Wednesday, October 16, 2019

REVIEW: 'Riverdale' - Senior Year Starts with Major Changes at Riverdale High in 'Chapter Fifty-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High'

The CW's Riverdale - Episode 4.02 "Chapter Fifty-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High"

Archie encourages Mad Dog to attend Riverdale High and join the football team. Jughead meets Mr. Chipping, who offers him a spot at an elite school called Stonewall Prep. Veronica is conflicted when information about her involvement in Hiram's arrest leaks to the public. Kevin applies for a spot on the Blue & Gold to make amends with Betty. Cheryl goes head to head with Mr. Honey, the school's new principal.

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-Nine: Fast Times at Riverdale High" was written by Michael Grassi & Will Ewing and directed by Pamela Romanowsky

Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica hoped for a normal but fun senior year of high school. That was always unlikely given what the show has produced across four seasons now. There is always so much craziness happening. At times, the audience may even forget that these characters are still in high school. They are rarely doing any kind of homework whatsoever. Betty and Jughead are busy with their investigations while Veronica is running a night club. Archie was in juvie and still presents as someone who can come back to graduate with his class. Mad Dog basically enrolls at Riverdale High the day before classes start. He joins the football team just because Archie suggests that it would be a good idea. Sure, the practices may back up that claim. But it also presents the case that this school may have low standards. Again, that may be easy to assume based on the leadership of Principal Weatherbee. He never really seemed to care. When he did, it was mostly to serve some larger interest in the plot. A narrative that was concerned with murder or a cult most of the time. And now, Riverdale High has a new principal in Mr. Honey. He walks in with a more authoritative mindset. He arrives to bring a sense of order to this place. And yet, the show is also suggesting that the education the kids are receiving at Riverdale High isn't the greatest. It's a public high school where there are too many students in each classroom and teachers who are no longer interested in the job. It's a better idea for Jughead to transfer to an elite academy that wants to recruit him following his entry in an essay contest. Sure, he may be joining a student body comprised of the wealthy and privileged. However, he snarks back with his own commentary about Moby Dick that suggests some truly valuable insight. Sure, it's a somewhat simplistic view of how teenagers today can be challenged in the classroom. It mostly presents as being more accessible to Jughead because he has the focus and attention he needs to properly hone his education. His omnipresent and foreboding narration was always meant to suggest that he is a great writer. He seems to be wandering through cliches a lot of the time with no real sense of direction because this world is always taking major twists and turns. It's sensible that Mr. Chipping would be the only person who would advocate for him winning this contest. However, he's still in a position to potentially improve Jughead's life. That's what these teenagers need right now. They have endured so much trauma. That was only extended further with Fred Andrews' recent death. This is a community seeking to rebuild. With the right and proper influences, there could be bright futures on the horizon for all of them. Sure, the show is more cynical because of the flash-forwards suggesting a dire fate for Jughead during spring break. Him joining this academy and wanting to figure it all out with his friends still in Riverdale suggests that things won't be as easy for him as they are suggested here. But he's hardly the only one seeking refuge and salvation. Betty is determined to find her mother and save her from whatever The Farm may be planning next. Veronica wants to be removed from the drama her mother and father keep creating. And Reggie wants to escape the pressure that his father is constantly putting on him through physical violence. The show says Reggie's problems can easily be solved. That's probably not true. Meanwhile, Cheryl needs some major help right now because of her continuing relationship with Jason's corpse. But again, it all shows that this world remains complicated even for those who want to do and be better in the future. They think they can achieve that fate if they simply follow the right inspiration - like what Fred would have wanted for their lives. That is a solid emotional through-line for the season at this point.