Riverdale S3E3: As Above, So Below

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, dammit, Riverdale might on on a roll.

So egg on my face, at least for these first three episodes of the third season, because this show is still pulling it out of the bag as the beautiful chaos demon Riverdale always promises to almost be. As Above, So Below, is perhaps the most madcap episode of the season to date – but it’s also the best. So let’s talk about why.

Firstly, the obvious best storyline: Betty and Jughead continue to investigate the mysterious deaths related to the Gargoyle King, launching a mystery for this season that’s both darker and yet more ridiculous than anything we’ve seen before. As I said last week, Betty and Jughead are infinitely better together when they’re playing detective, and Cole Sprouse in particular works best when he’s outside the madness looking in with a wry grin than he is inside it and sawing bits off people. Lili Reinhart is pouring her manic energy into the case and the cult that has claimed her mother and her sister, and her wild-eyed intensity is a genuine joy to behold,  especially matched with the blistering commitment to true horror the show has been teetering on the brink of for two whole seasons. Plus, FP and Alice in bed together? That’s the pandering content I’m here for (also reply to my letters Madchen).

Anyway, it goes without saying that I like this plot: it’s the Coopers and the Joneses and a big, creepy mystery, so of course I’m here for that. But even in the rest of the episode, the storylines are strong and with a thrusting sense of forward momentum: Veronica is opening a speakeasy below Pop’s Diner, and her and her father share some bristling tension as both tries to undercut the other. Now, I’ve mad it clear before that Veronica isn’t my favourite thing about the show, but Hiram just might be, and the ever-shifting power dynamics between them this season – her fight to gain power, his fight to keep it from her – is really compelling stuff, reflecting the similar divide between Betty and Alice. Also, shout-out to the first major scene in Hiram’s study this season, which is certainly not the place I set all my masturbatory fantasies. What? Moving on.

Archie’s story has also got some teeth this week, as he is forcibly involved in an underground boxing ring run by prison officials. The whole episode is well-directed, but this sequence in particular pulls it out of the damn bag: the centrepiece of the episode is a mashup of a performance of “Anything Goes” at the opening of the speakeasy (and yes, my musical-theatre loving ass screeched when she heard the first lines) and Archie’s viscious fight under the watchful eye of the prison guards: the luxurious and the bleak posed gorgeously against one another. Archie retreats to his cell after his match, rewarded with gifts for his hard work – he smashes a bottle of liquor against the bars, and the camera pans below him, a halo of red light from beyond the window surrounding his head, all rage personified. Ugh, it’s just awesome stuff. People can crap on Riverdale all they want (not in front of me they won’t, but you get the idea), but I truly think some of the direction in this show is inspired, bold and stylistic and Lynchian.

And honestly, I just can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next. This season has been far less of a mess than season two was at this stage, setting up the storylines with a deftness and certainty that feels confident and cohesive. Fractured families and old secrets are heavy in Riverdale this season, and finally the show seems to have found a way to fill each episode with a perfect mix of the compelling dramatics and the ridiculous, delicious melodrama. This is primo, first-chair Riverdale. And if you aren’t in by now? You never will be.

And that’s us for this deranged little outing. What did you think? Are you confident about this season, or worried about the turn its taking? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr! If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check in with my other recapping projects – I’m currently covering the first Harry Potter book as well as the current season of American Horror Story. If you want to read some of my fiction, please check out the ALPHA FEMALE erotica series (eighteen-plus, obviously), available on Amazon now. As ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image courtesy of FanPop)