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Recap: 'Riverdale' Is Basically Gotham Now

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 14, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 14, 2018 |


One of the worst endings to an otherwise great book, ever, is that to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’m still baffled as to why — of all the Christie novels — Kenneth Branagh endeavored to launch a Christie franchise with that one (but what do I know? It was hugely successful). For those who don’t know the ending — and spoilers — the mastermind behind the murder is … everyone. All of them. Poirot spent an entire movie trying to identify the one person on the train responsible for the murder, and it turned out that they were all in cahoots.

Man, it was a bummer of an anti-climactic ending, and it left me infuriated when I read the book. I assumed — given the good reviews and the talent involved — that the movie would scrap that ridiculous ending and grow a pair and identity one culprit. It did not, and I left angry all over again.

This season of Riverdale feels a lot like that. What began as sort of an interesting investigation into the identity of the Gargoyle King — a creature from a role-playing game responsible for the deaths of two kids — morphed into something much, much larger and far more conspiratorial. Yes, Hiram Lodge — “The Man in Black” — is the Kingpin behind the Gargoyle King (he is either the King himself, or he pays someone to wander around in the costume posing as the Gargoyle King), but it’s much bigger than one man. Hermione — whether she wants to be or not — is in on it, too, and so is Penelope Blossom. And the late prison warden. And the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Oh, and the now non-existent police force. An entire town outside of Riverdale helping Hiram Lodge to build a prison used as a cover to manufacture Fizzle Rock. Maybe the Farm, too. And Penny Peabody. And a new gang called the Gargoyles. And also, why not? The Governor, too. The other parents in the Midnight Club have not yet been directly implicated, but it’s not like they’re putting up much of a fight, either. They seem to be fairly indifferent to the plans of Hiram Lodge, which leads me to believe that they’re either complicit or complacent.

And what are those plans? Hiram wants to be the “King” of Riverdale. He wants to turn it into a city of vice. Prostitution, drugs, gambling, etc. etc. It looks like he wants to create a cross between Vegas and Hamsterdam without a police presence. And the only thing standing in his way are those damn kids, one of which (Archie) he chased away, and the other of which (Jughead) he’s prevented from entering the city by having the Governor quarantine the entire town of Riverdale. No one comes in. No one goes out.

The midseason finale of Riverdale, in fact, didn’t really tell a story, so much as it listlessly revealed things that we already knew. Veronica fingered her father as the mastermind, and Hiram owned up to it. Rather than deny it, Hiram attempted to hire Veronica as his right hand. Penelope confessed that she’s in on it, too — in charge of prostitution, I guess? And when Veronica basically said, “You won’t get away with this! There are people outside of Riverdale who will hold you accountable,” Hiram said, “Nah,” and then called The Governor to make sure that his plans were falling into place.

In other words, Riverdale bears no resemblance anymore to the show it was in the first season about a bunch of horny high-school kids trying to solve a murder. It’s basically Gotham now, only the superheroes have no powers and don’t wear capes (and in some cases, don’t bother with shirts, either). These high-school kids are the only people who can hold their parents accountable because there is no law. There’s no one, just a supervillain running things.

The stakes got way too big way too fast and the entire show has lost all meaning. Riverdale’s school has been shut down. All the patients in the Sisters of Quiet Mercy have escaped. There’s no prison system. No cops. It’s just an entire city of people playing Gargoyles and Griffins while high on Fizzle Rock. Hell, half of the Gargoyle King sightings have now been chalked up to drug-induced illusions, so he’s barely even real anymore.

The entire season can basically be summed up by one of the episode’s final scenes, which sees Veronica and a bunch of high-schoolers barge into Hermione’s office without a police presence (because there is none) and say, “You’re relieved of your mayoral duties.” What? You can do that? If it were that easy, I’d gather a bunch of friends and throw open the door to the White House and exclaim to the President, “Get out! You’re relieved of your Presidential duties!”

It’s all dumb and preposterous and I seriously doubt at this point that Riverdale is even salvageable without a seriously hard reset. I mean, Archie spent half the season in prison Fight Club, and that was one of the series’ most grounded storylines! This show is done. It is cooked. There is no more reason to watch it other than to see Archie take off his shirt.

… so I’ll see you all back here after the break, then?

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: The CW