This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 17
Hands up if you, in the parlance of our times, don’t GAF about Hiram Lodge’s economy brand The Godfather schtick at this point. Yeah, me neither.
Riverdale is a series in which the average scene length is less than a minute, making it all the more troubling that every moment Hiram pops up on screen feels like an entire geologic period. With so many other interesting things happening — i.e. EVERYTHING involving the Blossom family — it is an absolute waste of storytelling real estate to give him so much screen time. He’s not only bringing Archie down, but the whole show at this point.
Tonight didn’t help matters any.
When Lenny and Carl (har har) arrive looking to strongarm Hiram into giving them 25% of his hair-brained prison scheme, eager Archie immediately steps up and tries to be threatening to the goofy goodfellas…and subsequently gets laughed at. It’s a fun moment to be sure, albeit one that further weakens the series’ already ineffective lead. Even after Archie enlists the Bulldogs help to reform the Red Circle and blow up Lenny and Carl’s car — a move that would only make sense to a 16-year-old — Mr. Lodge realizes that his gangster foes are going to come back with a vengeance. Archie’s attempt to show that Riverdale is protected is merely a wheel-spinning one, making Hiram’s gift of a car that much more appropriate.
I believe that this plotline is going somewhere, but honestly I hope it gets there ASAP as I don’t know how much more of Archie’s baseless loyalty to the Lodges I can take. I mentioned this in my review last week, but it bears repeating: For someone who claims to be so traumatized by having his dad shot by the Black Hood, Archie sure is acting like a dick to his old man. And how great is Molly Ringwald as Mary Andrews/perhaps the show’s sole voice of reason? She was leaving at the end of the episode, but will hopefully return again soon as Fred’s mayoral bid heats up.
Plus, Hiram is just the worst.
Now that the unpleasantness of tonight’s episode is out of the way, let’s break down the rest. Even without a performance of “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (a rare missed musical opportunity for the show), this week was all about the strength of Riverdale’s women. Admittedly, I’m Team Betty all the way, but even “Varchie” fans have to admire Ms. Cooper’s quick-thinking when it came to dealing with the house-crashing couple of Darla and Generic Centerville Thug and defused what could have become a deadly situation fast.
This season there has been a lot of talk about how loyal the Serpents are, etc., but this was largely lip service crafted to endear the gang to viewers. Yet tonight the cliched screenwriting maxim of “show, don’t tell” was utilized and voila, the Serpents have never been more effective. We finally get a true sense of their worth on this show, not only by keeping Riverdale‘s most likable character out of harm’s way but by illustrating that this group truly is a family that will come to put themselves in danger to do something honorable. Hell, even Alice was impressed enough to eat crow, apologize to Jughead, Betty, and the Serpents before mysteriously arriving at FP’s trailer. (Most likely to rekindle an old romance with the leading candidate for Chic’s co-parentage).
When Jughead and company busted in that door, it was a triumphant moment that was the result of Betty’s intelligence and resourcefulness. Although I don’t believe for a second that Dark Betty couldn’t handle herself with any help. My only complaint? She should have sent Darla packing without the $10,000 in blackmail money, especially since, as she said, any evidence connecting Bughead to the car being dumped in Swedlow Creek had likely vanished already.
Which brings us to the Cheryl Blossom Rescue Mission. It’s completely understandable that Josie bailed on said mission after finding out that Cheryl was her secret admirer/stalker (relationship tip – sending a bloody pig’s heart to your object of desire is never a good look). So that leaves Toni and Veronica to use Kevin’s encyclopedic knowledge of Riverdale hook-up spots to help save the day.
Since Madelaine Petsch is always devouring scenery on the series, it’s always welcome to see her play quieter moments that illustrate how gifted of an actress she truly is. When Cheryl remarks to Sister Livingston that she has been on the receiving end of a “firehose of abuse” from her parents, the character’s faults become more understandable and empathy is felt.
The rescue moment comes via Toni Topaz, and she shares a kiss with Cheryl that is a cheerworthy moment that rivals anything in executive producer Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon. As goofy as this show can be, it also a cheerleader for the LGBT experience — something that it has never shied away from exploring. To have two sexually fluid characters defeating those who practice gay conversion therapy at a time when the Vice President supports such measures is subversive and very, very necessary.
The episode ends with Cheryl rightfully claiming that “I’m obviously Riverdale High’s Carrie White, and this school’s gonna burn.” Exactly what she has planned will be seen very shortly in Riverdale‘s musical episode, and that day can’t happen soon enough.
– Can we please discuss Kevin’s amazing reaction to Cheryl taking the lead in his musical?
– Oddball The Simpsons reference of the week goes to Hiram’s mob frenemies Lenny and Carl.
– Blake Neely and Sherri Chung’s music in tonight’s episode was outstanding, from the hilarious tongue-in-cheek take on Nino Rota’s score to The Godfather in the restaurant scenes to the pulsating rhythms in the Cheryl rescue sequence that subtly utilized the main Riverdale theme. The live performances get all the attention, but the incidental music on this series is also consistently excellent.
– Between “Rosie,” “Varchie,” “Bughead,” and, inevitably, “Falice,” Riverdale needs to slow its roll with the relationship pormanteaus already. See also, this.
– That car explosion was some circa-1998 bad CGI.
– Speaking of which, do the Bulldogs realize that mobsters have guns and icepicks and whatnot? Or did Riverdale not have HBO when The Sopranos was on?
– Farewell Agent Adams, we hardly knew ye. Or cared, really.
– I’m convinced at this point that both Vegas and Hot Dog are dead. Sarah McLachlan needs to get to Riverdale and film one of her trademark mournful commercials ASAP.
– Shout out to Nana Rose for being on the right side of history and realizing how nuts Clifford and Penelope are.
– Archie’s “Riverdale is protected” speech reminded me of the blustering at the end of Doctor Who‘s “The Christmas Invasion” episode, though way dumber.
– The best dialogue this week comes to us via this self-aware exchange between Fred and Jughead:
“Jug is the greatest writer I know.”
“Then you need to meet more writers, Mr. Andrews.”
– Nana Rose is a big Bob Ross fan, as everyone should be.
– That educational film that Cheryl was imagining at the start of the episode was amazing in its own right, but especially clever thanks to its declaration that getting “chocolate phosphates with the girls” is considered All-American Behavior in this scenario.
– The Shady Man Chic brained was named Dwayne. The more you know.
– Now that Chic has gotten the heave ho from the Coopers, what will become of him? And where will Hal be in all of this? Meanwhile, Hart Denton gave his best performance to date as Chic tonight. I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.
– ICYMI: A shirtless Reggie arm-wrestled with a surprisingly fully clothed Archie for the Bulldogs vote in the school election. So yeah, in 2018 the electoral process is completely fucked straight across the board.
– In the comics, Archie’s car has been traditionally portrayed as a broken down junk jalopy — light years away from the slick wheels Mr. Lodge gifted him with tonight.