2018, pop culture, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.26, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

The devil you know.

Grade: B+

A “capo,” or caporegime, we learned tonight, is someone that does the killing – the dirty work of the boss. It widens the web of guilt, attaching other people to the sins of someone else.

Betty assists her mother get rid of the body of the man who came to the Cooper house, a crime that Jughead and FP will eventually get drawn into. Veronica negotiates with Mayor McCoy on behalf of her father. Archie gets pressured by Agent Adams. All of these tangential people are being drawn into the actions of others, almost against their will.

The energy of the episode catapults off last week’s, where, interestingly, Tall Boy was, in a sense, the capo of Mayor McCoy and Hiram Lodge. Now that Juggie knows that Tall Boy was working at the behest of Hiram, he sends back the head of General Pickens to the Lodges and uncovers the nefarious actions of Mayor McCoy – that the Lodges donated hush money to McCoy while she looked the other way on their business dealings.

What I love is that Jughead is, at his core, trying to do a good thing: stop his friends and family from being evicted. It’s getting overshadowed by, you know, covering up a murder but it’s still super nice! Veronica stops Mayor McCoy from going public of her crimes by threatening to release the information of her affair with Sheriff Keller, which would decimate them, their families and their social standings.

Archie is being pressured more and more by Agent Adams, who wants to get Hiram on tape. Archie uses the newspaper coverage of Papa Poutine’s murder to bring it up to Hiram, but Lodge isn’t budging. And when Archie doesn’t deliver the goods (and purposefully misleads the FBI), Adams goes after Fred with some made-up illegal immigrant worker business.

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.58.50 PM

Source: The CW // Cheryl was criminally underused this episode.

Upon a second visit to the dead body – wrapped in a rug and deposited in an old pipe – Betty discovers his phone, which show that he has a jealous girlfriend and a thriving drug-dealing career. This disproves my theory that he came to the house as a result of Betty or Chic’s cam-habits, but begs the question: is Chic doing drugs? Or is he involved in the dealing?

Betty cracks and involves Jughead in the cover-up. He, then, involves FP who utilizes his “getting rid of bodies” expertise to dissolve the body. He’s learned from his mistakes covering up Jason’s murder and he won’t be getting caught this time. Is it just me, or did we all gloss over the fact that FP got rid of Jason’s body?

After Archie comes clean to Hiram, that an FBI agent approached him but Archie hasn’t squealed, Hiram’s minion Andre – Hot Andre – comes to collect him for a visit with the boss. As the limo descends into darkness, conveniently scraping spookily against finger-like branches, Archie becomes more and more nervous.

And perched on the edge of a cliff, the river frothing below, is not Hiram Lodge. Instead, framed by liquid sheets of dark hair, Hermione Lodge is “the boss.” It turns out that, as we suspected, Agent Adams was not, in fact, an FBI agent. Instead, he was a test for Archie – to prove his loyalty. And the phrase, “capo,” comes back from the beginning of the episode. Agent Adams was the capo of Hermione. But more interestingly is the role, the active role, Hermione appears to be taking. She is not, perhaps, the capo of her husband. She might be an agent of chaos in her own right.

Archie is confused, and betrayed. However, the test worked: Archie didn’t snitch. But with the steely blackness of Hermione’s eyes, it doesn’t feel like a victory. It feels like a warning: that Archie is not safe, not because of Veronica, not ever.

This is the first time that the Riverdale ragtags didn’t involve the police in something that’s happened, and it marks an unholy shift in the narrative for me. Before, they circumvented the (relatively) hapless law enforcement when they had to, but they still were operating on the side of good. Now, with so many people moving to cover up a murder, and some getting deeper into the pull of mafia, our heroes of Riverdale are taking a distinctly antihero approach.

2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.25, “The Wicked and the Divine”

Are we going to ignore that it seems literally impossible to “decapitate” a bronze statue?

