Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 15 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
After the last lacklustre episode, Riverdale bounces back with Episode 15, which boasts typically fast plotting and several crucial narrative points, ones that could have major implications for Archie (KJ Apa), Jug (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Reinhardt) and Veronica (Camilla Mendes).
Realising he’d been removed from the scene (i.e. taken away for a nice weekend to the sticks), so Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) could start buying up more properties around the south side of town, Jug decides to use journalistic fury against V’s dad, exposing his corrupt empire once and for all. Referring to the crooked entrepreneur as acting like Count Dracula (snapping up real estate left, right and centre, so he can spread his malefic influence), Jug is all set to take Mr Lodge down to Chinatown. But then Pop Tate (Alvin Sanders) gives the lad a sob story about his guilt at having sold the diner to Hiram. That puts the kibosh on Jug going public. What’s interesting here, however, is the businessman’s grand scheme is finally revealed: Riverdale’s answer to Daniel Plainview wants to drink everybody’s milkshake! By this, we mean he’s purchased the old site of Southside High and intends to transform it into a for-profit jailhouse and bring a new prosperity to his hometown, while getting rid of the riff-raff. It’s all about gentrification, folks, a hugely prevalent social issue in many parts of the western world, where the gap between rich and poor is widening all the time and social cleansing is afoot.
There are also major developments involving the ongoing battle between Betty and Chic (Hal Denton). First, Betty uses friend Kevin (Casey Cott) to find out info (via webcam chats) about Chic, but they get rumbled because it was a stupid plan. Then, before you can say ‘nuked the fridge’, Clifford Blossoms identical twin bro, Claudius (Barclay Hope), pitches up from out of nowhere and there’s a public reading of a will (how very 1920s murder mystery). One of Clifford’s stipulations regarding money being given to heirs and relatives is a DNA test proving a blood relation to the Blossom clan. A lightbulb goes off in Betty’s head and she becomes determined to prove Chic is all wrong and not related to the Coopers at all.
The show’s homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) has provided lots of creepy fun and Hart Denton is a superb addition to the cast, playing up Chic’s wounded bird vulnerability while hinting at darker impulses and maniacal game-playing. Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is completely oblivious and bought into Chic’s ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ shtick wholesale, without questioning him or the fact she’s totally down with ruining her marriage and family for a boy she barely knows. Thankfully, Hal (Lochlyn Munro), Betty and Polly (Tiera Skovbye) can see through the doe-eyed routine.
We mentioned this last episode, but with the stop-start schedule and the CW ordering more episodes for the Season 2 run, the whole thing is starting to flag a wee bit. The Black Hood murders plot was fantastic, but since that (kind of) wrapped up (Archie couldn’t be sure the cops had got the right man), the show has introduced more stories than it can possibly handle. It borders on greedy or perhaps highlights that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and his writing team are guilty of making it up as they go along and agreed to a 22-episode arc without knowing the whole storytelling structure. More than a few episodes have felt aimless and padded out. There are still about six episodes to go – including a musical special (how very Glee) – and yet another break, meaning Season 2 will wrap up some time in May. The last thing anybody wants is a sense of fatigue to creep in. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is on the Netflix horizon and could well steal Riverdale’s thunder.
Being a Riverdale fan, we’ve learned to accept the good with the not so good. Part of the show’s peculiar charm is its excellent cast, amusing dialogue and those gorgeous production values and lighting schemes. But the consistent ‘throw everything at the wall and hope some of it sticks’ approach to storytelling is a problem. With the Netflix model such a winning release strategy in the era of the binge-watch – making all episodes immediately available – the show’s weekly format is starting to feel tired and very 20th century.
Riverdale is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.
Photos: The CW Network