Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 4 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Oh, Archiekins! The writers are not serving you very well, are they? Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) in Season 2 has undergone a personality transplant that just isn’t working. From penning drippy love songs in his garage to Riverdale’s crazed avenger, Archie is the show’s brand name but also its Achilles heel. The lad is just crushingly dull, and any attempt make him edgier is doomed to be more try hard than Die Hard. Thank the Lord, then, that everybody around Archie (including the excellent cast) are so compelling and downright cool, otherwise this show would be Joe Gillis in the swimming pool at Norma Desmond’s mansion.
The Town that Dreaded Sundown is weak sauce and the least involving episode in Season 2’s run so far. It’s still early doors, admittedly. Again, a lot happened. Archie is forced to disband The Red Circle, he gets into a spot of bother with the Southside Serpents, Veronica joins his vigilante group as PR manager (she gets Red Circle t-shirts printed for the entire school), there’s a big fight in the rain that Guy Ritchie or Zack Snyder might have guest directed, and it’s all just getting a little bit too silly.
The good stuff, as ever, is happening around Archie Andrews. Betty (Lili Reinhart) is investigating The Black Hood and is horrified to discover her speech at the town’s 75th jubilee celebrations inspired the maniac’s campaign of terror against Riverdale (unless he’s messing with her for sick LOLs). Betty and Jug (Cole Spouse) hit the books to decipher the coded message sent to the girl along with the creepy note detailing the reasons for the slayings. (The highlight is Betty using a Nancy Drew book to “Break the code, solve the crime” as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper once said. Well, break the code. The crime wave is far from over yet, folks.)
Betty is also getting antsy about Jug’s new gal pal, Toni (Vanessa Morgan), who in one scene mocks Betty’s ponytail. Sorry newbie, but there some things that are off limits. Kev (Casey Cott) is so shocked by Toni’s bitchy remark, he chastises Toni, noting Betty’s ponytail is iconic and beyond reproach. You don’t just walk into Betty’s life and start making jokes about her hairdo.
Riverdale is a town split and riddled with class conflict. In a country that pretends not to have a class system, this aspect of the show is pretty daring and upfront about the chasm between the Haves and Have-nots. For starters, the Southside of town is photographed in more grungy tones and scuzzier locations. It’s a very comic-book depiction of poverty, but for such a stylised show, it works well. Jug is a young lad moving between two worlds, feeling like he doesn’t really belong in either of them. Archie’s his homeslice, he’s got a lovely girlfriend from the right side of the tracks and Veronica is all bling, but much of Jug’s dilemma revolves around his outsider status and it’s very well handled, dramatically and thematically, furthering the point that everything but Archie in Riverdale is riveting.
Episode 4: The Town That Dreaded Sundown ends with a homage to Scream. Betty is in her bedroom, it’s night time. The phone rings. She picks up, although sees the number reads ‘unknown’ and we hear the disguised voice of The Black Hood. All that’s missing is the psycho killer asking: “Do you like scary movies?”
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