Wednesday, November 7, 2018

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - Alice Tells Betty More About Her High School Experience in 'Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 3.04 "Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club"

When Betty confronts Alice about Gryphons and Gargoyles, Alice has no choice but to come clean about how she, along with a young Fred, FP, Hermoine, Hiram, Sierra, Penelope and Tom played the game in the early '90s - and how a shocking mystery has been plaguing them all ever since.

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-Nine: The Midnight Club" was written by Tessa Leigh Williams and directed by Dawn Wilkinson

This is absolutely a gimmick episode of Riverdale. However, it's also one of the best episodes the show has ever produced because it provides so much understanding and character development for a large portion of its ensemble while also advancing the main story of the season. The premiere established that the adults knew something about the dangers of Griffins and Gargoyles. And now, Alice explains everything to Betty in an attempt to protect her. But the show thrives because it depicts the adults as teenagers in 1992 with the young cast playing their parents. That's such an inspired idea. Of course, it's easier for some of the actors to approximate what these characters were like as teenagers. It helps immensely that so many of the actors who play the parents actually have huge credits to their names from the 1990s - like Luke Perry in Beverly Hills 90210, Mädchen Amick in Twin Peaks, Skeet Ulrich in Scream and Robin Givens in Boomerang. That is a solid reference point for both the young cast and the audience. The comparisons don't always line up. A young Alice isn't a complete match with what Amick was doing on Twin Peaks. But there is still plenty of moments where that inspiration is key and the performance matches the energy perfectly. Plus, it shows the timeless nature of the issues faced in high school. This episode proves that the teens and their parents may not be so different after all. This episode reminds the audience that all of these characters are kids in this particular story. They embrace Griffins and Gargoyles so passionately as a way to escape from their terrible lives at home and in this community. It's a way to bond with unexpected people. The show loves making this into a Breakfast Club homage as well - with Anthony Michael Hall even appearing as Principal Featherhead. That's more of a 1980s reference than the time period actually reflected here. But it's still fun. It brings all of these different people together as they bond over a simple board game. It's just so exciting watching all of them dress up and really becoming obsessed with the role playing of it all. It's all just harmless and fun even though the audience knows danger is lurking around the corner. The story is able to make that pivot so immediately as well. The teens are having a simple party and getting high to escape their lives. Alice doesn't partake because she's pregnant and is immediately confronted by the Gargoyle King and the death of Principal Featherhead. That proves that none of this was destined to last. It broke the Midnight Club and sent them running to their various destinies that have played out in the years since. In fact, it's very fascinating to see all of these secrets that the parents have kept. Sierra and Tom were actually high school sweethearts who couldn't be together because of racism. Hermoine was eager to escape this world and fell for the petty criminal who could give it to her. Fred enjoyed having his future mapped out even though this death leads to him quitting music for good. And Alice and F.P. split apart to Hal and the Serpents, respectively. Of course, it's most chilling to learn that Penelope was not born a Blossom but groomed for the position after being picked from the orphanage. That only further increases the incest themes that drive so much of the Blossom lives. That too is something apparent throughout the generations. Alice makes Betty promise that she won't play the game and get sucked into it like she did. But then, she sees just how obsessed and lost Jughead already is. That's so absolutely devastating. Moreover, all of this establishes that it may be yet another parent in Riverdale who is going around psychologically torturing people in the hopes of getting them to kill. All of this seems so elaborate for that specific purpose. And yet, it also makes more sense to the investigation than believing that there are now supernatural forces at play in Riverdale.