Riverdale Season 4 Episode 2 – TV Review
Don’t let the gratuitous Mad Dog abs and lingering evil cult drama fool you: there is a tiny smidge of emotional character interactions, and some high school hijinks, hiding in this episode.
Riverdale may one day soon be its former, Season 1 self.
Don’t you want to believe?
TL;DR Betty wants to believe in Kevin, who she re-befriends and works with (as well as Charles) to save Alice from The Farm; Mad Dog joins the football team, putting Reggie out; because his dad beats him; but Archie helps; Jughead is recruited to change schools to some snooty, private school that is most certainly not evil nuh uh; Veronica declares she won’t be testifying in either of her parents’ defence; Cheryl begins an escalating prank war with a new principal, Kerr Smith.
I’ll miss OG Principal. But that guy did make some amazingly bad decisions.
So let’s actually start with Cheryl, who runs up against the abrasive and flippant Principal Kerr Smith, who wants to cancel the back to school dance. In retaliation, Cheryl just hosts a fuck-off huge party at Thistle House (while having to keep anyone from finding Jason’s corpse in a hidden chamber), but Kerr calls the cops on them, and it’s on, bitch. And Cheryl also puts a beehive in his office (he’s allergic to bees, but sadly doesn’t get stung). This is the kind of arch, Cheryl pettiness I live for. Meanwhile, Archie invites an “oh, you’re still here?” Mad Dog to come to school and get his diploma, and also try out for the football team. Mad Dog does well, because he is literally a truck, which pisses off former superstar Reggie. But don’t think you can enjoy any of their hostility, because it turns out Reggie’s dad beats him for performing worse than Mad Dog. Archie lends a sympathetic ear, and things seems unusually quickly resolved by the end of the episode. Meanwhile, Veronica starts getting harassed by paparazzi, who are desperate to know which of her criminal parents she is going to side with. Veronica eventually deduces that Hiram is the one who’s been talking to the press and telling them how the illegal things at the speakeasy actually were her idea. So she holds a press conference to confirm that, but also that she only did them under duress from her parents. And that she won’t be helping either Hiram or Hermione, after all. Baller. Meanwhile, Jughead gets an offer from a snooty private school to come study there. Everyone mostly agrees the place is kind of gross and elitist, but they think it’ll make Jughead happy (implied burn for Jughead. Ouch), so he does. And over in actual plot land, which is Betty’s home turf, Kevin comes grovelling to be Betty’s friend, again. She falls for it, but then Charles (who I had forgotten all about. Oops) reveals he’s been surveilling Kevin, and Kevin is still in touch with Fangs. Betty then uses Kevin to feed false information to Fangs and The Farm, with a caught Kevin claiming he only wants his boyfriend back, not The Farm in its entirety. Charles still finds him hard to trust, but Betty makes the leap of faith and brings Kevin in on their plans to save Alice.
I also forgot that Alice was undercover agent, too. I guess I kind of blocked out that scene from the Season 3 finale. If only the rest of Season 3 was so easy to erase from my mind.
So yeah, with last week taking the time to properly farewell Fred, it looks like we’re back to business as usual for Riverdale. Which unfortunately means a lot of dark, dumb bullshit.
But I’m going to take Reggie’s little subplot, and the brewing conflict over silly school stuff between Cheryl and Kerr, as cautious good signs that Riverdale is moving in the right direction.
And you better hurry up, guys. As the characters state this very episode, this is the start of senior year. Which in teen soap terms means this is the last hurrah before we enter the choppy, post-high school years.
Why I hate this episode:
You know what we don’t need at the start of a season that needs to return us to form? A gothic private school to transfer one of our main characters to. Way to segregate Jughead’s plot lines.
And why is it named Stonewall, but apparently has nothing to do with gay rights? Why would you invoke that, writers?
Another more unlucky knock against Jughead this episode is the close of the episode, where everyone is part of a search party looking for him in the forest. Honey, Elite Season 2 literally did that about five seconds ago. I know it was already filmed by that point, but that’s still pretty rough.
Betty will get her praise below, but goddamn, are we really still going on about The Farm? Kevin says they’re holing up and arming themselves. Do you have any confidence that Riverdale will have anything valuable or even competent to say when doing an allusion to Waco? No. The answer is no.
Similarly, was anyone begging for more Mad Dog? My eyes rolled hard enough when Archie’s stupid gym showed up, but then he brought Mad Dog to school, too? The less we’re reminded of that whole juvie nonsense, the better. As lovely and comically oversized as Mad Dog’s abs may be.
I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of vulnerable Reggie. It would be strange to bring up something so serious, and to have it resolved (mostly offscreen) within one episode. If he was a super minor character, maybe. But Reggie is basically first string supporting. There’s got to be more, right?
There’s a gratuitous sex scene near the start of the episode where Archie/Veronica and Betty/Jughead bang in a scene edited in parallel. Come on, show. This is unnecessary. You can be better than this empty titillation. It was so conveyor belt “we’re a sexy teen show” that it stuck out.
Oh, and Veronica performs (dear God, let it be for the last time) at the speakeasy prior to her press conference and Riverdale queefs out a perplexingly half-hearted rendition of All That Jazz. It was nice that Cheryl and Toni got to be backup dancers, but big yikes on Veronica’s as-usual underwhelming vocals, and the lazy choreography. Could you just not, Riverdale?
But it’s not all bad:
I admire Veronica’s decision to choose neither parent and essentially wash her hands of the whole mess. Let’s hope the show honours her wishes. I’ve been praying for Hiram to go for longer than I can remember, and Hermione hasn’t been cool since Season 1, so I wouldn’t be sad to see the back of her, either.
Props to Veronica’s subplot for being largely unobtrusive to the episode in general (save for the musical number). Has Riverdale finally realised that we don’t fucking care about her mafia family trash?
The real shining hope of the episode has to actually go to Cheryl. Yes, I’ve still got some concerns about her Jason hidey hole, but I’m salivating over the prospect of a proper high school soap showdown between the resident Alpha Bitch and a new principal. Having him played by teen drama royalty Kerr Smith is a huge plus.
I’ve also got to side with Kerr on the decision to cancel the back to school dance. Because he’s right: multiple murders occurred at the last one. Even Cheryl has to concede that point.
Reggie has some long-awaited character development this week. Like I said, I hope it’s not all we get from him. It’s certainly a more compelling angle for him than just being Veronica’s bouncer/dildo.
Betty gets saddled with The Farm stuff, but I’m going to continue to believe that Riverdale is just doing their best to sweep it along and out the door. I think the hand waving the show has to do with Kevin is a bit much to swallow (and do we really care if Fangs comes back or not?), and I literally forgot Charles existed. But if this shit is getting wrapped up, they’ve got my blessing.
I’m not too psyched on Stonewall Prep, but they do have the ever hot Sam Witwer as the teacher who recruits Jughead. And that douchey Russian guy from Deadly Class (remember that? Bless) as a student. There’s potential. I also appreciated that even Veronica thought of the school as snooty garbage.
Oh, and my single favourite scene of the episode was Cheryl’s party getting broken up by Kerr Smith’s tip off. Cheryl is pissed. Off. And her outfit is great.