“Village of the Damned” can be boiled down to two standout scenes. Everything else that happens will be forgotten as quickly as it appears. This marks the second “filler” episode in this season and the first truly disappointing episode. It’s not to say that this is anything new for the series. SCREAM Season 1 had a few lull episodes and managed to recover. There’s no reason to believe that next week’s episode will be as underwhelming, but “Village of the Damned” serves more as a missed opportunity than anything else.
The first standout scene is in Sheriff Acosta’s office where he warns Emma to stay away from Eli for multiple reasons: Eli has a criminal record and a restraining order on him, that his brother Kieran has been trying to help Emma, and because Acosta knows the identities of the bodies burned in the house that Eli and Emma broke into. Eli’s manipulative and secretive demeanour is further confirmed when Kieran tells Emma that the things Eli has said about him are lies. Thus, the episode further emphasizes something we already know: Eli can’t be trusted.
The second scene is Brooke’s pageant speech at Lakewood’s 100 year anniversary celebration carnival where she holds her middle finger up to Lakewood and the town’s look-the-other-way response to its tragic death-filled history. It’s a deeply emotional moment for the character. Carlson Young nails this scene in a heartfelt and well executed performance. The scene marks the first time that Brooke publicly reveals her vulnerable side as she pays tribute to Jake by admitting her true feelings for him, and her disgust at the town for trying to cover his and all the other murders that have occurred in the town for two generations. It ends with the most epic mic drop ever.
A lot of the other screen time is spent on the budding friendship between Zoe and Brooke. Brooke decides to secretly bow out of the “Lady of the Lake” pageant and devote her expertise to helping Zoe win. The show continues its attempt to divert audience attention toward Zoe as a potential suspect by having Brooke drink a bunch of alcohol that Zoe inexplicably brought with her. Brooke drinks it all, enabling her to give her speech. While it makes sense for Brooke to get herself drunk given what she willingly knows she’s about to do, the fact that Zoe brought the flask in the first place raises an eyebrow. Her excuse that it was to help “calm her nerves” isn’t at all believable, but any ulterior motive she had is never revealed.
It would have been nice to learn more about the town, or perhaps focus on Mayor Maddox and his resilient efforts to aid the residents in keeping up the façade as a peaceful, quiet town. Instead, the episode wastes a lot of time on Audrey getting more calls from the killer, Emma chasing down a kidnapped Kieran only to rescue him without much consequence, and Sheriff Acosta confronting Gustavo about the mask that he owns. None of this adds up to much that we didn’t already know which makes sitting through this episode a more tedious ordeal than anything that’s come before it. Perhaps if more attention was given to exploring or revisiting the history of Lakewood, the episode would have been able to live up to its title. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The chase scene within a carnival fun house is lazy and poorly executed. Much of Audrey’s conflict about admitting to Emma her involvement with Piper doesn’t feel like there’s much at stake, especially because Emma needs Audrey’s help now more than ever. And the conflict between Kieran and Eli feels more like a shoehorned in subplot than two brothers actually suffering from a complicated history.
“Village of the Damned” is still watchable. It’s just a throwaway.
Episode 8 Grinds Season 2 to a Halt
Other than a solid performance by Carlson Young as Brooke, there's so little that stands out in this underwhelming episode that misses the opportunity to reflect more on Lakewood's history in favour of sequences that do nothing to enhance the plot.