Musical episodes are usually last-ditch efforts for TV shows to change things up when the show's gone stale after several seasons of repetitive plot lines. They can range from great (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) to excruciating (Grey's Anatomy).
It's 2018, we're only two seasons into Riverdale, and The CW already jumped ahead to DEFCON 1 — throwing a musical episode into a show that, to be honest, already has more musical numbers than anyone wants, needs, or is asking for. (Sorry y'all, but Glee was canceled for a reason).
At one point during tonight's show, Kevin (Casey Cott) asks rhetorically, "Am I directing a train wreck?" And the answer is why yes, Kevin. You are.
Not even a gruesome, surprise murder at the end of the episode can make sense of the hour of television The CW created tonight. But if you're a Riverdale fan, as I am, then you're not really here for sense anyway, are you?
"Carrie The Musical" has come to the town of Riverdale, and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) wants the title role. Despite an attempt to prove she deserves it (by singing an impromptu solo that made me long for the days of Lea Michele), the fact is that Cheryl didn't earn it; no, she threatened Kevin to get it. And that's enough motivation for our old friend, The Black Hood.
Oh, did you think he was gone? Well, let's look at the evidence: an anonymous letter sent to Kevin, asking for Cheryl to step down as the lead and to be recast; a sandbag that nearly hits Cheryl during rehearsal; and yet another anonymous letter with a final warning.
Kevin takes it all in stride — after all, his dad is the sheriff and got the bad guy, right? Right? Wrong. This wouldn't be Riverdale if everything went off without a hitch.
The show goes on, albeit with Midge Klump (Emilija Baranac) playing Carrie due to Penelope Blossom's meddling ways (more on that below).
After Alice Cooper's (Mädchen Amick) solo (yes, even the mothers of Riverdale get solos in this musical), the set reveals Midge — our Carrie understudy. She's dead; nailed to a wall on stage, with knives dug into her, surrounded by bloody writing. It feels very Scream 2, which knowing this show, might be purposeful.
The reveal is horrifying and jarring after nearly an hour of random good-natured sing-alongs to mostly upbeat melodies. It's a shame that such a powerful twist is buried at the end of an episode that's lacking.
But for better or worse, it confirms that Riverdale's Black Hood killer is back, and this time, he's succeeded at killing a student at Riverdale High.
If Cheryl Blossom is anything, she is a survivor.
Despite a short stint in an asylum, an attempt at conversion therapy, a mother who clearly hates her, a father who killed himself after killing his own son, and surviving sexual assault, Cheryl Blossom doesn't take any shit. Not from anyone. Not even from the Black Hood killer.
When Kevin tells her about the notes and near fatal accidents, Cheryl simply replies that, "I will not succumb to thespian terrorism." She plans to be a "dark phoenix reborn in the spotlight." But that plan is put on pause when momma comes along.
Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) refuses to give parental permission for Cheryl's work in the musical. "Your mother matricidal revenge fantasy is never going to happen," she says, because the Blossoms are the most extra family in existence.
Unfortunately for Penelope, Cheryl doesn't just take "no" for answer. Especially after everything she's been through. And especially not when she's got the support of her new GF Toni (Vanessa Morgan).
So Cheryl does the one thing she's really good at: She terrorizes Penelope Blossom.
Drenched in blood and wearing Carrie's "prom dress," Cheryl waltzes up to her mother in a pitch-black hallway while holding a candelabra. Cheryl exposes her mother's half-assed plots to get rid of grandma and threatens to burn this house to the ground like the one before.
"Nightmare child, what do you want from me," Penelope exclaims. How about you stop trying to kill and torture your daughter? Let's start there maybe.
Cheryl asks to be emancipated. That's a good idea, too.
Archie & Veronica
There are few things as boring as Varchie. Except maybe Varchie singing.
The couple's entire episode storyline revolves around their warring fathers. Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) is producing the school musical, while Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) is building the set for free.
