Yeah, we get it, she thought the reading that she assigned her entire class was dull. Ha! Wow! What a cool teacher. No. Just no. An actual “cool” teacher might have had the class work on the reading during class time, and while they were reading she might mention that the text might seem a bit boring but that it is laying the foundation for some relevant and interesting things, then make that boring text dynamic. That might not make for a good scene, so just have the class actually working on this second half (which this teacher ends up doing anyway), making the materials dynamic, without actually making the teacher proclaim how dull the assignment was. It made this teacher look like she is trying way too hard to be fun and edgy, but it just comes off as awkward and pathetic. Please do some research. Go to some classrooms and see how the most liked teachers actually conduct a class. Please. I beg of you. Signed, Hopefully Never like Hollywood’s Version of the “Cool” Teacher.) This psych class also introduced us to two new characters, which means two new potential suspects and victims: Zoe, a potential love interest for Noah and/or Audrey, and Gustavo, the curious and mysterious son of Sheriff Acosta. Of the two, Zoe seems the most suspicious, because I don’t care how nice you are, I am not sure too many teens would be willing to jump in with the clique who has a track record of being killed off (of course, I hope most people aren’t as cynical as I am, so my apologies to this probably innocent character). Plus it looks like Gustavo is creating a creepy picture of Emma, so he's probably a red herring at most.
Emma’s first day back is a mix of emotions. Before she left for school, she got into an argument with her mom, who was disappointed in Em for lying to her, but then she reunited with her friends, but then she had her flashback, but then she once again relied on her friends, and she seemed to make a new friend, but Kieran seemed more distant than she imagined.
Audrey isn’t faring any better. Along with her new-found phone “friend,” she and Noah get into a fight when he can’t understand why she doesn’t want the police to pursue this mystery caller. Though she is able to make up with Noah relatively quickly, she is still bothered by how much this mysterious figure knows (and once again, Sheriff Acosta seems far too friendly, so maybe he and Gus are a pair of father-son red herrings). The first contact she had was too vague, and aside from the whole partner mention, it could have easily been a prank. But the other calls and texts seem more telling, and when she returns to work she finds that the caller has plastered a restroom stall with her letters to Piper (at the end of the first season, Audrey quickly burns all of Piper’s letters to her, but she should have realized Piper probably wasn’t as diligent as destroying the evidence, and once she was dead, Audrey should have maybe been more diligent about trying to find Piper’s half of the communication). The caller warns that he or she has copies of all the letters, so even if Audrey can’t ask for help from the police, she does realize that she and Noah need to find out who this new potential killer is (though she is quick to remind Noah that Piper did not have an accomplice). They both think that whoever is taunting Audrey probably followed Noah’s podcast and most likely commented on it (and Audrey soon realizes it is not a good idea to read the often mean comments that are directed mostly toward herself).
Emma is really interested in finding out more about this barn that she apparently has long dreamed about, and is astonished to find that Noah (after she gives in and agrees to be a part of his podcast) has a picture of it on his murder board. It turns out that it is probably the barn of Brandon James’ brother, Troy, and that’s all Em needs to know before deciding to go to the barn.
Meanwhile, Jake lived longer than it first appeared, and he is also in a barn. He notices that there is a decorative broom near the door that refers to him as a boy interrupted. Later on, Jake attempts an escape, managing to open the barn doors even though he is severely injured and unable to walk. Unfortunately for Jake, the killer is right behind the doors and decides the time is right to make Jake the first victim of this season. Jake, who escaped death a few times in the first season, finally meets his demise when he is hanged upside down and split open with a scythe.
Brooke joins Emma in her quest to see the barn (not the mall), though she doesn’t really understand why Em would need to see it. The barn is empty (so either Jake was in a completely different barn, or this scene occurred long enough after his death for the killer to cover any trace of it—which would be difficult because of how much blood there was), but Emma sees a light in the house and thinks Troy James is back. Much to Brooke’s chagrin, Emma runs into the house and stumbles upon pictures of herself. What or who will she find? When and how will Jake’s death be discovered? And will another of the Lakewood Six be the next victim, or will the killer pick off a newly discovered Lakewood resident?
