Just like that, the first chapter in the Riverdale story has ended. But fans can rest assured, CW already greenlit a second season of Archiekins and Co. Firstly. The editing and cinematography for this episode was spot on. The entire season was well stylized, and this episode, did a nice job of carrying the tension and hitting the beats. The writers also gave strong dialogue and exposition that progressed each character out of their current season arc and into their new ones for the coming season. The finale was a fitting conclusion to the story of this entire season, and it planted a few seeds of what to expect next year.
The Pussycats only showed up for a handful of scenes, and didn’t have much going on in their screen time. It felt more like the writers needed to fill a page of dialogue to use them as a throwaway for Archie’s final performance.
Perhaps their presence would have had more of an impact if it wasn’t forgotten that Archie and Valerie dated for a whole two episodes. Having the pussycats walk into the room as Archie and Veronica kissed should have caused more awkwardness. A quick close-up of Valerie avoiding eye contact would have sufficed.
The Pussycats had some fun musical scenes, but seemed to get the short end of the stick in terms of character development.
Kevin was a fun character throughout, and it was unfortunate that he barely had any presence in the finale. In fact, he had one line of dialogue in the entire episode. Kevin started off as Betty’s best friend, but it looks like his presence is less needed now that Veronica and Betty are so close. This will probably lead to some tension in the next season between Kevin and Betty or Kevin and Veronica.
Cheryl was quite the standout of the episode. Madelaine Petsch is talented, and she really got into the character’s head. It was great that every scene with Cheryl showed her further descent toward rock bottom. This episode functioned as a sort of mini story for her character. She was kind, but her kindness came from a place of despair rather than a place of philanthropy. Seeing her surrender her control of the River Vixens to Veronica and making amends with Jughead was like watching a terminally ill patient say goodbye to his or her friends. Cheryl had nothing left, and all she wanted to do was be with her brother again, the one person she loved most in this world. When she fell through the ice, you couldn’t help but hold your breath asking if she was going to live or die.
The final close up of Cheryl watching her house burn down was the most powerful shot throughout the entire episode. It was all right on her face; suicide didn’t work, and her mother is not going to change. What’s can Cheryl do? Her family is a decrepit house built on a foundation of filth and lies. How do you fix the house? You burn it down and start all over. It’s safe to say that we can expect a whole new Cheryl in the coming season.
Veronica has been one of the more straightforward characters throughout the season. Her relationship with Archie was foreshadowed in the pilot, and it makes sense for them to have some guilt toward Betty. However, bringing it up so many times felt awkward to the audience. The romance part of the narrative has always been the weak link, but having the same conversation on three occasions was just monotonous. There’s no other rationale other than setting up the impending relationship between Betty and Archie in the coming season (more on that later).
Veronica struggles with her legacy and her independence. She is the only character who didn’t go through much of a change throughout the season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Her journey of transformation happened before we met her; remember this is the new Veronica. This season was more about the challenges that come with her new identity. She wants to be better than her family, but she can’t turn her back on them. It’s the age-old issue of family dynamics; they keep you from growing, but you still willingly hold onto them. This was highlighted when Hermione, Veronica’s mother suggested that Veronica coerce Archie into convincing his father to sell his share of the business. Archie represents a different life that Veronica wants to be a part of: free of her family and their criminal ways. It’s no question that the Lodge family is highly culpable for Mr. Andrews murder. This will probably drive a bullet-sized wedge between Veronica and Archie, destroying any chance of escape.
Betty’s came into her own this season, and she really hit the ground running in the finale. Her pursuit to get the truth out there about JP’s innocence was a highpoint for her character. It was nice seeing her inner journalistic side shine here, and it’s evident that she genuinely wants people to know the truth. Her speech was a great climax not only for Betty’s journey, but also for the entire season as a whole. Everything from the season was leading to this, and it’s time for Riverdale to own its mistakes. This will certainly give way to a more confident Betty that will fight for what she knows is right.
The most awkward moment for Betty came in (a blink and you’ll miss it shot) when she hurt herself again by digging her nails into her palm. The whole “darkness within” arc was fine in it’s day, but it’s getting ironic now. Yes, Betty lost control and made it seem like she was following in Polly’s insanity. However, a lot has happened in six episodes. We know that Polly was never crazy, and Betty has done so much that makes up for that one scene in the hot tub. So why is the show beating a dead horse? There are much more interesting story lines Betty can do; for example, find her a long lost brother. Speaking of her long lost brother, that was a fun set up for what’s to come in season two. Finding Mr. Andrew’s murderer will take up some of Betty’s time, but her brother will function as her character’s main story in the coming season.
WHO SHOULD PLAY BETTY’S BROTHER IN SEASON 2?
The Jughead/JP dynamic was always an interesting part of the series. The two represent the modern dysfunctional American family; they constantly exacerbate each other, yet they can’t live without each other. It makes sense that JP didn’t turn on his crew, but that means a foster family for Jughead and a new school on the Southside. This is a problem because Southside High is much more dangerous, and he’ll be away from Betty. The story of fate coming between two lovers can be fun to play with, but it needs to be kept in perspective. Riverdale is an upper-middleclass suburb, not a ghetto. The light and day distinction between the two schools was overdramatic to say the least. Southside High looked more like a Juvenile prison than an educational institution.
That leads me to Jughead’s biggest moment of not only the episode, but also the entire season. He said, “I love you” to Betty. He finally chose to connect and share affection for another person. Unfortunately, Jughead and Betty are headed for heartbreak in the coming season. That final shot of Jughead said it all: he ecstatically puts on his Serpent cut as Betty watches with trepidation. It set up a great arc for Jughead in the coming season, as he is torn between Betty and his serpent family. It’s going to call for some creative acting methods on the part of Cole Sprouse.
The writers set up the complicated love dynamic between Archie and Betty only to have it die off when Jughead entered the scene. For a while, it appeared to be the McGuffin* of the season, but apparently that’s not the case. If the dialogue in the finale is any indication, the dynamic is very much alive and well. However, we’ve seen that Betty and Jughead are meant for each other, and Archie is very happy with Veronica. Yet for some reason Archie is dropping hints that he has feelings for Betty, despite imploring that he only sees her as a friend. If Archie and Betty we’re going to have a shot at being together, then it should have happened already, but looks like the writers will be throwing it in next season.
Lets take a moment to address the most prevalent issue with the entire episode. Archie punched through a solid sheet of ice on a frozen river? That was way past the point of disbelief for television. Saving Cheryl was great, but there could have been a better way to get her out. At best, it looks like Archie is taking steroids and becoming way too cocky. It would have been more believable if he threw one punch and failed, with Betty pulling a tomahawk out of nowhere.
The very last shot of the season showed Archie’s dad bleeding out on the floor of Pop’s, after getting shot by a supposed armed robber. Another murder was expected, given Riverdale‘s serialized narrative, and Mr. Andrews was a likely target. The show lives on mystery, and his murder is going to be the one that spans season two. However, this time the focus will be much more on Archie as opposed to Betty. This is great because it will give KJ Apa the chance to shine. The death of his father may be the dynamic that he needs to reach his full potential in the coming season.
Will Archie grow closer to Jughead, because Archie is now without a father (that is if Mr. Andrews is dead dead and not fake dead)? And will Jughead’s new serpent family tear him apart from Betty?
So that’s everything that happened in the season finale of Riverdale. Make sure to tune in next season.
*McGuffin is a film term for an object or goal that a character wants. It will be critical to the plot but is forgotten or becomes less important later in the narrative.