Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 13 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Move over, The Sound of Music. How to solve a problem like Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) has been a major issue since Riverdale began. It’s not the actor’s fault, KJ Apa gives it his all, nor especially the writing team. Archie – the jock with a heart of gold and songsmith of bland ballads – is just not as inherently interesting as B (Lili Reinhardt), V (Camilla Mendes) or Jughead (Cole Sprouse). Poor Archie, he’s too much of a blank slate on to which is thrown all sorts of mad plots and weird character turns.
Archie could be absent from an entire episode – say he’s taken Vegas for a walk – and would viewers really notice he’s gone? Betty is the Nancy Drew up to her neck in crazy family dramas (not to mention her sordid Dark Betty internet escapades). Veronica is a girl in a very complicated relationship with her mum and dad (they’re gangsters), and Jug is a virtual orphan, caught between loyalty to his Serpent crew and an unreliable father, who blows hot and cold. The writers have tried to make Archie complicated by all sorts of means – including having his dad shot – but it always feels try hard.
While other plot lines have run the gamut from plain silly (remember the Red Circle?) to distasteful (the Miss Grundy saga), Archie’s romance with Veronica has been the most successful storyline to date, because it’s grounded in something relatable – a guy having to impress his girlfriend’s father. While the Black Hood mystery is still left unresolved, remember Archie saw the killer’s eyes at Pop’s Diner and when he looked at old man Swanson right before he exited stage left forever, he wasn’t convinced Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) had got the right guy. The second half of Season 2 has seen Archiekins proving his worth to Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos), a gangster who thinks Archie isn’t good enough for his daughter. The flame-haired dude has been interning for Hiram after school, after winning a wrestling contest, proving to Riverdale’s Scarface that, while Archie has enjoyed pursuits including writing music and singing, he is, in fact, a real man. Hiram’s unreconstructed machismo would definitely have Veronica rolling her eyes. Time to get woke, Hiram!
With shadowy Agent Adams (John Behlmann) putting the squeeze on Archie for the goods on Mr and Mrs Scarface (sorry, Hiram and Hermione Lodge), the high-schooler finally fesses up to V’s Pop about everything. Archie, bless him, sings like a canary about Agent Adams, the wiretap he was asked to secretly place in his office, how he was totally devoted to Veronica and didn’t want to help the J Edgar out, even if it meant threats to Fred Andrews (Sideshow Luke Perry), who may or may not have hired illegal immigrants from Canada for cash-in-hand work a few years back. Archie’s willing to go down to prove his love for Ronnie and loyalty to the Lodge clan. Hiram takes the news of this borderline betrayal like a typical mafioso – is it time for Archie to try on a pair of concrete boots? The end scene is superbly tense and the big reveal quite brilliantly done, showing us that Hermione’s capacity for duplicity and conniving is just as strong as her husband’s. Archie is now well and truly in the Lodges’ circle of trust. How long he stays there remains to be seen.
The other main plot this episode involves Betty helping mum Alice (Madchen Amick) and Chic (Hart Denton) cover up the murder and body of a drug dealer. As Jug says in his opening monologue, this episode of foul play changes the Cooper clan forever and it’s a very intense path to lead these characters down. Chasing a hooded maniac is all very fun and Scooby-Do, but snuffing out a drug dealer in your living room and having your teenage daughter help clean up the blood and guts is a whole different kettle of messed up. What’s even more bonkers is Betty telling Jug everything and having him and FP (Skeet Ulrich) become accessories to murder, by getting rid of the dealer’s car – parked outside the Cooper house for two days – and Poppa Serpent burying the body and throwing lime over it for good measure. This episode is subtitled The Tell-Tale Heart, after Edgar Allan Poe’s classic horror story, and it’s abundantly clear Betty is having trouble processing all the madness unleashed by Alice and Chic’s actions that night. Will her profound sense of guilt bring la Casa Cooper crashing down? We still don’t know exactly what transpired… is Alice covering for Chic? Did she do it herself? In the living room, with the candleholder? Colonel Mustard?
Hal (Lochlyn Munro) is super-suspicious of Chic and his motives, when he isn’t busy bedding Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt). And what to make of the long-lost son cutting up a picture of the Cooper family, with Hal removed from the scene? Is Chic plotting against his father? Given the antagonism between them, it’s left for us to ponder if Hal is, indeed, the father at all. Betty is increasingly uneasy about Chic, too, and she’s beginning to see through his wounded bird act and noting with horror the total grip he has on Alice. One thing Riverdale isn’t is boring.
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