In case you forgot, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) is running for mayor against Fred. Archie (K.J. Apa) has pledged allegiance to Hiram, who also bought Archie a nice new car. This makes life complicated for poor Archiekins.
He's trying to show his dad that he cares, while also hiding that Hiram bought him a brand new car. But Hiram wants to twist the knife, so he brings up the car in front of Fred.
Poor Fred Andrews. He wanted to buy a piece of junk from the junkyard and fix it up with his son, but Hiram's ruined it. It forces Archie to issue a warning to Hiram: "Don't try to get between me and my dad," he says while handing back the car keys. "That is a battle you will lose every time."
Honestly, bravo, Archie! For a boy who's been making nothing but bad choices and "going down this dark path," this is the right thing to do. If it takes Kevin gassing up you before a musical to strengthen your morals, then Kev, keep at it!
On top of the daddy showdown, Veronica (Camila Mendes) is dealing with constant insults from Betty (Lili Reinhardt).
Veronica is playing the school mean girl in the musical, and her big solo (the best song of the night imo) includes lyrics like, "My daddy taught me/ You get nowhere being nice" and "Better to screw than be screwed/That’s the way things are."
Naturally, Betty (who is playing the school's girl next door) makes a snide comment that Veronica's the “literal embodiment" of her mean girl character. "Never has a role been so perfectly typecast," Betty says.
It's the last straw for Archie, who tells Betty it all feels like the pot calling the kettle black. Archie notes that Betty has no idea what Veronica is going through and how hard it's been for Veronica to balance her parents' wishes with her friendships. Archie also brings up the fact that Veronica forgave Betty despite all the horrible things she said and did for the Black Hood when he blackmailed her.
Once again, well-played, Archiekins! Is this character growth? Fingers crossed!
It just takes one nice love song to get Betty and Veronica back on track, one of a series of "that was too easy" tidy endings for conflicts on the show.
There was also the duet that somehow convinced Josie (Ashleigh Murray) to forgive Cheryl. And let's not forget that everyone chose to forgive Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway), just because he was a "gentleman" during the musical. If it made you suspicious, don't worry — that's just your Riverdale senses kicking in. After all, never forgive a reformed bad guy, not in a town like this.
Betty & Alice
By far the most boring storyline of the night belonged to Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who did not sing or dance, but played the documentarian. In other words, he snuck around with a camera, and it was creepy. He smiled when Betty performed, glared when Betty whispered with Archie, and dug through Ethel Miggs' (Shannon Purser) trash — convinced that the creepy Black Hood letters were actually from her.
But who cares about Jughead this week? Not when Betty and Alice are on the road to recovery. Betty sees that Alice is going through a hard time. She's missing Chic (Hart Denton), and her husband is more bland than a vanilla milkshake at Pop's diner.
Alice tries to connect with F.P. (Skeet Ulrich), but he basically blows her off (typical bad boy, am I right?). So she decides to join the school musical, a true sign of defeat. Alice plays the role of Carrie's overbearing, crazy mother. And it seems to be going well until she has a breakdown on stage during rehearsal.
"I've driven everyone away," she sobs to Betty while begging her not to leave. Betty's solution? Get Hal (Lochlyn Munro) to come back home with flowers.
It was an awkward reunion, but Alice agrees to give it another go. "If we do this, Hal, there can’t be anymore secrets between us," she tells him. Let's see how long that lasts, lol.
In any case, when F.P. sees Hal hand Alice flowers before the musical, he looks pissed.
The only other Cooper family development is that Chic reemerges. After ignoring his mother's calls, he pops up backstage before the musical starts to tell Betty to "break a leg." He actually seemed less awkward than usual. Calm, even.
When Midge is revealed on stage, eyes closed and covered in blood, Jughead's camera gets jostled about. But I swore for a second there — among the chaotic crowd clamoring for the exit — that Chic was sitting calmly in the middle of it all. Maybe it wasn't him? Why would he sit there so calmly? Maybe I was wrong? But was I?
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