The CW’s dark noir take on Archie returned tonight with a season premiere that didn’t skip a beat. SPOILERS follow!
Things picked up immediately after last season: Fred Andrews had been shot in what seems like an attempted robbery. The episode dealt with the main cast reacting to the event, such as opening with Archie desperately driving his bloody father to the hospital. KJ Apa proved to be the dramatic center of the episode. Archie remains the pure heart of the show, but this season’s darker direction may change that. Fred Andrews was the one positive parental figure in a show full of terrible parents.
The stress of the situation was the main focus, but it served to highlight the continuing plotlines of the other characters. Archie and Veronica continued their relationship that began in the back end of last season, Veronica’s suspicion of her parents’ deeper involvement in the seedy side of Riverdale grew, and Jughead consulted with the South Side Serpent gang for help with the mystery. The one thing the show seems to love strengthening is romantic relationships, while it casts doubt on the parent/child relationships with equal interest. The scenes of Archie sitting bedside with his recovering father were the episode’s most tinder, proving there still might be some good to be found in the town’s older inhabitants.
I honestly could have done without Fred’s multiple fever dreams throughout the episode. One might have been fine, but their continued presence seemed to serve little purpose other than to give the unconscious Fred something to actively do, even if it was unnecessary. The flashbacks to the robbery scene, however, were very well done. It’s possibly one of the most dramatic scenes in the show yet, and from Archie shaking and sweating on the floor with a gun to his head, to Pop Tate frantically rushing for the phone in the background, it set up the trauma we expected the characters to feel.
It doesn’t feel like anything has changed since last season; it’s still the same show and it’s still quite good. The aesthetic remains modern with 50’s inspiration, the lighting dark with an emphasis on neon glow, and the surprisingly good cinematography. It can still be over-dramatic, such as when Betty was concerned with Jughead getting even darker than he already is or Cheryl straight up threatening her mother’s life after already committing arson. But that drama mixed with the dark noir tone is what makes the show unique. If melodrama isn’t your taste, then you might not like Riverdale, but its own brand of melodrama is unique enough to make it worth it.
Speaking of dark updates to classic characters, there was a brief mention of Riverdale’s sister city of Greendale, which has historically been the home of Sabrina. With an adaption of the recently acclaimed satanic reboot The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina confirmed to be in development at the CW, we might see more references to the teenage witch this season.
If there’s any difference this season, it’s promised to be even darker. The murder mystery hook of season one has been amped up to a borderline slasher story. Ms. Grundy, apparently still a child predator, made her very brief return at the end of the episode only to quickly and brutally be killed off in a fittingly musical way. The new protective stance of Archie and Jughead’s descent into gang life serve to emphasize the innocence being lost at every turn.
This episode’s greatest addition, next to the new mystery serial killer, was Hiram Lodge. We didn’t see much of him, but he’s promised to be an actual threat to the character this season. The premise of Riverdale is taking the classic Archie Comics characters and putting them into a twisted version of their world. While Hiram lodge may have served as an overprotective stumbling block for Archie’s romantic pursuits in the comics, here we can count him as an actual murder suspect. With how paranoid each of the teenage characters have ended up, you almost wonder if the show is serving as a metaphor for the restrictions parents place on growing youths.
The second season premiere proved to be strong if not groundbreaking. We picked up on the cliffhangers form last season, were reacquainted with the characters and setting, and got some teases as to the sinister direction the season promise to be headed in. I’d rate it a solid eight bottles of maple syrup out of ten.