With a little less murder, but as much drama as ever, the sexy teens have returned. SPOILERS follow for the midseason premiere.
First, in case you missed the midseason finale, check out our review of that here, as some major things went down last time.
In the wake of the Black Hood’s demise and identity reveal, things sort of settled. I mean “settled” as in “no serial killers”, not as in “normal” or “happy”. Like for instance, Cheryl’s mom became a prostitute. Which I don’t really buy the reasoning for, like they wouldn’t have mad insurance on that sick mansion that Cheryl burned down.
The plot line that’s ran secondary to the whole Black Hood deal this season has really been the growing tension between the gang-ruled south side of town and more normal north side. Things on that end developed when Southside High was shut down, forcing the hard-edged gangster teens to join the sexy teens at Riverdale High. This was met with some opposition, but most of all from Jughead. Jughead at this point not only is used to being in a gang, but he’s really into it. The other Serpents kind of just dealt with, but Jughead almost got himself suspended because he wouldn’t take off his leather jacket. Thank goodness for protective father F.P., who talked a little sense into him. Jughead’s solution was to create a role-playing club to act as a front for the Serpents at Riverdale High. What exactly would a club let them do at school they couldn’t just do afterward? Hang out? Wear leather? I have no idea, but Jughead will probably get in trouble for it later.
After literally almost killing someone and getting buried alive last episode, Archie wanted to return to life as a normal teen. Go on dates, play music, have fun! But Riverdale is a hell of mistrust and crime, so instead of doing any of that normal teen stuff, he joined an FBI investigation. Naturally. An agent contacted him about possible shady dealings Hiram Lodge could be conducting, so Archie went in undercover. That led to him to Nick St. Clair, that rich dude who tried to rape Cheryl and got beat down for it. Archie had to interrogate him without seeming like he was interrogating him, so he went under the guise of getting a new hush-money check to make up for the one Cheryl burned (apparently living with a prostitute was worse than taking money from her attempted rapist). And that ended with Archie smashing Nick’s face is with his fists of justice. When Veronica asked why he did that, he fessed up to kissing Betty last episode. But Veronica understood, she said, because honesty was the most important thing. Which is ironic, cause you know, the FBI investigation.
Betty, meanwhile, didn’t care about any of that. She discovered that Polly wouldn’t be coming home even after the Black Hood was gone, and that she had already given birth to the twins. Betty felt bad about that, and decided that making an effort to find her long-lost brother, who was given away at birth, might help. Betty and her mother ended up finding him at a hostel outside of town, where “Charles” revealed he already knew about them. He just declined to become part of their lives because he felt abandoned and unwanted. Also he engaged in something shady for a living, whatever “wish fulfillment” meant. Drugs, maybe? Also prostitution? Not sure, but it doesn’t matter. Betty went back to him only to find he was in the very active process of getting stabbed by some large man. Betty pepper-sprayed the large stabbing man and took Charles home, where her parents bandaged him up and gave him a place to stay.
It seemed really nice at first, but like all things in Riverdale, turned out to be a very bad decision. Late at night, Charles creeped into Betty’s room and watched her sleep, leaning in closer in the most creepy way possible. What the nature of that act was wan’t explicit, but it seemed like he was about to assault Betty in her sleep. The show didn’t reveal whether that actually happened. I feel like if it did it, just what he did wouldn’t be left open to interpretation, but it also wouldn’t have been shown. The important thing is that Charles actually isn’t a nice guy and is a clear and present danger to Betty.
The episode ended with Archie revealing to the FBI agent that he wasn’t sure if Mr. Svenson was really the Black Hood. From Jughead’s narration, it seemed that the show itself wasn’t necessarily implying this idea itself, but that it will be a growing suspicion of Archie’s. It’s an interesting parallel that being unsure if the right murderer was caught for their crime is the very same guilt that drove Mr. Svenson to allegedly become the Black Hood himself. And maybe it’s just me, but as Charles hovered over Betty in the dark, his eyes seemed the same kind of green that Archie remembers the Black Hood having, albeit younger looking.
Coming back from the break, the show definitely didn’t lose any momentum or focus. But it may have had a little too much focus on the individual characters. Apart from one scene together, Betty and Jughead didn’t really talk to the rest of the main cast. This was a weak point because their relationship has really been the crux of the north/south struggle, and losing that doesn’t make the town’s troubles at large feel as personal. I’m anticipating their stories will become the most important in the second half of the season, so this isolation will pay off later on. And I’ve just got to say, I found Cheryl’s shock at her mother revealing she really liked being a prostitute hilarious. Because in reality, that was just a teenager not wanting her mom to be a prostitute, and that mom saying “no, it’s fun”. And that’s just kind of hilarious.
Offering a more chill Riverdale, but one simmering with dark ambitions about the bubble to the surface, I’d give “The Blackboard Jungle” 8.5 public school uniforms out of 10.
Riverdale airs on Wednesday nights at 8 on The CW.