This week’s episode of Riverdale season 2 was a complete mess. Part of me still has the instinct to give this season the benefit of the doubt. But, it’s on episode 7 and should be hitting its stride. This episode hopped from one sloppy homage to the next without managing to tell a strong emotional story. It’s hard to believe this is the same show as Riverdale season one, which was always confident in what it was doing even in weaker episodes.
The episode opened with a message setting up a documentary or found footage style. If the episode had pulled off an unusual format, it still would’ve been jarring and inexplicable. After all, this is a teen drama, not Community. But, the episode was visually inconsistent and didn’t even achieve whatever it was trying to do. The episode told three stories that took place on the same night. This device utterly failed to make any of these stories more compelling.
Penny Peabody forced Jughead Jones to deliver drugs for her. Blackmail is a common device this season and it’s a big reason the season has been so unsatisfying. Good storytelling is all about characters making choices that define them. When people are constantly being forced into things, the audience is deprived of that.
Betty Cooper was convinced that Tom Keller was the Black Hood, when he was actually having an affair. This felt more like a bad sitcom episode than anything. For no reason, Betty reacted strongly to reveal of Keller’s affair with Sierra McCoy. No one seems to have the perspective to realize how uninteresting an affair is when bodies are dropping regularly.
The most interesting story was Josie McCoy’s. The other stories in this episode felt thin. Josie’s had a different problem. So much happened to Josie that it felt like a multi-episode arc. The writers unfairly treated Josie as a background character all season. This week they suddenly revealed that her family has been dealing with hateful racist threats, Cheryl Blossom’s developed a creepy obsession with her, she’s been secretly planning to go solo apart from the Pussycats and she’s cautiously considering a relationship with Chuck Clayton. Why the writers thought this was one episode of story rather than several overarching plots is beyond me.