Tag Archives: riverdale

The Mysteries of Riverdale Season 3 are Explored in a New Comic Series!

New mysteries connected to the Game and the Farm will be explored in the comic book companion to The CW‘s hit Riverdale TV series! The new comic book series, set to debut in March, will reveal tantalizing details of the mysterious “Gryphons & Gargoyles” plotline currently playing out on the third season of the TV show.

Novelist Micol Ostow, who also penned next month’s prequel novel from Scholastic, Riverdale: The Day Before, will be working with the Riverdale writer’s room on the series. Thomas Pitilli, who handled art duties on the previous volume of the Riverdale comic, will return, trading off stories with Archie Comics veteran Joe Eisma.

Riverdale Season 3 #1 hits comic shops on March 13, 2019.

NYCC 2018: Riverdale Casts Gina Gershon and Trinity Likins as Jughead’s Mother and Sister

Fans of Riverdale will learn a little bit more about Jughead’s family in season three, as his mother and sister shake things up with their own sneaky behavior. Gina Gershon (Bound) and newcomer Trinity Likins have been set for recurring roles as Gladys Jones and Jellybean “JB” Jones, respectively. They will debut on Riverdale during the Wednesday, December 12, 2018, episode at 8/7c on The CW.

Gina Gershon plays Jughead’s mother, Gladys Jones, a “businesswoman” who runs the salvage yard (chop shop) that doubles as a Serpent compound, and the Serpents all snap to attention when she gives them an order. A Serpent with a GED, she acts as Fagin to a crew of teenaged car parts thieves.

Trinity Likins is set for the role of Jughead’s sister, Jellybean “JB” Jones. She is wise beyond her years, and her favorite bands are Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. Jellybean lives with her biker mom in Toledo where they run scams to make ends meet. And like mother like daughter: Jellybean — who goes by JB now — is quite the little con artist herself.

Film, television and stage actor Gina Gershon recently completed a residency at the famed Café Carlyle, where she performed her musical act, Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues. Her television credits include FX’s Rescue Me, HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Amazon’s Red Oaks, and Lifetime’s House of Versace. Gershon also won Best Supporting Actress at the Toronto Film Festival for Killer Joe, and she appeared in Face/OffBound, andThe Player.

On just her third professional audition, newcomer Trinity Likins landed the lead role of Amelia in the Hallmark holiday movie Christmas in the Air. She also recurred as Emma in the CBC miniseries Unspeakable.

Riverdale stars KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Luke Perry, Mädchen Amick, Marisol Nichols, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Casey Cott, Mark Consuelos, and Skeet Ulrich.

Based on the Archie Comics characters, Riverdale is from Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and Jon Goldwater are executive producers. Season three of Riverdale premieres Wednesday, October 10, at 8/7c on The CW.

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E8 House of the Devil

Love! Sex! Death! Car dealerships! Amateur porn!

Everything’s Riverdale!

(But hold the worm)

YOUR PALS

 

Margaret Howard believes that her father was driven mad by the mystery of the Devil’s House, dragging himself back there there “day and night for hours,” scratching and searching for that one clue that might yet make sense of it all.

Sheriff Howard returned to the Devil’s House every year. Every year. Day and night. Hours and hours. That one elusive detail forever out of his grasp.

Veronica finds it in exactly one minute and fifty-nine seconds. In the dark. Without her Sleuthing Cloak. She used counting.   

I am being unfair, of course. Sheriff Howard did know there was a third Conway child. It’s just that, unlike Veronica, he never thought to ask that child what happened.  

Sheriff Keller can rest easy, knowing that history will not remember him as Riverdale’s most useless lawman.

Portugal. The Man perform ‘Feel it Still’ over a scene in this episode. But which scene? Let me just look it up on the Riverdale Wiki. Ah. Here it is. “SCENE: Jughead narrates as Archie and Veronica have sex.

Jughead narrates as Archie and Veronica have sex. What a way to behave! Even if he is pledged to write every day, the subject matter was left open. This is a striking choice for him (How was the data even gathered?) and it’s a striking choice for the show, as to have a series of saucy scenes narrated by a third character, to make a third character dramatically present in those moments, is no small thing. Archie and Veronica having a lot of sex becomes nowhere near as interesting as why and what Jughead is thinking about Archie and Veronica having a lot of sex. What mystery is he trying to solve today?

Betty is not having a lot of sex. “PG-13 grope sessions” with Jughead, very possibly, but not a lot of sex. This, the episode makes abundantly clear, is very much on her mind. Kevin may have been spot on when he told her that she has the privilege of being free to explore her “BDSM sexuality” but such explorations are evidently not happening at her pace.    

Byrdie informs Betty that becoming “serpent adjacent” will involve a public display of sexuality.

Toni supposes that this will put her off.   

Children Waiting For The Day They Feel Good are evoked as Betty begins her verse. Archie and Veronica’s disastrous attempt at a duet, a shared romantic moment, has collapsed and Betty has taken to the stage to complete the song, get her kit off, and touch herself up a bit. Once again, a third party has been introduced into Archie and Veronica’s intimacy.

People run in circles. Betty is trying to work out how she stands in relation to sexuality; She knows she’s waiting to enter a sexual world and needing to know how she wants that world to work. Jughead is trying to work out how he stands in relation to sexuality; Does he want to enter a sexual world? Both are trying to solve their mysteries by juxtaposing themselves with Archie and Veronica’s straight, vanilla rumpo and romance, by imagining themselves as third persons in that relationship. Bless their clueless hearts.

Veronica asks “So… you want us to be you guys?” Oh, Ronnie. It’s so much more complicated than that.

The Penultimate Lyric of Mad World is “Enlarge your world,” an imperative which suggests the gloom of the prior verses is escapable by putting yourself outside their limits. All our little lost lambs need do to beat the devil, to be able to look in the mirror, is make it to the end of the song.

The Devil has so far this season been identified with Hiram, Penny, Dilton and the Black Hood. They’ve all been the devil, or been said to resemble him, for at least one scene. Meanwhile, the Reaper has been imagined to worship him, and we’re heading towards an adaptation of a comic in which his occasional wife is a major character. ‘The Devil’ as a symbol has roamed freely around Riverdale, laying his hat in everyone’s hallways. Now he finally has an address of his own.

The Conways are a hard done by family. First they’re murdered, then the Devil takes their house. I wonder by what process the house came to be thought of as evil, given that it was a threat external to the house that killed them. Murder and evil did not, in any account we’ve heard so far, gestate and develop within the house; Murder just walked in out of the woods.  

The Conways could equally be a loose reference to J.B. Priestly or to the ill-fated Conway family from super-racist Top Notch Comics story ‘Dick Storm in India.’ Therein lies the duality of this show.

Dick Storm.

Sweet Pea performs this week’s most exemplary off-screen 180, having gone from being in favour of mortar attacks to being in favour of seeking rapprochement with the Mayor.

Hermione is far more relaxed nowadays. The Lodges started this season suspicious of each other being supervillains and stressed about being trapped into supervillainous lives. After their righteous vengeance on Nick St Clair, the family appear temporarily united around the idea that supervillainy has its virtues.

Cheryl’s story right now is about a lot of things, but a biggie is how she stands in relation to ideas of female solidarity. Everyone kicking the shit out of Nick St Clair was a joyous and cathartic moment and the week it aired was one in which a lot of us were in the mood to see a group of young, would-be celebrities beat a rapist mogul to a bloody pulp in a hotel room. The trouble for Cheryl is that that moment, a huge moment in her life, was made possible by the Pussycats’ “women help women” ethos and that’s not an ethos to which she feels she can connect.

Jason remains the only person with whom Cheryl feels any solidarity, and her “me and my dead brother against the world” worldview can’t permit any of this “women help women” business. So feeling beholden to that ethos for her rescue is an unimaginable crisis for Cheryl’s mental functioning, and she’s found herself in a position where she either has to rethink the whole way she sees the world or violently alter reality to allow “me and my dead brother against the world” to remain tenable.

Cheryl is violently altering reality. Veronica, Josie, Melody and Valerie did not come to her aid. Josie did. Josie saved her. Cheryl has reduced an instance of collective female action to an idea she finds more manageable and containable; Josie saved her. The whole event has been condensed down into the person of Josie. Now all Cheryl need do is violently alter Josie’s reality, so she too can be managed and contained.   

Hiram is such a plausible father for Veronica. His flustered “That’s my preference” line is a wonderfully Veronica-ish line with wonderfully Veronica-ish delivery. Benefiting from being a Season Two introduction, he’s what a TV dad looks like when you have an established character to create a dad for.  

André is trained in the martial arts.

The Red Death shows up in ONE Edgar Allan Poe story, Jugs! Why’re you talking like it’s Poe’s Team Rocket? I think he’s got confused because that story was published as both ‘The Mask of the Red Death’ and ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’ Assuming these to be separate stories, the Mighty Serpent Prince has imagined an entire series of “Oh no! It’s the Red Death!” misadventures round Prince Prospero’s gaff.   

Freddy Krueger is the horror icon that Jughead finds Tony Todd most reminiscent of.

