This review contains spoilers.
“You know, I wish that I could say that tonight’s been particularily insane because it’s Halloween, but no, this is actually fairly typical.”
There’s nothing quite like when Riverdale fully confronts its own inherent ridiculousness. I realise that I sound like a broken 45 of “Sugar, Sugar” at this point, but the fact remains that this show is always at its best when it embraces insanity. And boy does it so tonight! We’ve got the introduction of two new mysteries (who is behind the videotapes and why/whatever the hell is going on with Julian the Possessed Murder Doll), the establishing of Bret and Dodger as this season’s Big Bads, and the revelation that Charles is surveilling Betty. Then there’s the standalone subplot of Veronica taking on a serial killer in Pop’s.
Yeah, it’s a lot, even for this show. The thing is though, Riverdale hasn’t been this great in ages and it 100% has leaning into the absurd to thank.
The best storyline of the night easily goes to Cheryl and Toni. Cheryl doesn’t want to stop hanging with her brother’s dead corpse (this is amazing) so she gaslights Toni into thinking that a doll is possessed by his spirit (this is amazing) and then Nana Rose jumps in and says that the toy actually is the physical embodiment of a third Blossom sibling whom Cheryl absorbed in the womb (this is, of course, amazing). I mean, just take a look at Julian here:
I’m not sure what’s more unsettling, his porcelain face or the sailor’s outfit he is dressed in. All I know is that Vanessa Morgan’s constant WTF performance in this episode is stunning. The introduction of the Julian plot gives a gothic horror feel to the proceedings for sure, even though it is incredibly silly. It is this sort of watercooler stuff that Riverdale should be doing much more of. A common criticism of this series is how it tends to drag storylines on (yeah, already sick of Dodger here). That said, if it’s season seven and Julian is still hanging around, I’ll be one happy viewer.
Next up on tonight’s awesome index was Veronica’s takedown of Michael Matthews AKA serial killer The Family Man. This was shoehorned in to give Ronnie a break from fighting with her folks in this episode, and man, isn’t it great to see her doing something else? As cheesy as Alice’s news break in on the TV was – is she the only journalist in town? – this sequence was the exact sort of thrill-giver that has made movies like the Scream saga pop culture touchstones. Her takedown of Matthews was equally fun, I just wish there was an over-the-top musical performance to go with it. She can do a number from Chicago before a press conference but nothing after burning a mass murderer alive? Come on.
This brings us to Betty. Lili Reinhart continues to deliver the best acting on the show, even when she is saddled with the show’s darkest storylines. Here she is haunted by classmates and trick-or-treaters dressing up as the Black Hood and the Gargoyle King. Heightening things is a prank caller pretending to be Hal who may or may not be her sister. Anyone else convinced that wasn’t Polly using a voice modulator? But Betty takes all of this in stride, even dealing with Jellybean’s nonsense. As Halloween says, everyone is entitled to one good scare, and JB gave Betty a doozy. What is up with this kid, exactly? But, as always, Betty weathers this storm while another forms on the horizon.
While Betty is eating pizza with her FBI-recruiting/secretly snooping half-brother, Jughead is spending some time in a coffin. He’s been hazed by Bret and his other Stonewall classmates. Or so they say. We know from the fast forwards that there are dark things in his future, a point hammered home by the end of tonight’s episode with the subtlety of an atomic bomb. The Stonewall Four are absolutely real, and Jughead will be the next to go missing. Well, after Moose. Poor Moose. Mr. Chipping is very much in cahoots with Bret and company too, though that reveal will likely come sometime around sweeps if I know this show.
The Reggie/Kevin/Mr. Honey scenes were a placeholder for a larger conflict to come. As were those featuring Archie and Dodger. To the latter, a mighty yawn is revealed, as the last thing I, and indeed, anyone, wants to see is Archie as a vigilante again. Even if he is now doing so under the guise of superheroism. Oh Archie, will the writers ever figure out exactly what to do with you? Idea: Maybe give him bona fide powers, at least it would make hime somewhat interesting instead of the low point of an otherwise superb episode. Happy Halloween everyone! And if you dress up as the Gargoyle King this year please send us pics on Twitter, okay?
Here’s what’s new on Netflix for November 2019.