‘Riverdale’ Begins Season 2 With a Trip to Dullsville

Archie and the gang are now tangled up in another, less intriguing murder mystery.
By  · Published on October 12th, 2017

Archie and the gang are now tangled up in another, less intriguing murder mystery.

Fans need to stop talking about zombies showing up on Riverdale. Also, all the theories about vampires, werewolves, witches, and lesbian Betty and Veronica (and more from this Harpers Bazaar list of predictions) need to go away, as well. Maybe there will be some supernatural elements added to the series in the future. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is getting a new show, and that could cross over with the main Archie Comics-based series. But until then, we should let the soapy drama just be a soapy drama. Otherwise, episodes like this week’s Season 2 premiere, “A Kiss Before Dying,” are going to be underwhelming in their lack of remarkable plot developments.

Sure, we got to see the fake Miss Grundy murdered, and that was certainly satisfying, especially after a moment of annoyance seeing the return of that let-of-the-hook sex criminal. But do we really care who done it? There’s some curiosity to the mystery, given that it’s also the same culprit who shot Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) and maybe stole his wallet with all its important information(!). But unless the guy is, as Pop Tate suggests, the actual Angel of Death, then this season’s primary storyline, as set-up in the first episode, is far less intriguing and interesting than last year’s. It’s just more of the same, but this time there’s none of that notion that darkness has suddenly fallen on (or been revealed within) a typically normal town.

Let me be the first to acknowledge the irony here, as someone who obsessively read “Archie” comics in his youth. This is a property that’s lasted more than 75 years focused mainly on the same love-triangle premise, repeating scenarios and being relatively consistent with its main character base in regular runs of the core comic titles. Sometimes there have been offshoot ideas. One of them was even referenced in this week’s episode when Jughead made a remark about Archie being a superhero. “Pureheart the Powerful” as an alter ego for Archie was introduced in 1966 and revisited in the 1990s. Will there be fan theories that Riverdale  will now become another superhero show for The CW?

As far as the smaller stuff goes, there was plenty of the same appeal that garnered the series non-nostalgic fans in the first place. Hot Archie (K.J. Apa) took a shower, and he had sex in the shower, and then he yelled at his girlfriend, Veronica (Camila Mendes), and demanded that she go away right after, because he’s also grumpy moody Archie. Jughead (Cole Sprouse) also did things that concerned his girlfriend, Betty (Lili Reinhart), because he’s a sensitive but torn individual with a slight bad boy edge. Veronica had tension with her mother (and now father), Betty had tension with her mother (but not father), and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) continued to be a fantastically disturbed rich girl (I did very much enjoy her calling her mother “Baby Jane”).

But where does the Cheryl storyline go, unless she just keeps evolving into more of a villain for the series? The other things, that’s just fine soapiness, and of course we can’t have the two central couples stay together for very long on this kind of show. Archie and Betty have to eventually have a relationship, too, and Jughead needs to make cheeseburgers more of a priority over women, though apparently he’s going to be meeting another possible love interest for himself this season. That’s all essential, and we’re now invested enough that we’ll keep following along, right into the even more conventional soap of the Dynasty reboot airing right after Riverdale. It’s also rather basic on its own, though.

When Season 1 ended on the cliffhanger of Fred getting shot, the shock was in him being shot, and the question we were left with since May was whether Fred would die. Honestly, I thought he might. I thought maybe Luke Perry was only interested in giving the series one season’s worth of his time. But Season 2 switched it up immediately, assuring us that Fred would be fine and diverting us to the new questions of who and why Fred was shot. To some viewers, the answers to both seem obvious. To me, the answers to both are boring. Another murder mystery plot for this series is boring. To be clear, character relationship drama can churn on repetitively, but the big story needs to be something different.

Hopefully, Riverdale will take a more interesting direction in its second season. Its first episode wasn’t very exciting or promising. It didn’t feel like the start of something new. It felt like an episode in the middle of a story — and in a way, yes, this is still the continuation of a larger story, but it also should be the beginning of another chapter since Season 1 had closure on many of its plot threads. But now, if it turns out that hooded murderer is of supernatural origin or if Sabrina does enter the picture later with her magic or especially if the “Afterlife with Archie” zombie stuff is introduced, that will feel like a left turn since so far the season hasn’t given a strong enough hint of foreshadowing for anything of the sort.

Unmasking the killer soon is what the show needs to do. Set us up with a real narrative change quick, whether it’s about the killer being Betty’s long-lost brother who was given up for adoption as a baby or a somnambulist manipulated by an evil Professor Flutesnoot, Caligari-style. Maybe a plot involving time travel to explain why the local hospital looks like it’s trapped in the 1950s. We definitely can’t just have another murder mystery stretched out for the whole season. We need something with a lot more pep.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.