This weeks episode of Riverdale was a divergence of the two major story lines playing out at the beginning of the season; Archie’s tint in the big house and Bughead’s investigation into the Gargoyle King. While this means that our core 4 are separated again (I thought we weren’t doing this), it also provided an opportunity to do what Riverdale does best, juxtapose the deep darkness with the ridiculous lightness.
Riverdale: Chapter Thirty-Seven: Fortune and Men’s Eyes
Directed by: Jef Woolnough, Written by: Michael Grassi (#302)
Original Airdate 10/17/2018
The murder of Dilton and subsequent investigation that Bughead embark on in this episode was really dreary and mostly devastating. I didn’t realize he was dead at the end of last week and when Ben jumped out the window to his death at the end of the episode, I was thoroughly horrified. Ethel was engaged in this game of Gargoyles and Gryphons with the boys, which according to her and the missing scout Bughead finds in the bunker, is a very realistic role playing game that has them believing so strongly in it that it persuades Ben to commit suicide.
Also creepy this episode is the introduction of Evelyn Evernever (Zoe De Grande Maison), the daughter of Edgar Evernever who runs The Farm cult Polly and Alice belong to. Comic fans might remember Evelyn from the Little Archie comics. She also appeared in Little Ambrose‘s only issue and in several issues of Betty & Veronica Spectacular. She lurks in Betty’s shadow for most of the episode seeming ominous and omnipresent. She’s there when Ethel has her seizure in the middle of telling Bughead about the Gargoyle King and she was supposedly at Betty’s house the previous episode when Betty had her own seizure. What she’s up to and whether she will be ally or foe is yet to be determined, but she definitely brought the creep factor.
Mixed between the stick figure chasing Bughead through the woods, the survivalist bunker, and the teen suicide was a much more cheerful Riverdale. Veronica, desperate to make sure Archie’s “seat” is ready for him when he gets out gets into a spat with Cheryl over who will be acting President of the school in Archie’s place (I’ll be honest I completely forgot they won the school election). Even Archie’s introduction to the Juvenile Detention Center was lighthearted bordering on ridiculous. It seemed so over the top, you probably weren’t supposed to laugh, but you did. Archie decides to make the most of his time in jail and instead of siding with one of the gangs (Rob Raco returned as Joaquin), he attempts peacemaking in the form of a football game. No sides, just good old fashioned fun! And it’s a blast! The River Vixens even show up, boom box in hand, to sing and dance to Jailhouse Rock while the boys hoot, holler, and play the game. This felt like something straight out of Cry Baby and it was gloriously fun! Until it wasn’t.
Hiram Lodge showed up to be the debbie downer of a character that he is; the Warden is in his pocket and the guards break out the riot gear to squash the football game and beat the kids bloody. Yikes. This is a perfect example of why Hiram is an awful character that brings this show down. When Riverdale balances it’s light and dark, it’s serious and fun, it really excels. I was truly enjoying the high stakes comedy this felt like until kids were being beaten. We already had a dead teenager and a suicide this episode, the riot situation was hardly necessary and the Hiram of it all just really drags the story.While I can always buy into an out-there plot involving teenagers, it’s harder when its an adult. To believe that this man has such a grudge against a 16 year old, that has really done nothing to him besides sleep with his daughter is past the realm of my suspension of disbelief.
Hiram aside, the parents are always a delight and it looks like this season the Riverdale writers are taking a page from prolific horror writer, Stephen King. The parents all assembled in Hermione’s office to discuss “that night” so long ago and the secret they swore to keep. They’re referring to the Gargoyle King situation of course and answers are coming in the form of a flashback episode (Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club) where all the kids will be playing young versions of the parents. The whole scene felt very reminiscent of Stephen King’s IT and the pact the Loser’s Club (note the flashback episodes title) makes to return and defeat Pennywise. I’m looking forward to this mystery and all that it encompasses as the season goes on.
There has been some blow back from fans on the “plausibility” of the shenanigans the kids get into and the depths of darkness which has befallen Riverdale this past year. The Gargoyle King mystery is going to be worse than the murder of a teenage boy by his own father and the serial killer lineage of our dear Betty Cooper. The coroner confirmed as much when Betty and Jughead went to see about Dilton Doiley’s body. It kind of makes you wonder what this town was like before Jason Blossom died since it seems to be the inciting incident to which all is referenced and if life in Riverdale had been less death and devastation, why then aren’t the residents up in arms, staging protests, forming councils to get things back into shape? Everyone seems really accepting of gang wars and frequent murder pretty quickly, it’s only been 1 school year! Maybe what Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa is trying to play with here is a wider notion of growing up. We, the audience, know there’s always been danger and treachery underneath the surface, but we’re seeing this all through the lens of the teenagers, perhaps this is more about an awakening.
Every child goes through a process in their life, most make it through childhood fairly naive to the ways of the world and it’s really in highschool when you start to understand that maybe everything isn’t always sunshine and roses. It’s when parents stop hiding as much from you as they did before and you begin to experience more adult circumstances. First loves, first intimacies, first deaths. The average person makes it into adulthood with living parents, probably even grandparents. Death, for the most part, isn’t experienced until you’re older, particularly of a peer, especially in white suburban neighborhoods.
Teenagers also think they’re invincible, like they know it all, so yeah it may seem ludicrous to the audience that Betty and Jughead fancy themselves Detectives, but the way they see it, they’re better at this (they did solve the 2 big mysteries of the show so far). Teenage ego is a thing to behold and they always believe this is the best it’s gonna get, this is the be all end all of life. So when Veronica is crusading about visiting her man in prison, she truly believes they’ll be together forever, and maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. Only time and life choices, experiences can decide that for them. Teenagers also have very dramatic highs and lows and when Riverdale is showcasing that, like they did in this episode for the most part, they hit the mark. More episodes like last years musical and this years prison dance are a perfect balance to the darker elements they touch on and help make the show if not relatable, at least more enjoyable.