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.24, “The Wrestler”

Slim Pickens

Grade: B-

Essentially, Riverdale is a show about the power of journalism – that and bizarrely hot high schoolers. The Riverdale Register and the Blue-and-Gold play crucial roles in exposing the seedy underbelly of Riverdale.

Things are reaching a boiling point; Archie is trying to balance sports with being an undercover FBI mole; Cheryl’s mother is running a brothel from their cottage; Veronica is training to be the scion of the Lodge family criminality; Betty is grappling with her newfound brother; and Kevin is running track, wrestling and writing a gossip column! Shockingly, minus the wrestling and the cruising for dick in dark woods, Kevin is me in high school.

The entire episode is framed around Pickens Day: a day to honor General Augustus Pickens. He, bankrolled by Cheryl’s ancestor, settled the land that would one day be Riverdale.

While Cheryl is petitioning to get it renamed to Barnabas B. Blossom Day, the Adults are using it to their advantage. Spurred by the bad press of closing Southside High, the Lodges and Fred Andrews want to sponsor Pickens Day to restore goodwill amongst the So-Dale project. Mayor McCoy, who is getting sudden nosebleeds from the high horse she’s decided to clamber onto (despite banging the sheriff and taking Lodge hush-money), is strongly against it. Also her name is Sierra?

It turns out that General Pickins operates as Riverdale’s Christopher Columbus: honored in the present because of efforts to whitewash his bloody past. It turns out that Toni and other Serpents are the descendents of the Uktena people, who were the original inhabitants of the land that would be Riverdale. But Great-Great-Great-Grandpappy Barnabas B. Blossom (a real Hiram Lodge) wanted the land for development (the maple industry, brothels, saloons and railroads), and hired General Pickins to slaughter the Uktena, 400 people.

Veronica, at the end of the table, casts her vote for bolstering Pickens Day, when Archie comes home. Drama! When he reports this development to Agent Adams – gay love affair – the FBI agent urges him to cozy up to Hiram Lodge by any means necessary. Archie, after learning that Hiram loves wrestling, decides to go out for the wrestling team. Basically, this episode is largely stagnant and dull, but gives us ample shots of Archie being hot. It’s a win, people, except that Archie kind of sucks at wrestling (even Kevin can pin him down, albeit later calling Archie a “1970s’ pornstar”). By the way, Kevin is a straight-up freak and I love it, because it leads us into Betty’s B-plot.

She learns, via Kevin, that Chic is a cam-boy, a digital gigolo, a virtual hooker. This is where I get a little preachy. Chic was put up for adoption, aged out of the foster care system and received no handouts from anybody. What he does to make money is of no business to anyone, least of all the rich, well-to-do famiy that decides to drop into his life unannounced. Although I’m not here for him introducing Betty, who is…16? 15?…to cam-life, or as Jughead refers to it, “The Dark Education of Betty Cooper.”

Betty and Chic bond over their weird rage-flashes and tendency to dig their fingernails into their palms hard enough to draw blood. She’s especially protective of him against Hal, who is, by the way, definitely not the father of Chic. That divide in the family deepens enough that, after a full-out fight on Pickens Day, Hal falls into the treacly company of Penelope Blossom.

The rest of the episode plays out like this: Jughead uses the plight of the Uktena to write an article (journalism!) lambasting Pickens Day as the celebration of slaughter (in the process angering Toni for “using” her grandfather) before all the Serpents protest the festival and, allegedly, desecrate the statue of Pickens.

Archie trains privately (gay) with Hiram Lodge, sinking deeper into treacherous Lodge waters as he defeats Chuck Clayton (remember him?) and earns the respect of Hiram. Oh and Mayor McCoy’s high horse gets in the way of a Josie-Veronica friendship, culminating in the band, “Veronica and the Pussycats.” Oh, and Cheryl realizes her ancestor was a bloodthirsty monster (are you really surprised, Cheryl? Look at who everyone else in your family is!), thus opening up the potential for her to approach Toni.

In the end, Archie denies a call from Agent Adams in favor of chatting with Hiram Lodge, leading us to wonder, “Is Archie getting too deep into the Lodges?” Is he infiltrating or converting? Upon a second watch, I noticed a squid lapel pin on Hiram’s suit. Could Archie be caught in the clutches without him even realizing?

