Riverdale Season 2 Episode 7 Review – Chapter 20: Tales from the Darkside

A formula-breaking episode of Riverdale hints at major supernatural things to come.

This Riverdale review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 2 Episode 7

“He says that we’ve failed his test…that we’re all sinners…that the reckoning is upon us.” – Pop Tate

Sabrina the Teenage Witch should be showing up any second now.

That’s my biggest takeaway from tonight’s episode, the first in the series to date to not feature narration from Jughead. There’s been a ramping up of supernatural elements this season, but it wouldn’t be too hyperbolic to call tonight’s non-traditional installment a game changer.

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The above ominous screens, complete with a scratchy old film aesthetic, kick things off. If these are to be believed, than everything that has happened in the show to date (or from tonight on?) is taking place in the past. Jughead’s omniscient narration already hinted at this, but this switch in the series’ storytelling technique seems to indicate a greater importance than just a gimmick. (Unsubstantiated tumor has it that this was to be the season’s Halloween episode, only now airing a month later than expected). The writers and maybe even some of the characters themselves may be aware of their own fate, yet we remain in the dark for now. I believe this change in storytelling technique was just temporary, and things will return to the status quo next week. But with that should also come the acknowledgement that — like Lost‘s infamous “we have to go back moment” — thar Riverdale won’t be the same from here on in. It will be a lot weirder, darker, funnier and, yes, supernatural than we have ever seen before.

And that is fantastic.

The town of Greendale has been mentioned several times on Riverdale to date. It is just across Sweetwater River, where Jason and Cheryl were to rendezvous before fate intervened. Ms. Grundy was killed there too. And now, Jughead is a “transportation advisor” tricked by the increasingly nefarious Penny Peabody into transporting large crates of “pancake mix” there to be recieved by a wheelchair-bound old lady and her silent, sunglasses-wearing assistant. It is on this mission that he encounters Farmer McGinty (a fantastic as always Tony Todd), a mysterious stranger who listens to religious radio stations whose broadcasters think that the Black Hood is doing the Lord’s work. Like Penny before him, he is keenly tuned in to the fact that Greendale is a place that you don’t want to be stuck in after midnight.

Why midnight? Because it’s the Witching Hour, of course. Thus, Sabrina.

Anyway, before trying to stick poor Jughead with a dinner bill — “Crown Boy,” as he is called here, doesn’t even have any more to get anything to eat, aww — Farmer McGinty speaks of the Riverdale Reaper. Is this murderer the same person as the madman currently pursuing those he feels are sinners in Riverdale? I’m inclined to think that he his, especially since the house on the outskirts of Fox Forest where he committed his crimes sounds an awful lot like the place the Hood was playing his game of cat and mouse with Betty a few weeks back.

Fortunately, the getting-smarter-by-the-week Archie arrives just in time to save the day. He and Jughead deliver the goods. Then Jughead learns the truth, Penny is using him to pay off his father’s debts. And just when Jughead thought he could get out, well, you know.

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The following two stories are somewhat intertwined with this main narrative, and while both feature creepy moments, it is this first sequence that both establishes dread and sets Greendale up to be a major supernatural player in the coming weeks. We know that a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series is in production. While the comic book it is based upon is set in the 1960s, it makes a lot more sense to pair it with Riverdale as a companion show. And the CW never met a crossover it didn’t like, so the potential here is obvious. The only complaint I had about the first season was that Sabrina was hinted at but never arrived. I don’t think that will be an issue this time around, with 19 episodes left to go this year and Chekov’s sister city being front and center tonight the only thing that makes narrative sense is let the witches fly…including Sabrina. I’m convinced this will be happening soon.

For further support of this argument, check out the canon Riverdale companion comic, particularly the sixth issue in which Pop Tate makes a deal with the devil to have the restaurant succeed. Seriously.

Meanwhile, back in Riverdale proper, Josie is finally getting a chance to shine. We learn that she is planning on ditching the Pussycats (who are rightfully pissed about this) and go solo. She also has a fateful encounter with a newly reformed Chuck Clayton, and has her constant attempts to rehearse Classic IV’s “Spooky” interrupted by Mr. Svenson — the never-before-seen Riverdale High janitor/latest likely Black Hood suspect, as well as Cheryl Blossom, who is suddenly obsessed with Josie after she saved her from Nick St. Clair. As a fan of crazy Cheryl Blossom antics, the reveal that the picture audiences were meant to assume were from budding artist Chuck actually came from an unhinged Cheryl was an absolute pearl clutcher.

