This week on Riverdale, we saw more casualties of the town’s battle with growing darkness.
Before we get started, check out last week’s recap here in case you missed it. Spoilers follow!
The episode began with a grim portrait of Pop’s Chock-Lit-Shoppe. The welcoming, nostalgic exterior of the diner graffitied with “DEATH DINER” was a perfect summary of the show’s tone and direction. The first season was more about exposing the dark heart of Riverdale, while this season is that darkness strengthening its grip.
This episode had a lot to do with father figures. Archie continued his over-protective attitude toward his father, which led him to taking drugs to stay awake during the night. Jughead fought against his father’s possible lengthy jail time, leaving him frustrated with the law and turning to the Southside Serpent gang for help. His first suggestion of straight-up jailbreak was a new extreme, showing he’s much closer to the edge than we might’ve known before. Veronica had to deal with her father being back in her life after losing any trust she had for him before his imprisonment. And Betty tried to save Pop’s from closing down, who acts as a father figure for all of Riverdale. Betty’s initial attempt is one of the most classic Betty plot lines the show has had yet, showcasing her strive to preserve the former image of the town she still holds dear.
We also got to see the effects of Ms. Grundy’s murder from the end of last episode. It changed Archie’s perspective from paranoid about his father, to paranoid about a serial killer basing their murders around his life. But most interestingly, Mrs. Cooper was shown to be bribing the coroner. It’s almost satisfying to see she’s not just a mean person, but a shady one as well. It justifies the distrust of the adults shown by the teenagers, as well the audience’s hatred.
Jughead and Betty, in an attempt to reduce FP’s jail time, tried to get Cheryl and her mother to forgive him in front of a judge. A noble effort, but one literally anyone could have seen as an obvious failure. It pushed not just Jughead to a darker side, but Betty as well. Blackmailing Cheryl with the video of Jason’s murder was a level of darkness we haven’t seen from her in a while. That scene also showcased one of Riverdale’s strongest features: color. As Betty approached a notably sparsely-clothed Cheryl, the Blossoms’ signature color of red emanated from her gym locker. As Betty’s threat intensified, she pushed Cheryl out of the light and stepped into it herself. It shows Betty isn’t below their petty and manipulative nature. But at the end of it, Cheryl took it upon herself and lied to place some of the blame for FP’s crimes on her own late father. It showed Cheryl has really grown from her old vindictive self, at least in small steps.
Betty’s attempt to save Pop’s surprisingly worked. It also gave us what was undoubtedly the highlight of the highlight of the episode: a pop cover of Kelis’s “Milkshake” by Josie and the Pussycats. It was weird and oddly catchy, because this show’s got some style, dang it.
But even such small victories like a reduced prison sentence or a local landmark being saved couldn’t go unpunished. FP warned Jughead that the deal he made with the “snake charmer” lawyer may have been much more serious than he thought, Archie illegally bought a gun to protect his family, and it looks like Hiram Lodge fired their butler, Smithers, representing the one last thing that felt like home being taken from Veronica.
This episode ended much like the last, with a violent and shocking murder, only this time with more victims and seemingly in homage of David Fincher’s Zodiac. Much like the first murder in the true crime thriller, a young couple was gunned down in their car by a silent, flashlight-carrying murderer, implied to be the same one who killed Ms. Grundy and shot Fred Andrews. The poor couple in this case was Midge and Moose, a classic unbreakable pairing of young lovers in Archie canon. Just who and why there’s so much more murder happening this season has yet to be revealed, but it’s certainly important. It could possibly be an act of vigilantism. Midge and Moose were taking drugs before their deaths, and Ms. Grundy was a serial child molester.
An episode as good as ever, but not transcendent, I’d rate it eight tragic teenage deaths out of ten.