Svenson may have been a red herring in last episode’s mystery, but with a quick tweak of the Conway story then he can be repurposed into relevance here.

The Reaper was both a preacher and a con man. For anyone unconvinced by the ‘PUNISH SIN!’ motivation espoused by the Black Hood, then it’s interesting to see the figure he mirrors established as those two particular things.

“A Group of Men” killed the Reaper. Veronica takes Svenson’s approval of their actions as a sign that he’s the Black Hood. The idea that a member of this retributive posse might be the Black Hood does not seem to have yet been considered. They’re obviously the Secret Origin of something though, aren’t they? Maybe, in their role as community protectors, we’re looking at the first Serpents.   

The Serpents are very strict about their induction programme. There’s all sorts of things you have to do – shouty ceremonies, getting tattoos, being punched, pole dancing, dog sitting, etc – the formality and ritualisation of which suggests that when you join the Serpents you’re making a lifelong commitment. Seems not though. If at any point you want out you can just say you’re retiring and get a preppy looking teenager to hire a karaoke machine. It seems that’s an option that’s available.     

Josie is either being paid to escort Reggie or Reggie’s dad. It is unclear.

The Serpents very keen on ‘Mad World,’ very disappointed when not sung through.

Penny has taken over Clifford Blossom’s operation. Which we know wasn’t the distribution of Jingle Jangle, a substance we haven’t heard of since the Sugarman died. Real drugs are in resurgence and fantasy drugs are on the wane. This better not stop us getting Jingles the Elf in the Christmas episode.

Archie stepped outside of Riverdale’s storyspace last episode and glimpsed the Archie multiverse. He’s having a hard time reacclimatising. All he wants to talk about is love, in an episode that wants to talk about not talking about love, and he acts throughout like he’s the one with the least personal interest in the Black Hood. His life won’t quite let him back in.  

FP’s smirk regarding how sexually frustrated he may, or may not, have been in prison would be the finest moment this episode. Were it not for the same character’s choice to use a daintily extended pinky to illustrate recovery from alcohol. The whole “respectable people don’t have problems” lie that Alice pretends to live by gets destroyed with a single digit parody of gentility.   

Alice should get a slow motion entrance every episode.

The Serpents are remarkably gracious in responding to Alice with “Hey look! It’s Alice! From back in the day!” rather than “Hey look! It’s Alice! Who constantly publishes articles about how we’re the greatest menace since Spider-Man!”

Familiar Faces, Worn-out Places, Worn-out Faces appear.

The Penultimate Lyric of ‘Mad World’ does not appear.

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E7 Tales From The Darkside

In ‘Death Proof,’ Riverdale pushed its eccentric format to a point of fulfillment where it was most utterly and distinctively itself. So what’s next? Change the format!

As Pocahontas and Heraclitus both sang, you can’t step in the same Riverdale twice. Or, as Robert Browning and Sarah Polley both sang… everything’s strange and new…

Everything’s Riverdale!

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Betty and Veronica

After some opening narration that threatens a found footage episode, we learn that we’re in for a horror anthology instead. One in which the Black Hood sets our pals a fun challenge and, over the course of three interconnected stories, they will proceed to completely ignore it and not trouble themselves to reference it in any way.

Across the three stories, Cheryl is the only character who alludes to its framing device. Once. Dismissively. 

Good for them. It was a silly challenge.

The Hood’s rules are that they are to avoid sinning for forty-eight hours or otherwise he’ll “take up the sword” once more. No element of that is well defined. The Black Hood is shit at game design.

First of all, we’ve still no idea what you understand by ‘sin’, mate. Seems very random and lacking any theological rigour or substance if you ask me. All over the place you are with your ‘sin.’ And what’s this ‘Forty-Eight Hours’ business? Forty-Eight hours from when? From when the news broke or from when you nailed your theses to the door of Pop Tate’s? Sounds like you meant the second, but that’s hardly fair, is it? People would have been sleep-sinning for hours before they learned they were even playing.

Then there’s “take up the sword again.” You can’t threaten us with resuming killing when there’s been no indication that you’ve stopped! You killed someone just last week! What sort of terrifying threat is “things will continue as they have been”? You have to at least threaten to escalate or something.

(Unless by “take up the sword” the Black Hood literally means he’s going to switch weapons. Unwise if so as he’s only just got the hang of successfully shooting people)

Directed to abstain from unspecified activities for an unclear period of time or face unclear consequences, everyone apparently decides to not bother playing and to just get on with their lives.

Betty’s life involves accusing random people of being the Hood, but it would have anyway.

The episode ends with Archie shocked they didn’t win.        

 

THE TOWN WITH PANCAKE MIX

Archie and Jughead

We zoom in on a road sign, the central image of this segment. In one direction it points to Riverdale and in the other to Greendale. No mileage to either is given. That’s not the information it’s there to provide. It’s simply there to tell us this; we are in a place between. Archie and Jughead are in a story about what it means to be on that road and a story that happens because it is happening there.

Tony Todd’s character has more to say  on this. He’s quick to fill us in on some of the things we’re specifically between. Archie could have been Jason Blossom, he tells us. That’s something that’s possible on the road to Greendale. It’s also something we were told fairly often in season one, but it meant something different then. When we’ve previously considered the idea that Archie could have been, or could yet be, Jason then that’s been a statement about roads he could have taken or roads he could yet take. Here it’s a statement about the road on which he stands. Archie could be Jason on the road between Riverdale and Greendale because that road is a space between life and death and also a space between the self and the other. It doesn’t matter who Archie is and it doesn’t matter who is alive or dead. Those concepts are blurry here.

We’re outside of the show! Driving to a town that belongs to a different television programme, an exciting new show that was confirmed as having been commissioned on the week this episode aired. ‘Riverdale’ often means Riverdale, and never more so than it does here, where it’s being contrasted with the setting of a show other than Riverdale. Under those conditions then to drive out of Riverdale is to drive out of Riverdale and launch off out into extra-textual space.        

Riverdale’s gestures towards mimesis never include the idea that its reality is consistent, but they do aim for a certain integrity. Its world strives to flow but hold together. Yet the word ‘Candyman’ is present in this episode. Not spoken, but present. When horror icon Tony Todd from Candyman shows up in a horror themed episode, we know it’s because he’s horror icon Tony Todd from Candyman. The arrival of that knowledge inside the head of the viewer is an event that occurs when this episode is watched. “Candyman” is said, silently, at least three times, and that’s a dangerous word to have in the air when you’re still telling a story about the death of a mythologised childhood terror called the Sugarman. If you’ve ambitions to pretend that you’re presenting a world of flesh and blood rather than a world of writing and lighting, then it’d be risky to remind your audience to think about actors, names and Candymen while also expecting them to pretend the Sugarman is something that actually happened. But there’s no such risk and no such ambition. There’s no need to treat Riverdale as anything other than a production once you’re out in the wilds between it and other texts.

Which is exactly where we are. Deer wander on from Life is Strange and crates plonk down from At the Mountains of Madness. But most interestingly for Archie and Jughead, being on the road between texts puts them between themselves and other versions of Archie and Jughead.              

“I had this stupid idea…” says Archie, and then shares a fantasy of him and Jughead moving into a place together in New York. What’s being referenced here is pretty clear. Archie’s Stupid Idea is Archie’s Weird Fantasy, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s 2003 play about Archie moving to the big city and coming to terms with being gay. Being outside of Riverdale is important in that story as it equates Riverdale with the closet, but being outside of Riverdale is important here because it makes all this sayable. Outside of his show then Riverdale’s Archie can talk of what he wants when he’s other people.

And Jughead can listen. His one question, “Where are Betty and Veronica in this scenario?” shows that he’s understood perfectly. The question makes no sense if this is a childhood dream of the Riverdale character who met Veronica less than a year ago, but all the sense in the world if we’re eavesdropping on iconic Archie Comics characters trying to puzzle out what they really mean.

Betty and Veronica would, of course, get a place of their own together. Archie presents this world in opposition to the lives they’re living right now, to the world where Jughead is trapped as a serpent and they’re all trapped in the ongoing plotlines of Riverdale. What stands between this Archie and him living his weird fantasy is that he’s Riverdale’s Archie.  

If this wasn’t our lives, he’s saying, if this wasn’t our version of our lives, if we weren’t living moment to moment in a shambolic CW show, then the most true and natural fate for all us Archie characters is that we’d end up happy, gay and metropolitan. 

‘Candyman’ is never said out loud. ‘Bert and Ernie’ is said twice.

 

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Josie

Did anyone ask for a Chuck Clayton redemption story?

Not that that’s really what this is. There’s no real interest here in him as anything other than a piece of misdirection. This story doesn’t care about him any more than it cares about that janitor. Chuck’s role is to mislead us that we’re watching a story about a young black man trying to be a better person before ending up blamed for the invisible creepcrimes of an old white man. His role to tell that decoy story and also to be someone who can be ironically berated by Cheryl for thinking “women are playthings to possess or torture” shortly before she’s unmasked to the viewer as a possessive torturer of women.       

