The Cutprice Guignol

The Fifth Year: How to Get Away with Meh

Riverdale Recaps: Nighthawks

After a traditionally absurd start for the new season, Riverdale settles into a new series, and a reliance on the sides of the show that struggle the most to keep anyone’s interest.


I will never, ever not love the hyper-stylised neon colour palette of this show. Or the costuming, make-up, and hair.

I mean, yes, this is still Riverdale and there’s still a bunch to enjoy about it on a purely superficial level: Madchen Amick somehow making pushing balloons aside seem like slamming a heavy door directly into your face, the Blossoms conducting a family dinner like some sort of twisted matriarchal version of What Happened to Baby Jane, Skeet Ulrich lounging around prison and reminding me about these deep-seated father issues I have directed at any emotionally unavailable older man in a leather jacket, the return of Dark Betty. I’m delighted to welcome a spikier Lili Reinhart back to this season after a far premier performance that was far too pastel-hued for my liking, and doubly chuffed to see Madchen Amick sweeping around in flawless jackets and accusing her daughter of inviting crime into Riverdale by throwing a cutesy fundraiser. Even at it’s worst, Riverdale still features some fantastic performances and fabulous characters, and it’s always a pleasure to check in to the town week after week to catch up with them. I’m even -whisper it – starting to like Archie, or at least the way the show is dealing with his paranoia and trauma after the shooting. But this is also an episode steeped in all the worst features of the CW, and it grates.


For every Zodiac-inspired, new-wave-scored murder scene (two Zodiac references in as many days, guess serial killing’s coming back into vogue), there was Archie just opening the door shirtless to give us the requisite weekly ogle. For every acapella version of Kelis’ Milkshake forming the backdrop for Archie’s trauma flashbacks, there’s a tiny little c-plot Josie getting involved in the cheerleading squad that only seems tacked on to give Josie something to do. There’s a drug dealing plot, making out in a classic convertible, and a “let’s get together and save the town (insert nostalgic town monument here)” which they literally played with the exact same beats as the drive-in cinema story last season. It’s not an awful episode, but it’s not far off, just leaning too hard into it’s teen drama, and the misc. gothic horror that makes up the rest of the episode just isn’t strong enough to balance out the boringitude.



I’m still happy to have Riverdale back, but I’d just about scrubbed from my memory all the stuff that left me ice-cold about the first season: most notably every single thing that has to do with Veronica and her endlessly handwringing over the relative moral decency of her family. Maybe if Camila Mendes had a little bit of presence these plots could stand up to the campy fun of, say, the Blossoms current (and equally ridiculous) plot, but she’s just a blank slate, the entire episode grinding to a halt when she steps forward into the stoplight.

Chapter Eleven: To Riverdale and Back Again

No, this picture isn’t from the episode, but let me have my fun, alright?

Not to mention, there’s just a lot of…oddness, in this episode? Not just the standard Riverdale hyper-meta oddness, but weird directorial choices along with some just baffling acting ones (Cole Sprouse’s “How many…………….years” delivery is, and I say this as someone who watched most of the new season of Twin Peaks, one of the fucking weirdest things I’ve seen on TV this year). I don’t necessarily mind this – I mean, if you can’t be great, you might as well embrace intentional awfulness as a house style – but these kind of bizarre choices tend to work best when Riverdale is in full, outrageous flow, whereas this episode feels as muted as every bit of acting Luke Perry is doing this season (headcanon: Fred is so toasted on painkillers after the shooting that he’s actually viewing everything that’s happening around him in the style of the original Archie comics) and leaves those choices looking less like active decisions and more like the show just truly couldn’t come up with anything better.


There’s also just a handful of plot holes that the show is all too happy to handwave away – the timeline between Fred’s shooting, Archie’s descent into sleep-deprived psychosis, and Grundy’s death (headcanon #2: Archie for certain did it, fight me on this), not to mention Jughead’s strange motivations – he doesn’t want to blackmail the Blossoms himself, but is all too happy to get involved in Betty leading the charge? Hiram Lodge is back on the scene and pleasingly scheming, but his schemes and double-crosses are sort of starting to pile up on top of each other and we’re only two episodes in.

