I hope you all had a great Halloween. Which brings me to my first question regarding this week's episode of Riverdale: why did it not air on Halloween? Did the CW think nobody would be home?
I suppose that could be true, but Halloween fell on a Wednesday this year. Did they think a significant chunk of their viewership would be out late on a school night? I suppose it could be the case.
In any case, there are spoilers from here on out. You've been warned!
Betty (Lili Reinhart) wants answers after a mortician gives her information that suggests Alice, Betty's mother, might know more about the recent teen suicides in Riverdale than she lets on.
The game of Gryphons and Gargoyles has swept Riverdale High by storm, and Alice decides to sit Betty down to tell her the story of her experience, lest Betty and her friends take part in the game.
What follows is a "flashback" episode in which the parents are played by the actors who play their children. Lili Reinhart plays Alice, Camila Mendes plays Hermione, etc.
If you pay particular attention to the acting, you'll notice the younger cast is actually emoting differently. Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) is the biggest loser in school, but FP (played also by Cole Sprouse in this week's episode) is a confident ladies man. Cole's performance is distinct when portraying FP.
I was a little bit confused about the timeline. Sierra, Josie's mother, wrote "End Apartheid" on the mirror of the women's bathroom, but Alice said the episode took place in a time where "everything Smelled Like Teen Spirit." OK, so this was 1991 at the earliest.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released in September of 1991, and apartheid was repealed in June 1991. Seems a little extreme to vandalize your school that late in the game. Mandela had already been released from jail!
Why couldn't she have been a gay rights activist? Homosexuality was a way bigger deal back then. Being anti-apartheid in 1991 would have hardly been considered "bold" or "daring." It was the norm.
In my opinion, this was just virtue signaling. Apartheid was basically dead in 1991-1992. Speaking of which, we're expected to believe that Tom Keller and Sierra McCoy couldn't be an item because she is black and he is white. The episode actually ends with them declaring they couldn't be together because the era they lived in was too segregated and their parents didn't approve.
BOO! BOO! Riverdale is implied to be a town in upstate New York not far from The City. This is 1991. To say an interracial couple couldn't have existed in 1991 in the state of New York because of parental/societal disapproval just seems like a ploy for the writers to make Tom and Sierra not able to be together.
We also learned some puzzling truths about our characters. Alice used to be a Serpent, but then became a "good girl" following the death of the principal at the hands of the Gargoyle King. Furthermore, FP used to be a popular guy before joining the Serpents.
Perhaps what's most puzzling is how Penelope Blossom was revealed to be Clifford's adopted sister. That's right folks, orphan Penelope was selected by Clifford's parents to be his sister/wife, just because she has red hair. Yikes.
The episode ends with all the parents deciding to follow through with their destiny. It was intended to feel like the characters had arcs, but it's too contrived, too rushed. Don't get me wrong, where they started is fine and so is where they ended. But to imply the catalyst for the 180 degree change in ALL these kids was the events of this week's episode? Sorry Riverdale, I'm not down with that, you feel me?
Why couldn't we have had several flashback episodes? Riverdale episodes are 40 minutes long and there are 20+ episodes per season.
Season two sucked because it was padded, but by doing more flashback episodes, Riverdale could finally feel fresh again.
I recently rewatched season one, and the magic was there because these kids were all getting to know each other. There was magic in this week's episode because (through a The Breakfast Club parody) we got to see this same cast of actors go through it all again. The cast has chemistry, but the writing dug them into a ditch in season two.
This episode also proved that the kids DO NOT NEED a prison subplot, or a mafia subplot to be compelling. They just need a high school setting -- that's it.
The episode ended with Betty catching Jughead playing G&G. He's been brainwashed by the game, and is eager to meet the Gargoyle King. That's fine, but where's the suspense?
"Oh no, Jughead is going to kill himself." No he isn't. Jughead is not going to die. None of the main leads are, and so there's no suspense. You want to know what is suspenseful? Are Jughead and Betty going to break up? Is Veronica going to leave Archie for Reggie?
Those are legitimate nail-biters. The adults are too old for this show's young audience to care about, but the cast isn't. The fact that this episode was so well-received is a testament to how great the cast is... but also to how apathetic the audience is to the characters the young cast portray.
My solution? Get a new character. Hell, get two. A new guy and a new girl. Make them the villains, but make them so you love to hate them. Cast really sexy actors to play them and make them almost anti-heroes. Eventually make either the guy or the girl switch sides, become the love interest of one of the main characters, and ultimately work to overthrow the more evil one of the two.
The problem with villains like Hiram, the Black Hood or the Gargoyle King is that the kids don't get to be high school students. If the villains were high school students on the other hand...
Season one understood this. Cheryl, Chuck, and the teen Serpents were the villains. "But, but it was actually Hiram Lodge." Yes, but the screen time was dedicated to the teen villains.
In season two, the audience (which I assume is mostly not old enough to drink) was subjected to WAY TOO MUCH screen time with Hiram Lodge.
Hiram actually lost his intimidation factor because he was given so much screen time. I think if this show is going to carry on into future seasons, it needs to feel like a high school show. This means MOSTLY focusing on high school students.
I loved this week's episode, but it shot itself in the foot by making the parents (as teens) vow to never speak of the "Midnight Club" again. They all go their separate ways, and Alice (as an adult) explains they were never friends again.
NO!!!!! Why didn't you space this out, you fools!
Seeing the parents (as teens) sneak out and party it up G&G style after hours at Riverdale High was the levity this show needed.
We're told they did this for several weeks. Great, why not make a run of say three episodes where you space those few weeks out?
Who knows, maybe there'll be more. After all, we didn't see Mary -- Archie's mom -- in this week's episode. We were also treated to Mark Consuelos' son playing a young Hiram. He's a spitting image! Surely they can find a use for him.
We BARELY got to see Fred and Hermione's relationship. BARELY. All that sexual tension in season one. It alluded to the fact they had a much deeper bond in high school. NOPE! They cuddled a few times, and then never spoke again after the death of their principal. Not exactly Romeo and Juliet is it?
So given the fact there can't be anymore flashback episodes (Alice told Betty they never spoke to each other again after the death of the principal), how can Riverdale move forward? Well, it's simple: a flashback episode that goes back two years to the current generation's freshmen year of high school.
It's genius! We can see how Riverdale used to be before Veronica's arrival. We can even see Veronica being a bully (she described herself as being "worse than Cheryl" at her old school) in New York. Make it a holiday episode in the style of "It's a Wonderful Life," in which Veronica gets to see what life would be like had she never come to Riverdale.
Come on Riverdale producers, hire me. I'm ready!
What did you think of this week's episode? Do you want to see another one? Let me know in the comments. ~Yanis Khamsi