Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 20 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
The end is nigh! As Season 2 edges towards its conclusion, the Black Hood mystery is all set for the big reveal. Was it Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) all along? Distraught Betty (Lili Reinhardt) seems to think so, this week getting her Nancy Drew on with cousin Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) to expose Hal once and for all.
As discussed last time, Hal terrorising Riverdale’s residents would explain the weird relationship between Betty and the Black Hood, and in Episode 20 (titled Shadow of a Doubt, after the Hitchcock movie), Hal admitted to his dear daughter that, he too, shares a dark side. But hold on a second there, Columbo! Is Hal the proverbial red herring? There has been a lot of focus on him in recent episodes – arguably too much focus – and while his plucky, albeit guilt-ridden, daughter has built up a strong case against him, it could all be circumstantial. However, he did seem extraordinarily chill for a guy who learned his wife Alice (Mädchen Amick) was involved in murdering a drug dealer in the Cooper living room, not to mention he was nothing but love and understanding when Betty confessed she’d set the Black Hood on Chic like a bloodhound on a hare.
But what if there were two Black Hoods in town? One is real and the other a fraud? Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) has played the serial killings to his advantage throughout the season, using the town’s collective paranoia and resentments to his distinct advantage. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for him to get one of his goons to play dress up and, say, stage a shooting at the mayoral debate at town hall. While the OG Black Hood shot Fred (Sideshow Luke Perry) in Pop’s Diner at the end of Season 1, the threats against his life hence have been concocted by Hiram in a mad and dangerous scheme to keep working man Fred in check and from getting too uppity. It’s just interesting that Hiram has benefited the most from the Black Hood’s presence in town.
In terms of overall arc, Episode 20 cranks up the Black Hood versus Betty plot to gripping effect. The scenes between Hal and Betty are loaded with tension and sinking dread, with Munro playing his scenes brilliantly with Reinhardt. The shootout at town hall and Southside Serpent Fangs Fogarty (Drew Ray Tanner) being stitched up for Midge’s murder during Carrie: The Musical also proved tense affairs, but the fact of the matter is: Riverdale’s 22 episodes run is just way too many and in the age of web series doing whatever the hell they like – be it 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 episodes per season – American television needs to realise it doesn’t have to conform to old standards and formats. It’s 2018, not 1998.
For a show with a very uneven, some might say ‘schizoid’, tone, the number of episodes has left this second run feeling like two seasons worth of story jammed into one. We all love Riverdale because it’s trashy, fun, melodramatic, ironic and deeply weird on occasion, but the first season’s 13-episode arc was about right, in terms of storytelling. Hit shows in America lead network execs to demand more and it’s not always the right move. It’s partly the reason Twin Peaks was killed in its tracks – too much of a good thing can lead to ruin. A bit of quality control wouldn’t go amiss with Riverdale going forward, although the serial-killer-on-the-loose arc has been generally excellent, and the show’s dark heart continues to be pleasantly and consistently surprising.
Riverdale is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.
Photos: The CW Network