Five Thoughts on Riverdale‘s “Wicked Little Town”

By | April 16th, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

Welcome back all you Riverdale fans! So. . .remember how I slagged off The CW’s schedule for putting this episode off for a month (and then an additional week?) Yeah, turns out it was because someone on set had Covid-19 and production was halted. I hope everyone on set was safe and healthy and the ones who were not have since recovered. The same is true for you, dear readers.

Now, onto our favorite show about the murder capitol of the Archie-verse and as always, spoilers ahead.

1. Bend and Snap; and other uncomfortable things to sing to your principal

Let me get this point out of the way first. Cheryl, the way to convince your principal to let you sing songs from the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is not to pick a song about a sugar daddy and then take the whole cheer squad to dance in uncomfortably close quarters with him. Y’all. Mr. Honey’s a prude. If the point was to show that “Hedwig” was fine to put on in a school sponsored high school variety show, you should pick a song that ticks far less boxes in the Boring Principal Checklist of No-No’s.

I just. . .I’m baffled. What was Cheryl’s thought process here? “Ah yes, if I sing a song that is hetero-coded about older men giving young women gifts because of their youthful wiles then this older (presumably) straight man will give us the gift of allowing Kevin to perform his song. Brilliant!” It was a good number, and I have to admit to not knowing the context of the original song, but the whole thing stuck out as being an excuse to perform the song rather than being a well thought out integration of the song.

2. There! Right There!

On the previous point, two things nagged me throughout this episode. One was Mr. Honey’s reasoning for shutting Kevin down. I’m inclined to believe that Mr. Honey is not actually homophobic but sees “Hedwig” as too controversial due to its setting (Cold War era Germany) and explicit sexual themes. It fits his character.

But it’s just as easy to see this as a smokescreen. Kevin’s not putting on the show, just performing one of the songs, and sexual innuendo is everywhere in classic broadway, it’s just often buried under a more conservative, therefore heterosexual, sensibility. “Oklahoma’s” “I Cain’t Say No” is just one example.

What I’m getting at here is that, well, I think the show either did a great job of showing how queer performances and subjects are shut down over questions of “decency” and “appropriatness” or they did a poor job of illuminating Mr. Honey’s true objections by choosing “Hedwig” and not producing examples of his hypocrisy in his reasoning or backing it up. It, like a lot in this episode, felt like they needed a conflict but didn’t quite know how best to set it up.

3.Omigod You Guys

The other point that bothered me is Kevin’s decentrality in his own narrative. This was supposed to be his episode. He was the one shut down. This was his variety show. His baby. And what do we get? A song or two with him at the fore and then a series of tiny scenes of large gestures that go nowhere and him being relegated to singing backup. Fuck that noise. For an episode that was supposed to highlight the glam rock and punk aspects of “Hedwig” in the same way the “Heathers” episode highlighted the dark, twisted nature of that play, it was quite tame and only performed rage & rebellion.

I had a similar complaint about the aforementioned “Heathers” episode too but this one was way worse. Kevin should have been the center of everything. Stop the Betty/Archie drama. Hold off on the VHS’s. Pause Hiram and Veronica’s problems. This is Kevin’s time to shine, to have an arc, and to get a fucking win. Instead, others make decisions for him, he fails to have any meaningful emotional moments, even during the most important song of the episode (“Wig in a Box.”) There’s a little comment about the show being the first place he’s felt normal but we’ve seen so little of Kevin, it’s a hollow sentiment.

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Why doesn’t Kevin have the agency to make ANY of the damn decisions he does? Fangs tells him to perform outside of the show. Veronica & Betty get him to put on the Variety show at Pop’s when it gets cancelled and then we don’t even get him performing the show! It’s a great disservice to Kevin and continues to make the case that these musical episodes, while fun, often make things worse for The CW shows.

4. Scene of the Crime

Remember the VHS tapes? Well, get ready because they’re back and more fucked up than ever! I know, I know. It’s a silly conceit but when you start to think about it, an entire town receiving tapes of their houses for hours and no one knows who’s doing it is pretty freaky. I’m still convinced they’re from Charles, and considering that surreal purge scene of a fake masked Betty killing a tied-up masked Jug with a rock, things are taking a turn for the serious.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Chris shared this interview with me a week or so back about Sam Witwer and the Mr. Chipping defenestrates himself scene. Turns out, he had no fucking clue what was going on and, perhaps, neither did the writers. I find this easy to believe considering how long these mysteries remain out of our grasp. I hope it’s not the case but it would explain a lot of the uncertainty in these past few seasons. Thinking this way does take the fun out of speculating though so I’m going to keep assuming they have a plan and if that plan is stupid, then it was stupid from the start instead of them writing themselves into a corner.

The VHS’s better have a plan rather than a mystery without an answer. This isn’t J. J. Abrams on Star Wars after all.

5. Chip on My Shoulder

The set up for Barchie sucks and I have nothing more to say on the matter. Next episode, I will be angry. Be prepared.

That about does it for now! What did you all think of the return? Am I being needlessly harsh? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you all in two weeks for an episode that is bound to be strange and, possibly, bunker filled. Until then, keep your VHS players around Riverdale.

Best Line of the Night:

Jughead: “Were The MeMeMe’s taken?”

//TAGS | Riverdale

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after wining the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and really needs to update his profile photo again.


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