Wednesday, October 10, 2018

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - Archie's Trial Comes to Its Conclusion with a Surprising Decision in 'Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 3.01 "Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day"

As the jury begins deliberations in his murder trial, Archie makes a surprising request about how he wants to spend his final days of summer. Betty is forced to deal with her problems head-on after a heated confrontation with Alice and Polly brings up some dark secrets she's kept hidden. Veronica pleads with Hiram to step in and help Archie before a verdict is announced. Jughead leads the Serpents against the Ghoulies latest attack.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of The CW's Riverdale.

"Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day" was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Kevin Sullivan

Archie Andrews is an incredibly stupid teenager. That has always been his strongest characteristic. In fact, it has been so consistent that it should make the audience question the judgment of anyone in Riverdale who is willing to trust him completely in any regard whatsoever. Hiram is this major mob boss who is able to manipulate any situation to his benefit. And yet, he was seemingly putting all of his trust in a naive and easily manipulated high school student. In fact, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Hiram only framed Archie in the first place in order to hurt Veronica. That relationship means more to him. Her betrayal is the one that needs consequences in his mind. But the show itself also has to reckon all of the monstrous and despicable actions that Archie did during the second season. He was led down a dark path. And yes, his parents are willing to justify it all by saying that Hiram manipulated him to the point where their good influence could no longer get to him. But that's just too easy. Archie's actions couldn't just be written off as typical teenage melodrama or rebellion. As the prosecutor explains in her closing arguments, he started vigilante task forces and assaulted many people. Even Mary's own closing argument seems to be misconstruing the facts because Archie has always had a selfish desire to put his issues ahead of everyone else's even though he fully believes in the narrative that he is helping people. He was calling Jughead a villain last season just because he didn't understand Hiram's vision for the Southside. And now, Archie is dealing with some actual consequences. The show isn't willing to just toss them away and act as if nothing even happened last season. There needed to be a reckoning. This premiere absolutely has a back to basics feel to it with all of the time spent celebrating the last days of summer. However, Archie can't accept that because he is weighed down by a guilty conscience. He isn't guilty of the crime he's on trial for. But to him, that doesn't matter. He deserves to be found guilty and spend time in prison because of what he was willing to do for Hiram last season. That's ridiculous and him wildly misunderstanding the situation and the appropriate actions to take. It ensures time will be spent in juvenile detention. Archie will have protection now that he has a Serpent tattoo. But this time also has to mean something as his friends will continue to appeal this ruling while Archie has to keep onto his wits and perhaps learn something while on the inside.

Moreover, did Riverdale just introduce witchcraft here? That seems heavily suggested in the closing minutes of the hour. It absolutely could tie into the premiere of Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (on October 26) which also exists in this same world. The two shows only have broad connections at the moment. But Riverdale could be laying the groundwork here to suggest that there are some mystical things possibly happening. The show has played around with tone a bunch across its run. That's one of its most admirable qualities. It understands how to be satirical and over-the-top while still being grounded in the characters' actions and reactions. Sure, sometimes things got a little too ridiculous last year. And now, the threat is once again present for that to blow up in a new way with the addition of these new mysteries. However, the show has always been a season-long mystery as well. The first season solved Jason's murder while the second investigated the Black Hood. The introduction of the Gargoyle King could distract too much from what else is changing in Riverdale. Or it could also be the perfect distraction to keep everyone entertained while getting back to Betty and Jughead as investigators. Plus, it's very damning to learn that Betty has been lying about seeing a therapist and has been writing Adderall prescriptions herself. In that moment, it makes Polly seem like the sane and rational one compared to Betty's dysfunction. That seems to be true even though Polly and Alice have basically joined a cult. Betty's seizure could be a side effect of the drug abuse. Or it could be something else that is mysteriously going on in the backyard. Right now, the show enjoys just teasing the audience with information that perhaps proves that this universe is about to break into a new genre altogether in order to tie in with another show from the same creative team.