Riverdale Season 2 Episode 12 – TV Review
It’s a shame that the above-captured sweetest moment of the episode is followed by the cringiest.
And not just of the episode, but of Riverdale’s run so far.
What’s happening, Riverdale?
TL;DR A bizarre episode focusing on a sixteen year-old Veronica’s Catholic confirmation, Lodge family mob stuff, and yet more Serpent politics; Jughead finally gets a long-overdue slap on the wrist, though; Betty’s exploration of her dark side is shoved out of focus; Cheryl does not appear.
If anyone was going to be involved in weird, infantilising ceremonies with mob families, you’d think it’d be Cheryl. And she kind of already has been.
So not content with last season’s weirdo episode about the Blossom family business/underworld drug trade, Riverdale plays that card again, but this time with the Lodge family business/underworld mafia, as they converge on Riverdale for Veronica’s a-few-years-too-late-so-now-it’s-just-creepy Catholic confirmation ceremony. The main plot follows Archie as he’s tasked by the FBI agent to infiltrate them and get more info on Hiram. Which he does, but then he also finds out the other mafiosos are planning to murder Hiram so he tips Hiram off. Also complicating things is Veronica’s hesitation to draw Archie into her family’s criminal web, but Archie decides that he wants to be by her side no matter what. Meanwhile, the Mayor harasses Jughead’s trailer park with eviction notices in retaliation for the Pickens statue beheading from last episode, as it’s assumed it was perpetrated by a Serpent. Things heat up when the Snake Charmer reappears to offer her legal help to stall the evictions, but only in exchange for Jughead’s Serpent expulsion (and to similarly carve his tattoo off). Jughead recruits Betty to help find the statue’s true vandal to dampen the Mayor’s hate flames, but they find out it was committed by a Serpent, after all: Tall Boy, on orders from Hiram Lodge. Hiram wanted a reason for the Mayor to crack down on the Serpents, and Tall Boy wanted Skeet and Jughead out of the gang. With this knowledge, Tall Boy is instead expelled from the Serpents, and Snake Charmer is shut back out. But Jughead does get slapped with some kind of Serpent suspension, so maybe he’ll shut up about them at long last. He and Betty also get back together. Kind of. Meanwhile, Josie makes up with Veronica. And it seems that Chic may still be hookin’ at the Cooper family home. The episode is closed out by Betty coming home to find Alice cleaning up the dead body of what I assume to be one of his clients, as Chic rocks back and forth in the background.
He and Penelope really need to join forces to rent some office space or something.
So I’m sad to report the continuing downward swing of Riverdale as Season 2 plods along. I’ve made some sustained fuss about how this season, especially in contrast to the first season, is relying too heavily on external conflict. And that is still the major problem.
If the characters of Riverdale aren’t really connected to the conflicts they’re facing, how are we supposed to connect to them?
Why I hate this episode:
The most obvious offender is this FBI agent haranguing plot that has done nothing to endear itself to me as a viewer. Why the fuck is Archie, a sixteen year-old high school student, being forced into possibly life or death situations by the FBI? Unless it’s going to turn out that the FBI agent actually isn’t an FBI agent and something crazier is afoot, then I’m not on board. It’s weird. And not the usually good, Riverdale kind of weird.
The Serpent bullshit is also still hanging around to, I feel, personally shit me. I’m over it. I’ve been over it all season. Dear God, let Jughead’s suspension propel him to better stories. #NoSerpentsInSeason3
The only character whose conflict doesn’t feel completely like it’s an external, meaningless wank is Veronica, who struggles to decide whether or not to let Archie fall into the Lodge family web. But this is sapped of all its power because we still don’t really even know what the Lodge family web is. All we concretely know is that Hiram is an embezzler, and that he and Hermione are fond of a shady land deal. That’s it. This episode sees the introduction of the Lodge “family” criminal cronies, but it’s still unclear what they all actually do. This is the same problem that the North vs South plot has: Riverdale hasn’t established why we should care. The show has only mandated that we should. But, again, why?
Also, the Lodges are, like, Mexican, right? But Riverdale now decides that it wants to play with some trite mafia allusions, so all their associates are Italian. It’s shaky, and Riverdale only has itself to blame for making that bed in the first place.
The only thing we do learn about what the Lodges are capable of this episode is that Hiram calls in a hit on one of his men who was scheming against him. So? Papa Blossom literally shot his own son in the fucking head. On camera. Hiram, you gon’ have to step your pussy up.
This week sees the first truly cringe-worthy moment of Riverdale so far. I’ve been down for the musical scenes for the most part. Hell, the Kids in America sequence last season was one of the best the show’s had. But Jesus Christ, this episode’s Bittersweet Symphony sequence was unbearable. Riverdale was pushing it with Mad World, but at least that had emotional weight. And awkward stripping. Who the fuck thought it would be a good idea for our too-old bride of Christ to sing Bittersweet Symphony, accompanied by her friend who is not involved in the ceremony, as she walked down the aisle? Yikes. Yikes a lot.
The song choice alone was a bust. Those lyrics are not on message for what was happening.
Oh, and we get one quick shot of Betty in her Dark Betty wig doing her webcam thing early on, but then she gets stuck with looking for the statue head all episode. Boo.
But it’s not all bad:
I’m shocked with how happy I was when she and Jughead got back together, though. I’m still keeping a candle lit for when she and Archie hook up properly, but one of the things Riverdale has managed to succeed at is convincing me that the Jughead/Betty relationship wasn’t just a quickie Pair The Spares. Give it another shot, you guys.
Also, shout out to Betty for remaining as the one reliable character of the Core Four, as she helps solve the missing statue head case. What would any of you do without her, gang?
I know I bashed on Riverdale pretty hard for the Bittersweet Symphony cringe, but it does also tie into the best line of the episode, when Veronica proposes it to Josie: “Do you know Bittersweet Symphony from the Cruel Intentions soundtrack?” It makes me proud that kids these days haven’t forgotten that classic. Josie’s ignorance notwithstanding.
The episode later redeems itself musically by having Bette Davis Eyes on at the post-confirmation ceremony reception. I’m a fan.
Despite the imposed nebulousness of what the Lodge family actually does, Veronica does a commendable job with her dilemma of whether or not to have Archie inducted into their criminal ways. Hiram sees it as an inevitability if Archie is going to remain Veronica’s boyfriend, which makes Veronica seriously consider if she should save him from all this by possibly dumping him. She decides she wants to protect his innocence, which is admirable, but when Archie makes it clear he sorta already knows what’s up, they make their pledge to stay together. It’s sweet.
Kevin and Archie sit together at the confirmation ceremony. It is also sweet.
Archie’s uniform for when he helps at the poker game is super cute. Skeet’s got some competition.
Oh, and speaking of Skeet, I’m a little mad that Alice didn’t turn to him to help her hide the body, because everyone knows he’s good at that kind of thing. But maybe she’ll call him at the start of next episode?