This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 5
“I saw Archie, he’s caught up in some diabolical teen fight club and I need to break him out of juvie before he dies or kills someone.”
If you are as obsessed with Riverdale as we here at Den of Geek are and want to indoctrinate your friends into the show a la the televisual equivalent of The Farm, just quote them the above sentence as it pretty much sums up the series in a nutshell. Season 3 has been very, very good thus far, but when Veronica burst into the room where her pals her discussing the murderous RPG taking over the town (!) to deliver this oh-so goofy statement with a deadly seriousness it struck us that Riverdale has transcended guilty pleasure status and become bona fide great television.
One of our wishes way back in the first season was that the show would embrace the inherent insanity in making a dark Archie reboot and amplifying its silly strangeness to the nth degree. This season it has fully done so, making Riverdale 2018’s go-to water cooler series and one of the most consistently surprising things on TV. But as impressive as this feat it is, it further ups the creative ante by regularly having its characters express meta-esque moments of self-awareness. (Demonstrated in the latest episode by Veronica’s interrupting of the gang’s Gryphons & Gargoyles discussion, a crisis she is completely oblivious to thus far, to basically say ‘yeah, I don’t know what this crisis is about and I don’t GAF because we have to save Archie’).
Picking up immediately after last week’s cliffhanger with Jughead’s obsession with G&G reaching a fever pitch, episode writers Greg Murray and Ace Hasan immediately subvert expectations that our Serpent King will lose himself to the game by showing that, wow, Jug’s intuitions are exactly right. There is indeed a deep connection between Gryphons & Gargoyles and the town of Riverdale, with our characters acting as pawns in the Gargoyle King’s game. This is illustrated through some inventive split screen use and cross-cutting between Jug and the Serpents’ quest and the rest of the gang’s attempts to help Archie escape. At first, it seems that this is just some clever writing and editing until Warden Norton (RIP) demands to know where the Red Paladin is, and both storylines are tied together in a neat narrative bow.
This unexpected sewing together of the two plots also furthers our suspicions that Hiram himself is deeply rooted in G&G given his connections to the warden. (Although we aren’t as certain that he is the Gargoyle King as we were a few weeks back, given the trickery the writers have been up to of late). It also solves the usual Riverdale problem of having Archie detached from the main storyline. As he recovers in the Doiley Hatch, his learning about what has been happening during his imprisonment will thrust him into the show’s now dominating storyline — that of unraveling the mystery of who is the ultimate Gamemaster for Gryphons & Gargoyles.
– The series’ commitment to ridiculous fake branding continues, with Veronica reading The Wall Beat Journal (complete with a headline about American Excess!)
– With Archie’s escape and the G&G stuff taking center stage, let’s not overlook the fantastic scene in which Hermione Lodge accurately tells Hiram and Veronica that their shared obsession with Archie will be the Lodge family’s downfall. Marisol Nichols is tremendous in this scene, and it’s so great to see Hermione finally voice her frustrations at being pulled apart by the pair.
– Reggie remains a cipher of a character, but tonight we got some insight into how his apparently abusive home life explains some of his troubled, cocky behavior.
– The confusion rendered by Josie and Kevin over their parents’ sudden engagement was hilarious, as was Josie’s shunning of Kev for burying the lede about their folks’ nuptials news.
– Seeing Betty riding Jug’s motorcycle is a great reminder that you should all be reading the B&V Vixenscomic.
– Since Ellio helped get Veronica into the fight club, she now owes him a big favor, one that you can expect him to call in before season’s end.
– Warden Norton mentions that the men that were paid to Hiram to lie under oath about him are now in hiding either in Shadow Woods or the Shadow Lake mines. Are these the same locations from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, or is that just wishful thinking on our part?
– When Judas kisser Joaquin tells Kevin that he has “joined a different gang,” we don’t think that he’s referring to the G&G posse so much as The Farm, a group we still know hardly anything about and one that is likely involved with the game…if not controlling it outright.
– Cheryl and Toni. Every scene they are in is magic. Just wanted to remind you of that.
– Once Gryphons and Gargoyles gets into your mind you understand it more. Jughead is currently in full Charlie/Pepe Silva mode from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but he and Warden Norton are clearly playing the same game. So is there a psychic link component to the game? Man, we hope so.
– Veronica again uses the fake first name ‘Monica.’ MONICA POSH FOREVER!
– So which one of the gang had a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook to know how to make the smoke bombs? It had to be Reggie, right? Then again, Cheryl sure does love causing chaos.
– Principal Featherhead’s first name was Felix. Of course, it was.
– So where was Mad Dog anyway? And what happened to him now?
– Is this the first episode in the show’s history not to feature an over-the-top musical number, or does it just feel that way?
– Best line of the night? Veronica’s “I’d recognize those abs anywhere.” Oh, we hear that.