Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 6 of Riverdale Season 2. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Drag racing, drug busts and Cheryl Blossom playing teen detective. It was all going off in this week’s episode.
With half of Riverdale’s kids hopped up on the Jingle-Jangle (aka. ‘the JJ’, as per Veronica), Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens) and Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) cracked down (pun totally intended) on the drug-taking and dealing and clean up their wholesome mountain town. Which basically meant the Southside Serpents and rivals the Ghoulies got it in the neck, via mass arrests, like in a fascist police state. The south side of town might be on the wrong side of the tracks, but once their degeneracy crossed over into Riverdale’s north side so brazenly, aka. WhitePicketFenceVille, action had to be taken!
If Episode 5 (When a Stranger Calls) saw the quartet at each other’s throats, Episode 6 (Death Proof) saw reconciliation between warring factions. Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) became best buds again over shakes at Pop’s. She told V all about the Black Hood and their twisted relationship. Archie (KJ Apa) and Jug (Cole Spouse) broed-up to take on the Ghoulies in a drag race – not a RuPaul one, a 1950s juvenile delinquent movie one, with Betty putting on the oily overalls and playing Miss Monkey Wrench (brilliant – girls can be petrolheads too, ya know). The inter-fighting lasted all but five minutes.
There was blowback from the Nick St. Clair assault, too, a situation which rang with poignancy, especially given the scandals engulfing the media and film world. While the show can, on occasion, be tonally all over the shop, as if the writers’ room have too many ideas and they’re putting all their eggs into one basket, the way the team and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa deal with subtexts and themes is one of Riverdale’s strong suits and why it makes for compulsive viewing each episode. What’s even better is that the writers tackle social issues and investigate stereotypes and gender politics within a heavily-stylised, comic book environment, leaving the soapbox platform at home. It’s a progressive show without clamouring for woke points, and that is wonderful.
Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) also got to do some neat stuff in Episode 6. She discovered her sick and twisted mother, Penelope Blossom, made a deal with the St. Clairs to hush things up. The recurring character is one of Riverdale’s funniest and darkest, and in this episode, Petsch shined. After Season 1’s big reveals, Cheryl has been forced to reassess her life and it’s all kind of tragic. Not Veronica’s ‘Poor little rich girl’ sad, but like, ‘properly messed up’ sad. Her venomous barbs and fake sunny disposition hide both her profound sorrow and a soul made of iron. Nothing can hurt her, given she lost everything she loved. Her identity has exploded into fragments but she’s putting on the same old front.
Cheryl might be clinging on to Riverdale’s Queen B crown, but she’s also amenable to helping others on occasion, when the mood takes, or it might play to her advantage, i.e. punishing her mum further (their relationship is hilariously brutal on an emotional level). And so Cheryl got her own giallo movie mini-narrative in Episode 6, as she helped Betty. A childhood memory about a mysterious person known as the Sugar Man ultimately let Betty manoeuvre a bit of leverage against Riverdale’s masked serial killer, The Black Hood, who is still intent on causing Miss Cooper a lot of trouble, as well stop the influx of the JJ into town. Italian giallo movies often feature characters involved in mysteries, where the unlocking of a repressed or half-forgotten memory sitting at the back of the mind is a key trope and plot strand. Cheryl’s little detective side mission paid off.
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