Riverdale Season 2 Episode 22 – TV Review
Despite Kevin and Moose finally getting it together after all this time, this episode has nowhere near the sense of culmination that the Season 1 finale did.
Probably because Season 1 was a slight-to-moderately heightened teen soap opera, whereas Season 2 is this blood-drenched, gangland nonsense, serial killer pit of darkness.
Reel it in, Season 3. Reel it in.
TL;DR Hiram somehow takes credit for cleaning up after the riots; Hermione wins the mayoral election; Archie wins the student council election; Veronica defies her father in a real estate deal; Jughead isn’t dead, but he is now the leader of the humbled-by-the-Ghoulies-but-still-here Serpents; Betty struggles to face down the consequences of her father’s evil; Hiram assembles a Legion of Doom for his South Side plans; Archie is arrested for murder.
Oh, come on, man. That was so mid-season.
So yeah, somehow Hiram came out smelling like roses after last episode’s riots (why didn’t Kevin circulate that picture of the Hot Dad Squad actually saving the day?), which, despite Fred’s best efforts, leads to Hermione’s win in the mayoral election. Hermione, however, is slowly turning away from her husband, and not only is humble in her victory, but also gifts Veronica a hot tip that could fuck up Hiram’s South Side land deals: the Serpent bar is yet to be bought by him. So Veronica buys it, but then weirdly trades it to him, along with all her Lodge Industries shares, to instead take over the diner. So she can open a speakeasy next season. But, like, why, tho? Meanwhile, with the bar now sold, the Serpents who remained after the defeat in the Ghoulies war are led over to the North Side by a not-dead Jughead to take refuge. Skeet abhors the danger being a Serpent has put Jughead in, but eventually backs down from a demand that they leave town to live in Toledo with Jughead’s mum and sister, and instead hands over Serpent leadership to Jughead. Yay. More of this next season. Meanwhile, everyone except Archie and Ethel drop out of the student council election race, so Archie wins, of course. But his episode doesn’t go as smoothly as that, as he demands to know the truth about the fake Black Hood. It turns out to maybe have been Tall Boy, paid off by Hiram, but New Sheriff kills him in the line of duty. Archie closes out his episode by making a big-ass threat to Hiram, which naturally leads to Hiram having Archie arrested for the murder of that bandit who robbed them at the cabin. Hey, Archie’s the one who brought it up. Meanwhile, Cheryl stumbles upon Penelope and Claudius meeting with Hiram (also, her emancipation is successful), and this is revealed to us later as them joining a Legion of Doom put together by Hiram, and also comprised of New Sheriff, Penny the Snake Charmer, and the Ghoulies leader. Cute. And Betty is used, sadly, sparingly, in a mostly sequestered subplot about her being unable to face school and the town now that everyone knows her father was the murderous Black Hood. Polly is back in town and on the forgiveness train, while Alice just seems mostly shell shocked. But Betty is the best of us, and finds her strength to visit Hal-libal Lecter and declares that she is renouncing him and all his evil, and it will not follow her.
I don’t know. A serial killer Betty could come in handy against the Legion of Doom, no?
Firstly, I want to say that this is hardly a bad episode of Riverdale. But the comparisons to the season finale from last year are going to happen, and they don’t work out in Season 2’s favour.
What was Season 2 of Riverdale really even about? That Riverdale, despite being some provincial nowhere backwoods small town Everycounty, USA is also a seething hotbed of gang violence with multiple gangs and territories?
Or is it about how being in a gang and being a gang leader is totally wholesome and aspirational, Jughead?
Riverdale Season 2 gives me so many Revenge Season 2 vibes that I’m optimistic that Season 3 will play out the same way Revenge did. With everything weird and out of place and dysfunctional about Season 2 getting thrown out the window in the first episode, and things proceeding as they originally should have from Season 1.
Don’t let me down, Riverdale.
Why I hate this episode:
Hiram’s gotta go. The riots from last episode would have been the perfect excuse to have him exposed and dealt with, wiping the slate clean for a back to basics Season 3. But instead, Riverdale seems to have doubled down, and now he’s got his own supervillain league, and his plans for the South Side are moving ahead unabated. What?
On that same note, what was Veronica’s thought process for trading him the Serpent bar? I thought the only reason to buy it was to block the development of the South Side. But then Veronica goes and trades it (and all her other money and entitlements) for the diner? So she can open a bar for her friends? What?
Hermione makes important moves to separate herself from Hiram this episode, but misses the most important one: telling Hiram this. Unless we’re getting set up for her to secretly work against him, I’m fuckin’ over it, Hermione. Get out. He’s a jerk. You can do and be better.
