Riverdale is really asking a lot of fans in a messy midseason premiere


Riverdale pushes the limits of what fans should have to accept in an uneven and wobbling premiere after a one-month break.

In case the gang of armed robbers, the hooker mom, the shameless plug for Love, Simon, or Betty’s dark wig didn’t you tip you off:

Riverdale is back.

After a month-long hiatus, I had high hopes for this episode. The trailer suggested a sexy weekend, dipping into what we love most about this show: the friendship between the essential four. What we got, however, was a sloppy mess of suspended disbelief that had even me, a die-hard fan, scratching my head in sheer disbelief.

How much more can Riverdale ask us to accept before they force us to give it up? It’s turning into a real hostage situation over there at The CW.

For one, the promotion for executive producer Greg Berlanti’s new movie, Love Simon, is just too much. I guess Berlanti and crew don’t think much about subtlety. They continuously bludgeon us over the head for the entire hour with this film, and it’s so thirsty. Gross.

In fact, poor Kevin’s entire storyline this week revolves around this movie. If I had a quarter for every time a character name dropped this movie, well I’d basically be sitting on a huge pile of quarters.

Speaking of Kevin, I won’t be able to abide how they woefully underuse this character. Nobody puts Kevin in a corner, and if the writer’s don’t watch themselves, they are going to reduce one of the show’s best characters to a prop meant to further everyone else’s storyline. In The Hills Have Eyes, there is some major tension between him and his former boytoy Moose.

Moose indicates he’s told his girlfriend Midge about their former relationship, but it becomes increasingly clear that he hasn’t. As the three have one awkward encounter after another, I can’t help wonder what’s the point of this whole thing? The show spent the entire time making Kevin squirm, feeling like a fifth wheel, only to leave it completely unresolved. Enough already.

Kevin and Josie have their own C-plot as they become (wildly inappropriately so) involved in their parents’ extramarital affairs. Why are they wasting these two young actors in this absurdity? They might as well had the Black Hood kill them both off episodes ago. It would make much more narrative sense.

While I’m complaining, I might as well get around to the core four, Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead. They head to the woods, a place so exclusive that it doesn’t even have mailboxes or addresses, yet still manages to get robbed by some idiot townies in black masks.

This dumb episode even manages to shoehorn in a kiss between Veronica and Jughead. A kiss, I might add, that is so anticlimactic that even the participants can’t seem to care.

This entire story is so anemic, I had to eat a rare steak just to get my levels back up. Haven’t we had our share of masked bandits? And isn’t a little early in the season to recycle ideas — visual or story wise? I don’t even think the show itself could take this robbery seriously. They dispensed it almost as quickly as it began.

It doesn’t even make it more interesting that Archie ran down one of the robbers and is pretty much complicit in his death at the hands of Andre, Hiram’s fixer. I got a bigger thrill watching Archie chop wood in his white beater and do shirtless push-ups. 55 minutes of that, please.

The entire contrivance of an unsupervised “luxury weekend” for four teenagers, instigated by a parent is also pretty hard to swallow. I guess Hiram is okay sending his daughter off to a sex retreat with her boyfriend, as long as she doesn’t know he’s hosting his mafia buddies at their house. I know Archie is meant to be dumb, but Veronica is meant to be the savviest of the bunch. She didn’t see any red flags in this situation? Break up, already.

Even when the episode is doing something really freaking awesome — like bringing Cheryl and Toni together — it still stepped on its own toes. Why even have Cheryl invite herself to the weekend, only to get excluded by Veronica? Is Riverdale in the business of humiliating its characters on purpose? Why not just let Toni and Cheryl happen in their own space, instead of the shadow being rejected.

There is plenty enough between these two characters to sustain its own story. I’d actually like a Toni/Cheryl relationship if it means Toni can coax out a little more of Cheryl’s vulnerability. We learned more about Cheryl tonight, than we have in the entire series, and it was mostly through one conversation with Toni.

Of course, we also had to watch her mother call her an “emotional anorexic” and Penelope pine for “a shot at a real life” with Hal Cooper for heaven’s sake. How is that even a thing?

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Hills Have Eyes pushed against what I am willing to accept from this show – which is a lot. I have suspended my disbelief and contorted my good sense in countless ways so that I can stay on board with it. Although I had high hopes for an episode that would drag us out of Riverdale and force our favorite besties together, it didn’t quite meet the mark.

Of course, it did have its high moments, and as a fan, I can’t in good faith end this piece without a list of all the things it did right.

  • Chic. This dude is creepy AF. The opening montage of his aggressive aggravation of Betty is inspired. He eats cereal like a savage, routinely crowds Betty’s personal space and boundaries, and drinks straight from the communal juice carton. He’s a maniac, for sure. His thinly veiled threat to Jughead about keeping silent was just icing on the cartoonishly menacing cake.
  • The friendship between Archie and Jughead. Fans of the comics understand the bond between these two, but the show often glazes over it. The scene in the woods in which Archie and Jughead are just exhaling a little together is one of the best.
  • Kevin’s barely hidden contempt for Moose and his beard, Midge. He may not have said anything outright annoying, but his sighs and eyerolls told a different story. They have to give Casey Cott more to do.
  • FP. Any scene with FP is fine by me. I enjoy how he completely disregards Jughead’s incessant indignation and serves up practicality and common sense. Stop brooding, long enough, Jughead, and watch how a real Serpent acts.
  • Cheryl comes out. I said it above, but it bears repeating. Cheryl shines in this episode, even though it seems like it’s actively rooting against her. I’m shipping Cheryl and Toni hard. Let’s get working on a couple name for them. Send me your best tries.

Related Story: A fan’s guide to staying in love with Riverdale when it’s really, really hard

We’ve been holding our nose for a while now, but there’s enough to keep it afloat for these last eight episodes. Are you still in love with it? How are you coping with this troublesome run? I need a Riverdale pep talk.