Wednesday, December 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - Archie & Veronica Continue to Make Insanely Foolish Decisions in 'Chapter Forty-Two: The Man in Black'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 3.07 "Chapter Forty-Two: The Man in Black"

Fearful that he will be caught, Archie hits the road and ends up at a farm outside Riverdale, where he meets Laurie Lake. After Alice takes extreme measures to ensure Betty's safety from the Gargoyle King, Betty finds herself up against a formidable foe from her past. After learning that La Bonne Nuit is in trouble, Veronica makes a risky business decisions that could cost her everything.

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 Forty-Two: The Man in Black" was written by Janine Salinas Schoenberg and directed by Alex Pillai

This hour is a stylistic successor to Season 2's "Chapter Twenty: Tales From the Darkside." That hour was one of the strongest the show has ever produced because of its willingness to shake up the formula and tell stories in a different way. The season may not have been able to appropriately follow through on all of the teases that were delivered in that hour. But it didn't diminish the effectiveness of it either. So, it's not a surprise that the creative team opted to produce another episode featuring three distinct stories that are carved out from one another. However, this time it is such a creative disappointment that may prove that none of these characters have learned absolutely anything over the course of the series. The Betty portion of this hour is the only redeeming quality. That keeps this from being a complete disaster. However, the Archie and Veronica stories have significant issues that probably aren't going away any time soon either. As such, the future may be just as problematic as it is here even though this has been a strong season overall for Riverdale. Archie and Veronica are just acting so naively and foolishly here. Archie falls in love with the idea of living on a farm for some reason. As such, he becomes so trusting and completely ignorant to all of the warning signs that this town and its people are nothing but trouble. Jughead knows that they need to get out of there. They need to keep moving and find help from people who are willing to fight against Hiram alongside them. That was always going to be one of their mothers. That's their safe refuge. It just takes an entire story for them to come to that conclusion. It shouldn't even be a big decision. It should be the obvious direction for them to go in. Instead, Archie once again proves that he is so obsessed with sex. He knows that he can't actually go through with it with Laurie because he's still in love with Veronica. But he only reaches that realization while he's kissing her. It's also after he shares the truth about everything he is running from in Riverdale even though he's not far from the town at all. The show committing to Archie as a dumb jock can be entertaining. However, it also wants to take him so seriously all the time. His demand to kill Hiram now to stop all of this makes no sense whatsoever considering he made the same pledge with the Black Hood but couldn't ultimately go through with it. Moreover, this only ends because Jughead says that Veronica would never forgive Archie if he killed her father.

However, the show has completely lost sight of the through-line when it comes to the Lodge family. They are all so inconsistently written. As such, it's difficult to care about what happens to any of them. There is no real understanding of what they want and how they plan on getting it. It should be compelling that Veronica moves out and no longer wants anything from her family. She doesn't want to be associated with their mob connections. But that decision only proves just how much she still needs them because she is so bad at managing her business. The speakeasy was always a questionable decision. Sure, it's a beautiful set that the show loves showing off whenever it gets the chance. However, Veronica is just now coming to the realization that it's a bad business decision to have a hangout spot for teens underneath a hangout spot for teens. It means she has to make new criminal associations in order to make money. But that also proves that she knows nothing about gambling and how she can ensure that her business will take in a lot of money at the end of the night. She literally has to rely on advice from her father in order to know that the people she has invited are criminals. And yet, that's the way Elio was introduced in the first place. He was a suitor for Veronica because of his family mob connections. That's the life that was planned for Veronica by her parents. As such, she too is blissfully ignorant if she believes that only wholesome people will be stopping by for this casino night. It proves how she loves to lash out at her father for his unsavory tactics but still accepts and welcomes them when they benefit her interests. That may show that she is an inherently selfish character who only cares about things that will help her in the long run. She claims to have morals. But again, those are so wishy-washy. She should know that her father is a dangerous gangster who will hurt anyone to get his way. Instead, she is claiming to Pop that he may not be a bad guy after all. She says that even though she knows that Archie ran away because Hiram put a hit out on him. It's insane. She shouldn't have to learn that the sheriff has been dismembered to see her father with absolute horror. Moreover, the show continues to position Hiram as the obvious Gargoyle King because he has his hands in absolutely everything. But it's insanely too obvious while still making it seem lame and lackluster that this savvy businessman is constantly foiled by a bunch of teenagers. That limits his credibility immensely.

Betty's story is the only one that even tries to add some interesting visual flourishes to the proceedings. Plus, it welcomes the audience into her head to understand her thought process as she is forced to live with the Sisters. Sure, she is absolutely dumb and foolish to believe that she can escape the same way that her friends did last season. There was no way the Sisters would keep that exit open after losing high profile client Cheryl Blossom. That means that Betty is certainly not fine at the close of this episode despite what everyone believes about her. Everyone is right to think that she can take care of herself even with a dangerous threat on the loose in Riverdale. She did uncover the truth about the Black Hood after all. But now, she's locked in this prison. She is trying her best to learn more clues that can help her investigation. And yes, there are many teases here that suggest the business dealings in Riverdale have only gotten more insane and cryptic. It involves the Sisters, Lodges and Blossoms in some way. Moreover, this place has essentially become a shrine to the Gargoyle King. It appears to be his base of operations. He has an office and meets his followers in there. Betty's new roommate is Ethel who immediately presents with a new sense of power. She is a victim in all of this as well. However, she is still using the small amount of power she has gained to turn against her peer. Betty has never been a close friend of Ethel's. In fact, the main characters have treated her horribly and as an afterthought for a long time. As such, it's understandable that she would take her revenge against one of them. Sure, her perception of Betty Cooper as the Queen Bee is absolutely wrong. But it's also so sad and delusional to see her invent this romance with Jughead as they can both ascend to be with the Gargoyle King. That's a fate that is awaiting Betty at the close of her story as well. She tries to escape but is thwarted because the Sisters have covered up the exit. They are drugging these children for some nefarious reason. Again, the impact of this story may lesson depending on how the overall story with the Gargoyle King resolves. For the moment though, it's absolutely terrifying to watch the drugs be poured down Betty's throat which makes her immediately compliant with whatever is truly going on in this place.