The Vanishing is easily the best episode of Scream so far. Hands down, no contest. It absolutely strips the excess of characters and story lines down to one core thing – Noah has been kidnapped and buried alive. Emma and Audrey need to get over their nonsense and work together to find him before he dies. That is the driving force of this episode and rarely does it ever stray away from it. It turns out Scream works best when it’s trying as hard as it can not to be a Scream TV series.
I’ve definitely gone back and forth with my thoughts on Noah. He’s a generally likable character but often his role is relegated to being the series’ Randy equivalent. His references to other horror movies and pop culture in general can sometimes feel incredibly forced and nearly everything to do with his podcast seemed over the top and borderline comical (to me at least). Still though, he was one of the few characters who remained likable as he didn’t spend all of his time being creepy or mad or over the top in some way. He’s a loyal friend and a good guy overall so he remained easy to root for. It made the most sense to put him in this terrible situation because the audience is already on his side before it happens.
John Karna (Noah) puts in a great performance here, definitely the best work he has done in the series. They don’t rely heavily on him making references (I am still a little stunned that at no point did he reference Ryan Reynolds and Buried) or jokes after the realization of his situation. Instead, he portrays the desperate terror of a teenager not ready to die in a very realistic way, shifting admirably between calm almost acceptance to bursts of desperation. Even if you weren’t a fan of the character prior to this episode, it’s hard not to sympathize with him once the shit hits the fan.
The time spent outside of the coffin unfortunately does not work as well. I’ve already said that I really don’t care about Emma and Audrey’s beef and we get a pretty hearty dose of it here. It’s tolerable for the most part, though I can’t buy for a second that, when right on the cusp of maybe finding and rescuing Noah, they pause to have it out about Audrey and Piper for a few minutes. He could literally be dying right beneath your feet! I get you’re pissed but this is potentially the worst time to be doing this! The revelation that Audrey was lashing out at Emma for “breaking her heart” at least opens the road for some potentially interesting thing to come, but their bickering in this episode does nothing but break the momentum of everything.
Alright, let’s get the huge spoiler part out of the way here. Throughout the episode there are insinuations that Zoe is also buried alive somewhere. However, they cut some of this tension by having Zoe appear to Noah inside of his coffin throughout the episode to reassure him that he’s going to be fine and to keep fighting. The moment she showed up in this “spectral” form, I immediately figured “Oh well she’s dead then. Like totally way dead.” Once Noah is freed (I really expected them to do the Buried twist and have it be the wrong coffin…spoilers for Buried) they see a video of Zoe buried by the water and head to save her. It should be an incredibly stressful final act, but it still seemed pretty clear she was dead. Sure enough, they go the Saw II route and show that the video had been recorded earlier and Zoe is in fact totally way dead. My number one suspect has been completely crossed off the list.
At this point, if you weren’t already on Noah’s side your mind will surely be changed and if not you are a complete monster, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you. His and Zoe’s relationship had lost me in the last couple of episodes once she started acting way too suspicious about everything, but Noah was obviously way into her and he is put through the fucking ringer in this episode. He is now the main person I need to see get through this mess.
While Noah’s situation is definitely the focal point of the episode, we do get some flashback stuff with the sheriff and Emma’s mom (turns out I don’t know all the character names after all) back in the Brandon James days. It turns out they may have been more involved than they let on, revealing that Mama Emma helped hide a knife for Brandon and was also passing notes by tacking them to a tree. Operating under the theory that Brandon James is still alive, she leaves a note for him in the present on the same tree. The episode ends with Eli watching her leave, reminding us once again that he is far too creepy to actually be revealed as the killer.
The Vanishing is certainly not a perfect episode, but it’s a very good one and for Scream, I will happily take that. At least 70% of it completely works, with some of the Emma and Audrey stuff dragging down the tension that should be continuously ratcheting up and the final twist being a little too foreshadowed. With two episodes to go in the season, I’ll find out soon enough if this is as good as the show is capable of being.
Killer Prediction – I mean it kind of has to be Kieran right? He’s the only person the show isn’t making overtly suspicious and that whole business where he got “kidnapped” at the fair seemed completely made-up.