Is Riverdale admitting its murder mystery thread has run its course?
For the second year in a row, the show’s topline plot — the identity of a masked murder — ended with an appropriate, if unexciting conclusion. And just like last year, it comes with one or two inconsistencies about where the person was at a given time. It is, of course, an unfortunate artifact of the show trying to string this idea across 22 episodes instead of 13. The first season mystery of Jason Blossom’s death worked because Riverdale had a shorter season to establish itself and build a story around his death. The Black Hood and the Gargoyle King were less effective for having to encompass a longer span of time. Both stories included unfortunate fake-outs with very abrupt mid-season resolutions to throw viewers off the scent — although, it is possible the solution was as much a mystery to the writers as it was to Jughead. The flaw seems more apparent this season as Betty (Lili Reinhart) figured it out 9 episodes into the season.
The Gargoyle King was, ultimately, Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt). Although, she had some help from Chick (Hart Denton) to keep Kurtz and the other Gargoyles in line. Betty figured it was her from the use of poison on Principal Featherhead all those years ago, Ben Button and the other early victims. But Penelope was quick to alibi herself by throwing suspicion on Dilton Doiley’s dead dad Darryl for the original ascension night murder. Although, now that we think about it, Penelope did not claim Featherhead as one of her victims…
Nonetheless, it is easy to see him as part of her vision of the town’s corruption; a vision inspired by the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and their own use of Gryphons & Gargoyles. Which, like The Farm, also seems plenty corrupt.
Now, all the implications are interesting if the revelation itself was not. Penelope blames the town for allowing her to be bough as a child bride for Clifford Blossom and it seems she’s been scheming to make the town pay. It’s a good turn for the character, far more interesting than the Red Dahlia setup she’s had since the show threatened a Legion of Doom last year. I just wish it was established with a little more finesse.
But that seems to be the feeling of the show as well. The key four’s decision to enjoy a senior year free of serial killers and death cults suggests the writing team is aware of the cracks in their foundation. But the flash-forward to Spring Break 2020 also suggests the show isn’t entirely done with murder mysteries. It is also not done with ideas some other established ideas. Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) has a plan for Veronica (Camila Mendes), Penelope is still on the loose, and The Farm’s “ascension” was nothing more than a mass exodus. Also, we learned late in the episode that Alice (Madchen Amick) has been an FBI plant for her not-dead son Charles Smith (Wyatt Nash), who will recur next season.
To be honest, we’re not sure if we will continue to ponder Riverdale so closely next year. It’s still a fun show to watch, but the mysteries are not as compelling as they once were. If the show does eschew its format, favoring a resolution to The Farm before introducing its key murder plot, we may be inclined to ponder in depth again. Of course, the show did leave us with one thread to consider over the summer: with senior upon the Riverdale kids and a flash-forward establishing they will go their separate ways, is Riverdale headed toward a conclusion?
Riverdale returns this Fall on The CW.