Kirby’s back! Oh God, wait, Kirby’s back…
By popular demand, Hayden Panettiere is officially returning to the Scream franchise as her fan favorite Scream 4 character, Kirby Reed, in the upcoming sixth film. In the Scream community, it was as if millions of voices cried out in celebration … and were suddenly silenced when they realized there’s a very strong chance she’s the film’s opening kill.
Think about it: 2022’s Scream subverted the franchise’s longtime tradition of opening with a kill scene, so it seems unlikely that Radio Silence would pull that trick twice in a row. Doing that too many times would probably stray too far from the series’ established rules, so someone has to die this time. But what’s another way they could shock us in the opening and play with expectations? Well, what about making a big deal out of the fact that one of the biggest fan favorite characters is returning, putting her in all the marketing and on the poster, and then killing her off immediately?
It seems like an obvious way to go, but please, Radio Silence, don’t do it. Kirby deserves to be a legitimate character in the film, as she’s probably the best of all the “horror film geek” characters we’ve had in the series so far — between her, Randy, and Mindy, Kirby is maybe the only one I’d actually enjoy hanging out with. That’s in no small part because of Panettiere’s charisma, but she also lacks the annoying cockiness of both Randy and Mindy that can become seriously grating, like when Randy was bafflingly insistent in Scream 2 that there are no good sequels, or when Mindy discusses the deaths of her actual friends in a disturbingly flippant way. Kirby just seems like too strong of a character to be a one-off in a single sequel.
Besides, the fact that we all immediately thought of Kirby as a potential opening scene victim is probably a good indication that that’s the wrong direction to go. Surely, there can be an even more creative subversion — like, say, killing off and/or revealing a Ghostface during the opening scene. Bringing back a past survivor, only to have them immediately die, would pretty much just be a repeat of the Cotton Weary death in Scream 3. I’m not necessarily against Kirby dying in the movie in general, but doing it as the opening feels like it’d be a waste just in service of a cheap shock we can all see coming anyway.
Looking at this cast list, though, I have to say I’m a little bit puzzled as to who will be getting killed off in this movie, especially since the franchise hasn’t exactly re-established a new “core trio.” Sam and Tara should be off limits, considering their relationship as sisters feels too crucial to this rebooted series to end so early — and Jenna Ortega is such a remarkable actress, there’s a case to be made she should be the new Sidney. Mindy is a possibility, though that also might come across like too much of a repeat of Scream 2, which also killed off the expert of the group. Chad seems like an obvious choice, especially since he barely survived the last movie, but then again, that’s so obvious it would be hard to make it particularly surprising, and with him gone, there’d be no male characters left in the group.
And then there’s the legacy characters. It should go without saying that Sidney, the definitive final girl, absolutely must survive the entire series, so she’s out. Gale I would say should survive, too, if only because killing her and Dewey back to back just feels too cruel, and too much like a repeat of the Star Wars sequel trilogy “kill an iconic legacy character every film” formula. But that’s a lot of characters we’ve ruled out from killing in a slasher series. Maybe Sam could be offed, making Tara the true new lead, but then again, I’d hate the franchise to give in to all the bullies picking on Melissa Barrera for her perfectly fine performance.
I’m also pretty curious how the movie is going to incorporate the legacy characters in a natural way. The logline says the film follows Sam, Tara, Mindy, and Chad as they “leave Woodsboro behind and start a fresh chapter,” presumably meaning they go off to college together. Maybe they end up in New York, where Gale lives, and perhaps Kirby happens to teach a course at the university? But is there going to be a natural way to throw Sidney into the mix, too? Maybe not, and as blasphemous as it sounds, I wouldn’t be totally against the idea of giving her a rest for one movie. The 2022 film gave us a satisfying passing of the torch moment between her and Sam, and while Sidney definitely needs to return at some point, the new cast is strong enough that I’m not sure she must be in every single film at this point.
There’s an argument to be made that Kirby returning does kind of undermine one of the key subversions of Scream 4: the fact that it seemingly introduces us to the “next generation” of characters, only for every single one of them to be killed off. But hey, if slightly walking that back is a requirement to keep Kirby around, I’m fine with it. For the love of God, though, let’s keep Stu dead.