This Riverdale review contains spoilers
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 16
At one point in tonight’s Riverdale, Jughead compares he and Archie to two trains on the same track headed towards mutual destruction. Like Jug’s writing, it’s a bit of a cliched metaphor, but damn if the kid doesn’t have a point. With just under less than a month until the second season concludes, the series has all its leads in direct conflict with each other. On one side you’ve got Archie and Veronica, faithful to Hiram and Hermione and just beginning to learn how the sins of the sinister elder Lodges will impact their lives. Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty’s relationship is stronger than ever thanks to their united front against their former best friends.
Orbiting their problems are secondary characters like Cheryl, whose fears that her mother and newly discovered uncle are plotting against her become terrifyingly realized when she is placed in the “care” of the Sisters of Quiet Mercy to undergo conversion therapy. Even Josie gets a brief moment to shine, giving a wronged Ethel some key information that she can utilize to help torpedo Veronica’s student body president run. (Alas, poor Kevin is again relegated to the sidelines, given nothing more to do tonight than moon over inexplicable guest star Andy Cohen, film the action of other characters on his cell phone, and, worst of all, bringing his online flirtation with Creepy Chic into the real world).
While the status quo will be restored soon enough, there’s much dramatic potential that can be mined from Archie/Veronica and Betty/Jughead being on opposite sides. Bughead lovers have much to rejoice about because those characters have the moral high ground here. “Jughead loves a political crusade almost as much as he does a burger,” Archie tells Hiram. Jughead’s misguided activism has in fact become a detriment to the character at this point, as Archie points out to his once and future BFF when he reminds him that he was only at Southside High “for like four days.”
Still, we finally get a glimpse into why Jughead cares so much about the Serpents, Southside High, et. al when he reveals that he views these things as the only reminders of the family that he once had. (Which is kind of a crotch punch to FP, who has really rehabilitated himself this season, but that’s Jughead for you). But at least we know the ideology behind his constant rebellion.
As always, Archie motives are less clear. I’ve said it before, but Riverdale’s biggest problem has always been its supposed lead character, and there are still no indications that this will change anytime soon. From scene to scene his actions go from shockingly lucid to semi-concussed, leading one to wonder if he and not Nana Rose is the character supposedly suffering from Sundowner’s Syndrome. In his chats with Hiram this week he shows that he clearly understands what makes Jug tick, and actually realizes that if he’s going to betray his best friend, well, then at least he can help get Fred out of his Lodge-induced legal woes as a process. It would be nice to think that such moments indicate a rich inner life for the character, with our ginger hero possessing the kind of multitudes that would make Whitman smile. But then he continues siding with the Lodges, partially because the Black Hood shot his father – whom he is now being super shitty too, and you want to shake him. At least Mary Andrews gets to rip Archie a new one this week by pointing out how much of an ingrate he is.
It’s a bit unclear exactly how we as an audience is supposed to feel for Veronica these days. She has spent most of her screen time of late trying to bring her parents supposedly evil but really just kind of stupid business plans to fruition. Last week she was manipulating Archie to try to get his father to be her parents’ mayoral errand boy, and now her lying about not knowing about Southside High has come back to haunt her. She wants to become student body president in an attempt to shield herself from Hiram and Hermione’s criminal activities, yet at every turn she helps them with their mustache-twirling plans. Veronica dear, you can’t have your Magnolia cupcakes and eat them too.
And it’s worth saying again that Josie stabbing Veronica in the back by helping an absolutely right Ethel was a wonderful moment. Camila Mendes’ superb acting is the only reason we feel any sympathy for Veronica right now. Yet something tells me there’s going to be more reckoning coming to her than just a strawberry milkshake over the head.
Finally, yeah, so FP is Chic’s father, right? It certainly seems to be the case, despite Alice’s claims to the contrary. Shame on Nancy Drew disciple Betty for not realizing that her role in the cover-up of the murdered drug dealer implicated her way more than Chic, but her threats against her brother – regardless of his parentage – should not be taken likely. Who else is ready for Chic to go?
– Hal Cooper really is an atrocious journalist. No wonder the high school newspaper is the best rag in Riverdale.
– Please share your thoughts on the goofy and utterly superfluous Andy Cohen cameo in the comments.
– Cheryl reading Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is completely on brand for her.
– Tonight’s best dialogue comes via this exchange between Cheryl and Toni:
“I didn’t just bring you to Thistlehouse tonight for a girlish slumber party. The truth is, I’m terrified of being alone here. There’s a stranger in this house, my uncle, Claudius. He’s as mad as the sea and ever since he blew in I feel like I’m in mortal peril.”
“Wait. I’m confused. Is this real or are we playing a game?”
– Sundowner’s Syndrome. Really?
– I am so, so unbelievably bummed that Veronica, Archie and Josie didn’t perform Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” in tribute to Jughead’s protest.
– That said, I am super into how they did sing the Schoolhouse Rock classic “Sufferin’ Til Sufferage.” This show really does have the best musical numbers on television.
“I caught Clifford Blossom, I caught the Sugar Man, I caught the Black Hood. And you know what they all have in common? They’re dead. Consider yourself warned.” YOU GO BETTY!
– With Fred Andrews and Bughead running for office, there’s at least a 10% chance we will hear someone cover Arcadia’s “Election Day” before the season finale rolls around next month. Sorry, I just love the music on this show.
– Alice referring to Dark Betty’s signature wardrobe choice as a “cabaret wig” cracks me up.
– Reggie doesn’t show up often on the show, but when it does, at least it’s memorable.
– Poor Cheryl. Here’s hoping she makes a break from the Penceian horror show she is currently immersed in ASAP.