Riverdale S2E22: Brave New World

by thethreepennyguignol

As soon as Riverdale opened with the cop-out of Jughead’s death, I knew this wasn’t going to be my favourite finale of all time.

But then I’ve never much been one for a finale. The second-last episode, last week’s bloodbath masterpiece in Riverdale’s case, are normally the real climax of the season, and now we’re just left to tie up loose ends. And the loose ends are…not the most interesting.

Okay, so there is some good stuff in this episode. Archie dealing with the identification of the Black Hood and beginning to heal from the trauma of the attacks on his family and on the town was solid stuff, mainly thanks to the hard work the show put in till this point in investing me in this storyline. In fact, it’s an all-round solid episode for KJ Apa, which is a wild turnaround given that my first recap of the series was all about how terrible Archie was and what a huge mistake the show had made focusing on him. That final scene between him and Hiram, where he confronts Hiram and threatens him with both his knowledge of his operations and a big fucking knife, is legitimately good stuff, a promise that the plot has changed but isn’t over.

Betty and the Coopers are reeling from the arrest of Hal, and it’s all good stuff for Lili Reinhart and Madchen Amick as they deal with the fallout. Alice screeching at the denizens of Riverdale to invite them into the house where the Black Hood lived is prime Cooper Woman Wildness, but it’s the confrontation between Betty and Hal that’s the really juicy shit this week. Set up in a direct homage to Hannibal’s third season, there’s nothing more compelling in Riverdale than Betty staring down the barrel of the darkness in her soul and trying to walk away from it. Especially when that comes in the form of Hal yelling “You’ll be back!” after his daughter as she threatens to leave him for good, camp till the death.

And then there are sparkles of good in the rest of the storylines too: Jughead fleeing with the Serpents through the darkened streets of the Southside, Veronica grappling with her place in Lodge Industries, Skeet Ulrich turning to drink and actually managing to eke something of a decent performance from Cole Sprouse out in the progress (he left it late, but the last couple of weeks have been solid from our Sprouse of Choice). But the majority of this episode is taken up with the mayoral elections, both in high school and in Riverdale as a whole, and while the show finds a strong throughline about exchanges of power over a number of plots, these are still stories that feature more Fred Andrews than Hiram Lodge so they’re just not that interesting.

And there’s a general sense of just…putting  a cherry on top of plots that don’t need a cherry put on them. Toni and Cheryl makes things official, and Moose and Kevin reignite their relationship (because Riverdale has the tightest bi rep on TV), and Jughead becomes leader of the Serpents, and…you know what, sure. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but they do feel very finale-esque, the show trying to land something that feels satisfying after a season that has been so all over the place that I don’t even know what a satisfying ending would look like. Riverdale works best when it’s bucking the trends, so this attempt to slap a bow on storylines doesn’t suit it.

Will I be coming back for series three? Hell, fucking, yes. This season has been very messy, as I’ve said so many times before, but it’s also played a long game that I didn’t realize it had in it. Patience is never a virtue I would have credited this show with, but they have shown that they’re willing to sit with storylines and let them ferment into something delightfully dark. And the plotlines they’ve set up for next season – the League of Super Parents taking control of the dark parts of Riverdale, the arrest of Archie for the death of that guy way back at the start of this half-season, Hermione as mayor – do intrigue me enough to have me rolling back in. And even if they didn’t: this is still the weirdest show on TV. This season as been a showcase of the genre-bending, hyper-stylised, confident, competent, and downright crazy ambition that Riverdale is so committed to. If Twin Peaks has a successor, it’s this show, right here, and for that alone, it’s hard to imagine not returning for another season of this wild ride.

Thanks for reading! A big shout-out to every who’s liked, commented, shared, and read these recaps. I’ve loved writing them and I can’t wait to come back for another season! If you want more of my writing, please consider checking out my latest blog series, Best Episodes Ever,  heading over to my film blog No But Listen, or check out all of my Riverdale recaps right here. And, as ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image courtesy of Riverdale Fans Online)