Riverdale S2E14: The Hills Have Eyes
Well, we’re back after the break with an episode that’s more weird than good – but hey, since the show is focused in on it’s four leads this week (Betty, Veronica, Artie, and Jughead) as they all head up to Lodge Lodge in the woods for a romantic weekend away, let’s break this down and take a look at each of our central quartet, one by one. Starting with, of course, Archie.
Now, this is, for me, the most positive part of this week’s outing, The Hills Have Eyes: I know I’ve said it nearly every fucking week this season, but it bears repeating that Archie and KJ Apa by extension made up the bottom of the barrel for the first season of Riverdale and the turnaround in the last ten episodes or so has been nothing short of “Most Improved” gold-sticky-star-worthy. For all this is a messy, patchy episode, there’s a killer moment when Archie, faced with a house invasion that puts all four of them at risk, finds himself flashing back to the horror of the helplessness he felt when his father was attacked a few months before; against his better judgement, this kicks him into action and he puts himself in danger trying to shake the bad taste of what he perceives as his cowardice. KJ Apa actually acts this was some conviction, and frankly the remnants of this trauma still affecting the leading man in this way is something I am extremely impressed with a show this silly taking on with such earnestness. Not to mention, Archie gets to share all the best scenes with Hiram Lodge, the most Riverdale character ever conceived, and that can only help.
Our other leading man, Jughead, doesn’t fare so well this week: mostly, he whines about things going his way, tries to get information out of Veronica with all the subtlety of Cole Sprouse’s acting style, and slobbers on Betty in a way that’s less and less appealing now that they’re actually back together. Jughead is a fun character when he’s sitting outside the story and commenting on it – and that’s the best use of Sprouse’s questionable talents, as well – but inside it he feels jagged and out of place.
Betty, speaking of, is in a solid place this week as she tries to deal with Chic’s increasing creep factor (Hart Denton, for what it’s worth, is still an intently odd treat and still certainly a real-life Grey Alien in disguise), and flees Riverdale for a few days to forget her troubles (you know, the fact that her mother murdered someone and involved Betty in the cover-up). It’s generally good news for better which is mixed news for the show: we catch a glimpse of Dark Betty for the first time in a while, but she’s only out to seduce Jughead which, no matter how great she looks, is just not that interesting. Her best chemistry is shared with her family (Alice and Chic most significantly), so it kind of feels like she’s running on autopilot here with the rest of the teen cast who just aren’t up to Lili Reinhart’s talents (though I’ll take her cattily commenting on Archie and Veronica not so much as being able to hold a conversation without shagging any day of the week).
Lastly, we’re rounding on Veronica, who also feels sort of like she’s in stasis right now. I think, like KJ Apa, Camila Mendes is settling into the role as the season goes on (and those outfits, that cape and swimsuit combo, I swoon), but Riverdale has been banging it’s head against the same wall for her for a long time now. She’s caught between Archie and her father, knowingly or not, and she bounces around, back and forth, while Camila Mendes tries to find something new for the character to do beyond cleavering in whatever cack-handed pop culture reference she can cram into the conversation this week (no shade: that’s my entire vibe. Well, some shade, I do dislike myself to some degree). It’s not the worst she’s been, but it’s not the best, either. The most interesting thing she does this week is make out with Jughead, and that’s not a good sign.
Elsewhere, Cheryl gets a decent episode as she stirs some shit up with Bughead and Varchie (worst ship names ever? All signs point to yes) and then drifts off to have her own plot with Toni – you know, the bisexual Serpent Jughead tongued a few episodes back who the show is still keeping around for reasons they only just seemed to have figured out? That reason appears to be to get Cheryl out of the closet, which is an intriguing if kind of sudden plot. But at least it gives the fabulous Madeleine Petsch something real to do, and I’m pulling for Riverdale to actually commit to a plot with Toni and give Vanessa Morgan and the easy charm she brings to the character some actual direction. (now, with Cheryl out of the closet, that makes for three out bisexual characters on the show, and might I just say how bloody fucking happy I am about that? Who the fuck knew that Riverdale would be at the forefront of anything apart from pointedly saturated lighting?). Kevin and Josie also get a C-plot, where the C stands for Christ Almighty I’m Fucking Bored with This Already Please Can We Move On And Give These Fucks Something Real to Do? So let’s not spend any more time than necessary on that.
After a decent run of episodes this year, Riverdale seems to have come back after it’s break with something of a questionable outing. It’s not the worst the show has been, but it’s one of the less confident episodes in recent memory, as Riverdale seems to have lost it’s grip on it’s breathless forward momentum. I’m looking forward to the show returning to what makes it so good, and in the meantime, let’s all marvel at the fact that this episode has somehow rendered Archie the best thing about this show.
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(Header image courtesy of pursuenews.com)