I’m in for this entire season now, like it or lump it, and there was still just enough here to keep me interested: that final shooting, Betty’s continuing descent into callous cruelty, Madchen Amick, Madchen Amick. But Riverdale needs to take a step away from the network that gave it a home and the tropes inherent in it, and strike back out into it’s own territory with a little more force.

I recently updated my Patreon rewards, so if there’s a show or movie you’d like me to review (or if you’d like to get access to a secret set of new TV recaps!), please consider supporting me over there!


American Horror Story Recaps: Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag

Oh, fucking hell.

Alright, let’s get started on the latest episode of American Horror Story (here’s last week, for those who are new here), Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag. Right from the very moment that I heard that Lena Dunham would be playing Solanas in an episode of American Horror Story, I knew this episode was going to be a doozy, and I wasn’t wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carrie Recaps: Part Six

We’re back! And, in the time it took me to get to this recap, I finished Sleeping Beauties and was just thoroughly unimpressed and bored witless by the entire third act, so basically it falls into the category of “Every Stephen King Book Written After 2000”. What is it about SK books that just go on at least a hundred pages too long? Is it that, after a dozen or so brilliant books, editors were too nervous to go “er, Stephen, this is all well and good but what’s the bloody point of any of this nonsense?” and then they just sort of had to let it slide when he kept handing in this bloated corpse of a manuscript? Is he too much of a sacred cow to even edit any more? Sigh. But there’s still some hope for those written before the turn of the millennium, and with that convoluted and grumpy opening, let’s get back to Carrie!

Read the rest of this entry »

Riverdale Recaps: A Kiss Before Dying

I know what you’re thinking: why Riverdale?

Not “why would an esteemed recapper of all things TV and otherwise like yourself recap a lowly CW show like Riverdale, Louise?”. But “why Riverdale?”.

Read the rest of this entry »

American Horror Story Recaps: Mid-Western Assassin

First off, I just thought I’d let anyone who cares know that Riverdale is back this week and I’m going to be picking up a series of recaps on the second season of the CW’s most CW show, so if that’s something you follow, be sure to check in on Friday for a new recap!

Read the rest of this entry »

Harvey Weinstein, Sexual Abuse, and “How could we let this happen?”

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Harvey Weinstein scandal; big-name movie producer around whom rumours have swirled for years is finally fired after a series of articles detail his decades-long sexual harassment of various female employees and acquaintances. And honestly, my first reaction to this was, “well, duh.”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carrie Recaps: Part Five

So, for the first time in a long time, I’m actually reading a new Stephen King book. No, not this one – Sleeping Beauties, his collaboration with his son Owen King that was out last month. And I’m actually…quite liking it? It’s been a long time since I’ve read and actually made it all the way through a new SK novel (and I actively fucking detested Mr Mercedes, the trope-ridden, punishingly uninteresting wreck of a “thriller” novel that it was), and I put it down to the fact that reading Carrie with this much of an eye to the writing style has reminded me how much I enjoy King’s writing style and I’m happy to indulge in it again. Anyway, on to another chapter!

Read the rest of this entry »

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Okay, I have something to admit: I don’t love Blade Runner.

Read the rest of this entry »

American Horror Story Recaps: Holes

With an episode as good as last week’s one, there’s always going to be a comedown. But, to my pleasant surprise, this week’s outing Holes wasn’t as big a drop as it could have been.




Read the rest of this entry »

Carrie Recaps: Part Four

It’s the first day of October, the month where – and this is true – every single day is Stephen King’s birthday. With Halloween fast approaching, what have you got planned for the year’s spooookiest holiday (aside from, of course, gathering round a campfire with your friend to read these recaps aloud to one another in reverently hushed tones by torchlight)? Give me your favourite scary movies, books, TV shows, and music. I live for this shit.

Read the rest of this entry »