Welcome back all you Riverdale fans. It is I, your favorite, and so far, only, fill-in reviewer Elias. As Ken said last week, he’s stepped down from reviewing this crazy, crazy show and I have come back to close out the rest of the season. So, let’s get down and dirty and see what this week has to offer us. And, as always, some spoilers are ahead.
1. The Body; or, Stand by Me
This episode begins and wraps up the “Mrs. Cooper killed some rando who turns out to be a drug dealer” debacle from last week. I have to ask what the point of this was because, even though this episode, on its own, was interesting, it feels like a big distraction from the other overarching plot threads this season. The Serpents, the FBI plot (we’ll get to that), Hiram Lodge’s mafiosos, whatever is up with Chic, we’ll get to HIM later too. All this feels like it’s taken a backseat this week to the fact that Mrs. Cooper killed someone and Betty helped bury the body.
This plot point just came out of nowhere last week and while it obviously is another key to Chic’s plot, it still feels forced. Hell, Mrs. Cooper just killed someone and she seems pretty nonplused about the whole affair. Same goes for Betty, although thankfully we get to see things from her perspective. This is something that will fuck Betty up for a long time and I’m glad they don’t just glaze over it. Still, the choice to have this be an integral part of the narrative is suspect and really just serves to bring in some unneeded tension.
This probably would have felt less out of place were the entire episode devoted to the body and its ramifications. Keeping the focus tight and revealing more concrete details about Chic would have really benefitted the pacing of the series and helped us to feel more connected. Plus, they could have riffed on the title more, with Betty feeling guiltier and guiltier, us watching as the body continually haunts her. We saw it early on but by mid-episode, it’s gone, replaced by Betty just getting angry at Hal and then suddenly confiding in Jughead. But as it is, it felt like a diversion from any substantial answers we could have gotten from Chic.
Moreover, had this not happened, Hal’s outburst at Chic might have clicked a few more gears in Betty’s head. The missing rug and lamp are because of the body but Hal doesn’t know that. The watch? That’s gotta be Chic. I wonder what he needed it for. Drugs? Something more sinister? More ghoul face paint? I’m sure it’ll be revealed in the most over the top way and I cannot wait. Unless it has to do with his webcamming, in which case, knowing this show, I can wait.
2. Salem’s Lot
Remember when there was a faint air of the supernatural in this show? When the characters were afraid of the night and all the things that it can hold? I miss that. We got a little of it this week with the body and with Cheryl skulking around Thorn hill but on the whole, since the Black Hood was “killed,” (I don’t believe he’s dead yet,) there’s been a lack of that mystery that fueled the first season and the front half of this one.
It’s only been four episodes since it’s return but I have a feeling that the Riverdale writers weren’t quite sure what to do with the full-season order or how to make the Black Hood arc last long enough to cover the whole season. There has been an aimlessness that the show has had since returning that I haven’t been able to shake. While Chic and the Lodges’ plot are developing, there isn’t that urgency there. Jughead’s crusade feels distinctly like a B-plot and I wish that his plot had more closely intertwined with the “Tales from the Darkside” plots instead of with the Lodges’ political machinations for the town.
I guess what I’m trying to suss out is, what are we supposed to be focusing on? Again, season one was the death of Jason Blossom, the front half of season two was the Black Hood and now…it’s the Lodges’ mysterious attempts to take over Riverdale? Betty’s “darkness” subplot? I hope not that one. That one has not been handled well. Maybe it’s Cheryl’s…fights(?) with her mom over her mom’s new job as a courtesan? Or Archie’s slow descent into the Lodges’ world of mobsters?Continued below
With the removal of the Black Hood, they’ve lost this unifying, external enemy or mystery and instead we are left with multiple disparate plotlines that are desperately trying to coalesce around the Lodges’ shady dealings and plots. The only problem is that Riverdale doesn’t have the subtlety to be able to make that sort of plot the A plot and keep it interesting week after week. It’s one that worked best in the background, as a B-plot that was being worked on concurrently to something else, something unsubtle.
3. The Running Man
Chic, Chic, Chic. What is up with you, man? I have so many questions about why they thought bringing in a long-lost brother soap opera style would be a good idea but here we are. He’s been obviously manipulative since his first appearance but why are they drawing this out? We know something’s up, the characters flip-flop on knowing something is up and calling him out on his shit and then just forgiving him and forgetting.
I want to know more about Chic and if they are going to make him the other big mystery of this season, then go whole hog into that. Have Betty start to suspect something is up and investigate. Let there be another mystery to start to tie people together again. Jughead can be the link between Chic and the Lodges’ shifty dealings. Have him leave the serpents for god’s sake and go all-in on the investigative mystery again. Something, anything so we can find a focused center.
4. Apt Pupil
Archie’s morals have been put through the wringer these last few episodes and this one finally sees the culmination of that. He’s a good boy but man has he put his trust in the wrong person. Run Archie! Hiram is so obviously a mob boss but you keep trying to get into his good graces! Gah!
Sorry, sorry. This is part of Archie’s arc but man is it frustrating to witness. As Ken’s observed before, how can he, and Veronica, not realize that Hiram is a bad man? Well, fine, Archie has realized that but he doesn’t seem to care. Honestly, it’s a testament to the show that I can totally believe that he would start to side with Mr. Lodge even though Archie knows exactly the kind of person Hiram is. He loves Veronica and wants to impress her father and, on that same token, is very loyal. He isn’t evil, he’s just in way over his head and is definitely afraid of what would happen to him and his father were he to cross Mr. Lodge.
For all my griping earlier about the Lodge plot line, Archie’s parts in it are by far the best. Plus, Ken called it. There was something up with Agent Adams the whole time. You probably could have called this from a mile away but it’s still satisfying to know that he isn’t just some crazy FBI agent.
One last thought on Betty, where are we going with her? She and Jughead both talk about this “darkness” inside of them as if it’s some bodily fluid. Like, oh no, my darkness organ is overproducing again and I’m going to make questionable moral decisions. I’m genuinely curious about this as Betty is being forced down a lot of very difficult paths. She’s now helped clean up and bury a body, something Jughead finds much more repulsive than Betty does, has webcammed (which we thankfully have not seen any more of), has done the serpent dance. Is the show trying to imply that she’s rebelling against her mother’s decisions to leave the southside behind by embracing the things she left behind? Is the show trying to imply that Betty is surrounding herself with all the wrong people during a time of great personal crisis?
I don’t know and honestly, I wish the show would figure it out soon.
Still, love that FP burying the body in full scene. We’ve come full circle and I can’t wait to see the fallout from this one.
Whew. That was a lot. What do you all think? Are you as confused as I am or are these new developments perfectly unified? Am I just blowing smoke? Let me know in the comments and come back next week for when the Riverdale residents go on a…vacation to the mountains? Ugh. Guess that focus isn’t coming back anytime soon.