Scream: Why Brandon James is not the killer we thought he was
Scream is drawing serious inspiration from the franchise that inspired it, right down to trying to confuse us with a retro killer.
I wish I could say I was surprised Riley was the masked killer's latest victim, but I called it last week. Scream really is strictly adhering to old-school horror movie logic standards. Since the show hasn't thrown us any major curveballs yet, then I think it is safe to assume poor, misunderstood Brandon James was no killer at all. That's right; I'm saying all this talk of Brandon is a major red herring. Brandon didn't go on a killing spree that night, but someone wanted to make it look like he did.
The first clue is in the cold open. Scream took us way back to the massacre by showing us two victims, one of whom admitted to "giving the freak what he deserved." They were both swiftly killed, but the killer was never shown. What would the show have lost by showing us Brandon James' face? It's not the old murders that are supposed to be suspect here, it's the new ones.
I admire the attempt to create suspense by teasing the idea that Brandon James is still among the living, but I think it is safe to say the guy who fell in love with Emma's mother is dead and gone. It's not Brandon James we should be focusing on. If we want to look for a troubling connection to the past, it's Emma's father — the mystery man who taught Emma how to play piano and who is currently being tracked by the police — that we should be thinking about. I propose that he was the original killer and that he set up Brandon out of jealousy or just plain cruelty.
Our modern-day story started with an act of bullying. Emma allowed Nina to film and post Audrey and Rachel in the car. This started the chain of deaths and the killer taunting Emma. Is it because, in the killer's eyes, Emma is no better than her mother and father, both of whom may have been complicit in the bullying and vilifying of Brandon James? After all, the killer insists Emma's mother is a liar. Brandon wasn't Carrie at the prom, but the modern-day killer likes that narrative because it suits his purposes.
The more the show turns our attention to Brandon by dropping hints about how he looked before his surgeries (suggesting he could still be among the living with a different face) and breaking out those dusty old case files, the more likely it seems Brandon is a red herring or, if you will allow me to get Hitchcockian, a McGuffin. I am proposing pursuing Brandon theories is a waste of our theorizing energy. Brandon is just a cover for a modern-day madman, one who is standing right in front of Emma. The killer can only be one of two people: farm boy Will who packs a knife in the back of his pants (too obvious) or new guy Kieran who went out of his way to save Noah, a young man perceived to be an outcast when he first showed up in town.
Kieran presents as a hero, but the facts are these: He's new to the community and has an outsider's perspective, he showed an instant and intense fascination with Emma, he has access to boxes full of gruesome case files, thanks to his father being the sheriff, and he doesn't want Emma to come over to his house. Going back to the original Scream, there were two killers, one with a vague motive and the other who was just susceptible to peer pressure. The rule Scream the movie broke was the need for the killer to have a compelling motive. The history lesson the movie gave on a past killer was all for naught because the man in jail for killing the heroine's mother was innocent of the crime. In other words, he was a McGuffin, just like Brandon.
There is no solid motive, just a boy obsessed and ready to take down a group of entitled rich kids one by one. Brandon is just a cover, a decoy to take our attention away from the present day. He was never a murderer, and Emma's life is shrouded in a lie that is causing even her to focus on the wrong clues. Maybe Kieran pieced together the truth about what happened to Brandon, and if he did, he may be deluding himself into thinking he's killing out of a perverted sense of justice. Either that or he and his father are tag-teaming this whole serial killer deal and we've got ourselves a two-for-one crazy special.
Let's let Brandon rest in peace. It's clear he was a victim in a cruel game, just like Nina, Tyler, Rachel and Riley. He is not the villain of this piece; he's just distracting us from the person behind the mask.