One way to reinvigorate Riverdale: give Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) an actual adversary.
For the show’s entire existence, Cheryl’s status as a protagonist has wavered depending on the needs of the plot. Remember the time she poisoned Josie (Ashleigh Murray) in a weird — and almost immediately forgotten — Single White Female plot? She’s been a pretty sympathetic character since she came out and started dating Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), but every so often, a quizzical return to her HBIC phase occurs.
Well, quizzical in the sense that it seems to come from nowhere a lot of the time.
And it seems the writers have finally realized she’s worthy of carrying on a fight against an A-level antagonist thanks to the debut of Mr. Honey (Kerr Smith), the high school’s new principal and the one man in town seemingly immune to her dramatic powers. Their first few sparring matches were a delight and, we hope, they continue to confound one another through the winter break. We also hope someone finally realizes she’s holding onto Jason’s corpse and does something about it.
The rest of the episode, meanwhile, had to lay a lot of pipe for the season to come. Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) transfer to Stonewall Academy doesn’t feel like much now, but it is easy to look at the Brent Easton Ellis knock-off and see Jug’s Spring Break disappearance as a School Ties thing gone terrible wrong. Veronica Gomez (Camila Mendes), meanwhile, has her heart set on Harvard; which we expect will drive a wedge between her and Archie (KJ Apa) before too long. The show delights in breaking them up, and if this season proves to be the last, sending her across the country will prove to be the final break. College changes everything.
Meanwhile, Betty (Lili Reinhart) still has a Farm mystery to deal with, but we hope it is also resolved quickly. Despite the show’s reliance on insane, noirish plots, we kind of hope the show really adheres to the “normal” senior year proclamation. A Riverdale in which sinister forces are not conspiring against the main four is something we want to see. We also appreciate story beats like Reggie’s (Sid Melton) awful father. Sure, he may be beating his son, but it is a breath of narrative fresh air after facing off against the Black Hood and the Gargoyle King. Even Cheryl’s beef with Honey stems from a more mundane place. This season would do well to lean into these more “mundane” adversaries after three years of murder mysteries.
Well, at least until Jughead disappears, of course.
But let’s ponder that future as we take a look at a preview of next week’s show. Archie breaks out hope of a “mundane” year by becoming a vigilante while Betty defuses a bomb.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.