Grade: B-

In things I never thought I would say: I’m completely intrigued by Jughead’s storyline so far. He’s gone from annoying emo Dan Humphrey to annoying Serpent to now intrepid journalist and activist-ish. He’s fighting against the corrupt powers-that-be: Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy. But while he’s also fighting the good fight, he’s being tripped up by his old, dumb decisions: namely Miss Penny Peabody.

It’s Veronica’s confirmation, as we can discern from her couture fitting of a white satin dress. When I was confirmed, I wore a one-size-fits all robe and sweated it out with two hundred other 12-year-olds. But to each his own. Veronica’s whole family is coming into town…her crime family. According to Agent Adams, this provides a perfect opportunity, ostensibly, for Archie to dig up some good dirt on the Lodges. However, Archie, newly apprenticed to the Dark Lord, is having trouble balancing his two boyfriends (a problem I’ve never had). He’s been invited to work Hiram’s poker game with other industry kingpins.

Veronica is afraid of bringing Archie into the fold, into the family. Outsiders aren’t usually allowed in, but Hiram sees something in Archie that’s different. And either Veronica breaks up with him to protect him, or she forever keeps him at an arm’s distance. Veronica is grappling with her future in the family: both as a moll and as a scion. But I’m wary of Hiram’s sudden acquiescence about Archie’s role in the family: is he really okay with Archie taking a greater part?

And when Veronica eventually decides that she does not want Archie involved, it may be too late. At the poker game, he overheard two of the kingpins plotting to get rid of Hiram, whom they felt had become too weak. So when he suspects them of attacking, Archie warns Hiram. Veronica attempts to warn Archie off, but he already knows that Hiram is a monster. But then something happens that makes me unclear about Archie’s motives. This entire episode, I was operating under the assumption that Archie, in spite of himself, was actually enjoying being Hiram’s disciple and when Veronica tries to warn his about Hiram’s future plans – of which SoDale is “just the beginning” – Archie stops her from incriminating herself. Is he still loyal to Boyf Numero Uno, Agent Adams?

On the Southside, Serpents are being targeted as the suspects of defacing the General Pickens statue. Sheriff Keller regularly harasses Jughead and his friends with no evidence; Mayor McCoy allowed for the eviction of the entire trailer park. But the call is coming from inside the house. Those evictions spur Tallboy, who hates Jughead, to bring Penny Peabody, angry and irritated and tattoo-less, back into the fold for legal retribution. She, however, wants an eye for an eye: an end to Jughead at her own hands. FP, upon learning that Jughead skinned Penny’s tattoo and broke Serpent rules for attacking one of their own, says that Jughead will be the downfall of the Serpents. Okay, sis.

Juggie and Betty put up flyers to find the head, and get a call from a local scrap company. Someone’s found the head. When questioned, he admits to seeing someone unfamiliar around the scrapyard. In the most obvious twist, it’s Tallboy. He set up the decapitation, possibly with the Lodges, to bring Penny back and get rid of Jughead and FP, allowing him to take control of the Serpents.

Eventually, Papa Poutine, one of the kingpins that tried to get rid of Hiram, has been found dead and the Lodges get a cumbersome confirmation present: the head of General Pickens. Could it be that the Serpents know Tallboy co-operated with Hiram and now they’re taking their revenge?

In all of this drama, Betty’s induction into the world of cam-modeling seems relatively underplayed. If this were anything else, it would be the major storyline, but when I’m watching her and Chic, I can’t even muster up some energy. Betty’s “dark” side is being messily underutilized, and besides the fact that, like, she’s sixteen and that’s totally illegal for her to be a cam-model, I’m just not that interested. I don’t want to explore her darkness in a vacuum. Also Hal, who may or may not have fucked Penelope, refuses to live under the same roof as Chic, is going to a “Share B-n-B.”

Betty is more compelling when she’s putting her Nancy Drew skills to the test, and even more compelling when that puts her morality – and Dark Betty – in question.

