Let’s Ponder Dark Circles And Riverdale’s Ongoing Fantasy
by Erik Amaya
Since Riverdale exists in a heightened reality — or the film-noir-influenced mind of Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) — we can forgive certain things. A prime example is Archie’s (KJ Apa) belief that he can take on mobsters and become a capo for Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos). That’s said, “High School Capo” would be a great early ’60s teen-sploitation flick. Nonetheless, it is still silly to see the show going in this direction even with the layers of teen drama, knowing winks and lamp-shading the series engages in on the regular.
But buried in the High School Capo plot is an interesting turn of events. Hiram’s position is no longer strong because of his apparent attempt at legitimacy. Being terribly old, I recognized the wording as the hope Michael Corleone offered to Kay when wanted to marry her in The Godfather. He was never able to go legitimate and, if you forgive certain excesses in The Godfather Part III, eventually discovers organizations of a certain size can never truly be legitimate. Well, at lease not in a basic Judeo-Christian sense. In Riverdale‘s case, the mobster seems to be making a concerted effort to go straight. It is interesting to see Hiram weaken as a strongman while attempting to bring something that can only be cancerous — the for-profit prison — to town.
It is also interesting to see Archie seduced by the idea and the apparent power it offers. While Mary (Molly Ringwald) mentioned that Archie always idolized his father, he also saw Fred (Luke Perry) struggling the whole time. Meanwhile, Hiram swoops into town, lives in a palace and (eventually) invites Archie into that world. Like I said last week, the show was smart in giving Archie little to do until they found the right story for him and this is definitely the story to tell. And because of that, it’s no accident he assembled the Bulldogs into “The Dark Circle” — another call back to Archie Comics’ superhero line — in an attempt to stop Hiram’s rivals from taking 25% of the prison profits. Reviving the Red Circle in an equally ridiculous form is also another element of the show we can forgive because of the heightened reality.
Similarly, we can forgive the way Betty (Lili Reinhart), Alice (Madchen Amick) and Jughead dealt with the arrival of Centerville blackmailers intent on getting back at Chick (Hart Denton). The whole thing was silly, right down to Jug bursting through the door with the other Serpents. In fact, the show’s entire concept of a street gang is just too danged innocent; right down to Alice immediately dropping her crusade against them after so many years. And, while I’m griping about the show overall this week, I love the way Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) has evolved into Jughead’s version of Reggie (Charles Melton): a go-to ally or antagonist based on the needs of the week’s plot.
Then again, that used to be Cheryl’s (Madelaine Petsch) role as well, but the show has successfully made her sympathetic by revealing the horrors of the Blossoms and that much of her mean girl schtick is a survival tactic. Now, we’ve seen the extremes her mother will go to in order to maintain control — although, the depiction of conversion therapy seen this week lands on the list of things we can’t quite forgive because of the show’s hyper-reality — and while some of it is a short-cut to reboot the character, it offers a new direction for Cheryl as someone more genuine. Provided she doesn’t burn down Riverdale High first.
But let’s ponder Cheryl’s intentions as we watch a preview of the next episode. It’s finally time for Kevin’s production of Carrie: The Musical, which has so many levels of meta that I’ll talk about after the episode airs in a couple of weeks. Suffice to say: unauthorized stage productions of beloved teen-focused intellectual property is the very DNA of Riverdale.
Riverdale returns April 18th on The CW.