‘Riverdale’s’ latest season more stressful than ever
If you’re looking for light, romantic teen fare, “Riverdale” isn’t for you. Unlike the comic book that inspired the show, it focuses less on the romantic upheavals of its characters and devotes more time to putting its teenage protagonists through the proverbial wringer.
Season Two immediately picks up after the previous season’s cliffhanger, where Archie (KJ Apa) deals with his father (Luke Perry) getting shot by a masked assailant at the local diner.
The pessimistic teen show, which is being streamed on Netflix, wastes no time in whipping up stressful scenarios, one after another. After the murder mystery in the initial season, the picturesque but troubled town now deals with the elusive serial killer called “Black Hood.”
As further proof that the show “corrupts” whatever it touches, some young Riverdale residents are trying out a drug called “jingle jangle.” The name’s previous incarnation is an actual song from the fictional band “The Archies” decades ago. Talk about contrived!
In any case, the show has fully embraced its gloomy, disconcerting tone. Archie once had an older paramour, music teacher Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel), who is among the Black Hood’s targets. But in the midst of all the morbid goings-on, Archie and Veronica (Camila Mendes) have become sexually intimate.
Meanwhile, Veronica’s ex-con dad, Hiram (Mark Consuelos), makes his crooked presence felt in no time. (TV Lodge is a cunning Latino hunk.)
Archie’s best buddy Jughead (Cole Sprouse) has problems of his own, but his girlfriend, the well-meaning but unstable Betty (Lili Reinhart) helps him out—by resorting to blackmail. Oh, these certainly aren’t the funny “Archie” characters you grew up with!
The first season, a cross between “Twin Peaks” and “Veronica Mars,” dragged due to a subplot about clashing clans. That repeatedly felt like a dull rehash of old soap-opera conflicts in existence. So far, a couple of episodes into the new season, “Riverdale” is aptly focused on the teens and their “new” quirks.
It’s good to see the brooding Jughead eat a lot, finally—at least that’s something familiar that has crossed over nicely. It’s explained that he eats a lot out of stress, which plausibly fits with his more eventful arc.
Consensual sexual encounters are treated as normal, except for the Archie-Miss Grundy statutory rape situation. Proper attention is given to a subplot about the prominent gay student, Kevin (Casey Cott), whose cruising activities in the woods are discussed as potentially dangerous.
There are, however, much-needed breathers—like, a miniconcert at the diner! But, this being “Riverdale,” it doesn’t present things without an issue—the cloud’s silver lining is often nonexistent.
Again, light and redeeming fare? With these attractive but depressing townsfolk around, not in this deceptively inviting town.