Whether it’s due to the increased episode count or the lack of a central mystery driving the plot forward, Riverdale Season 2 has struggled to deliver the same type of energetic storytelling of Season 1. Following the rushed wrap-up of the Black Hood arc in Season 2’s mid-season finale, the show’s writers have been leaning into weaker elements, such as Jughead’s devotion to the Serpents or the arrival of Betty’s creepy half-brother, Chic. Instead of pulling back from these stories when they weren’t working, the Riverdale creative team has double-downed on them, while also turning the characters of Veronica and Archie into Riverdale’s most infamous teen crime couple, as the two characters blindly and actively support every action taken by Hiram and Hermione, who have been shown to be legitimate mobsters rather than the criminals they were hinted to be back in Season 1.
Ultimately, the main problem here is that most of the stories in the back half of Season 2 have caused our main characters to become unlikable. While it’s easy to accept strange cameos like Andy Cohen showing up in this week’s episode or crazy storylines like Cheryl’s father’s twin brother returning to Riverdale to team up with her mother when enjoyable, entertaining individuals are grounding all the madness, those pills are a lot harder to swallow when you don’t have anyone on the show to root for.
Fortunately, “Primary Colors” begins to somewhat rectify this by having Veronica (and Archie, to some extent) face consequences for backing Hiram and Hermione. Despite knowing most of the nitty-gritty details of the family business, Veronica is still treated as an immature child by her parents; as Hermione runs for mayor and they receive push-back regarding their plan to build a prison in Riverdale, the two of them want Veronica to be their good, obedient, little girl. But this is Veronica Lodge we are talking about, so of course she responds to that condescending order by not keeping her head down but instead charging forward and running for student council president, with Betty originally as her running mate. Throughout her short-lived campaign, though, Veronica constantly faces opposition from the likes of Ethel and even Josie, who tricks Veronica into believing they’re working together; both of them define Veronica by the actions of her parents and call her out for her lying behavior. It’s a sad but necessary wake-up call for Ronnie, who tells Betty that she only aligned herself with her parents to keep them honest and accountable. Veronica also later admits to her mom that she wanted to be student council president so that she could have another moniker that defined her, so that she could have a shield to deflect all of the hate their family receives, so that she could be more than simply Hiram and Hermione Lodge’s daughter. Even if Veronica’s intentions for working with her parents were initially noble, they’ve become much more twisted since Season 2 began, and the negative reaction from her fellow students to her campaign is not only deserved but will also hopefully help bring Veronica back down to earth so she can return to being the more empathetic character she was throughout Season 1.
It seems like it will take more than push-back from fellow students and even best friends to cause Archie to realize the error of his ways, though. I don’t fully buy into Jughead’s sudden, fearless passion for Southside High; the Riverdale writers never presented Jughead as someone with more than one foot in the Serpent pool for much of this season’s first half, and now they are attempting to use his allegiance to them to create even more drama between him and Archie and Betty and Veronica. However, Archie following Hiram’s orders and being the one to break the chain connecting Jughead to the school feels even more unbelievable than Jughead protesting in the first place, especially following their apparent reconciliation at the end of “The Hills Have Eyes.” Archie seems willing to sacrifice all of his relationships with his family and friends in order to support Hiram’s visions for Riverdale, and while his actions made sense when he was supposed to spying on the Lodges or even when he was simply trying to impress Hiram because he’s Veronica’s dad, they don’t have as much merit to them now.
The only real motivator for Archie siding with Hiram over the likes of Fred and Jughead is the fear that still resides inside of him after his father was shot by the Black Hood. To Archie, this prison represents a new way to keep violent criminals out of Riverdale, a form of protection to make sure nothing like what happened to his dad happens to anyone else ever again. But if that really is what’s causing Archie to align himself with Hiram, it doesn’t make much sense. Most of the violence Archie has heard about or witnessed himself this season has stemmed from Hiram and his criminal activities. By choosing Hiram’s side, Archie is, in fact, supporting the criminals he so vehemently detests, and if his reasoning for supporting the Lodges lies more in the fact that he believes you need to “fight fire with fire,” then it would make more sense for Archie to be getting his hands dirty in a more physical way for Hiram rather than being a political tool used to change minds at the high-school level.
With Archie’s motivations being so murky, I’m hopeful that his mom, Mary (returning guest star Molly Ringwald), will be able to knock some sense into him now that she’s sticking around to help Fred with his campaign for mayor. Her speech in this episode, when she angrily tells Archie not to disrespect his father, along with the concerns she voices earlier to her son when they have lunch together, seem to indicate that she might be the one person who can break through to Archie’s brainwashed mind. With Veronica also facing a rude awakening in “Primary Colors,” maybe there’s a chance that she and Archie will change their attitudes together and fight for what is right instead of what is easy.
- The conflict between Betty and Chic reaches a boiling point in this week’s episode, as it’s revealed that, while he is Alice’s son, Hal is not his father. Things continue to escalate from there with Betty openly threatening Chic, and Chic responding by exposing that Betty and Jughead’s sex life to Alice. Simply put, it’s chaos in the Cooper household, and it’s enough chaos that it causes Betty to ask Jughead if she can move into the trailer with him. He, of course, says yes, and Betty also agrees to be his running mate for Riverdale High student council president.
- On the one hand, Cheryl being sent to an institution for conversion therapy definitely fits her mother’s brand of awful behavior. On the other, I personally don’t feel like there’s been enough groundwork done with Cheryl’s coming-out story yet for it to have taken this type of serious turn. Unfortunately, this is a very real situation that happens to people, and it needs to be handled with sensitivity and care, which is not something usually found in Blossom family storylines. Overall, I’m mixed on this story as a whole.
- Toni’s response to Cheryl’s insane family drama is hilarious. “Wait, I’m confused. Is this real or are we playing a game?”
- “Go get ‘em, Tracy Flick.”
- “Inner circle. Cousin Betty.”
What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of Riverdale? What are your thoughts on Season 2 as a whole? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo credit: Katie Yu/The CW]
Riverdale Season 2 Episode 16 Review: "Chapter Twenty-Nine: Primary Colors"
Veronica and Archie face consequences for supporting the Lodges, and Betty clashes with Chic in an uneven episode of Riverdale.