Thoughts, Observations, and Theories:
Though I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, I felt like our Lakewood Six and Maggie were plopped into a completely different town. I am not sure if the old sets/locations weren’t available or what, but it seemed like, with the exception of Maggie and Emma’s house, all new locations were used. The school even looked massively different (like I said, it looked way bigger than before). It is all probably just a way to subtly establish this as a new season, and I am sure nobody was supposed to care this much about the set differences, so I’ll move on.
Though I am not yet a fan of the Psych teacher’s portrayal, I did love the A Nightmare on Elm Street conversation from that class. It was a nice way to both tie in the dream theme and pay homage to Wes Craven. I also loved that the opening scene was an homage to Scream 2. The first Scream opened with the infamous death of Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker, and so it was fitting that the opening of the first season was an homage to it. In Scream 2, Jada Pinkett’s (not yet billed with the Smith) and Omar Epps’ characters died at a viewing of Stab. Could the third season open with a main character dying after being tricked by the killer adapting different voices?
The dream theme briefly appeared in the first season, when Em figured out a major piece of the puzzle during a dream sequence, but it seems like this season dreams will figure throughout. This all makes sense. Beyond the connections to some of Wes Craven’s other work, dreams and the subconscious figure prominently in many horror films, including Scream 3. While the dream theme makes sense, another theme seems important, but it is not quite so easy to understand why. That theme? Pig imagery.
One of the first things that struck me as odd was during Noah’s phone call with Audrey in the opening sequence. The camera took a moment to focus on what Noah had been holding in his hand, and from what I could tell it was a red pig figurine with a hat. I thought, “Why did the camera have to get a shot of that?” Then there were two other significant porcine moments. When Jake is attacked, there is what seems to be a little toy pig at the scene. And then there is the dream Emma has with the young girl (young Emma?) digging through pig guts. And in the preview for the rest of the season, there seems to be a Prom scene that mirrors Carrie, with Brooke covered in blood, which if this is an homage to that film, it would likely be pig blood (or maybe it's Jake's blood!). All of this imagery reminded me of last season when Maggie receives a heart in the mail. At the abandoned hospital, Emma finds a dead pig and realizes that the heart her mom received was from that animal. So clearly pigs are important, but how and why?
The past was a major factor in the first season, and it appears that theme will continue into this one. Of course some major long-kept secrets will be revealed, but will the past also bring back former Lakewood residents who were mentioned but not seen (or briefly seen in flashbacks or dreams)? Troy James, Emma’s dad, and Brooke’s mother could all potentially return to Lakewood this season, and it is likely that if any of them do appear, even if only in dreams or memories, those scenes will bring some major revelations. If the show does continue with Scream 2 homages, could it even be a possibility that someone in the town has drastically altered their appearance before returning, à la Debbie Salt/Mrs. Loomis? That seems less likely, but I would still pay attention to exactly who each new face does and does not interact with, just in case.
All this leads up to my first round of theories. In the first season, it seemed Emma and her mother were the main people the killer(s) wanted to taunt. Piper turned out to be Emma’s half-sister and Maggie’s daughter, and Audrey wanted to get revenge for being seen as an outcast while also getting revenge on Emma leaving her (but likely really wanting to once again get close to Emma). So far this season, Emma’s only threat has been her own subconscious via her barnyard dream, and Maggie was only in one scene. While I do think their pasts are important, and could both open up some interesting narratives for not only this season but future seasons, it seems that the killer(s) this season are far more interested in Audrey. For right now, I would look at who has the most reason for wanting Audrey to suffer. Here are the top three candidates (two serious, one totally off the wall—but that’s the perk of writing your own column).
Serious Candidate 1: Noah
Emma : Audrey :: Audrey : Noah. Think about it. When Emma started dating Will and became part of a new clique, Audrey wasn’t completely abandoned. She was able to find an incredibly funny and supportive friend in Noah. He vandalized Jake’s truck to offer up some revenge for the video. He never once faltered in his loyalty to his best friend, even when he got feelings for Riley. It was clear Noah wouldn’t stop hanging out with Audrey to be with another person, but it was also clear that Riley wouldn’t have asked that of Noah. Still, early in the season Riley was murdered (see my Season 1 Recap for more on that). Though the final images of the season were Audrey destroying her ties to Piper, the voice-over narration was Noah’s, and he called out the fact that Will corroborated Piper being attacked, so there had to be an accomplice. Now Noah (who has that pig figurine) seems slightly obsessed with solving the mystery—but what if he already did? Why is Troy James’ barn already a piece of evidence on his board if it has only been showing up in Em's dreams? And why did he say he thinks it is Troy James' barn? I think he would at least know if it was or not. And what about that interview with Brandon James’ relative in the first season? She claimed a young man visited the house. Now, there’s always the possibility that Piper set the whole thing up, and this lady was paid to pretend to be a James and mention the male visitor, just to throw Emma off, but what if there really was a male visitor—except it wasn’t Kieran or Seth Branson, it was Noah. If Noah did discover Audrey’s connection to Piper, it might have been enough to throw him over the edge and have a psychotic breakdown.