And just when Betty and Jughead seem to be rekindling their flame, the lingering omission of her webcam life hangs between them. An omission that might come to light when one of Chic’s, or Betty’s, clients knocks on the Cooper door. A visit that ends with Alice Cooper cleaning his blood off her lacquered wood floor.

2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

Review of RIVERDALE Ch.23, “The Blackboard Jungle”

What’s with the backpack situation in Riverdale?

Grade: A

Riverdale is back! And all the dominos set up in the former half of the season are getting knocked down in the latter.

With the Black Hood unmasked (theoretically, I don’t believe it) we can move onto the mysteries of Lodge Industries. I personally would love a refresher on what they’ve done, but from what I can glean: Hiram Lodge, during and after being released from prison, has been using the Southside Serpents to depreciate land value in Riverdale and then swooping in to buy the land for development and gentrification. There also seems to be a drug element that wasn’t resolved before the mid-season finale, so I have to assume that that’s emanating from Casa Lodge.

But with the Black Hood nightmare over, the citizens of Riverdale are finding other ways to occupy their time. Utilizing Archie’s sleuthing, the FBI has sent a former Riverdale resident to recruit him into taking Hiram Lodge down. Despite the fact that Archie did nothing to solve the murder of Jason Blossom or the mystery of the Black Hood and that Betty did everything, the FBI is interested in him, mainly for his connection to Veronica and his own father’s involvement in Lodge Industries.

As an aside, the scene between FBI Guy and Archie could play equally as well as the introduction to a multi-episode gay porn arc. Agent Adams (gay) wants a few simple things from Archie: investigate the Nick St. Clair (Sinclair?) accident, and a deeper understanding of Lodge Industries.

Due to some nefarious dealings between Mayor McCoy and the Lodges (damn, they’re really earning their paycheck this season) Southside High has closed and its students are being move to Riverdale High. Normally, in comparison to teen murders and serial killers, normal storylines like school district consolidations would be a total bummer. But I’m just so glad that these kids are in class – I was worried about their college prospects. Now I’m just worried about the disturbing lack of backpacks amongst the Southside students.

And so while Veronica (who knew from her parents that Southside was closing), Archie and Betty are welcoming towards the merger – even as it muddies the water of a Bughead break-up (was it a break-up?) – others are not as enthused. Cheryl Blossom, backed by Reggie (hot) and a coterie of cheerleaders (a swarm of cheerleaders? A gaggle? A culture?), is using dog-whistle language to lament the loss of Riverdale’s above-average GPA. This seems oddly out of character for Cheryl (she’s a bitch, not a racist) so here’s my theory.

First, Cheryl is deeply insecure, and hates any change. Second, she’s also self-conscious of her own family’s changing socioeconomic status.

But at the core is the squaring off between Toni Topaz and Cheryl. Before the season started, the powers-that-be suggested that Cheryl would be getting an unexpected love interest. Basically, that’s code for “queer.” Now that we’ve seen Cheryl’s weird love for Josie, the stage has been set for a same-sex Cheryl romance. I’m here for it – Cheryl’s never read as particularly “straight” to me, and her kissing Archie at the end of season one felt much more like a desire for closeness than sexual tension.

So while Cheryl amps up the anti-Southside sentiment (leading to stricter censorship of Southside regalia, Jughead’s suspension and a burgeoning possibility of romance between Kevin Keller and Southside’s Fogarty – could we be getting two queer romances for the low, low price of $9.99 a month?) Betty’s B-plot involves the Mysteriously Pregnant Polly who is no longer Pregnant. Post-natal Polly has given birth to twins (“Juniper and Dagwood”) without telling the rest of her family. To make it up to her mother (?), Betty decides to locate Alice’s long-lost son.

