We Review the Latest Episode of Riverdale SN01 EP02 – “Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil”
Last week saw the premiere of the hotly anticipated “Archie Comics meets Twin Peaks” series, Riverdale. The first episode (reviewed here) introduced the titular town of Riverdale and the various characters that reside there. It also introduced the central storyline: the mysterious disappearance of (later to be revealed as the murder of) Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines). The conclusion of ‘Chapter One’ saw Jason’s waterlogged body being found weeks after his disappearance, a bullet in the head, and thus began the ‘whodunnit?’
Episode two picks up right where episode one left off. Once again, narration comes from the brooding Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), who provides a recap and reminds us “this is a story about a town”. In keeping with the first episode, the first shot we see is the town sign – “WELCOME TO RIVERDALE THE TOWN WITH PEP!”. Arguably Riverdale is portrayed as quite the opposite. Not only are the teenagers anguished, but so too are the grown-ups. Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) is a concerned father who doesn’t know how to communicate with his son, Archie (K.J. Apa), who he knows is keeping secrets from him. Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) is a once high-society mother who had moved to New York with her Wall Street husband; now trying to get by with her daughter, Veronica (Camila Mendes), in her little hometown, working at Pop’s Diner, dealing with the fall from grace. And Alice Cooper (Madchen Amick) is the overbearing, controlling mother of Betty (Lili Reinhart), whose scheming is a sure sign she is not to be trusted. She is also seemingly unaware her youngest daughter is becoming increasingly rebellious of her wishes.
There is a lot of focus throughout this episode with how the various characters deal with the emerging details of Jason’s death. Archie struggles with a conflict of interest throughout, as he wishes to come forward with details of a gunshot he and Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel), the school music teacher, overheard on that fateful July 4th in the midst of an illicit affair. Ms. Grundy, on the other hand, is clearly more concerned with self-preservation and not losing her job, than doing ‘the right thing’. Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) continues to handle the pressure of being in the public eye following the death of her twin in typical ‘Mean Girls’ fashion, all saccharin smiles, and evil eyes. In one scene where Jason’s murder is announced over the school tannoy, she interjects with a threat that “neither I nor my parents will rest until Jason’s death is avenged” but ends on the chipper “hashtag Riverdale strong”.
There is plenty of teen melodrama in this episode too. Jughead discovers Archie’s secret and confronts him; Betty goes back and forth deciding whether or not to forgive Archie and Veronica for their indiscretion in the previous episode; Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), the openly gay best friend of Betty, must deal with the continued advances of one of the closeted football jocks, with whom he discovered Jason’s body; and Reggie Mantle (Ross Butler) is the high school bully, being generally obnoxious and shallow, and picking on “Donnie Darko” Jughead.
Jughead proves to be a standout star in this episode. His quips are perfectly timed, he has a strong moral compass and for all the teen angst that he exudes, he actually has a real sense of light-heartedness about him. He breaks a potentially awkward moment between him and Archie by suggesting they “do that bro thing, nod like douches and mutually suppress our emotions”. He’s the observant outsider deep on the inside and this gives him a unique perspective on the unfolding events. It also, unfortunately, sees him under the suspicious gaze of his fellow Riverdale residents.
Something I didn’t notice in the first episode, but which I greatly appreciated in the second episode, is the subtle use of imagery throughout. In flashbacks of Jason Blossom alive, he is always pictured wearing all white or the Riverdale High School colours of white, blue and yellow. He is the picture of innocence and pep – everything Riverdale is striving to be. In contrast, his sister Cheryl is seen wearing a red spider brooch, perhaps a nod to the previous episode where she was referred to as a red widow, a particularly venomous spider. Each character is either doing something or wearing something that is a quiet metaphor for their personality. Case in point: Veronica drinks indulgent double chocolate milkshakes whilst Betty drinks ‘good old-fashioned vanilla’. During the high school pep rally the skies open with the heaviest rain. Not even Josie and the Pussycats singing a cover of Sugar, Sugar while the Riverdale Vixens perform can uplift the sense of foreboding.
Side note – how catchy is this song?!
‘A Touch of Evil’ didn’t have the same impact as the premiere, in my opinion. There was so much adolescent farce: break-ups, make-ups, twice, thrice over. At times, it became a little tiresome, even if the central characters are an absolute joy to behold. A wider focus on the periphery characters did add more depth and intrigue to the overall murder-mystery. And quite frankly, the build up to the shocking double-revelation at the episode’s conclusion has left me desperate for more. I simply cannot wait to witness the fallout next week!
P.S. “There is no wrong the right cupcake can’t fix” may be my new life motto.