I didn’t love this episode because, despite the ~drama~, it really operated to set up other shoes to drop later on.

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.17, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”

For an episode so focused on the Black Hood and the Red Circle, its anticlimactic plot-points gave us all blue balls.

 Grade: B

Now that I’ve decided that Archie is an idiot, it’s literally the lens I see every action he makes through.

I understand for the show that Archie needs to go dark. And while there’s nothing hotter to me than an Archie on the Edge, I really don’t think that anything he does is going to draw the Black Hood out of the shadows. In fact, all he’s succeeded in doing in alienating Veronica, pissing off the Southside Serpent and threatening his academic standing at school. And rightly, he should not be bringing a gun to school. There are times when a show that is filmed months ago uncomfortably bumps against the real world, and that happened a few times with this: calling the Red Circle Neo-Nazis, as well as any mention of guns. Also the rampant scapegoating of an innocent group – a.k.a. the Southside Serpents (WHO ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BLACK HOOD).

While there hasn’t been any good Cheryl Blossom content is now two episodes, this episode did a lot to progress the storylines of Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper. Veronica has gone full Bonnie Parker and Betty is suddenly finding herself at the nexus of the Black Hood mystery.

I can’t really understand the motivation behind the Lodge family, and I’m sure it’s meant to be mysterious but it ends up feeling like lazy storytelling. So Hiram told Archie to form the Red Circle so that he had an excuse to make Veronica break up with him? And he’s evil…because he’s evil? Because he wants to buy up real estate? I don’t get why Hiram would target this bumblefuck town to funnel drugs through real estate? Go for the coasts; go for the big cities! I’m almost mad at his lack of clear ambition.

And Hermione? Now she’s evil too? Or is she just playing Hiram at his own game? Her little soliloquy about blind loyalty rang a little too “people in glass houses” for me; it’s almost as if she’s warning Veronica about Hermione herself. And possibly hinting, though Veronica won’t ever understand, that Hiram is evil and Hermione is keeping her enemy closest.

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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.15, “Nighthawks”

The plot thickens.

Grade: B

Riverdale’s got its very own serial killer!

While the first three quarters of the episode were fraught with multiple storylines, the last fourth of the episode coalesced into something ooky-spooky: Riverdale, in addition to being swamped with corruption on every level, is also home to its very own serial killer.

It’s a smart move to extend beyond the very singular and impactful storyline of season one (the murder of Jason Blossom), but setting up all these pins that will eventually be knocked down is getting a little exhausting. There’s Archie needing stimulants to stay awake, Archie wanting a gun, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe going under, FP Jones facing a twenty-year jail sentence, drugs, and the Lodges being shady (plus all the trappings of high school! How Cheryl can go back to the River Vixens is some mastery of compartmentalization).

As Archie fumbles to fix his dad breakfast (how terrible he is at this only tracks if you remember that he’s literally fifteen), we see him chugging down some energy drink. Whether it’s makeup or KJ Apa lost some weight in the break between filming, Archie is looking straight-up haggard this season. Or, as haggard as you can look when you have model-good looks – essentially he has some stubble and his eyebrows are currently the heaviest thing on his body.

And because Betty is a creep but they belong together, she noticed that Archie’s bedroom has been devoid of activity lately. Too bad she doesn’t have eyes on his shower, though. That place is bumpin’. So Veronica goes (even though Betty lives next door?) to check on him, where he answers the door shirtless for no reason. Thank you, CW. She tells him to go to therapy, but he’s content to badger Sheriff Keller, flood his dad with theories that place Archie at the center, and buy drugs from New Reggie (who was replaced from the previous actor. Both are hot).

Ronnie, in addition to saying things like “Park Avenue drama,” is embroiled in her own family drama. She’s refusing to forgive her recently released-from-prison father for…it’s unclear exactly what he did, but it was bad. And her mother is trying to gaslight her into them being the perfect little family again. A family where everyone seems to want to bang each other – no one calls someone “Daddy” that much in real life. Although Veronica bores me, her family drama is possibly heating up into something much more interesting.

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