Television

Riverdale Season 2 Review: 2.10: The Blackboard Jungle

The Riverdale season 2 mid-season premiere had a bit more life in it than the last few episodes before the winter break. But, many characters are still floundering. In particular, Jughead Jones’ storyline continued to be an absolute mess.

The mid-season finale showed Jughead actually cutting another person. In the mid-season premiere, there wasn’t even a hint of him dealing with that. Instead, he focused on the treatment of the South Side Serpents after they joined Riverdale High. When the principal banned Serpent jackets, Jughead took the opportunity to preach to a bunch of people of color about “discrimination.” Later, Veronica Lodge inexplicably decided to tackle the problem of welcome the Serpents to the school by giving them mandatory polo shirts that no one else has to wear. Jughead responded by creating a tabletop gaming club that was secretly just a club of Serpents. None of this remotely resembled a logical chain of events.

Meanwhile, Archie Andrews was recruited to be a snitch for the FBI. That’s probably a bad idea for a plot on a teen drama, but it was easily the most fun part of the episode. Him working with the FBI doesn’t fit in with the rest of Riverdale at all. It felt like a completely different show. But, at least it was a show that I would watch every episode of. After all, Archie is the show’s most naive and earnest character.

The episode also had issues dealing with Cheryl Blossom, who’s usually a reliably entertaining character. There are a lot of issues hanging over the Cheryl scenes in this episode. First, there’s the tonal whiplash from talking about Cheryl’s sexual assault in the midst of this ridiculous FBI storyline. Mixing grounded emotional stories with pulp has always been Riverdale‘s gimmick. But, the problem now is that the more realistic stories aren’t getting their due. So, Cheryl’s assault will regularly be brought up and then dropped without it ever feeling like a genuine storyline.

The other problem with Cheryl’s scenes is that this episode didn’t follow up on her messy storyline with Josie McCoy at all. After throwing it out the possibility that Cheryl is darkly manipulating her supposed best friend, Riverdale needs to provide at least some answers. Otherwise, in every scene she’s in, part of me is wondering exactly what twisted things she could be up to.

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