'Riverdale' S1E11: To Riverdale and Back Again & S1E12: Anatomy of a Murder

★ ★ ★ ★

Let's kick off with "To Riverdale and Back Again." The homecoming episode doubled down on the opportunity to mix adults and teens with the same event. Riverdale tends to draw parallels to The Secret Circle and Veronica Mars because of just how involved these parents are in their children's lives. Though the only crux of the matter is that a whole slew of things about the parents haven't been revealed just yet to the audience. While their pasts have been hinted at here and there, they haven't legitimately stated what their relationships are with one another and what dirty secrets are hiding in their closets.

It's more than refreshing to have Alice Cooper thrown into the murder mystery mix given how the Scooby Gang has been in desperate need of a guiding hand when it comes to, you know, actually solving the mystery. Just in time for setting up the endgame of the murder mystery arc of the season (though it's too bad it's a predictable one), Riverdale has sort of found its tone for the rest of its time as a TV show. Rather than being the Veronica Mars reboot it might want to be, Riverdale does tend to lean a little bit towards its Twin Peaks inspirations. Alice seems to be Riverdale's main target of interest, along with Hermione.

Riverdale: S1E11

Thank God for Alice Cooper pointing out all of the things that the kids have been missing over the course of the season, namely how the sheriff's son is dating a murder suspect's henchman. If Kevin is to become a more important character to the series (and to Betty, who seems to have completely forgotten that she and Kevin were friends before Veronica stepped into the picture), the show is going to have to address just what role they're wanting him to have. As of right now, Kevin is whatever the plot needs him to be. He could be the "sheriff's son" one second and then "talent show host" the next. It's odd, but he has the character switch-ups of a minor recurring role, not where he's standing at the moment. That being said, his relationship with Joaquin feels like it never existed in the first place. Oddly enough, audiences only had the opportunity to see them meeting, calling each other boyfriends, breaking up, and then going their separate ways. It's a funny situation given how easily it feels like there are a gazillion missing scenes over the course of the show's depiction of their relationship. With Kevin being tugged around for so much of the action, why do they treat him as if he were Josie or Ethel?

Also, the series didn't even think to include maybe one scene where Kevin deals with the issue that his boyfriend was ordered to date him. I guess all is forgiven in the writing room's nonexistent ability to care about Kevin? I'm really, really hoping that Casey Cost gets an upgrade and sees a series regular position because Riverdale is wasting that character at the moment. Heck, even Josie could use the extra time in an episode.

Always the red herring of the series, F.P.'s being blamed for the murder led to a slew of excellent Jughead moments. From immediately deciding it was best for him to move to Toledo and failing to do so to all that ensued afterward, the sequence of events that were Jughead's gut reaction to his father being arrested for murder are probably the greatest sum of his character over the course of the season. It'll be great to see just how far down the rabbit hole Jughead will wind up going if the show decides to put even more pressure on him. With F.P.'s past getting revealed bit by bit over the course of the series, it's going to be interesting to see just how he and Alice were back in the day. Riverdale is seriously just going to have to give us a flashback episode one of these days.

Unlike everyone else on the series, Archie has never truly had a place on Riverdale until now. Getting involved in the mystery to protect Jughead, the past two episodes have been the pinnacle of the character's development for the sheer fact that he's actually managing to do something other than spark fights between the girls. Betty had subsequently become the "main character" of the series due to her involvement in the main storyline. Though Archie is the titular character for the comics, his role in the series was kept to a minimum because the show had no idea what to do with him after Ms. Grundy left. It seemed that Archie was meant to be a far bleaker character with a more dubious sense of morality before writers decided that they needed to go back to the character's roots. From there, he sort of evolved into the playboy that he was from Ms. Grundy's departure all the way up until Episode 10, when he wound up hooking up with Veronica. Now that he's part of the actual Scooby Gang and not on the sidelines cooking up a storyline about his ailing music career, Archie not only feels like a more motivated character, but he's nice to have tag along because of how headstrong and stubborn he is. Archie dives into situations head first without thinking about the consequences, which is a great tool when you need an event such as breaking into F.P.'s trailer to come about. As willing to go to great lengths as she is, Veronica isn't much of a breaking-and-entering type of person.

Riverdale: S1E12

With Archie taking the backseat, Veronica being pushed into the family drama niche, and Jughead being the problematic one, it's no wonder that Betty has become the default main character for the series. She's Riverdale's Veronica Mars in every sense and though she may not have Mars' bravado, Betty's definitely getting there with her rebellious streak. The only character on the show with a truly good moral compass, Betty is dead set on ensuring that Jason's killer is taken to justice and that everything works out for everyone. Her fight with Penelope is the hallmark of her character across the season and though her anger issues (and mental break?) weren't exactly addressed (and will probably disappear faster than Vampire Diaries using fog as a vampire power) she's become a lot like her mother. Her character will continue to become more interesting if she evolves from girl next door into a true Nancy Drew.

Also, can we just address that Riverdale (finally) pointed out how wrong incest is? Pretty Little Liars (just like with student/teacher relationships) glossed over that detail when it revealed "A" and Veronica Mars ended up dodging the bullet by avoiding incest altogether, but then comes Riverdale bursting through a door faster than the Coopers with the reveal that the Blossoms and the Coopers are family and that Polly and Jason were cousins. If there's one thing that Riverdale has been consistent about in its storytelling, it's the use of old and overused teen drama tropes and turning them on their heads by actually showing how they'd be viewed in real life. Slut shaming gets you kicked out, incest is super creepy, students and teachers are definitely not OK to have as couples, and parents actually have lives outside of what their children are up to at the moment.

Riverdale has ample opportunity to shake things up in the future and given its renewal status, it'll be interesting to see how the "genre" influence of Season 2 will pop up in the series. Also, get ready for an appearance from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who will apparently be holding a position in one of the coming seasons.

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T3stud0
May 9, 2017 6:47PM EDT

Still don't get the comparisons to Twin Peaks, but your write ups for this show are excellent.

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