One of Mayor McCoy’s main roles in this show is to judge people unfairly. So as soon as she’s judged Chuck irredeemable and dragged Josie out of Pop’s then we all feel reasonably sure we’re being directed to see Chuck as hard done by. We, as an audience, may well not feel like following that direction. We may not feel like buying the story they’re selling but we feel pretty sure we know what’s on sale. And it isn’t really that. Chuck gets off scott free at the end and nobody cares much either way because SHOCK! Look what the story was really about!

But to pull that off, the show had to gesture at what it thinks a Chuck Clayton redemption story would like like.

What would a Chuck Clayton redemption story look like?

The sketch of one here is kind of weird. It involves Chuck doing nothing to address the specific failing of being an abusive misogynist but instead be shown to be vaguely striving to be a ‘better person’ through three different endeavours.

Going to Church. Trying to become a kids’ book artist. Trying to become a comics artist.

‘Going to church’ as evidence of being a top bloke is interesting as, the last time we heard from organised religion in this episode, some preacher on the radio was going off like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor track, while Tony Todd’s character was putting it about that the local godly folk were right behind the Black Hood.

‘Trying to become a kids book artist’ is a straightforward signifier of innocent pursuits.

‘Trying to become a comics artist’ seems less so. “You know what the opposite of predatory misogyny? The Comics Industry!” sadly isn’t a move available in Two Thousand and Seventeen. But it makes sense when you remember that this Riverdale always stands contrasted with the supposedly idealised Riverdale of the comics. Comics are a symbol of innocence for Chuck because the Good Chuck is still in the comics. Write it in your diary.

Josie at first seems sceptical that going to church, trying to draw kids books and trying to draw comics constitutes any real sort of moral reform. Then Pop Tate confirms that Chuck is indeed going to church and she withdraws her objections. It turns out that she has granted that doing those random things somehow evidence that he’s a changed man. She just didn’t believe he was doing those random things.

A Chuck Clayton redemption story would look ill-judged.   

 

YOUR PALS

Poirot is so weirdly pronounced that I wish the script had called for Jughead to have a go at his first name too.

Brian Lyster, Production Sound Mixer is a man not afraid of undercutting the tension of a spooky tale of the Riverdale Reaper with a big ol’ farting noise from a ketchup bottle.

The Riverdale Reaper shot all his victims. Left no survivors. I have no idea why people think he might be the Black hood.

Kevin is getting high readings on the Agency-o-Metre this week! Interested in his own life and happiness? Displaying interests that aren’t listed on the generic Gay Best Friend character sheet? This is all encouraging.

Veronica, Betty, and Sheriff Keller all agree its best to keep everything secret from Kevin so he doesn’t have to have any feelings or make any choices. They have neglected to check the readings.

Josie has an extraordinary way of placating a mother who’s concerned for her safely and and about her drug use. Comparing herself to Whitney Houston.

Cheryl chose that version of ‘Milkshake’ to send to the producers. Should have been our first clue.

Mayor McCoy’s intonation suggests she takes particular exception to the twist.

The Candyman does not appear.

The Sugarman appears in flashback.

 

THE TOWN WITH A KILL KIT

Betty and Veronica

Betty’s and Veronica’s investigation uncovers two facts about Sheriff Keller. That he is having an affair with the Mayor and that he is diligently and thoroughly investigating a number of local crimes.

They only treat the first of these as a genuine revelation, although both seem such to me.

Perhaps the shock of learning that the Sheriff is actually having a fair crack at doing his job hasn’t quite sunk in for them yet. Indeed, Betty’s entire reasoning for thinking that a big wall of clues and evidence regarding the Black Hood suggested that Keller was the Black Hood relies on her not even being prepared to consider that he might have been doing any sleuthing.

What’s now becoming a classic Riverdale inversion visits itself upon Betty in this story. An episode will position a character ready for a development… and then the subsequent episode will do the opposite. ‘Death Proof’ ended with Betty presented as having come into her own as a detective and having seized the reigns of the narrative. Look out world! Here comes Betty! What’s she going to do now she’s all super-charged?

“Act like a nob,” answers ‘Tales from the Darkside.’

There’s not even any consolation in Betty having been right about something. There’s no “Oh well, she was wrong about Keller having been the Hood, but she knew something was up, alright, and that hunch led her to the actual truth.” That’s not a face-saving story available here as the actual truth is just what Veronica intuited at the start.

Betty’s isn’t the most striking inversion though. ‘Death Proof’ had Cheryl as sympathetic and heroic. I wonder how she gets on this week.    

 

THE TOWN WITH A SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL

Josie

As soon as we see that the first story is called ‘Archie and Jughead’ then we feel certain that one of the remaining stories will be called ‘Betty and Veronica.’ Then the second story appears. It’s called ‘Josie.’ We might think it strange that it’s not called ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ but then the story goes on and explains why it isn’t. Then we might come to find it strange that it isn’t called ‘Josie and Cheryl.’ The reasons for that are also eventually provided. Josie is alone.

Since early in the first season we’ve been told that Cheryl and Josie are friends but we’ve never really got a chance to see how that friendship works. Now at last we do, only to learn that there’s no friendship here. There’s something alright, but there’s no friendship.

Since the first episode of this season we’ve seen Cheryl portrayed as a torturer and possessor of women. In that instance it was her mother and in that instance it was awesome. It wasn’t morally justified in any way, of course, it was just the abused becoming an abuser. But within the fiction of this theatre of monstrosity then Cheryl remained a sympathetic character. She does not here.

The timeline isn’t clear so we don’t know exactly how long her relationship with Josie has been characterised by this sort of manipulation and control, but it does seem that its recent escalation relates to the attempted rape. Cheryl tells Josie that the reason for her outward attempts to control her career is that she’s trying to express her gratitude for the rescue. It would seem to follow that her hidden fixation on Josie and more horrific actions towards her are also part of her trying to process exactly that.     

If we were to apply real world morality then we would see little to have changed with Cheryl. She was a well-motivated monster and she remains so. But dramatic morality is very different; In the real world then everyone’s real and everyone matters, while on telly then nobody’s real and how much people matter varies wildly. We are not with Penelope as she experiences any effects of Cheryl terrorising her in the hospital. We are with Josie every step of the way as Cheryl’s cruel manipulations destroy her relationships and leave her with lasting trauma. In terms of television morality then Cheryl is an entirely different kind of monster now.

And then there’s race. That’s what we’re talking about about when Mayor McCoy says, “There are people in this town with hate in their hearts. You’ve read the letters I used to get. The words they used.” The viewer has not read the letters. But the viewer knows which words she means. “I’ve worked so hard to get us here,” she says. “To shield us from this kind of hatred.”

The sustained and consistent hate campaign against the McCoys has been a racist one. That’s very clear even before the script goes for a glancing and indirect Trump analogy with the idea that their harassers have been emboldened by the successes of the Black Hood. Cheryl’s motives for escalating and repurposing it are not racist, but that hardly matters. Her creepy doings are as effective as they are because they harness the power of the terror that Josie and her mum have already been subjected to for being black women. Again, she looks like a different kind of monster now.

 

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Archie and Jughead

“Riverdale had a Reaper?” asks an astonished Jughead. Jughead whose recent interests include researching all the murder and whose most abiding interest is in the social identity of his community. That this is new information to him is almost as curious as Alice having been able to just erase her past from the public record and have almost everyone act as if it had similarly vanished from their memories. Things drift in and out of Riverdale’s past. It is editable.

Because we know what should be there. Seventy-Six years worth of Archie and the gang’s antics naturally fill the entirety of the town’s history. It was born with them in 1941 and their distended adolescences bloat to fill its days and years. Before them was nothing.

Archie’s Weird Fantasy dealt with this by supposing an eternal present, by supposing that the characters existed in a NOW! where anything that had ever happened was happening as we speak, provided it was of sufficient cultural relevance. Riverdale instead supposes a vacuum. If the town’s past exists as a empty space, stripped of the eternal summer of Archie’s youth, then the present balances on that emptiness and must adapt as Reapers and Serpents are sucked in to fill it.      

Why is Riverdale a river? Why is Greendale green?

Whatever the historic reasons for the two Archie Comics towns having these names, you can’t pair two terms like those as explicitly as they’re paired here without letting Meaning in.

Talking about Riverdale in isolation then the important thing is that its on a river. It’s on a boundary, and very specific one. Pick just about any folk music tradition in the English language and you’re going to find the word ‘sweet’ frequently and powerfully associated with death. Sweetwater River is drawn as the boundary between life and death from the first episode’s opening scenes. To live on its shores is to live at the frontier of the mortal world.

So that’s pretty straightforward. But what does it mean when you have other [Something]dales that are also positioned on that river?

‘Riverdale’ normally signifies in terms of what it stands next to, but when another town is next to the same river and not named for it then that positions Riverdale as of the river. To be Riverdale then Riverdale must share qualities with the river that Greendale does not. I’ve argued so often in these columns that the defining characteristic of this show is a churning inconstancy of character and narrative that you already know what I’m going to say here. Riverdale is the river because it is the place where everything’s fluid and in motion. 

So why is Greendale green? We’ll find out when we get there, I suppose. The safe bet at this stage would be, like much that’s lush and green, it grows on top of death and decay. Archie stands next to death. Sabrina stands upon the dead.

