Riverdale kicked off its fifth season with a major bang last week, giving fans what is arguably the best episode of the show in years. This week, the show peters out a little bit from the strong start it began, solving several mysteries in a bit of a disappointing way.
Since Charles was introduced, fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. This inevitable “things will go bad” plot came in the form of Chic when the two were revealed to be dating, as well as Charles’ increasingly unsettling acts. The first big reveal of the “Preppy Murders” goes to him –as does the first disappointment of the episode. Betty and Jughead continue to track down the killer, getting frantic phone calls from Brett and Donna. Later, it’s revealed that Brett was murdered and before the killer could get to Donna, Betty and Jughead cracked the case. Charles was revealed as the killer, to no one’s surprise, and he was able to kill Brett in prison via Chic.
Charles’ MO reads a lot like Hal Cooper’s, which is funny considering the two aren’t even related by blood or any other sense of family. He kills those he deems dangerous or impure, offing Brett and Joan (another Stonewall Prep student) for their crimes. It’s kind of a lame ending to what was a really cool mystery –and said ending is further diminished by the reveal of who was creating the creepy tapes the gang was receiving.
In my previous review, I had given props to the Riverdale team for how unsettling the killing tapes were. Seeing actual murders on tape, committed by people wearing the masks of Betty, Jughead, Archie, and Veronica was deeply unnerving. There’s also something completely creepy about the tapes the gang was receiving where no murders took place, featuring a voyeur in the house as they stalk the Coopers/Jones family. In the end, the person behind the tapes turns out to be Jellybean Jones, who concocted this plan to keep Jughead in town. The reasoning seems a bit flimsy and the reveal doesn’t quite stick the landing for what was ultimately an incredibly cool set up. Jellybean didn’t kill anyone either –the murders were all Charles– so even the eerie nature behind those snuff films becomes null and void in hindsight.
Keeping in with the theme of tying up loose ends, Archie, Veronica, and Cheryl all get plots that fare better. Veroinca’s plea to pretend to stay with Archie to keep Jughead and Betty together is ridiculous, but that’s about as much as the episode touches on the love triangle (which had a really good set up last episode, in particular). Most of Veronica’s story actually revolves around her family as she tries to encourage her father to give up his mafia ties and retire for his own health. It’s always a joy to see that Lodge side come out in Veronica and her best scene by far is when she refuses to help her dad clean up his wounds. It’s dark, but it’s an act made out of love –and it’s so very Lodge you can’t help but love it. The show also manages to slip in where Hermione Lodge will be headed this season as her actress, Marisol Nichols, is leaving the show –and the reveal is great. She’s headed for the Real Housewives of New York. Yep.
Cheryl’s plot mostly revolves around her family and righting the wrongs of the past. She wants to make amends to Toni’s family, but the Blossom’s aren’t initially ready to do that. That is, until, she gets help from an unexpected source. There’s an air of maturity to Cheryl’s actions here that her character was sorely missing throughout other moments in the season.
Archie’s plot is by far the most powerful, reflecting on the death of his father after Fred Andrews’ portrayer, Luke Perry, passed away. Molly Ringwald’s acting is…honestly a little hard to watch in this because it’s not very good, but KJ Apa does quite well with his pieces, portraying Archie’s hurt and desperation very well. Archie is asked to ask the judge for leniency regarding the driver who killed his father and ran away. The complicated part is, the driver’s father initially took the fall, which earned some empathy on Archie’s part. When the real driver steps forward and his father pleads with Archie for that same offer of leniency, he initially refuses –and honestly, you can’t blame him.
After all is said and done, Frank comes back to town and helps Archie heal. These moments of reflection give him the peace of mind he needs to write a letter to the judge advocating for leniency for the actual driver, saying that kind of forgiveness is what Fred would have wanted. It’s a good moment for Archie and shows a fair bit of maturity on his end as well, doing something that most people in his shoes likely wouldn’t be able to.
The thread of this episode was certainly “tying up lose ends,” readying the gang for their college years as they leave high school behind. Riverdale is at its best when it acknowledges its own camp, delves into its comic love triangle roots, and sets up an intriguing mystery. This episode strayed from all those factors to its own detriment, and though some threads are tied up nicer than others, the stage is inevitably set for the time skip portion of the season. And of course, with that time skip, some good old fashioned drama is inevitable…but first, we gotta get through graduation.
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights on The CW.
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