Riverdale: Season 1 Episode 2 review – Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil
This review contains spoilers.
Achie and Grundy’s secret escalated into an unavoidable crescendo for Archie this week, with his guilt over knowing that little extra detail about the Jason Blossom death plaguing his conscience until it forced him to make a decision, one way or the other. It’s the sign of a truly moral man and one who holds doing the right thing in high regard. Yes, Archie is undertaking a secret love affair, but it’s not hurting anyone and only needs to be a secret due to school prohibitions. And yes, Archie was close to listening to Grundy and keeping quiet about that day, but that was only to keep the woman he loves happy.
After a great talk from his father, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) – who is shaping up to be an exceptional TV Dad – Archie made that right choice and informed Grundy of his decision, while also giving her an opportunity to co-confess. Chance in the final moment prevented him from spilling the secret, as Riverdale’s Principle Weatherbee marched the blame towards Cheryl instead, but hopefully Archie will stick to his guns and reveal what he knows about the gunshot at the first available opportunity, once the Cheryl witch-hunt has died down a little.
Betty, on the contrary, seems brutally intent on doing the exact opposite of everything that her parent says (Alice Cooper, played by Twin Peaks‘ Madchen Amick) and I don’t blame her, given Alice’s propensity to loathe anyone and everyone who was less than kind to her daughter Polly Cooper (played by Tiera Skovbye, who we’re yet to see in the show). There definitely seems to be some sound reasoning behind Alice’s stance, but it’s clear that Alice judges too quickly and too harshly. Because she definitely doesn’t know girls like Veronica Lodge (who has only recently moved to town) on a one to one basis, yet Alice still heaps negative judgement upon her.
This is a Betty, then, who seems more trapped in the good girl persona than wanting to be there and she takes every opportunity to rebel in slight but active ways, especially when it is against advice coming from her mother. As great a quality as rebelling can be, it almost seems like Betty simply does the opposite of what Alice says even without thinking and considering what that action might be, which can lead to trouble for her down the line if the opposite of what Alice says proves to be something dangerous or deceitful.
Despite this rebellious inclination, this week further evidenced that Betty is a very emotional soul; perhaps even too much so. As Archie gave us his first live taste one of his personal songs, she teared up, thinking back to the dance of her feelings for Archie. As much as I am adoring Betty and Lili Reinhart’s portrayal of her, my only fear here is that the writers are crafting Betty to be a little too fallible to her emotions. If she can’t keep her composure in front of a group of friends, when a song is played, then she doesn’t have much in the way of a wall that she can put up. Everything is instead out on display, which on the one hand is adorably naive, but on the other hand is too weak and is unlike the Betty than I know (in the 2015 Archie run at least).
Betty and Veronica came to some verbal blows this week, which is exactly what I was expecting to see occur at some point, given the comics. Betty accuses: “At least Cheryl’s not putting on an act; pretending she’s a butterfly when she’s really a wasp.” Which sparked the embers of the argument, causing Veronica to retort that Betty was “pining after him in quiet desperation… you were walking on emotional egg shells around him, scared to tell him the truth.” Despite the hurled accusations (which certainly were aimed to cut deep and which were certainly accurate, like Veronica making a move on Archie in the closet), neither of the girls flew in a rage of any sort and both kept the dispute calm and rational.
All of this lead to a superb line from Veronica, which shows the kind of intelligence that she holds. She stated: “It’s just how it is; most of the time, the people we like don’t like us back.” This notion wasn’t born in this show; others have come up with it before now, including author Chuck Palahniuk (with his more eloquent version, ‘The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person’), but nevertheless it revealed a deeper insight into Veronica’s wise mind. She’s shaping up to be more interesting than Betty so far, even if Betty remains my favourite of the two, broadly speaking. And I’d argue that although Veronica’s slyness got the better of her in the closet, I think she is trying very hard to be good and kind, and that this is coming from an honest place, not a intent to deceive.
The title of the episode should not go unmentioned. ‘A Touch of Evil’ no doubt refers to the 1958 crime-noir Orson Welles film Touch of Evil. I’ve personally never got around to this film, but perhaps parallels can be drawn between its plot and what’s going on in the show concerning the mystery of Jason Blossom’s death. The investigation for which now has its sights set very firmly on Jason’s twin sister Cheryl. As I pointed out last week, this was always very likely, given that Cheryl was the last person to see Jason alive and her propensity to hurl accusations at everyone around her. However, given that this “guilty” revelation is so early on in the show, the odds are now vastly against Cheryl actually being the killer. It’s not a reveal that they would execute this early; much more likely she undertook some immoral action, in that period of extended life that no one realised Jason had before his death, but she isn’t the murderer.
One wonderful advancement this week was getting to know Jughead much better. Last week he was hidden behind the role of narrator and although this week he continued to narrate, he was also far more present as a character. We saw him provide advice to Archie, undertake his own sleuthing and talk about burgers, all of which are staple Jughead traits. Betty can be soppy, Veronica can be sly and Archie can be foolish, but Jughead remains implacably cool (his come back to the jock was great) and deeply unaffected by Riverdale’s romantic politics. All of this will no doubt serve to make him the best character of the group and a true fan favourite, as long as the writers continue to place him within the narrative and not just overlooking it.
While the pilot was extremely pleasing in the way in which it brought a classic comic to life with beauty and an assured approach, this second episode was just as exceptional, but rather in the respect of getting to know what makes our characters who they are and what makes them tick. I certainly feel like I know all four of the core characters far better after this episode than I did after the pilot, which means that adept character development is underway, which will no doubt continue into subsequent episodes.
Image credits: The CW