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E6 Death Proof

There was no Riverdale last week, the CW opting instead to screen the 7th Annual iHeartRadio Music Festival. I’ve not watched it, but I’m going to imagine that the cast all went and filmed in-character vignettes to be used as whimsical inserts. The two shows already share Harry Styles.

The week before that the CW aired ‘Death Proof,’ Riverdale’s best episode since ‘The Sweet Hereafter.’ An episode so accomplished and assured that I don’t even resent it for breaking the pattern of my favourite Riverdale episodes being named after films I hold in similar regard.

Let’s revisit it now before the series resumes.

Engines warm and ready?

Everything’s Riverdale!

THE TOWN WITH LIARS, DOPE FIENDS AND FORNICATORS

There are two keys to understanding this remarkable piece of television. Betty and Veronica’s crash into the House of the Dead is one of them. Cheryl’s outfits are the other.  

We all know by now how character works in Riverdale. We all know by now how storytelling works in Riverdale. The two episodes previous to this one (S2E4 & S2E5) have walked us through both. Now we can just get on with things and enjoy the pleasures this odd show offers. That’s the project of ‘Death Proof.’

Set-ups will not be paid off. Character development will unravel and flap dangerously in the wind. Enmities and affinities will appear and disappear from our characters hearts, blinking in and out as how they feel about each other is set and reset. Escalators will go nowhere. This is not a show that’s trying to present coherent made-up lives in a coherent made-up world. It’s a show that’s trying to capture the feeling of living in a world that lacks that coherency, like teenagers and Americans have to.    

Veronica, still a newcomer to this reality, is typically the best at figuring out how to navigate it. When Betty tells her that there are no sane explanations for the previous episode’s events Veronica just fixes her with a look that says “Why would there be?” and demands to hear the insane explanation. She knows how this works.

And how it works is that everything is mobile and adaptable. Since nothing is attached to any commitment to narrative logic then any element of the show can be picked up and put down where it is most effective. Cheryl doesn’t need any plausible reason to be at the drag race to be officiating. She’s got that gig because that’s where she visually belongs at that moment, as surely as she earlier belonged gothically sunbathing in the shadows of a cloudy day. There’s similarly no need for any kind of tonal harmony between Betty and Veronica’s investigations and Archie and Jughead’s negotiations for one plotline to suddenly intrude on the other.    

Whenever I’ve talked before about how this show is the true successor to Twin Peaks then it’s been in terms of how Riverdale embraces the camp, the kitsch and the soapy – all the vital elements of Twin Peaks that its lesser imitators skip because they’re mistakenly shooting for clever. But something else is now becoming very apparent.

Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes’ documentary The Art Life has an illuminating and hilarious scene where David Lynch recalls his move to the filmed image. With a slow, deliberate thoughtfulness he tells us how he got to thinking how interesting it would be if his paintings could move. He just couldn’t get the idea out of his head. Paintings…that moved. What a concept! So taken was he with this fancy that he didn’t seem to recollect or exhibit any awareness of the fact that moving pictures had been around for some time prior to the Nineteen Seventies. The existing traditions of television and film were not (in the myth Lynch is selling, anyway) the impetus for him to pick up a camera. He never wanted to tell anyone stories, he just wanted to make paintings move.

That all feeds into Twin Peaks, and flows downriver into the best of Riverdale. Like Racing Queen Version Cheryl Blossom, striding into the exhausted and diminished Gothic murk of Thornhill to demand love from the mother she burned. The story that gets us there is a vacillating, elliptical shambles. But watch that paint writhe.                  

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Watching is very important. Windows too. Painting have frames.

We first met this incarnation of Betty Cooper as she and Kevin perved on shirtless Archie from her bedroom window. It was an effective scene that let Kevin drop that trailer-ready “Archie got hot!” line as if it was an elevator pitch, but as well as explaining to the prospective viewer that this new series will offer the opportunity to letch at teenage characters, it also set up how this voyeurism will be constructed. The hot version of Archie comics is to be the object of  female and queer male gazes.

Now, the terrible tides of television have rolled as ever they do and this unlikely promise was not kept. A couple of months later and, in the Sexy Women Beg For Healthcare video, Camilla Mendes and Madelaine Petsch were reading a script that reassured straight men that “giving you erections” was a function of their “soapy teen drama.” However accurate that might be, and wherever the balance lies, the pertinent thing here is that we start with Betty at her window.

Betty at her window is a place where she’s powerful and a bit creepy. In ‘Death Proof’ it’s to her window that she returns to shift the balance of power between her and the Black Hood. We start the scene watching her through it, then she says, “It’s my game now” and directs her own line of sight to the window. For the rest of the scene all her threats against him are matched by her lingering looks out.

Riverdale is a show built around detective stories – Who killed Jason Blossom? Who is the Black Hood? – and the viewer is invited to be a detective. But viewers always need teaching how to be a detective within the bounds of any given show; How you solve a mystery in Jonathan Creek is not how you solve a mystery in Line of Duty. So it falls to a show’s Official Detective to model what it means to solve mysteries round their neck of the woods. Betty Cooper is Riverdale’s Official Detective, and she’s performing that educative role for us here. We have been presented with mysteries. She will teach us what do with them. She will teach us what it means to be a detective in Riverdale.

“I found out who the Sugarman was,” she says in triumph. A claim that may not immediately feel true. Cheryl found out who the Sugarman was after Betty “defiled” her traumas to motivate her. But that’s okay, we learn from Betty at her window, that counts. Being a detective in Riverdale is a kind of passive thing. You don’t really piece together clues, interrogate suspects or rummage through trash. You watch and wait.

“Can you feel me breathing down your neck?” says Betty at her window, imparting her second lesson. The show positions Betty, and the viewer, as a detectives in the same way it positions them as voyeurs. Being a detective in Riverdale is creepy.           

YOUR PALS

Kevin is just providing running commentary again, but on two occasions references his own interests and desires and on one occasion presents a opposed viewpoint to a friend. This earns the episode three full points on the Kevin Keller Agency-o-Metre.

Toni feels much more like a real character this week. Maybe now that her rather artificial function of “shaking up Bughead” and her expository function as Jughead’s guide to Serpenthood are both winding down then she can start to come into her own. Or maybe just confirming on screen that she’s bisexual has been good for the character. They should try that with all the others to check. Well, not Kevin and Jughead, obviously. But everyone else.

Jughead confirms in his first two scenes that he’s always interested in food and that he wasn’t interested in going further sexually than “a PG-13 grope session.” Progress. Other Jughead highlights this episode include him picking up the title “Mighty Serpent Prince” and a wonderful bit of acting from Cole Sprouse in which he’s struggling not to mouth along his own words as Phillips reads them out loud.    

Betty is also visited by the spirit of her current comic book incarnation as she does car mechanic stuff ready for a street race. It’s quite disorientating watching a scene where the dialogue is all concerned with immediate Riverdale concerns while the visuals and action are letting you know that the show is starting to look over at recent events in the comics. Collections of the ‘New Riverdale’ Archie comics have been marketed as “the stories which inspired the show”, a lie apparent to anyone who looks at what was written and developed first, but we’ve now arrived at the point where that lie is coming true.     

Archie is making plans that’ll “hopefully keep everyone alive.” They are terrible plans. Plans more likely, as the Mighty Serpent Prince notes, to just get a greater number of people killed a month later. This is trying to solve a trolley problem by slowing the tram so more people have time to get on the tracks. Nevertheless, the important thing is that “getting Archie killed” is no longer the intended goal of Archie’s plans. Good for him.

Veronica looks so at home joining in with the Lodge family’s terrible vengeance on Nick St. Clair that, the way the shot is composed, you expect the chess board to distort into a trapezoid ready for her to take her place at the newly created third side.

Sheriff Keller wonders if he should ask Betty what she’s doing in Nick’s room. Decides not to bother. After all, that sort of information would only be of interest to anyone trying to investigate a complex series of interrelated violent incidents involving the Cooper family.  

Mayor McCoy is far more proactive, having discovered that she can have people arrested by pointing at them dramatically. There are limits on her power, however, as under Riverdale law you are protected from her custodial powers if a door obstructs you from the line described by her digits. Doesn’t matter if the door’s got a big window on it. That makes no odds. It’s not about visibility. A patio door would be fine. Just get on the other side of one quick when Mayor McCoy’s waving the long finger of the law around.  

The Krampus was invented to scare children. Cheryl is right about that.

The Sandman was not invented to scare children. Cheryl is wrong about that.

Jose and Reggie is such a great idea that I find I’ve written “Jose and Reggie is a great idea” three times in my notes.

Cheryl says the word ‘rape.’ For a while it looked very worryingly like the show would be dancing around the word, as it did in the early scenes with Veronica. But no, they were waiting for Cheryl to be the one who says it out loud. As they did with the word ‘abuse’ in the season’s opening episode. In the often mealy-mouthed world of this show this is a power almost unique to Cheryl – to look at the evil and call it by its name. 

Penelope looks so genuinely shocked when Cheryl explains that what she wants from her is for her to act like family. That that was still a possible thing that Cheryl could want is something that genuinely hadn’t occurred to her. How beautifully horrifying for everyone involved. “Care about me more” is one of this series’ best moments.

FP appears.

DJ Kahled, Pink and Kesha appeared at the 7th Annual iHeartRadio Music Festival.

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E5 When A Stranger Calls

In episode four our young sleuths and lovers discovered that, in a fictional reality that denies them consistency of motivation or action, the only way to take control of their lives is through consistency of affiliation. In episode five that’s taken away from them too. Everything’s in the wind.

Everything’s Riverdale!  

WEIRD MYSTERIES

This is the first episode in which the Black Hood is interesting. How did they do that?

Having him on the end of Betty’s phone completely changes how he works. He now functions more like ‘A’ from Pretty Little Liars in that he’s something our characters are being told they’re responsible for creating and something that can have a direct effect on any of the other subplots.

Until now then “an ineffective serial killer stalks the night” has integrated poorly with the teen romantic melodrama, remaining an external threat, creeping around the periphery, taking shots at peripheral characters. The Black Hood has been sold as this season’s big deal, but hasn’t ever felt like much of one because of the wall between him and the regulars. The sense of fear that he’s provoked in the community, and the chaotic choices arising from it, have been interesting. He hasn’t, in and of himself,  because he could have been anything, from the airborne toxic event in DeLillo’s White Noise to the lone bear that strolled into Springfield in that Simpsons episode.     

Look at him now though! Up in everyone’s romantic storylines, in thier peer pressure drug storylines, and their My Parents Just Don’t Understand storylines. The Black Hood has found a way to play nicely with the kids.

Okay… when Betty gets her first phone call from the Black Hood in ‘The Town that Dreaded Sundown’ then her mobile rings with a standard tone. But all through this episode it announces incoming demonic calls with ‘Lolipop’ by the Chordettes.  

Has, in the midst of all this, Betty decided that ‘Lolipop’ by the Chordettes is to be her new general ringtone, or has she assigned it specifically to the Black Hood?

We need to know everything surrounding that choice.

Doubles and shadows and mirrors abound. The Black Hood is keen to prove that he and Betty are ‘the same’, but we’ve been reminded recently about ‘Dark Betty’, that she also puts on black headgear to become someone else. The way in which Betty and the Hood are most importantly ‘the same’ is in that neither are always the same as themselves.

Add to that the information that the two letters from the Black Hood have different handwriting and we’ve lost the certainty that the Black Hood is the Black Hood. This situation has at least two Black Hoods, at least two Betty Coopers, and no guarantees that the boundaries between any of them are stable. Alice has already said out loud that, as far as she’s concerned, one of the Black Hoods was Betty. The voice on the phone is telling her the same.   

How much does Betty lean into real feelings when going after her friends and family?

She really is angry with her mother for all the reasons she gives when having to explain why she exposed her serpentine past. Watching that scene you have to actively remind yourself that she’s saying this stuff because of the murderous blackmailer telling her to.

She really is revolted by the posh druggy party side of Veronica’s life and deeply uncomfortable that she can fit back into it easier than she’d assumed. Watching her go for Veronica you have to actively remind yourself that it’s because of the murderous blackmailer telling her to.

Then there’s breaking up with Jughead. Up until that point the Hood’s exhortations have been more like permission slips for Betty’s darker desires. But she doesn’t seem to want this, does she? It’s very interesting having Archie do that speech on her behalf as his lies come from an honest place too. Betty doesn’t want to break up with Jughead. But Archie lists all the reasons he thinks she should.  

 

YOUR PALS

Josie seems to have let go of her previously very clear idea of the Pussycats’ brand. Veronica and Cheryl both seem to drift in and out of the group so regularly that at least one of them keeps her ears within easy reach for whenever the Cat Signal is lit.

Valerie and Melody are consequently back to being undifferentiated by the script, functioning as a single character called ‘the Other Pussycats’, no more individuated than ‘The Bulldogs.’ This is a generally a shame although collective action and unity of purpose are super-enjoyable to watch as they kick the shit out of a rapist.  

Archie can not be shown to drink rum but can be shown to take fictional ‘gutter drugs.’ I bet there were Meetings about this. Archie Comic Publications Incorporated surely haven’t adopted as laissez faire an approach to brand protection as Josie has.

Jingle Jangle being a fictional drug probably helped this get to the screen – nobody was ever going to snort what Nick was offering earlier. There’s also an expectation in teen drama that drug use will be shown to have Horrible Consequences, an expectation which, in the context of the story being told here, created the anxiety that Riverdale was about to tell us that drug users carry the responsibility for leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual predators.

Happily the show doesn’t go near that. There’s no suggestion that Veronica or Cheryl’s decision to jingle jangle made them in any way culpable for what happened to them with Nick. A bullet was really dodged here as, out of eagerness to make it clear that Drugs Are Bad, a lot of shows would have failed to make it crystal clear that rapists are responsible for rape.        

Betty has avoided Game of Thrones. That has positive and negative consequences, one of which is that she doesn’t know to say “You” when the Black Hood asks for his next sinner to kill.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that Nick St. Clair isn’t an excellent choice, just that it would have been really funny to hear the Black Hood go, “Oh…like on Game of Thrones. Shit.”

And then Betty say, “Well kinda, but it just seemed the obvious answer anyway, really. In the circumstances.”

And then this long and awkwardly hesitant conversation in which the Hood tries to think of a solid reason not to top himself that isn’t just “We can’t resolve our through-arc mid season with another show’s schtick.”

Pop Tate greets customers with “I don’t judge you.” A fun policy. Put it on your badge.

Sweet Pea is keen to do some terrorism.

Jughead has to become a full Serpent so that there’s someone who’s allowed to discourage this. As we see more of the different areas in which the Serpents are active – the school, the biker bars, the law offices – it becomes more and more interesting how independently these work. There seems to be no adult oversight over Sweet Pea’s branch of the Serpents – The Shouty Man from the bar isn’t going to tell Sweet Pea not to do any terrorism. He’s just allowed to get on with it.  

Toni is ambivalent about doing some terrorism. She’s still a very mechanical character really, there to guide Jughead around rather than to want or think anything.

Someone Next Episode, on learning what Betty has done, will say, “You couldn’t have just done the thing from Game of Thrones?”      

Fred is happy to hear the Red Circle is over. It mildly concerned him.

Kevin nods and smiles while Veronica tells him about her life. Very much back in role after his brief rebellion.

The Black Hood threatens Polly with sharp objects. Has abandoned trying to aim at things. Wise.

Cheryl would have been a better person for Betty to go to than Archie, don’t you think? She’s invested in Polly’s survival. She’s sneaky. She’s someone the Black Hood is less likely to have expected Betty to go to and therefore been watching. So far that’s two ways this episode that Betty could have wrapped this whole thing up.   

Hiram gets this week’s super-dramatic Biblical metaphor, promising “A new Eden” in the South Side. No direct talk of the Devil this week, I don’t think, but this at least associates the serpents with the serpent.

Hermione remains a timebomb, as it all goes off when her loyalty to Hiram snaps. She straightened Fred’s tie this week. Intimate.    

Alice is such a great character, isn’t she? Her real moment of glory this week is publishing a Lodge-critical article when thus far Hiram’s been treating her as a useful idiot. That and her appearance at the party establish DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ALICE COOPER as a major theme of the episode. I love her as everything except a parent.   

Veronica is a good person.

Hal has got a little moustache.  

Hot Dog 3 appears.

Sheriff Keller does not appear, but provokes much of the action with his extraordinary choice to question the motorcycle gang over last week’s fracas while taking no equivalent action against the squad who publicly said they’re out to kill someone.   

Harry Styles does not appear but is heard.

Gal Godot does not appear but is heard of.

Hot Dogs 1 to 2 do not appear.

 

THE TOWN WITH DEMOLITION ORDERS

However much the Black Hood’s sinister commandments might align with Betty Cooper’s darkest desires, the align more perfectly still with the producers’ practical needs. Keeping things moving in a romantic drama, while keeping your audience from rioting, is hard.

The pieces have to stay in motion, the stories cannot be allowed to end. Couples brought together must be brought apart again so more things can happen. Here in real life plenty of interesting things happen to stable couples. Plenty of interesting things also happen to stable couples in detective fiction and SF; Paul and Steve Temple solved loads of mysteries and Valerian and Laureline have been been shot at by loads of political metaphors holding laser guns. But the sort of sensational event that teen romantic drama wants to offer cannot be offered if everyone settles down and gets cats.

Trouble is… teen romantic drama is very good at getting people invested in the couples it throws together. Or people are very good at getting themselves invested. It doesn’t matter which way round it goes. It just means that you get segments of the audience whose attachment to the show is closely linked to that show’s portrayal of particular relationships. That’s certainly happened with Riverdale, where Betty and Jughead’s romance is the draw for many people.

Most relationships end when one or more party notices that it’s not a very good relationship. That’s the basic mechanism by which couples frequently break up, as good relationships, or terrible-but-oblivious ones, tend not to. Yet that basic mechanism is denied you if you’re trying to keep an audience sweet. Bad enough you’re breaking them up, worse yet if you’re breaking them up in a manner that in way implies they had anything less than a miraculous love.

So external agencies will often come in as demolition squads. Heading into Riverdale’s second season, with Archie paired off with Veronica and Betty paired off with Jughead, we all knew to look out for these external agencies. These forces from outside the relationships that’d come along, break them up, set the show in motion again, but leave the concept of the relationships untarnished and ready to be revisited down the line.

This is so familiar that the show has been able to play some sneaky tricks with our expectations. Every press release about Vanesa Morgan’s role in the show promised that Toni Topaz would ‘shake up’ Jughead and Betty. Oh hello, we thought, here comes the girl who understands a side of him that Betty doesn’t to usher in a storyline about jealousy and temptation. Which isn’t really what happened at all. There’s been one scene that gestured at it, but the real way in which she’s shaken them up is just by being his guide into Serpenthood.

Then we get something similar with Nick St. Clair. Before he arrives we’re very much invited to assume that this old flame of Veronica’s is there to ‘shake up’ her and Archie. Turns out that is not his function in the story at all. It now looks like the character will have several functions, but none of them are likely to be as effective as the consolatory pleasure offered by watching his vicious beating.       

Meanwhile, as these decoy ‘shake up’ characters play out their roles, there’s the Black Hood, shuffling the deck and rearranging the furniture. His cruel dictates perfectly in accord with what needed to happen anyway.  

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E4 The Town That Dreaded Sundown

All-Star Serial Killer line-ups loiter in our libraries! Wilbur Wilkins stalks the night! Elbows are being thrown! Actual elbows!

It’s chaos out there. But don’t worry. Reggie’s brought pizza and I’ve brought a recap.

Everything’s Riverdale!

 

THE TOWN WITH TIES

Jughead declares the night of the Town Hall Meeting to be an existential turning point for Riverdale, a change in what the town fundamentally is. Now, to be fair, he’s always saying things like this, he’s an excitable young man, but he’s got a point with this one. The events of this episode see Riverdale changed as it arrives at and consolidates a new unity between its narrative quirks and its content. What’s going on in Riverdale and how stories work in Riverdale come together in a way I’m not sure they have before.   

Here are three things I think are true about this show. Firstly that there is, at the heart of it, an emotional truth about adolescence, namely the pace at which it’s experienced. The tiny windows presented to teenagers in which to make choices on which they’re told their whole lives will depend accelerates everything going on in those already melodramatic years of one’s life. Huge choices are demanded of one in a social space set up to minimise one’s ability to make considered choices, and I think Riverdale does a pretty good job of capturing how fast and dangerous and frustrating that can feel. 

Secondly, that it’s currently exploring how a community that has lost its illusions, and with them its sense of identity, behaves. Everyone in the Town Hall meeting applauds all of Alice’s arguments, and then everyone applauds all of Fred’s counter-arguments, and then everyone applauds all of Alice’s again, and then all of Fred’s. For as long as those two keep care to keep talking, the crowd will keep switching between their contrary positions. Riverdale doesn’t know how Riverdale is meant to behave so has excused itself from having to behave consistently from moment to moment.    

Thirdly, that the writing on this show is erratic. We’ve learned how to watch Riverdale by now and we know what we can and can’t expect in the way of consistency. When we rejoin characters for each week’s episode then we know there’s no reason to assume that they’ll be positioned where we last saw them, neither in terms of their motivations or in terms of their relationships. It might be disappointing seeing Kevin walk in this week and act like last weekend’s character development didn’t happen, but we know that’s in the rules of Riverdale. It might give us whiplash watching the entire football team go from being super-hyped to do some vigilantism, to being very opposed to the whole thing, to being passionately up for it again as soon as they learn that Archie protected one of them from getting into some demonstrably trivial bother, but we know that that’s how Riverdale likes to pop, patch and re-inflate its story-balloons. We know this show is a bit of a mess.

The flashing lightning fuses these three things and illuminates Riverdale as a town in the grip of teenage impulsivity, civic trauma and flailing storylines. As a town in a radical state of flux.

This episode is about Betty and Veronica solving puzzles. Betty’s puzzle is that thing with the code. Veronica’s is more profound. While everyone else is coming to terms with what Riverdale/Riverdale is, she’s on the next level trying to answer the question of how you live a life inside a town/show like that. What can you base your choices on when the people who surround you and the people who write you are a chorus line of jerking knees? What can you hold on to?

“These are fraught times,” she recognises. “No one’s thinking straight,” she further recognises. “We have to hold on to each other,” she concludes.

Her answer is loyalty, the proper application of which has been a theme of this season since its first episode juxtaposed Betty’s resolution to support all of Jughead’s choices with the awful consequences of Jughead’s choices.

Veronica’s not so hasty. She doesn’t arrive at loyalty as her conclusive answer to the Riverdale problem until she’s tested it out from a couple of different approaches and found a way it can work. A way it can be something better than fetching your boyfriend’s gun and designing a fashion line around his attempt at suicide-by-proxy.

Part of what gets her there is a brief scene with her mother that stands out as the most honest we’ve ever seen the two characters have. As Hermione tries to explain that supporting someone cannot mean putting yourself in a position where you cannot criticise them, it’s finally made explicit what Hermione wants. She wants her daughter’s life to be entirely unlike hers.      

 

WEIRD MYSTERIES

The Black Hood leaves messages for Betty in envelopes marked ‘BETTY’ but messages for Alice in envelopes marked ‘COOPER.’

There’s potential for confusion here. The killer needs a more consistent system for how he communicates with this household. If, as seems as likely as anything, the Black Hood is Hal, then the way things are going he’ll be unmasked while sloppily delivering a message labelled ‘ME.’

What does it mean to be a South-sider? The North/South divide is more tangible than ever this episode, partly because it’s a story about people actively working to make that happen, and if this is going to be a thing then it’s a thing that probably needs to be thought about carefully.

Most of the time it appears to be a division based on class and economics. Other times it seems to be a division as arbitrary as the Ghoulie/Serpent battle lines being drawn over whether cars or bikes are best. But one way or another, the show’s now very clear that the South-siders are a group over which the North-siders have privilege, and that privilege is an active force in the narrative. It’s very clear because Toni told us. Riverdale knows it wants to associate Toni with that social justice lingo that the kids have nowadays, but doesn’t yet know if it wants her to be for or against.    

Is this a Batman story? Jughead raises the question in response to the villainous riddle, and it’s weirdly apposite. Telling stories about what happens to a community’s self-perception in the face of catastrophe was the new function that Scott Snyder put the Riddler to in ‘Zero Year’, and that’s to some extent carried through into Tom King’s recent War of ‘Jokes and Riddles.’ The version of the Riddler that’s been prominent in the comics over the past few years would be very at home in this town right now.

While Hiram Lodge sounds like a more cinematic Batman baddie, gloating over all the delicious “chaos and confusion” his dastardly schemes have provoked among the unsuspecting populace. Even then though, his ultimate goal looks like it’s about driving the town towards gentrifying the South Side so he can cash in on the redevelopment. That would be quite a Scott Snyder-ish Batman story too.    

 

YOUR PALS

Veronica puts on her cape and makes someone dispose of a gun. Definitely thinks this is a Batman story.  

Betty has more reason to think she’s in Buffy, finding herself an unwilling Chosen One whose best option is to rustle up a study group and a pile of library books.

Jughead is very proud of being the first person to call the Black Hood a serial killer, beating all those cowards who were waiting for him to kill more than one person.

Fred isn’t happy about his son’s choices but acts generally more resigned to them than he did towards the music career.

Archie has an alarming remix of his naff video going round his head. I wonder how his music sounds now? Never mind all this autotuned milkshake, let’s have him up on the stage performing this catchy little number about the B-B-B-B-Black Hood.

The Zodiac Killer is returning some Catherine Cooksons.

The Axeman has come to pay his fines.

The Phantom Killer just dropped in to do a bit of photocopying.

That Librarian seems a likely suspect. Judging by where Juggy plucks his selections from, then at least three stacks of Riverdale’s modest public library are given over to books on serial killers. Who’s stocking this place? She is, I reckon. According to her own murderous interests. This same shady character admits to being afraid of the Red Circle and would have known that Betty always used to take out that Nancy Drew book. She’s the Black Hood, I tell you. Who else could have known that?

Hal just sits there quietly through the episode again.

Weatherbee has no evident sense of embarrassment over supporting the Red Circle last week.  

Sheriff Keller is very gracious not to give him shit about this.

Dilton gets the ever-mobile devil imagery applied to him this week, toying with a shiny red apple while leading Archie into temptation.  

Wilbur Wilkins was a safer bet than Bingo Wilkin.

Reggie speaks for the Bulldog hivemind, brings pizza to the apocalypse. So it is written in the Book of Reg.

Toni is an expert on serial killers because she is from THE DARK SIDE.

Betty’s ponytail flicks against the fourth wall.

Fangs Foggarty appears. Presumably he won’t be Penny Peabody’s boyfriend in this continuity, although actually you never know with Riverdale.  

Cheryl appears.

Adam the Alien does not appear.

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E3 The Watcher in the Woods

At the end of each episode of Riverdale my daughter writes a flurry of texts to her friends, because she’s the intended audience, and I write a recap for a geek culture website, because I’m not. Here’s what you get to read.

It’ll be okay. Everything’s Riverdale.

YOUR PALS

Sheriff Keller is active or relevant in every single plotline this episode offers; the formation of the vigilante group, the activities of the gangs, the behaviour of his son. In normal television this might serve to centre his character, but normal television isn’t what we’ve got here. We need talk no more about the fellow. Well, not much more more anyway. His name will necessarily come up when we discuss Jingles the Christmas Elf.

Betty, in a departure from her stated policy this season, questions one of Jughead’s stupid choices. He quickly overrules her objections with a snog and the observation that she likes him when he’s reckless. Jughead should know, as he appears equally turned on by the thought of Archie going “all Travis Bickle.” With Veronica’s solitary reference to her boyfriend putting himself in the sights of a murderer being one that suggests she finds this trivial and cute, then the impression is given of a friendship group who find each other’s self-destructive behaviour to be either endearing or arousing. Except in the case of Kevin. The straight kids all agree that he should behave.

Jingles the Christmas Elf has been bringing festive cheer to Archie since 1961, but has never manifested in as surprising a form as he takes in Riverdale.

When Sheriff Keller said the words ‘Jingle Jangles’ in this season’s first episode then I think we all felt sure what was happening; The writers were fondly remembering the “hopped up on goofballs” line from The Simpsons and thought they’d give their own comedy policeman some old-timey drugs speak.

Then when the phrase recurred through the second episode I think we felt equally confident as to what was up; the writers had been tickled by a phrase and couldn’t stop typing it; like ‘waste extraction system’ and ‘self-sealing stem bolt’ on Deep Space Nine.

Now, as of the third episode, the truth is clear. ‘Jingle Jangles’ are how we are to talk about drugs in this show going forward. In the decade where music channels now censor metaphors about clinical use of morphine out of old Pink songs, ‘Jingle Jangles’ is the vocabulary in which the show is permitted to have this conversation.

Veronica alludes to both Audrey Horne and Hamilton in the same conversation. I find this relatable as that’s how I live my life – before this recap is done I’ll allude to Audrey Horne and Hamilton in the same sentence – but I’m not sure Veronica should talk like me.

Kevin. Kevin, oh Kevin. Kevin, my child. I knew you could do it. Sweet Kevin. You’re a real boy now. A whole episode in which you take a week off from reacting archly to the terrible and dangerous choices all the straight kids are making and get to make terrible and dangerous choices of your own. As if you want things! As if the things you want are different to them and as if your opportunities to pursue them are subject to different cultural constraints! Not only this but you get to articulate that effectively. Good Kevin. Best Kevin. But not a Kevin we’ve never seen before. This is the kid who was in the leaked pilot script. Riverdale’s Kevin Keller has finally caught up with where he was before Riverdale was filmed. Hopefully it’s all forwards from here. Oh, Kevin.

The Black Hood has killed 100% of the people he has tried to kill with cello bows and 0% of the people he has tried to kill with guns. Needs to have a rethink.

Cheryl and the lighting department are endgame.

Jughead has remembered which school he goes to and that it is not the one he appears to have been attending for the previous two episodes. “Can’t you just keep going here?” asks Betty. Unclear why he dismisses this plan as he seems to have been getting away with it undetected.

Archie tries rum. Presumably. We never see him take a sip. The scene cuts away at the exact point it would be really weird for him not to.

Fred doesn’t like guns. No wonder he was unsure about Archie having musical instruments in the house last season. Deadlier. Proven.

Hermione’s position becomes clearer and uglier. She knows she’s failing to protect herself and Veronica from Hiram but, since the toothpaste of shame always squirts out of the tube at inconvenient angles, how she feels about this has turned into a sozzled resentment of Veronica.

Polly is also squeezing that tube. It’s unclear how much poor Polly’s belief that she’s “the poster child for sin” comes from self-disgust and how much from an attempt to see through the killer’s eyes. But with her and her newborn twins all off to toil in the fields together then the important thing for the show is that they’ve now got somewhere to park these characters.

Hiram’s reactions to The Matchelorette are unrecorded.

Alice continues to serve as the voice of the press this season, a role I trust she’ll continue to enjoy until one of the two school papers scoops the killer.

Weatherbee is bold to think that “it’s a school club” is sufficient to end all questioning of an armed vigilante gang. Oh! Oh they’ve got a treasurer? Oh, then that’s fine.

Moose gets to talk about his queer identity, but it’s framed by him diminishing the idea that he might be attracted to Midge. Getting frisky in the woods was all her idea. He’s not sure if they’re ‘a good match’. We can’t talk about Moose being into blokes until we’ve cast doubt on the idea that he’s into a girl. Nothing in this show makes me so anxious as where it’s going with its framing of bisexuality.

Toni, our officially licensed bisexual, uses the implication of male homosexual desire to shame Sweetpea, shooing him off with the jibe that Jughead is “not that into” him. The way the character is being positioned is very telling and deliberate. Look! She uses ‘safe space’ and ‘snowflake’ mockingly! So don’t worry everybody, she’s not one of those bisexual teens.

Midge is unhelpful at identifying people. Reports that the killer’s eyes were blank, satanic and devoid of all humanity. Okay, fine, but you just cut off someone who was about to tell us if they were green or not. Let’s get the basics down first.

A Cuddly Toy Moose appears on screen for the first time during Midge’s ‘devil’s eyes!’ speech. Undercuts sense of infernal dread.

The Ghoulies solve a problem. The Serpents are established as a frequently sympathetic organisation. The Serpents are also established as a drugs gang. Morality on this show is exactly as black and white as it keeps telling us it isn’t, so we need these guys; the bad gang who distribute the bad drugs. They are street racers while the serpents are bikers but it remains to be seen if that will be mapped on to the moral schema.

Reggie is immune to these considerations. A free floating ‘bad kid’ unrestricted by consistency of action or facial features. As the comics used to superposition B&V as both best friends and bitterest rivals, Reggie is traditionally both an integral part of the gang and an external bully. Riverdale’s version of the character is an equally adaptable ne’er-do-well. When there are drugs to sell, he’s there selling them. When there are skulls to crack, he’s bought the wrench. He is naughty.

Dilton fits in better with the Bulldogs than you might have thought. That someone who has previously just been ‘dangerous outsider nerd with a gun’ happens to be sat comfortably and confidently in the room with the football team as the Red Circle is no accident. Archie drops the ‘no weapons’ pretence as soon as he gets in the car with Reggie; He wanted Mister Guns invested in this from the start.

Sweetpea is our new voice of young serpenthood in the show, there to articulate the Serpent party line within the apocalyptically lit halls of Southside High. Shame it couldn’t have been Joaquin really. That would have been more fun. Presumably a reimagining of an old Archie Comics character, but I’m going to pretend he’s the baby from Popeye.

Hal appears.

Captain Murder has yet to appear. Suspicious.

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Is there a cascade of educational damnation? We know that if you fall from the grace of Riverdale then you plummet down to Southside High. So if you get expelled from Southside High, do you then go to Ghoulie Schoolie?

What is the provenance of the Cuddly Toy Moose? Either it’s a gift from Midge (which would be weird as their relationship seems too far along for “Ha! You’re name is MOOSE! Like a moose!”) or Midge has brought him his favourite Cuddly Toy Moose from home to make his stay in hospital more comfortable.

What is sin? Jughead often packages events up for us in a Manichean “LIGHT VERSUS DARKNESS” narrative where light is an idealised nostalgic fantasy of small town Americana and darkness is pretty much anything else. But the notion of sin that debuts here feels different, like the Al Hartley Archie comics have somehow sneaked in.

Presumably the Black Hood has a conception of what he thinks sin is, but his language is all over the place. Fred’s shot for adultery. Classic. Classic religious taboo, your adultery. Bang to rights there, Fred. Then the Hood identifies his next victim as “the child predator” which isn’t particularly theological language, but okay.

After that though, he says the teenagers got shot at for being “drug and sex addicted.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Whatcha doing there, Mister Hood? Addiction’s a whole different discourse and one that noticeably manages the concept of attribution differently to a discourse of sin, and noticeably is one that nobody else is applying to Midge and Moose.

What sort of a comics reader is Archie? I feel like the sort of kid who has DC Rebirth posters on their wall and the sort of kid who treasures a stack of ‘80s Red Circle books are at different stages of their journey with the medium. More data is needed.

 

THE TOWN WITH LIE$

There are two sorts of agent in this story, two sorts of people that make things happen. People making dangerous choices in pursuit of their goals and people escalating the consequences of those choices to serve goals of their own. Archies and Cheryls.

What Hiram wants is unclear. What Archie wants is very clear. The audience is with Archie, inside his head, as we follow every step that takes him towards the posting of an embarrassing YouTube video that will blight his entire life as much as Michael Rosen’s has been blighted by that one clip from his mashed potato poem. Nice.

