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This Is The Real Killer In Season 1 Of Scream

Horror movies in the 1990s slowly tried to separate themselves from the topless, screaming, covered-in-blood excess of the decade that preceded them. If the 1980s were an endless run of straight-to-VHS bordering-on-pornographic gorefests, what would make the '90s era of horror its own thing?

We didn't truly get our answer until 1996 when Wes Craven, the creator of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," crafted arguably the most successful self-aware horror film of all time — "Scream." Here was a film that started by killing an A-lister like Drew Barrymore in the opening scene and a story that paid homage to the slashers that came before by featuring a character who was an expert on slasher movies. "Scream" was a horror movie about horror movies and its ability to both play into and subvert horror movie tropes in and of itself created a new trope all its own.

Of course, a success like "Scream" can't exist in a bubble and the franchise went on to spawn three sequels, with a fourth on the way. And while there's a lot to discuss regarding what works and what doesn't in the sequels, as well as an endless wish list for the upcoming film, there's one thing people almost always seem to forget about "Scream" — in 2015, it also spawned a TV series.

For three seasons (two which connected and one which exists on its own), "Scream: The TV series" introduced us to a whole new mythos. Those first two seasons gave us new heroes, new villains, and even an update on the Ghostface mask. And if you've never seen the series before and you're dubious about a new take on a now-classic franchise, let's peel back who the Season 1 killer is, why they killed, and what made the story work so well that it kept on going.

Scream: The TV Series and the usual suspects

"Scream: The TV Series" starts with the familiar — an established actor, in this case Bella Thorne, gets murdered by a masked figure leaving everyone who knew her (and, in many cases, despised her) wondering who was behind her death and why.

Our story includes a horror nerd, Noah Foster (John Karna), who sets up the question that the show's very existence must answer — can a slasher movie be successfully stretched across a season of a television show? And when it comes to very slowly piecing together who the killer is specifically, the answer is a resounding "yes." In fact, each of the 10 episodes of that first season seem to point to a different potential killer.

Before Thorne's character Nina Patterson is killed, she uploads a video online of Audrey Jensen (Bex Taylor-Klaus) making out with another girl, causing the entire school to harass her. And it isn't long before we find out that our final-girl-to-be Emma Duval's (Willa Fitzgerald) boyfriend Will Belmont (Connor Weil) was cheating on her with Nina. Not only that, but Will and his friend Jake Fitzgerald (Tom Maden) also seemed to be filming Nina without her knowledge for no other reason than their own amusement.

And then there's the town's own personal folk tale about Brandon James — a disfigured young man who fell in love with a girl names Daisy, was bullied and beaten for it, and was ultimately killed after murdering all his bullies. The folk tale isn't a folk tale at all, though — it's at least partially true. And Daisy is none other than Emma's mother Maggie (Tracy Middendorf).

Everyone on "Scream: The TV Series" has a motive. All we know for sure from the start is that the killer wears the same mask Brandon James did to cover his disfigurement. And as you might expect from a "Scream" story, the killer is among the last you'd expect.

And the killer is ...

There are two newcomers to the town of Lakewood when "Scream: The TV Series" begins — transfer student Kieran Wilcox (Amadeus Serafini) and host of the "Autopsy of a Crime" podcast Piper Shaw (Amelia Rose Blaire). Kieran has just moved in with his father, Sheriff Clark (Jason Wiles), because his mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident. Piper is there because there's been a murder and she wants to research it for her podcast.

There's another relative newcomer to Lakewood — teacher Seth Branson (Bobby Campo) who is having an illicit affair with his student Brooke Maddox (Carlson Young). As the 10 episodes of the show's first season unfold, we find out that Brooke is not the first student Mr. Branson has slept with. He also had a relationship with a college student named Olivia Finley — a woman who turned up dead. Despite having a confrontation with someone in a Brandon James mask, all signs point to Branson. At one point it's even hypothesized that he created the false last name "Branson" because he is the secret son of Brandon James — pretty close!

In the season finale, we find out the true killer is Piper Shaw who is not there for her podcast, but rather because she is actually the daughter of Brandon James and Maggie Duval, making her Emma's step-sister. Piper's father was murdered, she was abandoned by her mother, and Emma got the life Piper felt she herself deserved — all the hallmarks of someone who might kill for revenge. Piper tries to kill Emma and Maggie but gets shot to death by Audrey (and, later Emma).

Was there really only one person behind the mask?

Of course, if the killer was defeated, then why was there a continuation of "Scream: The TV Series"? This isn't "American Horror Story," and the second chapter didn't feature the same actors in new roles — it was the same characters with the same story.

Right before Piper dies at the end of Season 1, she claims there's one more secret she has left to reveal, one that no one could ever see coming. In the final moments of the first season finale, we see Audrey burning letters that seem to suggest she had some kind of connection and communication with Piper prior to Nina's death and the start of our story. Season 2 delves into exactly what the original "Scream" film does — it's kind of hard to get away with killing that many people that quickly all on your own. So, who was Piper's accomplice and why? And is there more to the Brandon James story than we already know?

If you've never seen "Scream: The TV series," it's worth watching even knowing who the first killer is, and not only because there's still more story afterward. What makes the show work is the connection between the characters. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that the kills (almost none of which we've even touched on) get pretty darn grizzly.

"Scream: The TV Series" is streaming on Netflix, and the new "Scream" movie is currently set to release on January 14, 2022.