What the hell is Cheryl’s plan here? Always keeping things interesting, that one.

Finally, the lightest story of the night was the latest sleuthing adventure of B & V. With Betty assuming that Sheriff Keller is the Black Hood while Veronica is convinced he is actually having an affair while his wife is stationed in Bahrain. Other than revealing that the elder Keller works out, like a lot, the pair’s investigation eventually proves Veronica right. Sheriff Keller is definitely having an affair…with Mayor McCoy.

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I’ve said it before. I will keep saying it: You guys, this show.

Riverdale Rundown

– It’s always fantastic to see the Candyman himself, Tony Todd, turn up in things. While he’ll never quite top his guest performance as an elderly Jake Sisko in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Visitor” in this writer’s eyes, Todd delivered another incredible performance here. His Farmer McGinty was a real slow burn menace, and we know nothing about this character so I hope he comes back later this season.

– Archie was clearly bingewatching Friends while on his Black Hood vigil, because where else would he come up with his goofy dream of all of his pals and gals living in NYC being artists. (Or maybe he watched Rent after hearing Josie and the Pussycats sing “Out Tonight”). Anyway, Jughead’s takedown of “I’m pretty sure the East Village doesn’t exist anymore” was a burn for the ages.

– In the world of Riverdale, Triple C is the automotive service you call to have your flat fixed. That makes no sense, but sure, let’s go with it.

– One last thing about the growing supernatural aspects of this show: What are the chances that the blood-covered deer Archie saw while waiting to get the flat fixed was the same dead one in the back of McGinty’s truck? Cue The Twilight Zone theme.

– Dawww! Betty is wearing Jughead’s ‘S’ shirt. No doubt completely unaware of how the bed was recently the home of a “PG-13 grope session” between Jughead and Toni Topaz. Expect that to come to light soon, causing more tension for Bughead lovers.

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– “It’s killing season in Riverdale.” Will we learn more of the Riverdale Reaper? Does Cheryl steal scenes?

“You don’t want to be in Greendale after midnight, believe me.” When Penny said this I couldn’t help but think of F.P.’s remark a few weeks back about how the Serpents have dealt with worse things than the Ghoulies in the past. LIKE WITCHES! Sorry. I can’t help myself.

– For airing in the 8 o’clock hour, the Josie throat-slashing scene was absolutely shocking.

– Hal Cooper seemed super chill during the meeting between him, Betty and Sheriff Keller. Could it be because HE IS THE BLACK HOOD? Dum dum dum!

– Although showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa didn’t actually write tonight’s episode. His fingerprints are all over it, especially the trunk delivery sequence, which is a great big homage to “The Crate” sequence of Creepshow (a film that Aguirre-Sacasa has gone on record as being a huge influence on his work). The wooden parcel featured in tonight’s episode featured the same “Arctic Expedition” writing — though I believe the year is different — as in Creepshow, along with some wonderful H.P. Lovecraft and/or The Re-Animator references.

– The warehouse on 115 Derby Street that Archie and Jug delivered the crate too was giving off major Raiders of the Lost Ark vibes.

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– Of course Penny would say Jughead was delivering “pancake mix.” The entire town revolves around maple syrup.

– Longtime Archie Comics supporting character Mr. Svenson finally makes his debut on Riverdale…and he’s creepy as hell. His printed counterpart is also the janitor at Riverdale High, although in the comics he doesn’t act oddly whenever students mention sin. Also, there was an online petition to make former Jughead/current Spider-Man writer Chip Zdarsky Svenson on the series. This clearly isn’t happening now. “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘it might have been.'”

– Kevin nerding out about a D&D-esque board game to a disinterested Veronica was comic gold.

– Chuck Clayton’s redemption tour began tonight. In the comic he does in fact become a successful comic maker. He is experiencing karmic retribution for his deplorable past behavior big time tonight.

– Can we just talk about how beautiful this show is filmed? An extra shout out for this Pulp Fiction homage in the diner.

Rating:

5 out of 5