This review contains spoilers.
2.18 A Night To Remember
Well, that was a perfect episode of television.
When I first heard that Riverdale would be doing an episode based on the ill-fated Carrie: The Musical (of which you can read much more about here) my first reaction was ‘oh hell yes.’ But then after the initial excitement wore off I wondered how the staging of this musical would interrupt the usual storytelling, especially with the end of the season in sight. The worst case scenario would be that the narrative would halt entirely while the songs were performed, a la the musical episodes on Head Of The Class. Yet this is a post-Glee era era after all, so such fears were entirely unfounded.
By drawing parallels between the Riverdale characters and those featured in Carrie, episode writers Tessa Leigh Williams and Arabella Anderson were able to infuse the musical’s songs into the main storyline in a way that felt satisfyingly organic. The pair also had the task of doing some none-too-subtle course-correcting, and so this week saw the rapid repair of the Fred/Archie, Cheryl/Josie, and Betty/Veronica relationships. Usually I would be quick to point out the contrivances in the manner in which these dangling story threads were tied back together, yet the magical realism atmosphere of this instalment made me overlook the convenient nature of the resolutions on display here.
Then again, maybe I just was really sick of seeing Archie being a dick to his dad while Hiram remains the worst character on televison. (Tell me you weren’t getting misty-eyed too when Fred started tearing up over Archie’s jalopy). With just a handful of episodes left until the season finale, the plot points that had a bow put on them tonight needed to be dealt with so that viewers can contend with the reckoning that will come from that final shocking scene. Could these plot points been handled more better? Sure, but maybe not with as much grace as they were tonight. While watching I couldn’t help but feel like this episode will take on a life of its own just as Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Once More, With Feeling has. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how productions of Carrie: The Musical spike in the coming months.
The biggest development was the return of the Black Hood, and the grotesque, Midge-slaughtering way that he announced that his period of dormancy was over. Not since the stabbing of Lucy and Carter on ER has a network show handled an attack on a character in such a creepy, shocking way that sticks with the viewer long after the credits roll. This episode brilliantly directed by Jason Stone, and that final scene is going to earn its place on several best-end lists when this interminable year is finally up.
The other major happening, one that I touched on earlier, was that Archie finally realised that he has been on a “dark path” of late. It took playing a character like Tommy Ross (whom Archie called “a force for good”) to understand how important his father truly is to him, and their scene in the garage was beautifully written and a reminder of how good of an actor KJ Apa is — even if his character is a major doofus most of the time. Let’s hope he’s out of Mr Lodge’s employ for good soon.
Then we have Cheryl, covering herself in what is presumably pig’s blood (those Blossoms are nothing if not dramatic) and demanding to be emancipated, to be given ownership of Thistlehouse and guardianship over Nana Rose while her mother cowers in sheer terror. Cheryl’s storylines have been wildly uneven this season — another reason that it’s best the writers resolved her obsession with Josie and moved on. They too must realise that a strong Cheryl is the best Cheryl, and whatever Claudius and Penelope want to throw at her next, she’ll be waiting. We will too.
What could have been a publicity stunt of an episode instead moved the entire season forward in an unexpected way. And that stunning final scene is one that will take up permanent residence in my mind. The standard for future musical episodes has now been raised, something that will benefit all viewers.