This review contains spoilers.
2.17 The Noose Tightens
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.
When Lenny and Carl (har har) arrive looking to strongarm Hiram into giving them 25% of his harebrained 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 realises 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 traumatised 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 the 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 utilised 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, apologise 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 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.
Read Chris’ review of the previous episode, Primary Colors, here.