Serious Candidate 2: Brooke
Brooke was my hope for the first season’s accomplice, so maybe that’s why she’s at the top of my list for this season, but she and Noah have similar reasons to secretly want revenge on Audrey. When Em has her breakdown flashback on the stairs, Brooke is standing next to her. Brooke seemed happy to throw Emma the party the night before, and she likely would have supported Emma through this shaky start, but Audrey had to bust in between them, pushing Brooke to the back. The Lakewood Six should be a strong group, but Audrey worked so hard to rekindle her friendship with Emma that she can’t help but make sure she’s the one right by her side at all times now. Plus, Brooke went through a lot last season: Her fling with Mr. Branson, mother’s possible disappearance, death of many of her closest friends. So much of her life was directly affected by the killers’ decisions that if she found out the truth she would also be pushed over the edge. But so far the only piece of evidence I noticed connecting Noah to the bigger picture is that pig. I noticed something I think is perhaps a stronger clue with Brooke. When Jake mentions Audrey’s newest video (the theatre attack), Brooke mentions that Audrey is a tough bitch. It seemed as nothing more than a line to suggest how close the two have grown in the past three months. Fast forward to Noah and Audrey looking for clues in the podcast comments, and you’ll notice that someone basically suggests it would be fun to see how much of a badass Audrey really is. And we even see Noah has printed out some comments and he highlighted badass. Noah mentions that the tone and word choice of the texts Audrey received seem to match those of the comments, and to me Brook's use of tough bitch seemed to fit right in with that tone. Coincidence? Maybe. But at the very least, I don’t think Brooke is as happy with Audrey’s friendship as it might seem.
Totally Off-the-Wall Candidate 1: Audrey’s Mother
I cannot stress how much this is a completely fun and not to be taken seriously theory. Remember how I said that the pig imagery seems to be a strange theme for the season? Well it would all make sense if the season ends up being an homage to a famous horror franchise. All of the episodes this season are going to be named after horror films. The first episode was titled “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and the next is “Psycho.” Then there was the Nightmare on Elm Street conversation in Psych class. And the Carrie-like scene shown briefly in the previews. But what if there is a horror film that isn’t just mentioned? What if the killer and her motivations are straight out of one of the more recent horror franchises? What if Audrey’s mother is the killer, taking a page from Jigsaw himself from the Saw franchise? Last season, Audrey’s mother was only mentioned once. It turns out she was in Boston receiving cancer treatments, which means she is likely in a late stage or dealing with one of the more aggressive forms of cancer. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be surprising if she died during those three months, but there is nothing to suggest that, and there is also nothing to suggest she returned. What if she is on the mend, but what if Audrey doesn’t know it? Brooke didn’t really know her mother’s whereabouts for part of last season, and Audrey certainly has a lot to be preoccupied with right now. What if her mother discovered her daughter’s nefarious deeds and is horrified that she was busy trying to regain an old friendship while her own mother was potentially dying? So now she has returned to teach her daughter a lesson, and while doing that she will also take the lives of anyone who doesn’t appreciate their own. This would make Jake’s death make even more sense. He survived repeated attacks, including a knife to the chest, but with the exception of being nice to Audrey and Noah, he doesn’t seem to have changed much. Jake also was not killed immediately. He was left in the barn with a note. Jigsaw and his accomplices often delayed deaths, and maybe the killer was even giving Jake a chance to somehow survive. This would also tie in well with the title of the next episode, since Psycho had a lot to do with a mother/son relationship. Add the pig masks from the Saw franchise, and you have the strangest theme from the season finally making sense.Share: