The time has come my friends, Riverdale Season 2 is upon us! Archie and the gang are BACK and dare I say better than ever. When a show has a stellar first season, you always worry they’ll come back and the magic will be missing or something will seem not quite as exciting as it did the first time around. If this episode is any indication, that will not be the case for Season 2 of Riverdale. The noir style theme is even heavier this time around and you can’t help but feel like you’ve been immersed in a 1940’s or 1950’s classic horror film.
The biggest take away for me from this episode was KJ Apa’s performance. In the pilot, we saw glimpses of nuanced facial expressions and timed dialogue, but that sort of faded through most of Season 1. I can’t wholly blame KJ for that when Archie’s never had to react to any sort of high stakes situation in his life. Last season, Betty was looking for her missing, pregnant, sister while dealing with an overbearing, control freak mother and her own self harm issues; Veronica is adjusting to a new life after the incarceration of her beloved father and worrying her mother is the true master manipulator; Jughead is essentially homeless and trying to put his family back together, all the while worrying his alcoholic father is a murderer; and Cheryl is dealing with the death of her twin brother and sadistic family. So when Archie, who has the best Dad ever, was vexing about not having time to both play his guitar and football, we all couldn’t help but eye roll.
This season, however, has Archie dealing with the aftermath of his father being shot at Pop’s and the stress and anxiety that comes with witnessing a traumatic event. There is definitely some PTSD here and Archie not only feels partially responsible for the whole thing, but is worried this attack wasn’t random and it will happen again. Talk about things that keep you up at night. In the hospital, when Archie recounts what happened and then calls his mother to tell her to hurry home in case they have to say goodbye, KJ makes so many subtle choices in this performance and I wanted to high five him through the screen. It’s undeniable that the other 3 shined last season and he was, through no fault of his own, not the most watched performer. If what we see in this first episode carries throughout, KJ will rise to the same level as his co-stars. It made me feel like a proud parent just watching him.
The other thing this episode did effectively was the use of Fred’s dream sequences to showcase his internal fight to stay alive. His subconscious is creating scenarios of the future that he will miss out on; Archie’s graduation from High School, Archie showing Fred the engagement ring he bought Veronica, and Archie marrying Veronica, complete with kilts and bagpipes and wow if Fred’s dream dress for Veronica isn’t stunning! All of the sequences end with the shooter showing up and Fred realizing he died and missed it, eventually waking him towards the end of the episode.
Veronica steps up her girlfriend game with a little cheerleading from Betty. She accompanies Archie home from the hospital and when he tries to push her away, she almost takes the bait, but instead, turns on her heels and pronounces she will not be leaving his side no matter how hard he tries to push her away. He breaks down in her arms. Varchie for the win!
Later in the episode, Veronica asserts herself to Hermione when she accuses her of ordering the hit on Fred. Hermione threatens her, further making the audience feel like she might be the actual evil parent, but Veronica doesn’t seem fazed. Our introduction to Hiram, cloaked in shadows seated at the end of a long dinner table with two single candles, feels so Godfather in nature, but again, Veronica is unmoved.
Bughead, as cute and adorable as ever, are doing what they do best, investigating. Oh, they’re also riding motorcycles….(pause for the shippers to swoon). They briefly discuss Betty’s trepidation over Jughead and a certain leather Serpent jacket. He reassures her it’s fine and he just needs to be somewhat in touch with them because it makes him feel close to his father. So when Jughead asks the Serpents to look into who might have attacked Fred, we were a little nervous. Nervous we should be because Jughead returns home to a guy tied up in his living room. Whoops! Jughead is equal parts horrified and intrigued. As an aside, I’m glad that the foster family Jug is “living” with is just a tertiary thing and they’re going to vouch for him so he can stay in FP’s trailer. After all the speculation about who the family might be, it’s better that it’s a non-issue.
Oh and who’s the mysterious 2nd person to wind up in the hospital? Penelope Blossom. Cheryl spins some tale about her mother saving her from the fire and that’s how she ends up all burnt, but we know that’s not the case. What on earth actually happened? Cheryl threatens to expose “what really happened in the barn with Daddy” if her mother doesn’t do exactly as she says… wait.. What really happened in the barn?
The dream sequences and Archie’s recollection of events shows us the shooter who has green eyes and appears older… hmmm…
Also worth mentioning, Kevin, Josie, Val, Melody, Reggie, and some random day player teens show up at the hospital to support Archie. YAY for screen time on this crew! I’m looking forward to more Josie and the Pussycats as well as seeing what Charles Melton brings to the role of Reggie.
A very strong start to a promising season, any speculation on the identity of the shooter? Or too soon to tell?