Let’s Ponder The Road To Greendale And A Riverdale Experiment

by Erik Amaya

 

You have to wonder why good, clean Riverdale kids shouldn’t be in Greendale after midnight.

This week’s Riverdale was an interesting experiment. A format-breaking episode allowing the production to switch tones and load in a number of plot points in a quick manner. Strangely, breaking this week’s story lines into distinct mini-episodes seemed to work better than the program’s usual hopscotch between characters and threads. Also, it seeded one important idea going forward: Greendale is a creepy place.

Which, of course, makes sense. It’s where Sabrina Spellman hails from and, as we know, The CW is developing a Sabrina-centered spinoff. Which means the supernatural will finally enter Riverdale via the town. So to have Penny (Brit Morgan) warn Jughead about arriving there after midnight certainly feels like more than telling him not to be late with the “pancake mix.”

Is “pancake mix” the new Jingle-Jangle?

But amplifying the feeling of Greendale’s strangeness was the appearance of Candyman‘s Tony Todd as a helpful, if threatening, deer hunter. Bringing Todd onto any show instantly makes it better, and Riverdale makes great use of him as a specter of death who is both thrilled and repulsed by the Black Hood and his similarity to the Riverdale Ripper. Jughead’s brief trip with him may shed a new light on the Black Hood in the episodes to come, but it also established the road to Greendale as a place where weird people — and unsettling CGI-deer — appear out of the mist.

In fact, the first two-thirds of the episode play with thriller tropes in a new way for the show. Where Jughead and Archie’s trip to Greendale flirts with horror, Josie’s (Ashleigh Murray) story enters Single White Female territory. At least, that’s the impression one gets when we learn Cheryl Blossom is a pretty good artist. It also seems that she’s completely isolated Josie for some reason by creating tension with Valerie (Hayley Law) and Melody (Asha Bromfield, who finally got some lines!). Is it her twisted form of protection? Because the character always pivots between victim and perpetrator so quickly, it’s hard to get a read on what Cheryl wants out of this. But considering the way Blossoms show affection, this may be a genuine attempt at bonding.

Not that Josie will be happy about it when she learns Cheryl is the architect of all her pain.

Then the show shifted gears, playing Betty’s serious investigation for laughs. For once, all of her instincts were wrong as we learn Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) is pretty damned fit and stepping out on his wife with Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens)! I wonder how she’s sneaking out of the Five Seasons without Josie getting wise? At the same time, a Betty & Veronica caper is always fun to watch and the episode’s use of split-screen highlighted how well these characters work, even when connected by only a phone call.

Sadly, a phone call ends the fun as Pop’s answers the line and learns from the Black Hood that judgement is coming for all of Riverdale’s sinners. Perhaps we should ponder those sinners as we look at a preview of next week’s episode. F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) is out of jail, Archie says the L-word and the Black Hood plots another attack.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.

Erik Amaya

Host of Tread Perilously and a Film/TV Writer at Comicon.com. A contributing writer at CBR, Fanbase Press, Monkeys Fighting Robots and Rotten Tomatoes. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.