Wednesday, October 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - All of Riverdale Gathers to Celebrate Fred Andrews in 'Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 4.01 "Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam"

As the residence of Riverdale prepare for its upcoming Independence Day parade, Archie receives a phone call that will change the rest of his life forever.

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 season premiere of The CW's Riverdale.

"Chapter Fifty-Eight: In Memoriam" was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Gabriel Correa

Premieres for Riverdale typically revolve around setting up the new mystery that will define the rest of the season. The first season started with Jason's murder. The second season began with the Black Hood roaming through the town. And the third season brought a sense of mysticism through The Farm and the Gargoyle King. All of these major stories were first established in their respective premieres. The show does something remarkably different at the start of the fourth season. It has the burden and responsibility to do so as well in order to honor Luke Perry, who tragically died back in March. The creative team decided to put off this specific episode writing off Fred Andrews until the fourth season. They couldn't keep the character offscreen forever because Fred had a significant role in Archie's life. It could be delayed but this moment essentially always had to come. It's tragic and emotional. In fact, this may be the most concise and sincere episode the show has ever produced. It's a satirical drama constructed around these mysterious and dark happenings in the town of Riverdale. Fred always presented as the best parent by far. He was always there to support Archie, even when he was at his most reckless. It was such an aspirational and idealistic perspective in an increasingly dark and chaotic world. This premiere notes how many near-death experiences Archie has suffered. And now, he gets the call that his father was involved in a hit-and-run. He was killed while traveling back to Riverdale. Archie refuses to believe it at first. He needs the clarification that it is actually his father's body at the funeral home. He then has to confront the driver of the car who hit his father and didn't stop to help. Of course, the situation is much more complicated than that. Fred pulled over in order to help a woman in need. He saved her life when that other car was speeding down the road. She was there with him in the end. He died as a hero. That's perfectly fitting for who Fred Andrews was. Archie lashes out because he sees it as a selfish impulse. His father cared more about helping others than getting back to his family as soon as possible. But he can't hold onto this resentment for long. He needs to hold himself to a higher standard in order to honor everything his father taught him. Sure, Archie is frequently way too hard on himself. He believes he isn't even half as good as his father was. That is such an impossible standard though. Fred was singular and beloved by everyone in this world. In fact, the simplicity of this hour means that the cast largely gets to go around sharing their stories about how great this man was. It's so beautiful and meaningful. It allows unexpected characters to have devastating reactions as well. Sure, Cheryl may be on the brink of sanity now that she is keeping her brother's corpse. But she is distraught upon hearing this news because she saw Fred as all that was good in this town. He deserved to live no matter what. He survived being shot by the Black Hood. But it's of no service to linger on the mystery. The show easily could have produced an entire season around Archie trying to solve who ran his father over on the road that fateful day. Instead, that mystery is resolved in the span of this hour. It allows the proceedings to remain a celebration. It's tough and emotional for all involved. But it can be cathartic as well. Archie needs his friends to get through this trying time. Veronica, Betty and Jughead are there to provide him with whatever support he may need. In fact, the entire town of Riverdale is there to celebrate and send Fred off in glory. Fred embodied the spirit of Riverdale more than anyone else. This was his home. This was the life he lived. Everyone should strive to live by his example. It's a beautiful message and one that hits the audience just as hard because of the tragic real-life circumstances that forced it all into happening. This action will have lingering consequences for the world as well. What is Riverdale without the symbol for all that it can be? Will it descend into corruption that will benefit those always seeking to remake the town? Or will it rise up stronger than before because it knows exactly whose lead to follow to know exactly what can be in this place? It will hit Archie personally. His senior year will be bittersweet. But it may also force some necessary things into perspective for him and give him such focus on the path forward. That would be really appreciated at this point even though it's a given the show will be straight back to being a ridiculous mess in the next episode.