This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 6 Episode 10
“Stranger things have happened in Riverdale”
With word of Riverdale being renewed for a seventh season, one question hangs heavily in the air: How long can this series carry on its shenanigans? This recent batch of episodes alone has brought us plot points that include everything from witchcraft to (coming soon!) time travel, leading viewers and this writer to wonder is anything beyond the pale here? Seeing how some cast members of the CW stalwart have hinted at how they’re ready to wrap things up once next season — and their contracts, probably — finishes, it is not wrong to want to cherish every remaining episode like a gift. Because friends, there will never be a another program like this one.
From the start everything about Riverdale has been off-kilter. It’s based on the Archie humor comics but isn’t intentionally funny. It’s dark and weird. Character motivations change from scene to scene, joyfully disconnected from logic all the while. The antagonists range from Dungeons & Dragons castoffs to soap opera mobsters. There’s the occasional UFO sighting or spontaneous human combustion or maple syrup blood feud. The entire town only eats fast food. Shit is wild.
Many many times before I have discussed in my reviews how the weirdness here can be traced directly back to the Archie adventure-styled comic titles of the 1970s, but at over 100 episodes in I’m starting to think that the series has evolved beyond them into its own unknowable thing. As a writer whose job to is comment on this show’s content I find myself increasingly ping-ponging between “holy shit” and “well that happened.”
Which raises something of a personal dilemma, since my weekly missives on Riverdale are less recap and more commentary on the show at large I am convinced that there is no point even trying to analyze it. Like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Riverdale exists as a thing of wonder that is completely and utterly unknowable. And to be honest, I love this.
I’m 100% serious here. Let’s examine the latest episode for proof of this theory. The main plotline concerns Archie and Jughead attempting to rally the town against current villain Percival Pickens. They believe that they can achieve this goal by…having Archie become the World’s Toughest Man in the Guinness Book of World Records.
This kind of delightful anachronism — that contemporary folks can be brought together by an old timey folk hero — is the sort of charming “just go with it” thing that the source comics have ran with for over 80 years. But what seems homespun and charming on the printed page is Lynchian to witness on TV. Which is entirely the point, and an example of how Riverdale is truly unlike anything else on television. The writers and cast are in on the joke, the series has embraced its campiness and yet it still can deliver genuine WTF moments. So why isn’t this show applauded more for being what it is?
(Side note: I recently watched the complete first season of La Brea — a walking concussion of a TV series that is such a Lost wannabe that it even, hilariously, name drops Lost two times during its debut season. It is stupid without being self-aware, but not in a way that makes it anything but off-putting. Riverdale is Mad Men by comparison).
While Percival’s machinations are delivered as the main attraction in this installment, something truly wondrous was brewing in the B-plot. Suddenly, Cheryl has developed pyrokinetic abilities. I’ll give writer Devon Turner credit for presenting this in a way that makes sense for the character (she has a history with fire — being burned at the stake as Abigail, torching Thornhill, etc). Simultaneously, it also is such a left-field development that its what-the-fuckery is a joy to behold and a testament to how Riverdale is never dull.
Our age of prestige drama is wonderful. But it is beyond time that shows like Riverdale also start getting some more attention for transcending their trashy teen drama origins into becoming something wholly original and genuinely unlike anything else on the air. Let’s stop taking this shithouse bonkers gift of a show for granted and appreciate it as the televisual black swan of unpredictability that it truly is.
• Zane Holtz reprises his role as K.O. Kelly from Katy Keene, and I continue to love Riverdale‘s commitment to referencing that show despite its premature cancellation.
• A Red Circle book, referencing Archie Comics’ superhero publishing origins, is glimpsed at the start of this episode.
• Did anyone else find it amusing that Riverdale was only zoned for one billboard?
• Archie and Jughead logic insists that there’s no better way to “inspire people to remember who they are” than with a good old Guinness Records attempt. What year is this show set anyway?
• Babylonium being referred to as a “casino with a budget of a Baz Luhrmann film” is doubly funny given how small the set of the gambling locale appears to be.
• Can we please see more of this world’s X-Files-style FBI division? More Agent Drake please!
• I’m very glad that both Pop Tate and Fangs stepped in to tell Tabitha and Toni that their plot to save their respective businesses was causing them to abandon their values.
• Cheryl, an established Stephen King stan (see the Carrie: The Musical episode) is glimpsed reading his Firestarter novel at the end of this episode after learning to control her new powers.
• While infiltrating the Whyte Wyrm, Veronica dons her Monica Posh blonde wig, while Percival just dresses normal. Subtle.
• Cheryl can set shit on fire at will now, no one cares about your problems Reggie.
• “Now you go down and drink your wine, okay?” Percival knows Alice well.
• Betty is right, Cheryl is most definitely a phoenix who thrives in fire. Will her new abilities be used to defeat Percival?