Wednesday, March 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - The School's Annual Musical Brings Out Romantic Insecurities in Everyone in 'Chapter Fifty-One: BIG FUN'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 3.16 "Chapter Fifty-One: BIG FUN"

As rehearsals for this year's musical "Heathers: The Musical" get underway, Cheryl channels her own HBIC to deal with a recent fallout. Betty grows increasingly annoyed by Evelyn's involvement with the musical - as well as the lives of her friends. Veronica learns some devastating news about her family. Archie and Josie make a decision about their future. Jughead makes a surprising move against Gladys.

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. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of The CW's Riverdale.

"Chapter Fifty-One: BIG FUN" was written by Tessa Leigh Williams and directed by Maggie Kiley

Are the teenagers of Riverdale capable of having fun and enjoying their simple lives at 17? Those are the predominate questions throughout this episode - and by extension the entire series. This is the type of show in which so many horrifying things have happened in this town. Sure, Veronica owns a speakeasy, Archie owns a gym and Betty & Jughead are some of the best investigators the town has ever seen. And yet, this is also a place that has been haunted and hunted by numerous serial killers. It's not the picturesque landscape of a throwback time in the American Dream. The show loves playing with those motifs so well while also mixing in some horror imagery. However, the annual musical should be the time where the high school students can come together and have fun. They are creating moments together that they will celebrate and cherish for a long time. That's what Veronica wants from her family after learning that her parents are getting a divorce. She still wants this to be a pure and happy memory. And yet, all of this has already been infected with the memories of the previous musical as well as Evelyn possibly infecting more people with the ideals of The Farm. Sure, Kevin being haunted by the ghost of Midge is a story thread that is abruptly dropped a little too quickly. It's important that the show has this long memory of what happened during last year's musical and how it may not be a great idea to replicate a lot of things for the school's rendition of "Heathers." However, that only shows the growing support for The Farm both at the school and in the town at large. It's hard to get a sense if Evelyn is trying to bring great performances out of her classmates as co-director or trying to recruit them to The Farm. She may not even sense a difference in these motivations either. This is the life she has always known. She has only seen the beauty and would love for as many people to embrace it as possible. Betty is the inherent skeptic who sees it as potentially damaging to her friends and family caught up in the mess. She sees the creepy imagery of her friends all dressed in white for a private rehearsal in the gargoyle room. That's an unsettling moment. And yet, it's also hard to clearly see what sinister thing is potentially going on. As such, it's more difficult for Betty to tackle this threat. She and Jughead have been able to unmask the Black Hood and the Gargoyle King while also targeting the drug trade of Riverdale. That has presented them with clear-cut antagonists who wish to torture and manipulate this community. Jughead is pushing back against his mother who is trying to corrupt the very institutions that brought him so much comfort in his youth. Betty and Jughead would love to be innocent teenagers who don't have to be responsible in this way. They still feel the impulse to do so in order to protect those they love. And yet, that doesn't stop the leaders of The Farm from descending on Riverdale and giving that really chilling clap at the end of the final performance. That too is unexpected and welcomes Chad Michael Murray as the latest parent of a Riverdale teen with a nefarious agenda.

Teen love is also just as important a theme throughout this story as well. Betty and Jughead have the strength and determination to burn the trailer because of the support they get from each other. That is special and has been built over a long period of time. Meanwhile, Veronica attempts to use Reggie for sex in order to distract herself from the hard emotions of her family being torn apart. It's understandable why Hiram and Hermoine can no longer be together. It's more than just trying to sell the drug business away while Hiram was in the hospital. Hermoine has made big moves as well. But this story is primarily about Veronica and the pain she is feeling in this moment. She has strived for distance from her parents. And yet, she is still fundamentally a daughter who relies on them for so much support. She still doesn't quite know how to survive without that structure in her life - no matter how destructive it has been. Reggie is giving her that space to figure it out as well even though she may not want that at the moment. Elsewhere, Archie is asking for more of a commitment from Josie. He realizes that this is a dynamic that has mostly been kept private and between them. That's seemingly the way that Josie conducts her relationships. She hasn't seen a future in Riverdale because her career aspirations will take her far away. That may doom this relationship in the end. However, she is willing to step into the ring and explore what this dynamic actually is with Archie. It's so sweet and simple. It's a much appreciated moment after a season in which Archie has gotten repeatedly beaten up. And finally, Cheryl and Toni are in the middle of a huge fight. It too has been welcome to see Toni get more focus over these last few episodes. She has a unique perspective in this relationship as well. It doesn't have to be what Cheryl wants all of the time. And yet, the show is also using that as a way to examine the way that Cheryl understands love. In her family, it's either all or nothing. People aren't allowed to fight without it leading to big, drawn-out matches with each other. She has so much disdain for her family and the secrets they kept. She continues to prop Jason up on a pedestal because of the love they shared. But now, she has to welcome Toni into her life with the understanding that she too has valuable opinions and emotions. She has to be treated with respect throughout everything while also acknowledging that fights don't have to lead to the end of their connection. Seeing them reunite is very special and proves that this bond is getting a surprising amount of depth as of late.