Wednesday, January 16, 2019

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - Archie Fights for His Life While Veronica and Reggie Grow Closer in 'Chapter Forty-Four: No Exit'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 3.09 "Chapter Forty-Four: No Exit"

With Riverdale in disarray following Hiram's takeover, Veronica leads the charge against her father after he takes aim at La Bonne Nuit. As Betty reluctantly houses the group of patients who escaped the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, Jughead confronts a group of desperate Serpents, who have resorted to drastic measures to make ends meet. Archie is forced to face his demons.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of The CW's Riverdale.

"Chapter Forty-Four: No Exit" was written by Arabella Anderson and directed by Jeff Hunt

Riverdale returns for the new year just as crazy as ever before. The hour opens with a five week time jump that makes the quarantine essentially pointless. Every character who was outside of Riverdale at the time is now back in the city. That's excluding Archie who is across the border being attacked by a grizzly bear. That's the first outrageous thing that happens here. At first, it's laughable because the audience never actually gets to see the creature that attacks him. It's just important that he is immediately in a life-or-death situation when he is forced to live on his own in the middle of the woods. He has never been the smartest or most aware character in this world. As such, this completely tracks for what he is capable of doing on his own. It then turns into one big hallucination in which he plays Griffins and Gargoyles for the first time which reminds him of all the past times in which he wasn't able to kill the people who threatened him and those he loves. That's the big lesson he apparently learns here. He is realizing that he needs to be a cold and calculating killer if he ever hopes to return to Riverdale one day. That's the end goal of this story at some point. It's unlikely that Archie spends the rest of the season away from his friends and his hometown. Of course, this hour also concludes with Archie's apparent death. That too feels like a major freak out that no one in the audience should take all that seriously. Sure, he remains an isolated component of the series. The show wouldn't lose too much if Archie were to die at this point. Betty and Jughead are both advancing the main investigation into the Gargoyle King nicely while Veronica has already moved on and started dating Reggie. What use does Archie still have on Riverdale? This fake out ultimately has to mean something important if it is going to hold any narrative weight whatsoever. How does a brush with death shake Archie to his core? Does it finally get him to take his father's advice to just come home and be the sweet, innocent kid who goes to high school and plays music? He has been corrupted by the creeping darkness of this universe. But does that mean he has to pay the ultimate price? These are the questions the show is currently asking. Sure, it's also doing so while trying to connect everything together with the ongoing mystery of the Gargoyle King. That is just flimsily executed at best. Archie has no real connection to that at all despite the importance of Hiram and the former warden to the game. The mystery isn't really clicking into place though. Everyone just assumes that Hiram is the Gargoyle King because he is the one with his hands in every corrupt business in town. He was benefiting from the prison and providing drugs to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Betty is delivered a devastating defeat here because the nuns refuse to testify against Hiram while the runaways are sent away to the farm by Evelyn, Polly and Alice. There continues to be the hint of something suspicious regarding the Farm. And yet, that remains incredibly cryptic at the moment. Plus, it would further create a sense that this season is really going to some over-the-top places without really remaining grounded in the lives of these characters as high school students in small town USA. That's what makes this entire hour feel a little too weird and scattered. It's absolutely trying to do something pointed and distinct. However, it's just too difficult to emotionally invest in anything that is going on because there's the understanding that it will all be reversed somehow a few scenes later.