This review contains spoilers.
3.5 The Great Escape
“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 at Den Of Geek US 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 three 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 amplifiying 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 unravelling the mystery of who is the ultimate Gamemaster for Gryphons & Gargoyles.