Riverdale: Season 1 Episode 9 review – Chapter Nine: La Grande Illusion
This review contains spoilers.
Nine episode into this thirteen-episode season and it still feels a little like we’re wading in shallow waters. Very stylish shallow waters, filled to the brim with interesting characters, but lately the content of the episodes themselves feel a little thin on worthwhile mechanics – on the actual riveting cogs that make a story worth coming back for.
Instead we’ve had vapid family feuding, with Polly (and her twins) in the centre, enlarged drama around Archie’s musical career (does it really need to have such a huge focus?), some slight back and forth with Archie and Val, and now one more log hurled onto the romantic campfire: Cheryl kissing Archie.
Luckily for us, this didn’t hold any romantic weight behind it and was more of a power exhibition from Cheryl, but it’s still annoying to see yet another romantic Archie avenue forced onto our screens. You might ask why this is a no-go, since it seems to have happened in the comics. The answer is that the show hasn’t crossed any lines in doing this, but this it’s a worrying signifier for the direction that the show might head in, if they don’t curb their romantic threads.
This show has, up to this point, very smartly stepped away from being a romance-heavy teen show. Yes, we’ve had a few romantic ties and break-ups throughout these nine-episodes (Val’s break-up with Archie this week was particularly cruel), but the show has avoid a-typical teen cheesiness.
The kind of which you’ll find in other, romance-driven shows, which utilise romance for the sake of romance. Instead we’ve had a slick and smart representation of Riverdale, with limited romantic irons in the fire – just enough to be true to the comics, but not enough to sully the show.
So the Cheryl kiss was bearable, but only because we know it didn’t really mean anything. The Val break-up was a little unbearable to watch, but what it had done is extinguish another romantic thread. This is a good thing, but no doubt it has just been undertaken in order to free Archie up for yet another romantic companion. Who that is is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Cheryl certainly tried her best to be considered for that role. From calling Archie “Archikins” (a direct steal from Veronica’s dictionary) to guilting him into standing by her side, she laid it on thick this week. Thankfully, Archie made the decision to reject the Blossoms’ niceties, before the episode closed out, but seeing him stick up for Cheryl was till very enjoyable (“You don’t bet against her”).
One thing I really loved this week was seeing Veronica being extremely caring towards someone she doesn’t even know. One thing I love to see in shows (watch Banshee and Lethal Weapon for two great examples of this) is someone who used to be a terrible human being, who has turned their life around and now works vehemently on the side of good, against the thing that they used to exhibit.
Veronica may be a more minor example than the police officers that I was nodding to in the above mentions, but her desire to do good and make up for her bullying errors is truly admirable. She was truly perceptive and cautiously empathic, when it came to Ethel. It really cements Veronica as my favourite character in the show.
This was an episode of ethics. On the one side are innocents like Archie, Polly, Betty and Veronica (whose ethics were once skewed but are now sharply attuned to being on the right side of the moral compass). On the opposing side are many of the parents, but particularly the Blossoms; especially Clifford Blossom, who it was revealed is the cause of Hiram being sent to jail (who himself is no angel).
This episode trod similar, safe ground to what we’ve seen over the past handful of weeks. Although it didn’t hold any aggravating Betty and Jughead content, it did fall shy of holding any powerful or interesting content. Despite that gap, it delivered what it did have to give in style and with elegance, even it did drop yet another futile murder motive red herring before the end credits rolled.
Image credits: The CW