Riverdale Season 2 Episode 4 – TV Review
So, Archie isn’t just unhinged.
He’s literally homicidal.
As am I. Because Cheryl is benched yet again.
TL;DR Archie’s ultimate goal is to fucking murder the Black Hood; but he comes up against enough reality checks to abandon that plan; Betty learns that she is the Black Hood’s inspiration and scrambles to figure him out; Jughead continues to find himself torn between his old friends and his new life; the elder Lodges slowly climb the ladder to Supervillainy; Cheryl is now basically a featured extra.
Don’t make me turn on you, Riverdale.
Thankfully, despite Cheryl not even getting a single fucking line, the rest of the episode is juicy enough to keep me at bay. The major plot this week is all about Archie-kins, as the entire town reacts negatively to his psycho ISIS video. Everyone, even his pink-hooded goons, cut him off, but Veronica pledges to stay, and helps to bolster the Red Circle’s image. But Archie goes it alone on a reckless quest to keep the hate squarely on him, instigating violence with some South Side Serpents (who think the Black Hood is actually a good thing. Because he only targets Northies). But after he pulls his gun in the heat of the moment, and, following the return of his football friends to the fold and a bloody street fight with the Serpents, Archie emotionally admits to Veronica that his plan all along was to raise the Black Hood’s ire enough that he would be the target, and Archie could draw him out and murder him. Meanwhile, the Black Hood sends Betty a letter stating her rousing speech about the ignored ills of Riverdale in the season finale is what’s inspired him to start killing sinners. She covers this up, but she does hand over a coded message also included to her mum to publish, while she and Jughead try to work it out. Toni also gets involved in this, leading to a sedate class warfare argument between them, and some uneasiness between Betty and Jughead about their relationship. Betty thinks she’s decoded the message about an attack on a concurrent town hall meeting, but thankfully nobody is hurt. Meanwhile, Veronica still keeps an eye out for each of her parents, who seem to have some involvement with all this nastiness. And Alice and Fred find themselves as opposing figureheads at the town meeting over fear-mongering.
If you couldn’t guess, Alice is very much in the “for” camp.
Yeah, so Riverdale it seems isn’t fucking around when it comes to raising the stakes. They’ve now turned Archie “milquetoast” Andrews into a would-be murderer.
Yes, he ends up regretting that impulse and stopping the plan before it got serious, but I admire how far Riverdale was willing to go with it, and also for showing Archie’s humility in the face of his own darkness.
But what’s to be done about this masked serial killer, then?
Why I hate this episode:
When Betty decodes the Black Hood’s message, he refers to making an attack “where it all began.” Betty and Jughead take this to mean the town hall meeting, because that’s where her speech was, and they rush to warn everyone. But then when they get there, nothing happens. At the end of the episode, Archie and Veronica take his gun to throw into the river, and Jughead describes them in the narration as going back to “where it all began: Sweetwater River.” But oddly, nothing happens. I would have expected a tease or an ominous POV shot of someone watching them or something. Maybe Riverdale is holding its cards for a shocking reveal next episode. I’ve often described Riverdale as smarter than the average teen soap, but going against the expected tease of an event to show no indication of the event at all isn’t smart.
The closest we get is the following, closing scene of the episode, as Betty receives a phone call from the Black Hood. But it’s not enough. And it gave me Scream vibes. The lacklustre show, that is. Not the movies.
I take it as a personal attack on fans of fabulous cunts everywhere that Cheryl is totally benched. I’m not okay with it.
Oh, and the whole Haves vs Have-nots thing was a fantastic backdrop to Veronica Mars’ second season, but Veronica Mars wasn’t a candy-colored fantasy land. And Veronica Mars laid proper ground work to establish the differences between the 09ers and the less fortunate kids. Other than the dingy high school, Riverdale hasn’t built up the differences between the North and South sides of town.
But it’s not all bad:
All this talk of the Black Hood being a South sider is making me excited for what I hope is a mass slaying of those douchey teen Serpents to prove that the Black Hood isn’t about that. Those guys suck.
They do contribute to the episode’s most affecting scene, though. Archie, on his mission to become the Black Hood’s target, goes to the South Side to spray paint red circles. The trio of Serpents accost him, and in the ensuing tete-a-tete, Archie pulls his gun on them, frightening them into retreat. But, in a moment of clarity and horror, Archie himself realises the gravity of what he’s just done. I wouldn’t get out the Emmy ballot for KJ Apa anytime soon, but damn, he sells it.
And thank God he’s done with all that by the end of the episode. I can accept an Archie who wants to be a murderer out of passion, but I don’t think I could abide an Archie who actually followed through with it.
The rain-soaked slo-mo team street brawl between the Red Circle and the Serpents is dumb, but looks super cool. And when the Scoutmaster gets stabbed in the leg and Veronica fires the gun into the air to break it up, Reggie coaches the Scoutmaster to tell the hospital staff that he was jumped by Serpents while minding his own business. If we’re going to have class warfare, then let it be vicious.
Speaking of class warfare, Toni and Betty’s expected “girls can’t get along” rivalry gains some extra sauce when Toni’s main problem with Betty turns out to be her privileged, Northie-ness, rather than simply be about her loin-longing for Jughead. I appreciated it.
I also appreciate that Jughead, so far, hasn’t much reciprocated anything with Toni.
The revelation that the Black Hood is doing all this for Betty made me very happy. Both because it puts Betty, arguably the purest of the Core Four, in a real tough spot as the muse of a serial killer. And because we get the continuity callback to her speech last season. Riverdale remembers.
The fact that the cipher for the coded message is based on Betty’s favourite childhood Nancy Drew book means that the Black Hood is someone who actually knows her, too. So fucking creepy.
Alice’s fear-mongering at the town hall meeting is utterly in character for her. I think Fred’s opposition is more of an in-the-moment thing, and I don’t expect this to really blow up. But I’ll never tire of Alice going on a moralistic tirade.
The key moment from the town hall meeting, though, is Hiram and Hermione’s quiet aside to each other about how all this chaos could work to their advantage for something. I’m keen to see what these two have in store.
Kevin is back in the back seat after his spotlight last episode, but he does get the episode’s best line after Toni dares to criticise Betty’s ponytail: “Betty’s ponytail is iconic and beyond reproach.” Yes.
Veronica just casually wears a cape when she breaks into the school at night to retrieve Archie’s hidden gun. So fabulous.
Oh, and Kevin and Cheryl are shown sitting together in class. Could you imagine if Riverdale gave Kevin and Cheryl a bottle episode? Sign me the fuck up.