We know what he wants and we know where it gets him. But we also know that Archie doesn’t get there, attempting to menace a 25% effective angel of death with his personal exploration of BDSM aesthetics, without being nudged by Hiram. The formation of the Red Circle and their adoption of these tactics are outcomes that Hiram wanted and has brought about to suit his sinister schemes, but there’s no intimation of what these sinister schemes relate to. To be honest, it’s hard to pretend that the writers have settled on what Hiram’s sinister schemes are, isn’t it?

Over in the woods, Cheryl is exploiting Betty’s concern for Kevin to drive a wedge between them. We know which desires motivate Kevin’s choices. We know which desire’s motivate Betty’s. And we also know what desires motivate Cheryl – She’s re-asserting her power over Betty and getting some revenge for last week’s blackmail – but we only know that because we saw last week’s thrilling instalment. None of that stuff is in the recap and no reference is made to it in the episode whatsoever. This is a story about Cheryl taking a shot at Betty that creates a deliberate distance between the viewer and the reasons why Cheryl’s taking a shot at Betty.

Cheryl’s sinister schemes aren’t like Hiram’s, her motives are established while his are [tbd], but their presentation is identical. At this stage in Riverdale there are people who make choices, like Archie and Betty with whom we ride along in their heads as they do, and people who steer those choices like Hiram and Cheryl. Their desires, even if known to us, are positioned at a remove. As Audrey Horne sung in Hamilton, isn’t it too dreamy in the dark?

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E2 Nighthawks

Can you remember what happened in this week’s Riverdale? Of course not! That was days ago! Who could expect that of anyone?

All that’s expected of you here is that you play along with the idea that the best way to refresh your memory is by reading a slightly vinegary recap by an old Welsh man.

Everything’s Riverdale!

THE TOWN WITH POPS

Here in the UK, Riverdale is branded as a ‘Netflix Original’ show. Early last season that lead to one British press review charmingly mispositioning the series next to the service’s award-thirsty gloryshows and assuming that the source material must be worthy and acclaimed graphic novels indeed. This week the ‘Netflix Original’ branding  had me briefly wondering if the wonky ‘Death Diner’ letters were intended as promotion for their Death Note thing.

Last recap we were wondering how a second season would find its way between continuing to be a response to the tradition of Archie Comics and becoming a response to Riverdale as a now pre-existent artefact. We’ve seen a bit of the second thing – Grundy’s death felt partly there to give the people what they want – but overall Riverdale is still more interested in how Riverdale follows the Archie Mythos than in how Riverdale follows Riverdale.    

The earlier “Save the Drive-In!” episode comes up a lot in this “Save the Malt Shop!” episode, but this story is far more focused. Locales associated with nostalgic Americana are again associated with the security of childhood, with the security of nostalgic old Archie comics, but it’s one specific childhood illusion under consideration here; That our fathers won’t hurt us.

“This is a town where fathers are killing their sons!” says Jughead last episode, like that’s unheard of. 

“Blindfold’s off. Can’t just put it back on” says Veronica here.

Alice wants to call her article REQUIEM FOR POPS and is no doubt gutted that Riverdale‘s titling convention means she can’t give that name to the episode itself.

The chain of emotional logic that the kids are following here is explicit.

  • Childhood was a more innocent time.
  • The heyday of malt shops was a more innocent time.
  • In our childhoods we trusted our fathers.
  • THEREFORE if malt shops are preserved then our fathers are less likely to kill us.   

Jughead makes no attempt to distinguish the “Save Pop’s!” and “Save our pops!” issues in his confrontation with the Mayor, and even though Betty’s a bit rattled she goes with it.

Betty’s  in a dangerous place now, committed to supporting Jughead’s goals but prepared to go further than he is to achieve them. Diverting all system resources away from her “Should I do this?” faculties and towards her “How do I do this?” faculties, she’s practically powerful and critically impotent. Cheryl tells her the very real and non-trivial ways in which FP has hurt her and Betty can’t hear any of it, coming back with the non sequitur that “FP didn’t kill Jason.”

It’s Betty’s actions that achieve the final unity of “Save Pop’s!” and “Save our pops!” by providing the two problems with the same solution; Blackmail Cheryl into saving both. The figure of the patriarch is to be preserved by perpetuating the victimisation of the abused child.

WEIRD MYSTERIES

This episode felt like it was in conversation with me. I’d shout things at the screen and then it would shout “That’s a plot point!” back.

“If she’s on retainer for the Serpents, why has she not given FP her legal advice already?”

“That’s a plot point!”

“Why is everyone acting like a small business is a charity?”

“That’s a plot point! As is the obliviousness of everyone except Alice Cooper to everything that’s happening around them!”

Moose becoming the latest victim genuinely disrupts attempts to identify the killer. Up until now then the obvious suspect was some sort of external entity created by Archie’s suppressed anger.  We can abandon that now, I suppose. Put it to the back of your mind. Forget you thought it.

Many people have made the connection between the gunman and the Black Hood, an often violent vigilante figure who first appeared in 1940’s Top-Notch Comics #9.

Fair enough, but I worry we’re all neglecting 1994’s Archie Meets the Punisher.

It’s wonderful how consistently the series treats the river as the boundary between life and death. It’s the body of water you cross to be reborn. It’s where you go when you die. We stand in Riverdale because we stand at death’s shores. It’s even more delicious this season now that we know what’s physically on the other side is the numinous town of witches.

This week Archie stands in the middle of the river, between life and death, and picks up a gun.

YOUR PALS

Veronica is in the most horrifying situation I’ve seen on television since Spencer Hastings last had to have a family breakfast. Her parents are now gaslighting each others’ gaslighting. When all is known then complex diagrams will be required to map the extent of the malice and harm. Her survival strategies are diversion and feigned indifference.

Jughead is the one friend able to see how much she’s struggling. His advice isn’t great, but good on him anyway.

Sheriff Keller has better instincts than I thought. He suspected from the off that these crimes were jingle-jangle related and now, as of the third one, they are.

Penny Peabody makes a Mephistophelean pact and guarantees a future episode will called Devil’s Advocate.

Hiram has been defended by Veronica “every time someone called [him] the devil incarnate.” V. specific.

FP is saved at the cost of being left beholden to a character positioned as the devil.

Pop Tate is saved at the cost of being left beholden to a character positioned as the devil

The traditional role of ‘The Father’ is irredeemable once the blindfolds are off.

Hermione is going to wreck everyone’s shit when she eventually turns on Hiram.

Archie gets called ‘daddio’ to highlight the dark path he’s on. His journey this episode takes him from thinking that drugs will make him the Man of the House to thinking that guns will. Thanks to the side effects of jingle jangles then the drug plan involved him being constantly erect, so the phallus is very much the consistent feature here.  

Moose requires jingle jangles to get it on with his girlfriend. Last season Moose had his intended plotline curtailed by Kevin, on behalf of the CW, declaring him not really into guys. Least bisexual bisexual. Gets shot.

The Angel of Death is very unlikely to be brought to justice by Archie distributing drawings of his mask. “Have you seen this man?” asks the header, so presumably what’s written below is “Me neither.” I may mock, but flyers just like these would actually have got season four of Line of Duty wrapped up quick.

Midge is okay, isn’t she? Surely? Her introduction was too much of an introduction not to be the introduction of a new regular and not enough of an introduction to be the fake introduction of a fake ‘regular’. She’s fine! Which makes the Angel of Death a bit rubbish at death. He is at most the Angel of 50% Death.

Reggie gets to look more reasonable than he is thanks to Riverdale being such directive television. In drama like this then two opposed people can’t both be presented as massively wrong in the same scene or we won’t know whose wrongness we’re being pointed at. So he gets to show up at Archie’s house dressed as his father’s shooter with that being allowed to stand as ‘a prank’ rather than chillingly weird behaviour.

The Dream Warriors were the heroes of A Nightmare On Elm Street Part Three. First horror film I ever saw, that one. I didn’t know what was going on.

Mister Weatherbee has tragic news to share. Which is a good thing really. Imagine him trying to have a bit of fun or lighten the mood. End of term and I bet he dishes out the book tokens mournfully.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is further foreshadowed by the soundtrack promising that this will be her season.

Kevin is shocked to meet Veronica’s father! Kevin is shocked to hear of Grundy’s death! Other people’s lives have so many events in them. So much to take in.

Betty‘s eyebrow raise while Cheryl is on the stand is far more scary than the initial extortion. “No, no. The forgiveness we agreed upon will not be sufficient,” it makes clear, “Perjury is also required.”

Cheryl goes the extra mile not just on the stand but in other areas of her life. Such as trying to out do the cast of Victorious for extravagance of locker modification.

Josie has a really interesting friendship with our Chezza and I really need to see more of the dynamics of how it, y’know, works. Josie gets no reaction shots while she’s standing next to Cheryl during her dismissal of B&V. How does she feel when she’s around Cheryl at her most performatively Cheryl? How does she fit in with that? 

Valerie has the norovirus. Worrying news as she visited a hospital last week. Whole ward likely shut down now. 

Melody appears.

Fangs Fogarty has yet to appear.

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