They discover he’s living two towns over and his name is Charles. Against Hal’s express wishes, Alice and Betty visit him in his hollow-cheeked glory. Charles “Chic” Smith is doing some shady work making people’s “fantasies” come true and is appropriately resentful towards his birth family. After a tense first meeting, Betty goes back to the apartment complex only to find her brother being stabbed by a strange, hulking man. God, what isn’t gay porn in this show?

Inevitable creepiness (including some Chic standing over Betty while she’s sleeping – light fare) ensues, and that’s the that on that. Until next episode (!!!).

Archie uses Cheryl as a red herring in order to get close to Nick. I’m really hating how people keep using Cheryl (and her assault) as means to an end. In an attempt to get her mother to stop hustling (literally being a “courtesan”) Cheryl will do anything to get that money, even reliving painful memories and gifting Archie the blazer of her dead, hot brother.

Under the guise of getting Nick to replicate that hush money, Archie somehow scrounges up the money to fly to New York to intimidate Nick. His goal is to get Nick to admit that the Lodges broke his legs for attempting to rape Veronica.

Side note: there are a lot of layers to this, but let it not be forgotten that the Lodges were fine with Nick when they thought he just attempted to rape Cheryl, but broke his legs when they found out what he had done to their daughter. Rape culture, y’all.

Nick taunts Archie; Archie breaks Nick’s nose; and despite getting the hush money, the trip is painted as rather fruitless. Agent Adams admonishes Archie for getting “sloppy” and Archie does not get Veronica to admit that she told her parents about Nick’s assault on her. And when she turns the tables – sensing that he’s lying to her – Archie uses the fact that Cheryl (technically) blackmailed him into helping her under the threat of releasing the secret of Archie kissing Betty. Given the town they live in (with rapists, drug dealers, and serial killers) and the fact that all parties were single, Veronica has an annoyingly overblown reaction. “You kissed?” she asked, in the same diner where, weeks earlier, Archie’s father had been shot point-blank and left for dead.

In the last, lingering moments of an incredible episode, Archie gives a voice to something that we’ve (me’ve) all been thinking. “In your expert opinion, Agent Adams,” he says, his caveman-hot brows drawn close and his voice gravelly, “do you think we got the right Black Hood? Because I’m not so sure.”

Season 2B (is that what we’re calling it) is off to an epic start. I cannot wait to see what else is in store. I really enjoy that the mystery of the Black Hood lingers, but I’m excited to dig deep into the Lodge drama.

Until next time, think about the fact that no Southside Serpents had backpacks and the only one was a Coachella-appropriate red number from Cheryl that would only fit a popper and some Kleenex.

Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.18, “When a Stranger Calls”

Somehow Riverdale did the impossible – they made sex, drugs and murder boring.

Grade: C+

The episode conveyed as if they had taken the A-plots from three separate episodes, edited them down to fit into forty-two minutes and hoped that no one would notice. So many of the scenes lacked context or buildup; they were all just heightened emotion, which, without context, just reads as campy. And it’s a shame because the most compelling (and I’m supposing actual) A-plot, Betty, was lost in the shuffle. And interesting potential plot points, like Alice going off the rails were completely truncated. The separate subplots of this episode – Jughead’s initiation, Veronica sinking into her family business, and Betty grappling with the Black Hood – could not have felt more distant from each other.

I truly feel like I’m missing something while watching this episode. The scenes followed each other sloppily. We barely saw Juggie’s initiation, we just heard about it after. Then suddenly Jughead is halfway through his initiation and Toni is in his trailer trying to warn him.

Out of nowhere, the Lodges are having cash-flow issues and it’s falling on Veronica’s shoulders to secure an investment from the visiting St. Clair’s. I was actually paying attention and have no idea who the St. Clair family is, except that they have the much-needed capital, and in a social climate of sexual predation, it’s weird that the St. Clair son, who is now a “music producer” (?), is flirting with Veronica, who is a sophomore. Weird and gross and weird and creepy.

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Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE CH.16, “The Watcher in the Woods”

Riverdale’s residents are playing with fire.

