We get no real closure in a disappointing Riverdale finale

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Riverdale — “Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World” — Image Number: RVD222b_0192.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Robin Givens as Sierra McCoy, Camila Mendes as Veronica, KJ Apa as Archie, Ashleigh Murray as Josie and Charles Melton as Reggie — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Riverdale finale sets up a lot for the third season instead of giving the closure we needed in a lackluster season 2 ender.

In what could have been a season premiere, the Riverdale finale served up more narrative “firsts” than any real endings. This season has been mired in problematic storylines, and the finale does little to untangle them. With a frenetic back half of the season, “Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World” blew past the resolution we needed, instead building an infrastructure for next season. For many of the juiciest bits, it felt like an end with no middle.

Archie gets arrested

Archie is meant to be redeemed as our resident hero, but he didn’t really do anything to earn it. Confronting Hiram, threatening to “make his bones” felt out of character and implausible. Of course, this cliffhanger will make excellent fodder for next season, but we don’t get to see Archie do any real evolving. And we certainly haven’t seen this kind of steely resolve before.

He goes from Hiram’s lackey, to fascist leader, to loyal son, to Veronica’s protector in lightening speed. He’s not done any of the emotional work that would allow audiences to believe he’s capable of what he’s promising, and it falls flat as he’s cuffed and escorted out of the gymnasium.

This is after a hapless, throw-away storyline about a student council election that no one cares about, not even the main characters. His arrest feels jarring and extraneous. He’s accused of a murder in which he just threatened Hiram with. It’s a little lazy on the writers’ part. Maybe this will teach him not to divulge his plan to the villain himself in the future.

Cheryl’s a Serpent now

In what could have been a healing and coalescing moment in the finale, Riverdale instead chooses to gloss over Cheryl’s induction to the Serpents in a too-quick ceremony that didn’t get the time it deserved. Of course, we understand the why of it all, but after all she’s done for Toni and Jughead’s Serpent family, we could have gotten a little more flourish. Cheryl didn’t even have to do an uncomfortable strip-tease or exact a pound of flesh for her enemies. Nor did they hoist her up on their shoulders chanting her name. We didn’t even get a congratulation kiss from Toni.  I’m let down by how anti-climactic it was.

It’s lumped in with F.P.’s retirement announcement and Jughead’s ascension to power, and we’re left without a real place to point our emotional investment. Are we supposed to feel sad about F.P.? Happy for Jughead? Proud for Cheryl? It was a short cut for a third season alliance that ignored the need for a season two resolution.

Betty is the Serpent queen

Now that Jughead has officially taken the reigns, it stands to reason that Betty will be his queen. But for such a big move in plot, the scene took less than five minutes and was interrupted by a strangely timed voice over alluding to Archie’s arrest. They robbed us of an intimate exchange between Jug and Betty that could have created a lot of viewer buy-in.

Of course, it’s going to get a lot more screen time next season, but Riverdale could have dialed down the Silence of the Lambs bit between Betty and her father and doubled down on this particular moment. Does Betty not get a jacket? And is her darkness cured now? This is why we can’t have nice things, Riverdale.

Hiram’s band of evildoers

I guess it makes narrative sense for Hiram to recruit other bad guys into his schemes, even if they have been background players for most of the season. Now that he owns the Southside, he has to have someone to pump drugs to the residents (Claudius), enforce obedience (Penny Peabody and the Ghoulies), and offer a house of ill-repute (Penelope Blossom).

However, we care so little about these characters that their alliance has little significance in a finale. Teeing up a season three scheme is a waste of precious time here, especially when these folks have a collective amount of screen time of less than 20 minutes.

I don’t even see how Hiram has the time to serve as chairman of the board of Scooby-Doo villains. He’s so busy manipulating his wife, double-crossing his daughter, playing mobster and meddling in high school matters, it seems like his plate would be full.