Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 12 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Riverdale is well into its second season run and the show remains one of the most joyously cheesy and bonkers programmes around. A postmodern mishmash of genres and a love letter to Twin Peaks, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s serial shouldn’t work, for its personality is schizoid and its mad rush in terms of storytelling can sometimes create a jarring effect, like either the story team suffer from ADHD or they’re worried the audience does. Yet this peculiar messiness is oftentimes precisely the reason Riverdale is so compelling, always watchable and ridiculously entertaining. The show wants to be everything to everyone and, while there’s danger in that, it’s to be applauded for taking chances and never playing it safe. 1950s melodrama, biker gang movie, gangster saga, serial-killer mystery, love story, growing pains angst and romance – Riverdale is all those things, with a lighting style straight out of 1970s Italian horror cinema.
Episode 12 is largely focused on two big storylines: Archie’s internship with the town’s answer to Tony Montana (Hiram Lodge) and Jughead’s battle to stop the Serpents’ lair from being destroyed by Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens) and Sheriff Keller (who are working in cahoots with, yep, you guessed it, Hiram Lodge). Directed by Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), Episode 12 features the most drop-dead gorgeous lighting in the show’s history to date. Its bursting primary colours in neon game has always been strong, and it’s relatively rare for a television serial to have such an expressionist look and use lighting so poetically, rendering the world hyper-real, dreamlike and at times spooky. Veronica’s reflection in the church floor, as she walks towards the altar to take confession, is an extraordinary moment – it’s so pictorially beautiful and inventive that it’s tempting to declare such images are too good for television. Images like that deserve the big screen.
Archie (KJ Apa) spends most of the episode being programmed by Agent Adams (who still hasn’t flashed a badge) to gain intel on Mr. Lodge (Mark Consuelos). Hosting a poker night at Pop Tate’s with his goombah associates, Hiram has Archie serving drinks and … unblocking the toilet, where he just so happens to hear a Québécois mobster named Papa Poutine (yes, really) plotting to snuff out Hiram because he’s gone soft. Have you finished laughing at ‘Papa Poutine’ yet? Naming yourself after a Canadian dish – posh chips and gravy – is some seriously weird thinking. It’s like an East End gangster calling himself Dave Pie and Mash or Jack Jellied Eels. It doesn’t exactly strike fear into the heart as much as Scarface or Franky the Beast, right?
We also get another glimpse of Dark Betty this week. The town’s Nancy Drew (Lili Reinhardt) admits to her brother, Chic (Hart Denton), that she’s got a dark side and needs to find an outlet for it. So Betty dons the black wig and hosts internet chat room peep shows, which is what her older brother does for money. Wow, Riverdale is getting super dark! But is turning Betty into a potential Laura Palmer type with a secret life the way to go? She and Veronica (Camilla Mendes) feel like such Lynchian archetypes, with raven-haired Ronnie increasingly becoming akin to Audrey Horne – she doesn’t give a crap about school, works for her daddy, has a very complicated relationship with her daddy and is very much the spoilt little rich girl. Jughead, too, has shades of Bobby Briggs and James Hurley to him. Riverdale loves Twin Peaks so much, don’t forget, that Aguirre-Sacasa cast Mädchen Amick in the show.
Speaking of Amick’s Alice Cooper, Episode 12 ends with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. We know Chic flashes ass for cash on websites and is involved with criminal low-life types, but what on earth went down at la Casa Cooper this week? Betty walking in on her mum mopping up blood next to what looks like a very dead body? This is potentially game-changing stuff for the Cooper clan. Alice has been very protective of Chic since he came back into her life. Hal (Lochlyn Munro) has been kicked out of the house and he’s been sleeping with Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt), now working as a high-class hooker. And we thought Twin Peaks was a messed-up town…
Riverdale is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.
Photos: The CW Network