Christmas is dead, Santa is dead, mistletoe is basically poisonous, and everything sucks. That’s what I got from the mid-season finale of Riverdale. Did you get anything different?
Other than Tales from the Darkside, Season 2 of Riverdale has been one depressingly shallow, angst-ridden story after another, all centered around the manipulative, violent, and evil murderer: The Black Hood. This storyline, essentially, draws to a close in the mid season finale but it does so with a cheap “oh it’s him” and none of the intelligent writing that we were treated to in season one with the murder of Jason Blossom. Am I being too harsh on a show I genuinely enjoy (enjoyed)? Maybe . . . let’s look at the facts.
After last week’s double break up, the actual fallout is minimal. Betty seems to be the only one really taking it hard, and even then, she seems more angry about the whole thing. In Jughead’s world, while the pair exchange gifts it’s awkward and uncomfortable with Betty telling Jug that he’s not the boss of her. But Jughead has bigger problems in that he’s doing his very best to fix the snake charmer problem he created for his father. On a side note, the Serpents are an interesting gang. Violent? Sure. Occasionally involved in drug dealing? Yeah, a bit. Wraps gifts and give them to children in need at Christmas while delivering food to elderly people? Yeah, they do that.
Jughead rallies the younger members of the Serpents to drag Penny out of town, warning her to stay out of Riverdale and then, as far as we can tell, Jughead cuts the tattoo off her arm. Cuts. It. Off. And then he celebrates with take out.
The Lodges are evil, we’ve established that, and this week Veronica finds the deed to Pop’s and confronts her parents about it. This is after they refuse to let her spend $86k on Fred Andrews’ medical bills and she goes ahead and charges it to her mother’s credit card anyway. The Lodges decide to let her in on the family secrets, off camera, and she agrees to work with them as long as she doesn’t have to do anything illegal and the payment to Fred’s health remains in place. All in all, not much development there.
Over at the Blossom household, Mama Blossom declares they can’t afford Christmas so Cheryl embraces the seasonal spirit and celebrates it anyway. It’s unclear as to whether Cheryl believes in Santa Claus, or if in Riverdale Santa is real and Cheryl’s mother was trying to slide down his chimney there at the end, but I honestly don’t know what all this was about.
The main story was of course the wrap up of the Black Hood and it’s here I have a problem. This is episode 9, the Black Hood has been in play since episode 1, we met Mr. Svenson only three episodes ago. There were no hints previous to that episode as to even the existence of Mr. Svenson. Which means at no point in episodes 1-6 did we have any chance of figuring out who the Black Hood was. That’s just lazy writing.
Betty and Archie seek out Mr. Svenson who is absent from work and discover he’s been kidnapped. The Black Hood offers a finger to point (pun intended) them in the right direction. They consult the nuns (as you do), speak with Nana Rose Blossom (love her), kiss (for no apparent reason), find some old pictures, leading them to an empty grave where Archie is almost buried. The Black Hood runs away and is shot by Sheriff Keller, who reveals the man to be, dun dun dun, Mr. Svenson. What a let down! That’s it!? That’s who this has all been working toward? How do they explain the green eyes? Or the fact that he’s nowhere near as big as he was in previous episodes? They don’t. The Black Hood was Mr. Svenson who was trying to balance the sins of the past, avenging his dead family, by punishing the sinners of the present. Case closed, all wrapped up in a neat little bow. A very boring bow. The Jason Blossom murder had intrigue, it had suspects, it had twists . . . the Black Hood turned out to be nothing more than a creepy janitor with a grudge.
Veronica and Archie get back together, with Ronnie professing her love, though even this, which should have been a nice scene was tainted by someone snapping pictures of them from behind a bush.
Betty burns the artifacts of the Black Hood investigation and we’re shown a glimpse of Dark Betty as she refuses to let the hood burn in the flames with everything else.
And here we find the inherent problem when you try to take a 13 episode show and extend it to 23 episodes. The stories just don’t support it, particularly when you’re trying to stretch said stories out. It weakens and dilutes the show as a whole.
The Black Hood is now wrapped up. This is murder investigation number 2. After Christmas we’ll find out as to whether the show is just going to be a series of murders or if Riverdale can course correct and make the show more about its characters again. I truly thought Jughead would find his way back to the north side but he appears to be remaining a serpent and staying at a different school. I know this is the dark and gritty version of Archie and the gang and I’m fine with that, but the show will need to develop some more depth and some smart writing if they want to keep audiences engaged.
Until next time . . .
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