 Grade: A-

Before we get to the Kevin Keller of it all, let’s dive into this episode. Everyone in Riverdale seems to be entering dangerous territory: Archie’s deep in the Lodge lion’s den, Juggie is trying to navigate the gang-riddled waters of Southside High, Alice is facing a dangerous proposition and Kevin’s literally cruising in the woods.

At his new school, Jughead is at ground zero for gang violence and drugs (Jingle Jangle, which is such a stupid name that it veers out of stupid and into acceptable). Because he’s a better and more driven journalist than I’ll ever be (I spent my high school career stalking this one hot guy during free periods) he approaches his English teacher (after learning about Fahrenheit 451) to restart the Red and Black, Southside’s answer to the Blue and Gold.

Also at Southside, Jughead meets Toni Topaz, who I LITERALLY love already. She’s a Serpent as well (everyone cool is a Serpent, I want to be a Serpent). It seems that they’re positioning Toni as a way of complicating Bughead, but I would like to posit another theory. Allegedly Cheryl will be getting a love interest in Season Two. Could she be into Toni? The only man we know she’s had feelings for is her brother, and he’s dead, and also her brother and also dead. I don’t know which is a greater barrier for their love: honestly, it might be the dead thing.

Side note: Toni said, “Have fun in your safe space, snowflake,” to Jughead re the Red and Black. So Trump exists in the same space as Riverdale? Who did everyone in Riverdale vote for?
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Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch. 14, “A Kiss Before Dying”

Who is the green-eyed man?

Grade: A(yyyyyyyyy)+

And we’re back! After what feels like the blink of an eye but was actually five months, we’re back in the town of Riverdale. So let’s sip some milkshakes, shake the dust off our pearls and GET BACK TO IT.

Overall, the premiere of season two was BEAUTIFULLY-SHOT (ouch, no pun intended) and brought the drama. It felt a little messy and unfocused, as well as advancing storylines like Juggie’s in a forced way, but it accomplished what all premieres should accomplish – it made me desperate to watch the rest of the season.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the end of last season, Archie was clutching his bleeding father to his chest after a lone gunman stormed Pop’s Diner and shot Fred.

Now, Archie is driving like a maniac – he does not have his license, because he is so young (if the show’s absence has made you forget the pure ickiness of Ms. Grundy and Archie) – through the streets of Riverdale while Fred Andrews is turning the inside of their car – and then the hospital steps, hallway and everything else – into a Jackson Pollock painting. A hospital, by the way, whose ‘50s décor did not inspire confidence.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 5.02.48 PM

Source: The CW

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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 13, “The Sweet Hereafter”

Better the sweet hereafter than this awful limbo. 

Grade: A-

Giving this episode a high grade because yes it was good but it wasn’t as good as last week. In a similar way to Game of Thrones, the penultimate episode is the most dramatic and the finale serves more to tie up loose ends and set up new storylines.

So what are the storylines being set up for Riverdale Season Two? Well mama, read to find out!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 4.33.59 PM

Source: The CW // I didn’t even know t-shirts could fit that well.

In the aftermath of Clifford Blossom’s suicide, Chief Keller (who is…hot. Have we talked about what a DILF he is?) discovered parcels of heroin packed inside the maple syrup barrels. It seems that the Blossom family business smuggled heroin from Canada into the U.S. Are we not even making our own heroin anymore? What has happened to American manufacturing?!

FP Jones is still in jail for being an accomplice in Jason’s murder and is being pressured into giving any information on Blossom’s heroin distribution. Because, obviously, in the town of Riverdale, only one group can be responsible for drugs—and that’s the Serpents. FP maintains that the Serpents don’t deal in harder drugs, and he refuses to be a snitch even when Keller offers him a plea deal. Damn, son.

