Winter Olympic season has come and gone, leaving a great big luge-shaped hole in our hearts but do not fret, for one CW show has returned to fill that hole with mobsters, macking and . . . murder?! That’s right, it’s time to welcome back all you Riverdale fans from that unexpected break. Was it exactly what the show needed to get me back on board or did the time off derail it even more than the “death of the Black Hood” did? Read on to find out and, as always, some spoilers are ahead.
1. The Episode Has Heart
I feel like this should be gotten out of the way at the start, I was very worried about this episode’s trajectory. The previews we were given earlier in the month made it seem like we were gonna be watching a bottle episode where these horny teens do nothing but have the sexy times. That’s not something I’m all about. I was ready to write this episode off but it surprised me. Instead of getting a standard cabin in the woods plot, we get a multi-layered episode that intercuts all of our secondary characters’ individual plots with that of our main four.
Now, this doesn’t mean it all works but it is one hundred times better than what I was anticipating. The writers picked the theme of reconciliation and trust, be it broken or repaired, to revolve all the plots around, much like the “Tales from the Darkside” episode. Plus, each of these plots are only moved forwards this episode. Very little is wrapped up, giving us a good start to the rest of the season.
We see the fallout of Mayor McCoy’s affair with Sheriff Keller and its effects on Josie and Kevin, Archie’s slow descent into the world Hiram Lodge, Kevin & Midge & Moose’s . . . thing. I’ll be honest, I think I missed something there as I thought that Moose and Kevin hadn’t hooked up since season one. We’ve also got perennial favorite Cheryl being . . . well, Cheryl, but also complicating her own narrative with some personal trauma. With Cheryl though, she could be making it up to manipulate Toni. I hope it’s true though. More complexity is good.
2. The Walls Have Ears
That being said, we still do have a fair amount of our characters doing “teenager in a horror movie” things: hanky panky between Veronica and Archie, underage drinking, making whoopee with Bad Betty (euch) and Jughead, hot tub party, and playing Monopoly before getting attacked by TV-PG versions of the The Hills Have Eyes crew.
What worked well about the way they portrayed this was that while they don’t shy away from the idea that teenagers in romantic relationships have sex, they don’t go full horror movie by showing us an uncomfortable amount of the lead up. We get enough to establish what they’re gonna do and then cut to the other pair talking before we hear the sound of the bed squeaking. Hearing and seeing the reactions of the non-rolling-around-in-the-sheets couple was funny and bought a little more humanity and levity to these dour characters.
Plus, they all actually talked! God do I hate when characters don’t talk things out. It’s cheap drama and only serves to delay the inevitable. Like Archie being deeply tied with Hiram Lodge. When’s he gonna come clean to Veronica who still doesn’t know her father is a mobster? At this point, there had better be a twist that Veronica does know and is just playing dumb in order to overthrow him.
3. The Trees have Feet
Yeah, the title has nothing to do with my comment but I thought it was too fun to pass up as a title. Let’s talk Kevin & Moose & Midge. I like how we’re getting more of these characters. Being stuck with the core four is fine and dandy but I can only handle so much of Archie failing to cut ties with Hiram or Betty and Jughead being awful at communication before I long for those early season one episodes with a wide cast of wild characters. Focus is good but in an ensemble show, I’d like to see more of the ensemble.Continued below
So Kevin, Moose, and Midge. What’s the deal there? Why’s Kevin acting so strangely around Moose? The last time we saw the two of them even talk (I think!) was back at the start of the season when Moose was in the hospital after being shot. That’s a while ago. Is this supposed to be a new development then? When has Kevin liked Moose this much? As great as it was seeing them all interact, it felt forced in order to push Kevin into accepting his father’s decision to have an affair.
4. The House Has Mouths
What is Chic’s deal man? Is his only job in this show to be a replacement for the Black Hood in the mysterious creep department? If so, he’s failing pretty hard. As far as villains go, Hiram is a good B-plot villain. His antics aren’t particularly exciting to watch and it’s a slow, insidious build. Why they’ve brought him to the A-plot and instead relegated Chic to the B-plot is endlessly frustrating.
If they wanted to replace the “dead” Black Hood, they should’ve just had him escape and let the existential threat of him loom over the town. Instead, we have all this focus placed on Chic and yet we know nothing about him. Nothing! He isn’t some mystery to solve because there’s nothing interesting about him. There are a lot of questions but because characters pick up and then drop any interest in the strange things about Chic, caring about these questions becomes difficult.
No one seems concerned that he is a giant creep who has a pattern of lying. Maybe it’s just me. I hope we get some revelation on that front soon because my patience is wearing thin.
5. The Blossoms Have Sprouted
Why isn’t Cheryl a major villain or at least antagonist this season? I ask this out of genuine curiosity. Cheryl is one of the best secondary characters the show has and she’s just kind of relegated to standing and looking like she’d just walked out of a Flannery O’Connor story. With the revelation of Cheryl’s sexuality and her mother’s fierce rejection of it in this episode, we now know more about her than any of the other side characters. That is, if her story can be believed. She is a known manipulator of people after all.
If it is true, it recontextualizes her hatred of her mother’s sleeping around and gives her an arc that can see her accepting the parts of her that have been crushed by Thornhill and her mother. If it isn’t, then it opens up the question of why she’s manipulating Toni, what she hopes to gain, and what parts of her story are true. Cheryl has always been performative but what is performance and what is genuine we’ll have to wait to find out.
So, what did you all think? Did you find Riverdale’s return as forward looking as I did? Or was it another episode of CW romance, overwrought narration, and Cheryl Blossom being Cheryl Blossom? Let us know and I will see you, actually this time, in one week’s time. Until then, let’s all continue to snicker at the name Jingle Jangle.