Riverdale S2E11: The Wrestler
I just want to get it out there right now that it was announced this week that Riverdale are doing a musical episode based on the Carrie stage adaptation, and frankly, if the producers are just going to straight lift ideas from my blog I at least deserve some credit. I see you, Riverdale. I see you seeing me.
Another week, another bizarre delve into the weird world of Riverdale – and so far, this half of season two is working better for me than the first.
And I guess that’s because, for the first time, we don’t have a specific mystery to touch base with every week unless you count Archie’s investigation of Hiram and Lodge Industries, which you shouldn’t). Instead, the last couple of episodes have just been about the general goings-on in the town at large, and that has let me dive head-first into the inner workings of this twisted little place once more.
Front and centre this week is Hiram Lodge, as he and Archie have a mental and, uh, literal wrestling match for dominance over their places in Veronica’s life. Now, I’ve also had a big ol’ soft spot for Mark Conseulos performance (and dedication to wearing gorgeous suits every damn chance he gets) – he got his start in soaps and I think that translates here, with this big, bold, po-faced dedication to even the silliest plots and scenes; him standing up and sarcastically slow-clapping Archie from the wrestling stands was hysterical and foreboding in the same breath, and I’m into it.
He also provides a good scene partner for KJ Apa, as the committed ridiculousness of the performance gels well with KJ Apa’s occasional wobbles – if you’re not shooting for perfection, a few questionable moments don’t matter, and that renders the two of them perfect for each other. Not to mention that wrestling is just straight hilarious to me (actually, no, I take that back, there’s nothing straight about it) and just enhanced the air of impending, hilarious doom through the medium of Archie’s nipples and a rap soundtrack, and this plot was actually pretty fun, in a broad, soap-opera way. I still find the town politics stuff unengaging, but it’s there as a jumping-off point to build conflict from so I’ll live with it for now.
Elsewhere in Riverdale, Jughead continues his social justice crusade against a local town celebration for a historical murderer of a native tribe. Now, say what you want about the way Riverdale deals with these stories – and man, is there a lot to say – but the fact that they’re taking them on at all is something to me. The veneration of violent racists is a pretty hot topic at the moment and it’s a bold statement for the show to come out so strongly against it, even if they have to go through the medium of Cole Sprouse and his perma-brow-furrow to do it. Add to that the layer of Jughead being called out for using the less privileged and exploiting their suffering for his own means as opposed to genuinely supporting their cause, and you’ve actually got something close to nuance in these storylines, which is kind of amazing. Even in it’s oddest moments, and this episode has plenty (that Snowpiercer reference, for goodness sake), there’s this earnest attempt to explore political issues that I can’t say I hate so far. Especially because every one of these stories seems to involve Jughead being yelled at.
The last plot is probably the one that I find the most interesting – go figure, it involves the Coopers, so of course it’s my favourite. Chic Cooper is settling in to life with his new family, and an uneasy tension is rising between him, Hal, and Alice, as his mother seems keen to baby him in a way she never could before while her husband wants rid of him for good. But Betty is the one with the real investment in him. With Polly gone, she seems to believe that connecting with Chic and trying to discover if he’s suffered from the same mental breaks that she has.
Hart Denton, looking like a gray alien trying to hide out undetected amongst humans but, like, not really that hard, has this odd, zoned-out presence that seems to work so far, and I like this idea that Betty has found a kindred spirit for her dark side in him, for better or for worse (for worse. It’s going to be for worse). This season has been sorely missing Dark Betty so far, and when you add to that the fact that Chic’s presence has caused some bristling in the adult Cooper clan, and his arrival in the series seems to herald some actual effort being put into their stories, which is only a good thing. The Coopers as a whole were the strongest part of season one, and delving back into them with new conflicts and characters is a sharp idea.
So, yeah, overall, I’m feeling pretty optimistic for what the show is selling me so far. It’s balancing it’s stories and characters well and, without the central mystery to stick to, feels a little looser and brighter than the first half of last season. So far, I’m optimistic. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn out to be misplaced.