How did Skeet expect Jughead to not find out he had lied about all the Serpents leaving town? Most of Jughead’s friends are Serpents or Serpent-adjacent. Of course one of them would let him know where they’re staying.
Archie is stupid enough to directly confront Hiram with all of his misdeeds in a rant about how bad Hiram is. Dude, all that achieved was Hiram now knowing exactly what you have to use against him. And now he can use it against you, first, which is why you got arrested. Oh, honey.
The major factor in this episode’s mediocrity, though, is not a lot of Betty screentime. I don’t trust Archie or Veronica to lead an episode, anymore. And Jughead is too Serpent-heavy. Betty is who we need, and she doesn’t get a lot to do this episode.
Oh, and the abandonment of the student council election subplot was whiplash-inducing. In the space of the first half of this episode, every character who had previously been interested in running dropped right the fuck out. Except Archie and Ethel, and Ethel isn’t even in the episode. Why make it a thing if it wasn’t going to be a thing?
But it’s not all bad:
With Archie arrested, does that mean Ethel becomes the student council president by default? Hey, it doesn’t have to pretty on the pedestal. A win is a win.
Look, you know I’m crazy for Betty at this point, so we’ll circle back around to her. Because she is the best thing about the episode, and the only truly reliable thing about the show. Her subplot, like I hoped for last episode, actually features time for the consequences of last week’s relentless action to soak in. Betty is rightly apprehensive about going back to school to face the “that’s her” looks. Her dad murdered Midge, and shot Moose. She should be nervous.
The most human scene of the episode comes when Betty tearfully has a sit-down with Fred and makes her apologies for Hal’s shooting of him. Fred handles this like a mature adult (in a world where parents like Hiram and Hermione exist, that’s a big deal), and it felt important.
Important, too, was Betty’s visit to Hal’s cell (The Silence of the Lambs allusion was deliciously on the nose). He drones on with his spiel about how you can’t lock up the darkness, but Betty simply says no. She won’t be like him, and she leaves.
Betty’s maturity may, hopefully, be spreading, though. Hermione is taking her own steps out of the darkness and into the light, and the moment when she comes to shake Fred’s hand after the election results shows the lightness and sensibility of Season 1 Hermione. We want her back, baby.
Archie has nothing along the lines of what you might call maturity, but he does finally make his big stand against Hiram, calling him out for taking advantage of Archie’s fear in the wake of Fred’s shooting. This kind of denies the fact that Archie was also motivated to be his gangsta self by wanting Hiram to like him for the sake of his relationship for Veronica, but any opposition to Hiram is okay with me.
Mayor McCoy is a surprise help in multiple points this episode, building her post-mayor career resume. She provides help and advice to Fred in the last days of his campaign, and she continues her run of impromptu legal counsel work when she joins Veronica, as her lawyer, to demand the million dollars back from Hiram. I’m digging this new, involved, Mayor McCoy.
Cheryl doesn’t get as much time to shine as she did last week, but she leads the pack in the “characters actually talking to each other” stakes. When she sees Hiram meeting with Penelope and Claudius, she immediately tells Veronica (who also immediately confronts Hiram about it). And when Penelope warns Cheryl not to go near the Serpent bar due to the impending raid organised by Hiram, she goes straight to Jughead and Skeet to work on a plan of action. We don’t deserve her.
Moose and Kevin finally mash face after all this goddamn time. Kevin finds Moose crying over the vandalism of Midge’s shrine in the riots, and when Kevin comforts him, Moose initiates the kiss. Yes blandly attractive white guys.
Fangs it turns out isn’t actually dead, by the way. That news was just a lie by the New Sheriff to rile up Skeet last episode. You’ve got competition, Moose.
The creepiest plot hook for next season comes from Polly, of all people. She consoles Alice, who is appropriately devastated by Hal’s actions and the unwanted attention from the townsfolk, and offers for a counselor from her cult to come talk to her. She says this with a lingering, sinister smile on her face. And given OUaT’s cancellation, we know Tiera Skovbye is free to cult it up next season. If we’re going to continue on the comic book villainy route, then why not?
Speaking of, the Legion of Doom is a lot of fun. Claudius will be supplying drugs through the prison; the Ghoulies will be the enforcers and dealers; Penny and New Sheriff will provide the necessary legal and law enforcement obfuscation; and Penelope Blossom mentions that Hiram has promised her a brothel to own/run. Wacky.
Oh, and Skeet gets fired from the diner this episode prior to Veronica’s trade for it, and when she tells the gang about the speakeasy, she says she wants Skeet to run it. Hey, as long he gets to keep wearing his uniform (or an even cuter and kitschier one), I’m here for it.