Riverdale Season 2 Episode 1 Review: Chapter 14 – A Kiss Before Dying

The Riverdale Season 2 premiere gets the CW's Archie drama off to a captivating start.

“Our story continues…”

With those words begins the second season of Riverdale, the CW’s bold and, at times, deliciously overwrought, drama based on Archie comics.

When last we saw our heroes, they were all facing the darkness that was slowly invading their small town. Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) had been shot and left for dead during an (apparent) robbery at Pop Tate’s Choklit Shoppe. Meanwhile, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) found their growing relationship threatened when the crown-wearing loner seemingly swore his allegiance to those ultra-ridiculous ruffians, the Southside Serpents. In more fashionable parts of Riverdale, Veronica (Camila Mendes) awaited the return of her father Hiram (Mark Consuelos, who debuts as the character in tonight’s installment) from prison, while the ever-theatrical Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) sets her swanky Thornhill manor ablaze as she baptizes herself in fire to become born again following the murder of her brother at the hands of her (now also deceased) father.

Got all that?

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All of these dangling plot points are immediately addressed in this rapid-fire installment from series’ creator/Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Over the course of a breathtaking 42 mins we learn that Archie’s father is hovering between life and death — having creepy visions of the future that he may never live to see. The most effective of these comes early in the episode when, while taking pictures at Archie’s high school graduation Fred casually remarks that “I didn’t think I’d live to see this day,” before being coldly informed by his son’s pals and gals that he didn’t. It is a genuinely chilling moment that speaks to Aguirre-Sacasa’s expressed desire to up the spookiness level of this season. While time will tell if the long-rumored appearance of Sabrina the Teenage Witch — a character who is getting her own show on the CW next year — will pop up during this season’s 22 episodes, “Chapter 14: A Kiss Before Dying” proves more than ever that indeed, when it comes to Riverdale, something wicked definitely this way comes.

The shockwaves of Fred’s shooting have immediate impact on the other characters as well. In the episode’s standout scene Veronica confronts her mother about whether or not she was involved in arranging the tragedy at Pop’s. As Hermione Lodge, Marisol Nichols again portrays her character as an absolute mystery whose true intentions are shielded by a cool exterior that still seems like it will break like a vase knocked off a table at any second. When Mr. Lodge does finally appear at the end of the episode, viewers can’t help but feel like even if Veronica’s parents weren’t involved directly in the act of violence against Fred Andrews then they at least know more about it then they are leading on.

As for the fan favorite couple known as Bughead, Betty confronts Jughead about his involvement with the Serpents, rightly remarking that the gang’s jacket fit him like a second skin. This, paired with the fact that Jughead is suddenly tooling around on his imprisoned father’s motorcycle like a refugee from The Wild One bodes trouble on the horizon for the young lovers…despite Jug’s assertations that he has no interest in being a Serpent. Wait and see on this one.

In the immediate aftermath of the Thornhill fire, Cheryl is more empowered than ever before. During a suspenseful confrontation in the hospital, she makes it very clear to her now-disfigured mother that the abuse of the elder Blossoms has come to an end and now she has control over the family. Of all the rotating plotlines of this episode, this is the one that feels rich with the most possibility as Cheryl is such a wild card of a character that it is hard to predict where this goes next.

Then there’s the matter of Ms. Grundy, who has moved to the neighboring town of Greendale. Here her student-seducing ways are put to a swift and shocking end by the same man who attempted to kill Fred. It certainly seems as if someone is targeting those close to Archie. Expect the questions of who and why to become this season’s “who killed Jason Blossom?”

If there’s a criticism to be had here, it’s that the ‘will Fred Andrews live or die?’ question gets answered a bit too quickly and neatly. But it also makes sense to not have plot this dragging on. The biggest problem with Riverdale‘s first season was that Archie was far too often sidelined in a show where he should have been the focus of attention. Emboldened with protecting his family at all costs now puts him front and center, allowing the show to do some course-correcting and making its excellent ensemble gel like never before.

