This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 18
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 paralells 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 repairing 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 installment 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 realized 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 realize 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.
– As a hardcore Archie guy, I went a little crazy tonight with excitement when Archie got his red jalopy, the beat-up car he rode around in for decades in the comics. This is a super weird thing to incorporate into the show given the car’s anarchronistic nature, but at the same time it feels like a natural move for the series to make. Will we see Fred and Archie working on this in auto-tuned montages? Or, better yet, will Archie actually be tooling around the streets of Riverdale in this next season?
– If Ethel didn’t write those old timey ransom note-style messages to Kevin then who did? Was it really the Black Hood? And if so, and he was planning on killing the actress who played Carrie, why did he insist on it not being Cheryl? Or, did someone else knew that the Hood was going to kill “Carrie,” were they trying to warn Cheryl? And why?
– “Who should be playing Chris and who should be playing Sue?” Damn Archie, that’s some cold theater logic to throw at Betty.
– “Am I directing a trainwreck? And where’s my tea?” Kevin Keller. Born theater professional.
– Everyone knew that sooner or later the Black Hood would be back, but in such a dramatic manner? Hell, Kevin should give him the lead in next year’s musical.
– This was the first episode of Riverdale to not feature any narration, and honestly, I didn’t miss it one bit.
– Autotune is a gift.
– “Keeping with this week’s theme, I just had a wicked idea.” Look, as much as I loathe Hiram, this was a fantastic line.
– Given the careless way Jughead was filming with that digital video camera, he is as shitty of a documentarian as he is a writer.
– Was there a scene cut towards the end involving Fangs/Midge/Moose? It certainly seemed like maybe Fangs was making a play for Midge when Kevin walked in on them. And in the comics, Moose is known for being insanely jealous towards anyone who approaches “his girl.” Something seemed off between the three, and it feels like there was something left out here.
– Archie doing shirtless push-ups while memorizing his lines is a very Archie thing to do.
– Yo, Ethel has got pipes! It’s always nice to see Shannon Purser pop up as Ethel, even if she may or may not have been pretending to be the Black Hood because she “was born to play Carrie” and feels jaded that Cheryl got the role instead. As for her declaration that she is not a violent person, perhaps that’s true, but she can throw a mean milkshake. I’m not sure what the producers have planned for the Ethel character, but I remain hopeful that they’ll figure out some way to incorporate her into the main storylines more.
– Ditto for Chuck Clayton, whose redemption here puts him more in line with his comic book counterpart.
– Kevin and Fangs. I have no idea what’s happening there.
– Did anyone else find Archie’s singing and dancing to be hilarious in this episode? Good old Arch also gets this week’s best/goofiest reaction shot.
– The best line of the night goes to Kevin Keller for his statement that “there’s nothing more amateur than age-inappropriate casting.” Oh this show, how I love its meta-knowingness.
– It’s showtime, synergy! Check out Playbill’s, um, Playbill for Riverdale High’s production of Carrie: The Musical here.
– Chic, creepy as always, stays seated during the chaos when Midge’s body is revealed. Or does he know something about the killing?
– If nothing else, you’ve got to admire how this episode subverted expectations. Instead of taking the obvious route and having the famous prom destruction scene be its climax, the show instead used the song “Evening Prayers” for the closing scene in which the Black Hood returned and all hell broke loose. Alas Midge, we hardly knew ye.
– Seeing how you just know FP and Alice are going to get together eventually, I’m more convinced than ever that Hal is doomed. My prediction? Either he really is the Black Hood or will be murdered by him by the time the season ends. If the latter is true, then who else could be the Black Hood? My guess is either that burly dude who was beating on Chic in Centerville or disgraced Serpent Tall Boy, who hasn’t turned up lately. Then again it could be someone we haven’t seen yet, as we have no idea what the central mystery of the third season will be yet.
– One of the posters on the way for previous Riverdale High musicals is Lease, better known as the Rent parody from Team America: World Police:
– This exchange between Cheryl and Toni is a two-sentence justification for Riverdale‘s entire existence:
“I’m not the same girl who burnt down Thornhill and cut off her oxygen.”
“Sure you are.”
– I would like very much to see Ethel’s vision board, please and thank you.
– No Hot Dog or Vegas again tonight. Clearly I’m the only one who cares at this point, but c’mon.
– The songs performed in tonight’s episode were “In,” “Carrie,” “Do Me a Favor,” “Unsuspecting Hearts,” “The World According to Chris,” “You Shine,” “Stay Here Instead,” “A Night We’ll Never Forget,” and “Evening Prayers.”