This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 22
Is my hatred of Hiram Lodge impacting my thoughts on Riverdale as a whole? It’s a question that I’ve been grappling with for weeks and for good reason. As the season’s primary antagonist, his ill-defined plans for the Southside and low-rent gangster schtick have been a thorn in viewers sides since Mark Consuelos debuted the character back in October. (With the actor’s sometimes stilted line delivery not doing anyone any favors either).
Hiram’s concussed attempts at Machiavellian scheming have halted this season — nearly twice as many episodes as the first’s — more times than I care to reflect upon. Going into this episode, my general assumption would be that Hiram would wind up either in a body bag or sharing a prison cell with Hal Cooper. Obviously, I was wrong. Instead, something utterly unexpected happened: I started to appreciate the character.
Maybe I’m just resigned to the fact that Hiram is sticking around, so I needed to swerve my POV. But I genuinely don’t think it’s that. In fact, I suspect that the truth is that the writers have been aware of many viewers’ negative opinions on the character and have done something that is far more interesting than just killing off the character. They are redefining Hiram by estranging him from his family and having him take up with the Southside Society of Supervillains — a group that also includes Penny Peabody, Malachi the Ghoulie, and Claudius and Penelope Blossom. This is something that I am 1000% on board with, especially with Hermione’s deliciously vague (and conveniently trailed off) statement that Hiram’s “plans for the Southside go far beyond the prison, he wants to consolidate the entire area into…something.”
Succinctly put, the Hiram we’ll see next year will not be the new man. Upon further reflection, Hiram’s victory isn’t surprising given we live in an era when everyone from Trump to Thanos wins. But what will be is his reaction to having a full monopoly on the Southside. He also seems to firmly believe that Hermione is still on his side, something that her actions in this episode repeatedly contradict. With Hermione forced to face her husband next year, the narrative stakes are raised.
But, as always, there’s an Archie problem. The second season did some tremendous course correcting in having the character go from a shirtless cipher to a heroic, if still a bit dim, force that unites Riverdale High. (Thus Hiram’s line about dissolving the glue that holds the town together and his setting up Archie to be arrested).
Archie was at his finest tonight, saving Serpents at home and in school, and generally becoming the leading figure he was always meant to be. With the character making so much progress, it feels like a huge leap backwards to saddle him with a plot that will put him on trial and in jail, likely separating him from the main action and other characters at a time when he has finally jelled with the rest of the series. This storyline hasn’t even begun yet and I’m already weary of it and that’s a huge issue.
Something that is as promising as Archie’s new storyline is frustrating however is the setting up for more information on Polly’s cult, The Farm, next season. Is it too early to speculate that Hiram is actually the leader of The Farm and that his secret plan is to use the entire Southside as the cult’s headquarters? Probably, but nevertheless, we have a new potential big bad for season three and that is a welcome thing in these post-Wild Wild Country times. Who is the leader that Polly wants Alice to meet? What exactly is The Farm all about? I for one cannot wait to find out and I hope they are as shithouse bonkers as I want them to be.
Less successful was Jughead’s too-obvious ascension to Serpent King. It is still a bit unclear as to why he feels such kinship with an organization whose members — besides himself, FP, and Toni — are pretty dopey. The cliche adage of “show, don’t tell” comes into play here, and thus far there hasn’t really been any examples of why the Serpents are worthy of such undying devotion. That said, the addition of Cheryl and Betty to the gang and the promise of a return for the Ghoulies does give the Serpents some exciting storytelling possibilities for next season.
Finally, another character who now finds themselves in the “Brave New World” that this episode takes its title from is Veronica Lodge. Cut off from her family’s money, she will now establish herself as a businesswoman not to be meddled with when she opens the basement speakeasy at Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe next year. And while I’m already shuddering at the prospect of what real-life musical acts may stop by, I’m hoping that the venue is more Road House than Peach Pit 2.0.
– Four words: Mr. Weatherbee’s bolo tie. This guy is such a style icon, he has no idea. He’s not just shaping the minds of Riverdale High students, he’s influencing their fashion choices.
– Speaking of the Bee, how great was the scene where Archie stood up for the Serpents? His calling Weatherbee a good man who wouldn’t discriminate was a subtle callback to both characters’ friendship in the comics — something that Riverdale could use more of.
– If body language is any indication, Reggie and Josie are a thing now. Rosie shippers unite!
– With Archie having some legal problems now, Ethel should become Riverdale High’s student body president by default. Which is great, as more Shannon Purser is always welcome.
– Farewell Phony Black Hood, AKA Tall Boy. We hardly knew ye.
– Archie is under arrest for the murder of Shadow Lake resident Cassidy Bullock, the home invader Andre killed in “Chapter 27: The Hills Have Eyes.” As far as I can tell, there is no comic book equivalent of this character, but if I’m wrong please let me know in the comments.
– Even though Cheryl has now been emancipated from her, Penelope Blossom showed her child some genuine, out of character concern when she gave a heads up about the raid on the Whyte Wrym.
– Another Cheryl gem was when she referred to Mr. Lodge as Veronica’s “strapping conquistador father.”
– What do you think? Has Hermione officially turned against Hiram? Will her romance with Fred reignite?
– “My Mumsie warned me that Hiram Lodge’s cyborg sheriff is raiding your precious bar tonight.” Only Cheryl can get away with speaking like that.
– What was with the weirdly anarchronistic TV that was behind Betty when she spoke with Hal? What year is it in Riverdale anyway? And how come Jughead’s dream tombstone had no dates on it?
– I burst into laugher when FP solemnly informed Jughead that “Sunnyside Trailer Park fell” during the Serpents battle with the Ghoulies.
– Betty tells Fred “I’m supposed to be this great detective, but I didn’t see what was right in front of me and people paid with that mistake with their lives.” Okay, slow your roll Betts. You’re just supposed to be a high school student, the detective shit is entirely an elective.
– Will Moose come out next season and officially start dating Kevin?
– Vegas is alive! And he was actually getting fed! Still no word on Hot Dog though. It sucks to be a pet in Riverdale.
– Hal has barely been in jail for a day and he already is cultivating some serious prison stubble.
– “Wherever you go, whatever you do, I’m going to be watching. And when I do prove this, I won’t hesitate like I did with the Black Hood. I’m going to make my bones, once and for all.” Yo, Archie’s got cojones!
– Always the drama queen, Jughead refers to Archie’s arrest as “cataclysmic.” Disturbing? Maybe. Irksome? Definitely. But hardly cataclysmic.
– Well that’s going to wrap up my coverage of Riverdale for the season! Thanks for reading, and continue to check out my thoughts on all things Archie-related on the site throughout the year.