This review contains spoilers.
2.7 Tales From The Darkside
“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 instalment a game-changer.
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 rumour 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” – that 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 is, 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.
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 centre 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.
I’ve said it before. I will keep saying it: You guys, this show.
Read Chris’ review of the previous episode, Death Proof, here.