Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 3 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Riverdale might look like a quiet and thoroughly idyllic place to live, but so does Twin Peaks (and we all know that place is more than a little kooky). Episode 3 of Season 2 (The Watcher in the Woods) continued to venture into the dark heart of the mountain town, introducing a drugs ring, teenage cruising and Archie (KJ Apa) going full Second Amendment lunatic, forming a vigilante movement he dubs The Red Circle against The Black Hood (that’s what the slasher-style killer is calling himself). The Black Hood is responsible for the Fred Andrews (Sideshow Luke Perry) shooting, the murder of Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel) and the attempted hit on Moose (Cody Kearsley) and Midge (Emilija Baranac). To prove he’s The Black Hood, the masked maniac returned Fred’s missing wallet with said threatening letter. The mystery villain also sent a letter to Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) – Riverdale’s resident journalist, nosey-parker, maybe-witch – informing Riverdale residents they are all going to die…
One of the chief enjoyments to be found in Riverdale is the clever spin on stereotypes. It takes stock figures and spins them on their heads. Archie should be a dumb jock, but isn’t. Jughead should be the smelly weirdo nobody talks to, but he’s cool. Betty is prim and proper, but beneath her apple pie exterior is Dark Betty, which Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) jokes is the girl’s hidden BDSM side. Veronica is the poor little rich girl who refuses to play the part and so on and so forth. Nobody in the show acts the way they’re supposed to act.
This was brought into prominent play in Episode 3, which focused a lot on Kevin, the bravely out-and-proud teenager who loves to spend his evenings ‘night jogging’, aka. cruising for illicit sex in the forest. Betty’s conservative side (Republican Betty?) is shocked by Kev’s activities, but attempted to mask her objection by acting concerned for his safety. Kev rightly called bullshit on his gal pal, not just highlighting her hypocrisy and seeing right through the ‘friendly concern’, but quite movingly pointing out she, as a middle-class heterosexual popular girl with a nice boyfriend, is the very definition of social acceptability and does not remotely understand what it’s like to be different or gay in small town America. That’s Betty told, then.
The Kevin narrative reached a perfect endnote with Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) giving his boy a hug and mentioning that maybe it’s time he admitted his lad’s gay and that it’s totally cool. A beautiful little scene sending out a positive message to parents and their kids alike, what’s more, it didn’t feel like a show getting on a soapbox, but felt integral to the story and Kevin’s character development. Lovely stuff.
Meanwhile: with Archie busy setting up The Red Circle with his football team, Jughead entered Southside High proper and relaunched the failing school’s newspaper. He also met Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), a Serpent and potential rival for Betty. Jughead learned a gang in school – The Ghoulies – are slinging a drug known as Jingle Jangle. What the what? As a street name for drugs, Jingle Jangle is up there with Chris Morris’s Cake from Brass Eye. (“We all like to party, yeah? But only a fool would enter the nightmare of cake.” )
Anyway, Jug got beaten up for sticking his nose into other people’s drugs business (unless it was Serpent ‘Sweet Pea’, played by Jordon Connor), who was left a bit miffed by Jug refusing to don the Serpent leather jacket and act like one of the boys). One thing is damn clear: Southside High could use a visit from Dangerous Minds Michelle Pfeiffer or Tom Berenger’s The Substitute. Ofsted would have the school shut down in the heartbeat. It looks more like San Quentin than a local high school.
And what to make of Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos)? This episode, he sat Archie down for a brandy (despite him being underage) and encouraged the fraught lad’s mania for avenging his father’s shooting at Pop’s Diner. He’s clearly up to no good, but we all know it’ll be Veronica left in the mascara-streaked tears, when her parents come a cropper. Poor Ronnie is determined to connect with her crooked old man and see the good in him. But why would Hiram have such a stake in encouraging Archie to set up The Red Circle and act like he’s the real lawman in town?
Series Creator Roberto Aguirre-Secasa has left that plot point dangling. Hiram is playing a game, only we viewers don’t know whether it’s Mouse Trap, Monopoly, Operation or Cluedo.
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