Sometimes a show like Riverdale just needs to connect the dots between plots and deliver an episode with no other great ambitious. This week’s return from the late winter hiatus is one of them.
Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Gladys (Gina Gerhson) continue their affiliations, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) gets closer to learning the truth about Hermione (Marisol Nichols), Jughead (Cole Sprouse) finally feels the fallout from expelling Toni (Vanessa Morgan) and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch), Betty (Lili Reinhart) finally gets confirmation about her worst fears regarding the Farm and Archie (KJ Apa) does something stupid.
And, for once, we’re going to talk about Archie and his stupid thing. Every so often, I make the case that the show’s inability to inject the character with some actual character is part-and-parcel with Archie’s clean-cut, all-American image from the comics. In some ways, he’s a metaphor for the soul of the country, bumbling from one misadventure to the next. He’s been a victim — though he’d never perceive it that way — a high school capo, a fugitive, the victim of bear attack — which he is willing to admit — and, now, he’s a fighter. Considering the actor’s absurdly fit physique, getting him in the ring has a certain on-screen value. Thematically, it also furthers Archie’s main conflict: his lack of a strong internal center or self-determined purpose. Granted, that seems to run in the Andrews line with his own father setting aside his dreams and ambitions to keep the Andrews family business alive. Archie could totally end up in that same rut, even if he keeps reaching out to these odd opportunities.
It would be a good character arc if it was more consistent. Instead, he hops along from one silly role to the next — and even from one girlfriend to the next — without a lot of introspection. Even his post-mauling phantasm lacked a proper look at the self. Sadly, Josie (Ashleigh Murray) has been caught up in his flailing for a purpose and you’d think she would’ve dropped him the moment he decided to take up boxing. But I suppose this is a way to set up her departure for the Katy Keene series should it get picked up next year. And, if nothing else, Murray’s cover of “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” was a delightfully cheesy counterpoint to the other goings-on at that moment.
Meanwhile, the other plots did what they needed to do without a lot finesse or flair. But it is worth noting the way they set but both Gladys and Edgar Evernever as outside antagonists from the established Riverdale paradigm. The complete collapse of the Serpents as we’ve known them would not be surprising. Nor would discovering Edgar Evernever was one of the kids at Quiet Mercy who originated Gryphons & Gargoyles. It makes them both suspects in the Featherhead murder and the possible true form of the Gargoyle King. Interesting ideas worth considering.
And yet, the episode still felt perfunctory. It may have benefited from the triptych format the show occasionally deploys. Giving the major threads a little more tonal separation may have made it more fun while leading us to the next phase of the story. But then again, part of the point was establishing how Gladys (and Edgar?) are pulling the strings around town for their power plays. It is important stuff to establish even if it comes off a little dull.
So let’s ponder whether or not Riverdale can get back to the fun it generally has with its prime time soap trappings while we watch a preview for next week’s show. Kevin (Casey Cott) is in deep with the Farmies, Archie finds a boy marked for sacrifice, and the tensions within the Serpents hit a breaking point.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.