Heathers Season 1 Episode 2 – TV Review
If you were going to guess that the marginalised black character would be the first to die, then lucky you.
I didn’t. Who knew I had any optimism left in me? I’m shocked.
TL;DR The episode ends with the genuinely tragic suicide of Heather McNamara; Heather Duke tussles with Betty for queen bee; Heather Chandler’s triumphant return makes the point moot; some flashbacks indicate an unnecessary serial killer subplot; Veronica as a character is still nebulous and dull.
I suppose I should be glad to take nebulous and dull over outright contradictory.
So yes, Heather Chandler is alive, and she soon lets Veronica and JD know all about it so she can blackmail them into doing her bidding. Meanwhile, Heather Duke sees this as an opportunity to become the school’s Alpha Bitch, but nerdy good girl Betty comes out on top, leading Duke to take out his frustrations on Heather McNamara. This begins a conga line of humiliation which also incorporates the outing of her statutory-rape-by-teacher, for which she is blamed and shamed. Her parents are cruelly oblivious, as well (there are no reasonable authority figures in this world). Meanwhile, Duke’s attempts at social climbing see him stage a Heather Chandler mourning party that is outshone by Betty’s similarly-themed roller rink extravaganza, and this is where Chandler stages her big return, displacing Betty and proclaiming herself the face of teen suicide. Things might finally be looking up for Heather McNamara, but Heather Chandler cuts her down for her earlier attempts to grovel to Betty, and this pushes McNamara to slit her wrists. Betty, too, ignores her pleas for help, and she makes it home just in time to die on the couch between her ignorant parents. It was actually pretty upsetting. Meanwhile, JD continues to be an unabashed edgelord; Veronica turns down on offer from Betty to be in her girl posse; and some flashbacks show that shortly after Shannen Doherty’s suicide, a young Veronica and Betty found another friend of theirs murdered by the Croquet Killer.
Wait, is Heathers becoming a slasher? Because if so, we might have a contender to outdo Scream Queens on just how terrible a wannabe slasher show can be.
As for this episode itself, though, compared to the insane levels of trying-too-hard in the pilot, this is a definite step down in that regard.
And on the one hand, it’s welcome. Because if we’re going to have to endure ten episodes of this trash, then we can’t keep things at that level the whole way through.
But on the other hand, in a show that seems to have nothing else going for it than its bluster and noise, calming things down means we might have to evaluate Heathers as an actual television show.
And that’s not good for Heathers.
Why I hate this episode:
You know what this hyperreal, intentionally-offensive, nostalgia-grabbing remake teen show about suicide needs? A slasher backstory. That shit didn’t help the Scream TV series, and that show actually was a slasher. I know ten episodes sounds like a lot when your characters are inconsistent cardboard cutouts and your plot is basically already mapped out thanks to the original movie, but we didn’t need you to pad things out with the Croquet Killer. Why, show?
The tonal whiplash is also continuing in full force from last episode, with no signs of stopping. I don’t think anyone who watched that pilot thought Heathers would be attempting to have anything emotionally sincere to say about teen suicide, but here comes Heather McNamara. While I appreciate that it made me feel something, this is not the right show to do it.
And yes, way to kill off your black character first. We need more time with the whites, clearly.
I’m starting to get the feeling that we might be in an American Horror Story Season 5 situation, as nobody seems to be forming as any sort of sympathetic hero. Veronica seems to still be our only chance given she’s the protagonist, but I don’t know. Her drug-loving, sexual aggression, and unfazed attitude towards murder from last episode don’t give me hope, and she doesn’t do anything this episode to present herself in any better light.
Oh, and Heather Chandler makes a big deal about blackmailing JD and Veronica, but then doesn’t really collect on it. Weak.
But it’s not all bad:
The few minutes where Heather Chandler was a slasher movie villain stalking them in the night were fun.
The one thing Heathers is still doing well is its caustic social commentary. Like last week, it’s unsubtle, but it’s fun. The shining moment in this episode is when McNamara tries to suck up to Betty and be in her newly-in-charge girl posse, but Betty rejects her for banging a teacher. Because by having sex with him, she enabled a paedophile. Jesus Christ, show.
This subplot also finds more juicy (and, again, unsubtle) commentary in a meeting the faculty holds with Heather McNamara to discuss the affair. The feminist guidance counselor soapboxes about the issue, while simultaneously silencing McNamara. Parodying feminists is low hanging fruit, but that level is where Heathers is succeeding. I say keep it up.
The teacher, by the way, makes it out of this meeting unscathed. It’s only when it’s revealed he was statutorily raping several other female students that he gets fired. Heathers then decides to have things both ways by having McNamara choose to be offended in this scene not by his blaming of her for the truth coming out, but because the other girls were ugly. The inconsistency wounds me, but the groan-worthy edginess is irresistible.
Heather Chandler champions the ongoing commentary about suicide, and it hasn’t worn out its welcome yet. Part of me hopes that there will be a jab at 13 Reasons Why’s glamorisation of suicide, but I don’t think it was big enough when this was made.
Chandler’s return to the world of the living had me living, as she covertly recruits the Heathers to come into the roller rink alongside her while Beyonce’s Halo is playing. It’s garbage, but I was eating it up.
The best line of the episode comes soon after Chandler is done with her big speech about her resurrection, with the disinterested DJ wanting to get back to the party: “She’s alive, yo. Let’s get back in the mix.” So glib. So chic.
Heather Duke’s skanky stepmother is played by Selma Blair. I hope we get more of her.
Heather McNamara slits her wrists to Wilson Phillips’ iconic Hold On.
Oh, and speaking of iconic, I’m not mad about how the show used this memorable line from the movie: