This week, Riverdale delivered a surprising musical episode full of both songs and shocks. Spoilers follow!
Before we start this review, here’s the last one in case you need a refresher. You good? Okay, let’s go.
Musical episodes can be hit or miss, but when they land they often become classics. While I knew this episode would center around the school production of Carrie: The Musical, I didn’t expect the episode itself to be a musical. While using all music from Carrie, the characters sang like they were on stage throughout the whole episode. While I’m not familiar with Carrie: The Musical, I would expect it to be dark given its horror movie roots. So this episode’s second surprise was that, for most of its runtime, it was perhaps the most positive episode this season, with the musical inspiring everyone to become friends again and hug out their problems. The episode’s third surprise was that all the good mojo was a red herring to disguise the last minute plot twist in one of Riverdale’s best and most shocking moments ever.
We began with a simple premise: Kevin is directing the school’s performance of Carrie: The Musical, conveniently starring all of the show’s main and supporting cast, plus Jughead was documenting it for a behind-the-scenes documentary. There was a good amount of singing which made the plot fairly simple. But all good musical episodes (with Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s “Once More With Feeling” being the gold standard) use the music to advance the plot in ways that couldn’t be done without it. Riverdale succeeded at this, with the main theme here being mending broken relationships.
First, Cheryl and Josie sang a song together which caused Josie to realize Cheryl had some deep-rooted problems to work through, and she forgave her for giving her a pig’s heart in a box. If you’ll remember back to that pig-heart episode, you’ll recall good ol’ Chuck Clayton trying to prove he’s a decent guy now, but then getting punished for Cheryl’s harassment of Josie. Well good ol’ Chuck was wanted a second chance, so he performed in the musical and this time did indeed prove he’s a decent guy now. Good for Chuck!
Veronica played a mean-girl character in the musical and Betty played the nice girl, seemingly some easy typecasting. At least Betty thought so, as she flat-out told Veronica she was a jerk just like her character. Pretty harsh, unprovoked words from the nice girl. So Archie, everyone’s pal, pointed out that wasn’t nice and Betty should apologize. So Betty went to Veronica, they sang together, made up, and restored their friendship back to its former loving status quo.
So the high school students are all alright with each other, but how about their parents? Well Archie was reluctant to tell his dad that Hiram Lodge bought him a car since he and Hiram hate each other. Hiram learned about this and, instead of respecting Archies wishes, spilled the beans to Fred in such a smug way, he might as well have said “He’s my son now“. Fred felt like this took away a special father-son right between him and Archie, no longer having the opportunity to buy Archie a junkyard car they could spend time fixing up together. Recognizing this, Archie went to Hiram and gave back the car. He would still do mob secretary work, but he wouldn’t let it come between him and his dad. Archie then went out and bought the cheapest piece-of-junk car he could afford just so he and his dad could work on it together. And personally, seeing Fred moved to tears by his son’s caring actions was one of the episode’s best moments.
You know who else was in the musical? Alice Cooper, because Kevin wanted an adult to play Carrie’s mom. The logic is flawed because he still cast Josie as an adult, but you know, who’s counting anyway? Alice ended up seeing too much of herself in the role of an overbearing mother who drove away her child. It made her recognize she caused her daughter, son, and husband to leave her, not to mention Betty literally just moved back in after ditching her too. Alice, through placing numerous unanswered calls to Chick or begging Betty in song on the stage, just didn’t want to be left alone. Betty recognized that her mother, with her faults, didn’t deserve that and got her father to come home. So Betty’s parents reconciled and agreed they wouldn’t keep secrets from each other anymore. Alice told him that she had a secret about Chick, but it turned out to be just that he wasn’t Hal’s biological son, and not the fact that Chick murdered a man in their kitchen and she and Betty hid the body. So that’s probably gonna come up later.
In the midst of the healing, some hurting was going on as well. Following an accident at rehearsals that caused a sandbag to almost crush Cheryl, Kevin got a latter made from cut-out magazine letters claiming it was the work of the Black Hood and demanding he recast the part of Carrie. Which he thought would be ridiculous, since the Black Hood was both dead and obviously not a fan of high school theater. Betty and Jughead suspected Ethel Muggs as a possible culprit, even finding evidence, but she vehemently denied the accusations based on her good character. But Cheryl was out of luck. After a second warning letter forced Kevin to recast the part for Cheryl’s safety, her mother also forced her to drop out. If there was any relationship you could liken Cheryl and her mother to, it’s Carrie White and her mother, right down to the fire-starting and vaguely religious ideas only used for oppression. Midge was appointed as the new Carrie in the musical, but Cheryl decided to take the role on in the real world. She covered herself in (maybe pig?) blood and, holding a candelabra as if threatening to burn their house down once again, demanded her mother and uncle move out of the house.
Like I said before, the whole episode was almost uncharacteristically snappy and positive. Even though it felt genuine, you could feel that something just had to happen to disrupt it. On the big night of the musical’s premiere, everyone was getting hyped for the performance. Then, during Alice’s first big number, she called for Carrie, played of course by Midge. But as the set rose, instead of revealing Midge singing in costume, it revealed her body, pinned to the wall, skewered by a dozen knives. Written behind her in blood was the warning “I AM BACK FROM THE DEAD ALL THOSE WHO ESCAPED ME BEFORE WILL DIE- B.H.”
Riverdale’s hook has always been “Archie, but dark and with murder”, but never has a murder been done so shockingly and effectively on the show before. If not just for simple network censor guidelines, I could hardly believe what was on the screen. Midge’s death was absolutely brutal, and this new Black Hood mystery is going to make the final episodes of the season very interesting. If you didn’t pick up on this the first time I suggest rewatching, but there are several characters suspiciously set up around Midge towards the end with possible motivations. Could it have been Moose? Or Ethel? Is Mr. Swenson back from the dead, or was he ever the real Black Hood at all?
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m a fan of the moments taken to build up positive relationships between friends and family. Not only did this episode have that in spades, but it did it through song, so bonus points for that. And it was all topped off with the best murder the show has had since it’s very first episode. Some darn fine teen TV, I rate “A Night To Remember” 9.7 buckets of blood out of 10.
How’d you like this episode? Want to share theories or thoughts? Let us know in the comments below or @SuperBroMovies.
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8 on The CW.