To recover and save face from the fact that a pillar of the community murdered his own son and smuggled heroin into the town, Mayor McCoy is throwing all her efforts into the 75th anniversary of Riverdale, the Jubilee, and using it to highlight some of Riverdale’s best and (pardon the irony) brightest—Archie and Betty. Betty, who has psychotic breaks, and Archie, who fucked a teacher. Apparently that ranks higher on the list of Do’s than wearing a beanie, or being Latina. Betty is frustrated. How can Riverdale move forward, she wants to know, if they refuse to acknowledge the past?

Some people in town can’t imagine moving forward. Penelope Blossom is distraught and broken over the loss of her son and husband, and utters, “Maybe your father had the right idea. Better the sweet hereafter than this awful limbo.” The notion of the future, and coming to terms with it, plays heavily into this finale. It makes sense—when all energy is focused on solving something from the past, you are forced to live in the past. And when that’s over, all that energy might cause you to tumble over from the sheer momentum.

Archie and Veronica move forward into their future. Jughead has to switch schools and leans into his Serpent legacy. But Betty refuses to move forward without acknowledge the past—the mayor and the town won’t even talk about how Clifford Blossom did anything; it’s all about the Serpents. So she takes to the true hero of this season—journalism—to write about Riverdale’s need to forgo convenient amnesia. It ends with someone scrawling “Serpent Slut” and hanging a Betty voodoo doll from her locker—but the truth is rarely without cost.

This episode serves to end the awful limbo that this season has been trapped in, by going back to the beginning. Archie and Veronica solidify the passion they felt at first sight. Betty leans into the mantle of journalism her parents had laid out. Alice reveals that she, like Polly, had gone through the cycle of teenage pregnancy—one that ended with a baby boy given up for adoption. Veronica says what we’re all thinking, that that kid must be a 20-something “blonde Adonis” by now. And Cheryl—Cheryl ends this season where she first began.

On Sweetwater River.

After a farewell text to the girls, Cheryl made the journey to the frozen surface of the river. As the gang raced through snow to her, she flung her fists against the ice over and over and over. Her red hair was the only color on the bleached-white landscape. And as she heard the voices of the Sleuthsters, she rose and turned to them just as the ice gave way beneath her feet.

Underwater, she saw a vision of Jason—the bullet-piereced corpse of her brother—and it all became clear. She could go into his embrace and die, or she could finally let him go. And above her, another Hot Redhead shatters bones and sprayed blood as he slammed against the ice. Archie broke it open and dragged the languid body of Cheryl Blossom out. And when she coughed up water, she was halfway towards rebirth.

The other half came later, as she dredged her house in gasoline and set it ablaze. The last chill left her body as she watches Thorn Hill engulf itself in flames.

That entire sequence was probably the best of the entire season, and I still get chills thinking about it.

To move forward, you have to do two things. One, you have to decide to move forward, like Cheryl did. You have to choose life. And two, you have to accept the past.

Betty—after another one of Archie’s “songs”—said as much. “Veronica Lodge is Riverdale. Archie Andrews is Riverdale. But FP Jones is also Riverdale. We banish the truth when it’s too ugly. The truth that Clifford Blossom was also Riverdale. If we don’t face the reality of who and what we are…then what happened to Jason could happen again, or, God forbid, something even worse.”

And as the flames consume Thorn Hill, and Veronica and Archie, and Betty and Jughead “consummate” their relationships, everything seems, for once in Riverdale, seared clean. But when an armed robbery in Pop’s ends in Archie cradling his bleeding father, that cleansing has not scoured every evil from Riverdale.

Riverdale’s Gilded Age of Innocence has been shattered, marked by an “act of violence that was anything but random.”

So that’s it for my recaps. I can’t say I’m not glad that it’s over. Mama’s tired. But hopefully we’ll meet again—when we meet Betty’s hot brother, and Veronica probably DILFy father, and the probably sexy possible-murderer of Fred Andrews, and every other slutty villain in the greater Riverdale-Southside area!