Riverdale has so much potential. Last season, it was this close to delivering on that potential. The premise of a darker, moodier Archie comic turned teen drama in 2017 is great. The cast is spot on. So why has so much of the fun been sucked out of Riverdale? Around this time last season, I was promising you that Riverdale was worth your time. We’re five episodes into season two and so far, I can’t say the same.
I watched the last two episodes last night after coming home from a couple events while I wasn’t exactly sober. I wrote down two surprisingly coherent things:
1. The black hood is the dumbest
2. Why isn’t anyone making out?
The latter isn’t exactly true. Jughead and Toni Topaz have kissed briefly and there was that confusing Archie/ Veronica shower sex scene but there should absolutely be more making out. And the black hood is definitively the dumbest. If you sit in the vicinity of my desk at work, or if you’re one of two living beings (one man, one dog) who live with me, you’ve heard me ranting about the biggest problem of this season of Riverdale: Too. Much. Murder. There hasn’t been an actual death in a few episodes but the threat of murder is there. There are guns, serial killers on the loose, gang initiations and danger at even corner. So much danger. I understand that Riverdale is not your typical high school drama. These kids are never going to be stressing over math homework or getting stuck in detention (I just realized there may never be a The Breakfast Club style detention episode and now I’m angry). The least interesting part of last season was the murder mystery but it was basically the foundation of the show so I get it; they were stuck with it. I hoped there would be less homicidal intrigue this season since everything else worked so much better but, alas, instead of less, we got more.
The big question of season one was Who Killed Jason Blossom? If we’re leaning into the Big Mystery in every season model, the question of season two should have simply been: Who Shot Fred Andrews? It should not have been: who shot Fred Andrews, and Moose and Midge, and killed Miss Grundy, AND who is the black hood? It’s all too much. Throw in some jingle jangle and you’ve got a piping hot mess. (My Big Mystery in this season is how these actors keep a straight face saying JINGLE JANGLE every few lines.) The sheer volume of crimes to solve in one town not only makes the show wildly unrealistic, it takes the focus away from all the things I love about Riverdale, like Jughead Jones.
Sure, my crush Cole Sprouse is getting lots of screen time and the ability to show off that he’s by far the best actor of the bunch but instead of fighting with Serpents or solving ciphers, he should be spending more time romancing Betty and/or Toni. The one line that made me swoon all season was when Jughead looked at Betty before he went off to drag race for no other reason than Grease exists and said, “You’re an enigma, Cooper.” She had just broken up with him through Archie but put aside their drama to help Jughead win his race with her Cool Girl car knowledge. It was a fleeting romantic moment but then I remembered that Betty broke up with Jughead because she’s being blackmailed by a serial killer with a Scream villain voice and Jughead is racing because he wants the Serpents to stop selling a drug named JINGLE JANGLE and I was back to “bish, whhhaaa?”
Last season, I wrote that Riverdale was working because it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. I decided that Riverdale was in on the joke. This season has been pure jokes – unintentionally. Every time Archie goes all vigilante, I laugh. Every time Jughead calls the Serpents by any of their silly nicknames, I laugh. Every time Betty says Sugar Man, I laugh a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I am still thoroughly entertained by this show but only because I usually watch it while slightly intoxicated and everyone is still really pretty.
Some final thoughts: Less Mark Consuelos, more Skeet Ulrich and Luke Perry, please. Cheryl Blossom is being criminally underused. The strongest story arc of the season came from Cheryl’s scary attempted rape by the hands of a character ripped from a Bret Easton Ellis novel (played by a grown-up Zach Florrick from The Good Wife). They handled this timely story well and as usual, Madelaine Petsch was exceptional. When Cheryl delivered, “You can put your cape away Archie. The Pussycats already saved me,” I actually teared up. I was cheering loudly during the entire scene when the Dolls and Veronica were beating on Cheryl’s potential rapist. I was also shouting, “yaaas Queens!” Speaking of Josie and the Pussycats, they have also been shafted by the murder focus. I WAS PROMISED A REGGIE AND JOSIE LOVE STORY DAMMIT. Once again, Riverdale is failing its characters of colour. And Kevin. They are also failing Kevin. Less importantly, KJ Apa hasn’t taken his shirt off in WEEKS.
All I want from Riverdale is love triangles, high school rivalries, some good ol’ fashioned make out scenes and some basic teenager/parental drama with just a splash of murder and intrigue. Is that too much to ask?