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We will be here all season long, recapping each episode and breaking down the Easter eggs for you. Be sure to grab a milkshake and burger and come back every week, won’t you?

Riverdale Rundown

– A huge part of Riverdale‘s appeal for this long-time fan of these characters is how the series regularly peppers in references to Archie Comics’ 75-year history. Tonight, Jughead remarks to Archie “If you keep this up, you’re going to need a superhero name: Pureheart the Powerful.” This is the exact name of the superhero who Archie would regularly appear as in the comics, beginning in 1965 and continuing to pop up every now and again until this day. His friends had their own heroic identities as well: Jughead was Captain Hero, Betty was Superteen, Veronica was Ms. Vanity, and Reggie was Evilheart.

– Could someone make a supercut of all of Cheryl’s entrances on this show please?

– How does anyone survive their stay at what I will now and forever refer to as Riverdale Anachronistic Hospital? Did leeches suck out Fred’s bullets?

– Speaking of Riverdale Anachronistic Hospital, the surgeon who helps save Fred Andrews’ life is named Dr. Masters. This character is an Archie Comics deep cut who briefly appeared in his own adventure/romance title, The Adventures of Young Dr. Masters, in 1964.

– My favorite dialogue exchange this week comes via Alice and Betty Cooper:

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“If that’s Snake Plissken, I want him blocked.”

“It’s Archie.”

“Block him too.”

– Jughead pretty much is eating non-stop throughout this episode, at one point explaining how his appetite gets revved up during times of crisis. As an origin story for his burger love, I will absolutely accept this.

– At one point during this episode the always clueless Sheriff Keller remarks that the man who shot Fred was “probably out of his head on meth or the Jingle Jangle.” Fans of musical group The Archies will be quick to point out that “Jingle Jangle” was also the name of one of the cartoon band’s songs, although it didn’t quite capture the zeitgeist the way that “Sugar Sugar” did.

– It is absolutely ridiculous and so perfect for this show that whenever Archie talks about his childhood he refers to himself as “Little Archie,” which just so happens to be the name of a certain Archie Comics publication.

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– Jughead can’t wear his trademark hat and a motorcycle helmet at the same time, so naturally he etched his crown onto the helmet.

– The episode’s best callback to prior events comes via Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), who references Jughead’s instant classic “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo” speech from last season.

– The man who shot Fred Andrews looks exactly like The Black Hood, an antihero who first appeared in Archie precursor MLJ comics in 1940 and recently had a fantastic run from writer Duane Swierczynski in the Dark Circle imprint. But is this the  same Hood that comic readers are familiar with? That’s a question that is running through my Archie-obsessed mind tonight.

– If you listened closely during the Archie/Veronica shower scene you could hear the sounds of Archie Comics purists crying into their back issues of Archie’s TV Laugh Out.

– It seems as if season two is going to have an increased role for Pop Tate (Alvin Sanders). I for one applaud this, as Tate is a surrogate father to these characters and a staple of the comics. (See also the recent issue of the Riverdale tie-in comic completely dedicated to the character). Point to ponder: When Pop references bricks thrown through the windows “during the riots” is he referencing civil rights protests in the community or something else entirely? He’s a fascinating character whom I hope we get to see much more of. And he officiates the wedding — wearing his paper hat — between Archie and Veronica during Fred’s dream sequence to boot.

– Mark Consuelos made his debut as perennial thorn in Archie’s side Hiram Lodge tonight. In the three episodes presented to the press prior to tonight’s season debut, Consuelos proves himself to be both interesting and menacing. Yet deep deep down there’s a part of me who still wishes that Jason Priestley was cast in the role. Then again, with this much going on, Riverdale doesn’t need stunt casting, no matter how much I yearn to see Dylan and Brandon tussle once more.

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5 out of 5