This review contains spoilers.
2.14 The Hills Have Eyes
Midway through the latest momentous episode of Riverdale, the rapid-fire pacing of the series takes a break for a minute to focus on a scene between Archie and Jughead where they are just allowed to be friends. No maple syrup blood feuds, no masked marauders (yet), no weight of the world on their shoulders. Just two best pals sitting in the wilderness having a laid-back talk. It’s something that we’ve rarely witnessed on the series to date, so it’s understandable if viewers not familiar with the Archie comics themselves don’t understand just how important the friendship between these two characters are. But for a fleeting second here they are onscreen, gossiping about their girlfriends and just being teens.
It’s the sort of moment Riverdale needs more of in order to ground itself amid its ever-growing stakes. And it illustrates a realisation from the writing staff that since the viewers are already on board, why not take a moment and let things breathe before all hell breaks loose again? Which of course it does shortly after Jughead sagely declares that “the four of us are in a powder keg, all it would take is one match and we’d all blow up.”
Still, what a scene.
Tonight’s episode was packed with huge small moments, be it involving Varchie and Bughead or the pairings of Josie and Kevin/Cheryl and Toni (all of whom have not had much to do as of late). With only eight episodes left, we are swiftly approaching the endgame for the various story arcs that this season has introduced. Yet here Riverdale is, adding more to its narrative plate like a grandmother encouraging you to eat more. The confidence on display is impressive, and hopefully the payoff will be as well.
As The Hills Have Eyes (yet another horror-inspired title) gets underway, Betty finds herself increasingly irritated by Chic constantly being underfoot and annoyed with his generally creepy behaviour. So when she learns of the weekend getaway at the awesomely named Lodge Lodge, she jumps at the chance to GTFO. As does Jughead, who sees the trip as an opportunity to get more ammuntion against Hiram. (“Could you please not investigate my best friend when she’s nice enough to invite us both to her family’s cabin,” asks Betty in return).
Tired of watching her mother bed a revolving door of strangers, Cheryl learns of the trip and invites herself along. However, she isn’t part of a we, yet, and no singles are allowed. So what is Cheryl Bombshell to do but to call Jughead up and tell him about Archie’s secret smooch with Betty? It seems like a callous move, but as we soon learn, Cheryl is in a lot more pain than anyone realised.
The rest of the cabin trip consists of almost Three’s Company-esque antics, with both romantic pairings hearing the others get it on as well as some hot tub sexy time fraught with sexual tension. The fun doesn’t last long though. Naturally, Jughead’s earlier powder keg remarks come to fruition when word of Mr. Lodge’s purchasing of the Sunnyside Trailer Park and The Riverdale Registerfirmly divide the Archie/Veronica and Betty/Jughead camps. Tensions are already simmering from the Cheryl kiss call, and Archie hiding Andre’s protection from Veronica was likewise hanging over the weekend. Then Hiram’s latest antics are revealed. (Hilariously, the gang were playing Monopoly at the time. Very subtle). Just as Veronica gets done eviscerating Bughead’s relationship as consisting of little more than hand holding while watching serial killer documentaries and sexual cosplay (ouch), a conveniently timed home invasion strikes.
It seems that Veronica’s trip into town earlier in the day flaunting her wealth got to Hunky Cashier Cassidy and his crew, and they decided to do their best The Strangers impersonation. Showing the same kind of quick thinking she was completely devoid of earlier in the day, Veronica hits a silent alarm. The chiming scares away the prowlers just as they were about to go all Manson family on our heroes, and Archie–still tormented by his inability to kill the Black Hood–goes on the run to get even. He tackles Cassidy, and Andre immediately takes control of the situation. A gunshot is heard as Archie heads back to Lodge Lodge.
The brush with death has (temporarily?) caused the friends to make up, and over a ‘Hey We Survived’ dinner at Pop’s, they all reaffirm their friendship. Even as Archie keeps the fact that Andre straight up killed Cassidy to himself.
There was enough action in the A-story to fuel the next couple of episodes, but things didn’t stop there. The biggest reveal from tonight’s episode involves Cheryl letting down her defences and coming out to Toni. Madelaine Petsch has arguably the most difficult role to play on the show, as Cheryl was initially portrayed as a scene-chewing cartoon. This season has been a bit clumsy with trying to do more WTF things with her character–the Josie stalking was a huge misfire–but here she is at her most human and relatable.
She courageously tells Toni about how she was in love with a classmate and that her mother put an end to it. In response, Toni tells Cheryl that “you’re not loveless, you’re not deviant, okay? You’re sensational.” And so Coni AKA Theryl is born. (Or not, these portmanteaus are getting to be a bit much). The point is that Cheryl has finally shown herself to someone and found acceptance, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch a Cheryl who isn’t just operating from a place of pain in future episodes.
Which brings us to Josie and Kevin. These two have been spinning their wheels for weeks, so finally having them team up and form their own bond forged on the affair of their parents makes a great degree of sense, creatively. If it goes anywhere from here that is. Fresh from a hilariously awkward dinner with Moose and Midge at Pop’s, Kevin runs into Josie at the movies. She is feeling terrible for the cruel way she revealed his father’s indiscretion. But by the time the credits on Love, Simon roll, all is forgiven and they meet Sierra and Tom at Pop’s for a dinner in which they… well, I’m not sure exactly what they hope to accomplish. Check back in a few weeks I guess. I’m just happy that they finally have a weighty storyline to work with.