This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 19
“It’s the principle of it.”
Riverdale‘s most ambitious season to date comes to a close in an episode that, while not intended to be a finale (more on that below), presents a more than satisfying cliffhanger. It’s been a rough go for these kids, from dealing with the passing of Fred Andrews to struggles with Dodger at the community center to the Stonewall Prep/Jugdead saga. In the background through of all these events were two problems that were growing like a cancer for our gang: The town’s video voyeur and Mr. Honey.
This episode supposes that both of these concerns are inherently linked, if not outrightly the same, in a tone-shifting carnival of chaos skillfully directed by Mädchen Amick (in her debut behind the camera for the series).
With Yale off of the table, Jughead has refocused his energies on getting into the University of Iowa’s writing program. He does this by bringing his fantasies of putting an end to Mr. Honey’s puritanical reign over Riverdale High to the printed page. For weeks Honey has been a thorn in the side of the school’s student body, having what is generally a strict no fun policy. Betty, once again showing off those serial killer genes, recommends taking drastic action. Thus we have this episode’s title.
Sadly, the show doesn’t go full River’s Edge here, as the body count exists only in Jughead’s writing. But the fantasy killing is carefully balanced with Honey’s mounting real world machinations, and the line between fiction and reality continues to blur.
In many ways, this episode succeeds where the Stonewall Prep storyline failed. There was never a chance that Jughead would actually die, so playing chicken with his demise was a futile move narratively. But Honey? He’s such a minor character that all bets are off. As Jughead’s storyline gets into more macabre territory, Honey fakes a video making it seem that Riverdale High is under surveillance -thus having an excuse to override the PTA’s ruling and cancel the prom due to safety concerns.
Once Mr. Honey’s ruse is discovered thanks to some careful Jughead sleuthing (Charles is the worst FBI agent ever…if he even is an FBI agent), he is fired from Riverdale High. And then, comes the twist. It turns out that Holden Honey was actually a great principal. Ms. Bell informs the students that he got low-income students scholarships, that pupils’ overall GPA was higher and more seniors went to college, and, importantly, no student died under his watch. These are all laudable traits to be sure, but they came out of nowhere to create some massive dissonance with the Mr. Honey we’ve seen all season.
Even less convincing was the glowing letter he wrote about Jughead — a student who barely attended Riverdale High this season. Why would he do all these good deeds, including sending such a message of praise to the Admissions Board at the University of Iowa for a student he barely knows? The obvious answer is to mask his true identity as a voyeur who adores the murder, mayhem and depravity that he railed against. He may be done with Riverdale High, but something tells me we’ve only just begun seeing the real Holden Honey.
As the season ends, our leads are left to ponder the strange VHS tape recreating their imagined murdering of Mr. Honey. The ramifications of this will be explored when the show returns. Until then, we welcome your theories on what this all means…
• This episode was never intended to be the season finale — there were three episodes left to finish before Covid-19 shut down production. (In our recent interview with Casey Cott, he told us that most of filming on episode 20 was completed). Due to this, there are obvious plot threads left dangling, the most notable of which is who is making these grisly videos and why. But there are other unresolved stories as well, including the health of Hiram Lodge, Veronica’s ongoing battles with her father about their rum empire, whatever Charles and Chic are planning, the aftermath of Ticklegate, the possible return of a Kevin/Fangs ship, Mary’s romance, the high school prom and graduation, and the announced departures of Marisol Nichols and Skeet Ulrich from the show. So it is really impressive how much this installment works as a satisfying conclusion, while leaving enough storylines unfinished to allow the writers to jump right in next season. And that’s not even getting into how all of these supposedly college bound characters will wind up staying in Riverdale so that, you know, the series can continue.
• Characters we’d like to see more of in season 5: Kevin, Tom Keller, Mary Andrews, Ethel Muggs, Dr. Curdle Jr., Hot Dog, Vegas.
• Speaking of Ethel, Shannon Purser delivers an another effective performance as the underused character here. There is something heartbreaking about Ethel has endured, a complexity that Purser emotes wonderfully. She is proven to be a red herring in this episode, but you do believe that she could be responsible…which in a way makes her even more tragic. She is a character who keeps haunting the fringes of the show and deserves a better role.
• We’re all in agreement that the murder-packed version of Jughead’s story was the more satisfying one, right?
• Best line of the night? “Am I the only one who hasn’t got rid of a dead body before?”
• The microphone closeup was a very nice visual homage to The Warriors.
• I am a sucker for a slo-mo determined walking shot.
• Cheryl dismissing Betty and Jughead as “hobo” and “bride of hobo” is delightful.
• Did you see the ancient TV and VCR that Riverdale High has? Can’t Hiram pull some strings to update that AV.
• All of the filmed masked sequences are creepily reminiscent of the Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion, a Google rabbit hole I can’t recommend falling down through enough.
• The past couple of episodes have involved Reggie in the action more than usual, a trend I hope carries over into the next season given how important of a character he is in the comics.
• How did the show miss the opportunity to feature The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” in this episode?
• Betty references a “teen angst body count,” once again recalling this show’s obsession with Heathers.
• It’s hilarious that Jughead and Archie are the only two of our main cast members who are eligible to attend the prom. “Let the fan fiction begin,” jokes Kevin Keller, clearly unaware that this is almost certainly already a thing.
• In a show that asks you to believe a lot, I still just do not buy that Jughead would not have been a frequent customer at the Blue Velvet.
• With Mr. Honey being deposed from Riverdale High, the door is open for the return of Mr. Weatherbee, who was last seen helping taking Farmees back to civilization.
• Thank you for reading these reviews all season long! I’ll be back with more whenever the show returns to the airwaves, and until then continue to make Den of Geek your primary news source for things Riverdale and Archie Comics!