If Kirby Dies In Her Scream Return, We Riot

Warning: spoilers ahead for all the "Scream" movies, including "Scream" (2022).

When you decide to make legacy sequels in a slasher film franchise, you run into a little bit of a problem: The vast majority of fan favorite characters ended up getting killed. That's just how the genre works. You build up a collection of fun people, and they get picked off one by one. "Scream" is a rarity in that the focus of the franchise is not on the killer but the survivors, as the killer is a different person in every installment. This is why you can keep having Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) show up time and again. (Well, Arquette could until the most recent film, where Dewey was finally killed off.) Outside of that trio, though, the pickings for returning characters are slim.

So, "Scream" fans everywhere were elated when it was announced that Hayden Panettiere will be reprising her role as Kirby Reed from "Scream 4" in the forthcoming sixth installment. Kirby, the horror-loving high schooler, was such an incredible spark plug in that film. Not only could she be a source for some delightful genre commentary that the "Scream" films always provide, but she was the first horror obsessive in these movies who was not some obnoxious know-it-all, constantly shoving their knowledge in everyone's faces. Jamie Kennedy's Randy Meeks in those first two movies is a fun character, but let's be honest ... you don't really want to be friends with that guy, whereas Kirby seems like the coolest person to ever be in a "Scream" movie. Also, it will just be nice to see Panettiere on screen again, as she has not appeared in a film since 2016's "Custody."

Of course, when she was announced to return, along with the excitement came the dreaded fear that they are just bringing her back to kill her off. Would she be the trademarked opening scene murder victim? Would her return and quick murder be an upending of expectations of the genre? Without knowing any details of the story, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Kirby's death would be satisfying.

We've already seen this movie

The last we saw of Kirby in "Scream 4" was her bleeding out on her back patio after being stabbed by Charlie Walker, one of the film's Ghostfaces, played by Rory Culkin. As we do not see the actual life leave her eyes that would confirm her demise, we were all left to speculate whether or not Kirby had actually met her end. In "Scream" aka "Scream 5," though, we finally get an answer: There is a YouTube thumbnail of a video interview Kirby did with Bloody Disgusting about surviving the 2011 Woodsboro murders.

Even though Kirby did not end up dying in that scene in "Scream 4," for all intents and purposes we have seen a Kirby death scene already. She has a tense phone standoff with Ghostface that ends in her getting stabbed a few times in the gut. Since she never returns in the movie and is presumed dead, we already know what it feels like to lose Kirby. Most viewers of the fifth film probably missed that Easter egg, so bringing Kirby back will be quite the surprise. The shock of her return would be immensely dampened by her not even making it through the next movie.

In the last film, we had a legacy character death with Dewey. The filmmakers could afford to kill him off because we have spent a full five movies with the bumbling police officer. He had been given the time to grow and change. He had a cinematic life that lasted over two decades. We have only had one movie with Kirby, and while she is a jolt of energy you can't take your eyes off in that film, we do not get nearly enough time to really dig into that character. To bring back a character and have their death mean something, we need the proper amount of time with them for it to not feel manipulative or a careless decision by the filmmakers. This is why it would be less surprising to see Gale Weathers meet her end in this film than Kirby.

Scream needs some fun again

Selfishly, the main reason you cannot kill off Kirby is because she is such a fun character. "Scream 5" was severely lacking characters who livened up the proceedings. That film was buried in a morass of everyone's favorite subject matter: trauma. It tried to have a Kirby-esque spark plug in Jasmin Savoy Brown's Mindy Meeks-Martin, but her lower-key coolness could not punch through quite as well. Bringing back Kirby brings back the chance of injecting the sequel with some much needed vibrancy and verve. She has the opportunity to channel the energy of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's tremendous earlier film "Ready or Not," which the fifth "Scream" installment was sadly lacking.

So, all we are asking is that since you are bringing back Hayden Panettiere to play one of the franchise's most beloved characters, do not treat her lightly. Give her a fun, meaty storyline. Explore that character in a way "Scream 4" did not have the time to do. Most of all, do not kill her off. Kirby can't be duped by two Ghostfaces. She's too smart for that.