Riverdale pulled out some old tricks in “The Crucible” by bringing some unwelcome visitors to town. Hiram Lodge’s grand reappearance in town was the first to be revealed. But, while Hiram still holds onto his manipulative and troubling behavior, the character’s violent mafia background has been scrapped and replaced by a Hollywood big-shot television star.
Since Hiram is not sticking around long-term, Riverdale needed to find a way to incorporate him into the story without making him a full-time villain. So, instead, “The Crucible” ties him in with the 1950s paranoia of communism growing in America.
While Hiram may not be vocally advocating for communism, being caught in an affair with communist revolutionaries does not look good for him, and getting involved with Veronica has him asking her to lie to the government on his behalf.
Hiram’s ask of Veronica brings back the old days of the show, where Veronica and Hiram were involved in a dance of death, with each trying to one-up the other, and “The Crucible” gives a taste of that dynamic. While Veronica does eventually agree to lie for Hiram, she does so with conditions. Hiram must reveal the truth to Hermione about his affair, and he must sign the Pembrooke to Veronica as a guarantee that she always has a home.
Having Hiram appear in a one-off episode brings back just enough nostalgia from previous seasons without the frustration of Hiram’s never-ending villainy in town. Only after Hiram has left does Hermione appear, telling Veronica that Hermione and Hiram’s television show will be coming to an end, as will their marriage.
This also mirrors how Hermione and Hiram’s marriage in the present day had been filled with trouble until they had separated, only connected through Veronica. While Veronica’s conversation with Hermione brings slightly more hope to their relationship than the time spent with Hiram, it is unclear how large of a role Hermione will continue to play in Veronica’s life.
Otherwise, the final surprise appearance was one that was unneeded. Archie had been working with his teacher, Mrs. Thornton, on his poetry, something he had grown to be passionate about. But is Archie’s time spent on poetry about to become something more sinister?
With Mrs. Thornton accused of being communist, she will be replaced by another familiar face, Geraldine Grundy. While the Black Hood had killed Grundy in the original timeline, another counterpart to her exists in the 1950s, and it could suggest a worrisome repeat of history.
Grundy had sexually assaulted Archie, grooming him to believe that they were in a real, although forbidden, relationship. Archie had never directly dealt with the trauma of that experience until years later when he talks to Betty about the emotions he feels toward his guitar.
Grundy had only caused problems during her original time on the show, and suggesting that Archie will once again end up being the center of her attention is a dangerous approach.
Otherwise, “The Crucible” also manages to highlight how far from the rest of the main characters Jughead’s storyline has brought him. While everyone else is involved in love triangles or just being seen together as friends, most of Jughead’s storyline since Ethel’s return has been directly focused on them creating comic books together in the aftermath of the Milkman murders.
In previous seasons of Riverdale, Jughead, and Ethel had never been close friends or similar to the dynamic duo season seven is presenting them as. Even in Jughead’s loner days, he never considered Ethel to be his best friend. Jughead’s storyline is severely disconnected from everyone else’s, and it does not help figure out where the final season is heading.
While the growing fear and anger toward comic books exist as a subplot, it has not affected anything occurring for Archie, Veronica, Betty, Cheryl, Kevin, or Toni. Although the burning of the comic books may be significant, seeing as everyone is present for it, having Jughead be so separated from the rest of the main characters is not helping the series.
Riverdale’s final season is certainly allowing it to spread its wings in a different direction, fully embracing the ability to do whatever it wants. But if Riverdale does not find a way to help tie up loose ends for the versions of the counterparts viewers had spent six seasons watching, then what was the point of any of it?
Tabitha’s journey to piece the timelines back together has become a one-person job entirely off-screen, and other than the season premiere, there have been no moments of curiosity or hints about these characters being thrown back in time. With Riverdale coming to an end soon, the final season needs to start clarifying what the show’s endgame may be and if there will be closure for the versions of the characters whose lives had been stolen from them at the end of season six.