Riverdale Season 2 Finale Review: “Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World”

Riverdale Season 2 Finale

There’s a lot to enjoy throughout the Riverdale Season 2 finale, “Brave New World,” which is an appropriate title given all the major changes that have happened in recent weeks and continue to occur throughout this episode. In this hour alone, we have Jughead anointed as the new Serpent King (and Cheryl joining the Serpents, with a red leather jacket, of course), Veronica buying Pop’s and planning to re-open the speakeasy underneath the shop, Hermione elected as the town’s new mayor, and Archie elected student body president before being arrested for the murder Andre committed at Shadow Lake. As I mentioned above, there’s a lot to love about many of these developments, but let’s dive into the one major story I have a problem with first, shall we?

That storyline would belong to Archie, who spends so much of “Brave New World” returning to his good, boy-next-door, heroic roots, which feels right given everything he’s gone through over the past couple of episodes. Archie opening up his and Fred’s doors to the homeless Serpents after Hiram raids and then purchases the Whyte Wyrm and encouraging all of his Northside friends at school to don Serpent jackets out of solidarity for their Southside classmates are the type of actions Riverdale‘s protagonist should be making. They’re believable decisions, and they ensure that, even if viewers find Archie slightly boring, they still root for him, unlike when he and Veronica were acting like miniature mobsters throughout the middle portion of this second season.

But then Archie goes and does something that doesn’t just go against his character but is also supremely idiotic. He confronts Hiram over all of his misdeeds throughout the season, claiming that he took advantage of Archie at a weak point in his life after his dad’s shooting. Archie then promises Hiram that, even though he can’t prove all of the crimes he committed right now, he will be able to find proof soon, and when he does, he’s not going to go to the police or the FBI or even Fred Andrews. Instead, Archie tells Hiram he’s going to “make my bones” by taking him down, essentially outright threatening to murder Hiram in his own home.

While it’s satisfying to finally witness Archie stand up to Hiram (although not as fulfilling as watching Veronica do it earlier on in the episode, when she trades the Whyte Wyrm for Pop’s and rejects her allowance, trust fund, and one-third of Lodge Industries as “blood money”), it’s frustrating to see how little tact he shows during their confrontation. Archie knows that Hiram is the type of man who stops at nothing to take down his enemies; as Archie mentions when he lists Hiram’s many sins, he’s had at least two men murdered, one for posing a threat to his business and the other for physically threatening his daughter. If Archie had learned anything from Veronica’s father during this season, I would have hoped it would have been strategy, but I think I’m over-estimating the intelligence of Archie Andrews, who, at his best, is kind, compassionate, and dedicated, but never, ever smart.

And that’s a shame because KJ Apa does some really strong work throughout the Riverdale Season 2 finale, and I just wish the writers provided him with a more consistent character to portray. As I mentioned above, Archie has wavered back and forth between the hero he was set up to be at the start of the show and a bloodthirsty teen criminal throughout much of Season 2, and while I will always prefer the former version of Archie to the latter, I just want the Riverdale creative team to pick one and stick with it. Archie can still have “darkness” inside of him (Want a fun Riverdale drinking game by the way? Take a sip every time Betty, Hal, or someone else mentions “darkness”) and be conflicted while also not threatening to kill people, especially to their face in their own home. After all the other altruistic actions Archie makes in “Brave New World,” his talk with Hiram feels beneath him, so much so that I don’t feel shock or sympathy when he gets taken away in handcuffs at the end of the finale. Instead, I see it as lesson that Archie needs to learn. He needs to decide whether he wants to be in this criminal world or not; he can’t have one foot in and one foot out, and he has to understand that when “you come at the king, you best not miss.” Telling Hiram his plan? Yeah, I’m sorry, Archie, but that’s a miss.

So Riverdale Season 3 looks to be Archie vs. Hiram, as Veronica’s father not only attacks her boyfriend personally but also puts into motion his “New Southside” operation, which involves the likes of Penelope and Claudius Blossom, Penny Peabody, and Sheriff Minetta and includes the selling of drugs and, if Penelope has her way, prostitution. However, I’m much more excited to see how Hiram’s criminal activities affect his relationships with Hermione and Veronica, especially now that they both seem less brainwashed than they have been for most of this season. In this finale, Hermione actually feels somewhat like her Season 1 self again, and Veronica makes it clear throughout “Brave New World” that she wants nothing to do with her father or his business anymore, which is much more of the strong, no-nonsense character we got in Riverdale Season 1.

Given how boring all of the Serpent drama was this season, I can’t say I’m too anxious to see Jughead take on a larger role in the gang, but hopefully, Season 3 will bring about a union between the Northside and Southside students as they discover what Hiram plans to do to their town. Perhaps now that both Jug and Betty have finally dealt with the “darkness” (ugh, that word) inside of themselves, acknowledging it’s there but understanding it doesn’t define them, they can get back to the fun, investigative adventures they had during Riverdale‘s first season.

However, I have a hard time believing that Riverdale will regain the consistency it had in Season 1 with another 22-episode season order. Given that it’s one of The CW’s most buzzed-about shows and the network is expanding to six nights of programming in the fall, there’s no chance that Riverdale returns to the 13-episode season structure of its first season, and that’s a shame because, if Season 2 is any proof, these characters and their journeys can’t sustain 20-plus hours of television every year.

But hey, let’s hope the writers can figure out a way to make it work in the off-season. Riverdale Season 2 was a thoroughly uneven season of TV that began and ended strongly but was a massive disappointment during its middle chapters. Maybe if other supporting characters receive more focus in Season 3, there will be enough story to tell. “Brave New World” sets up a lot of compelling ideas for what’s to come, and I’m trying to be optimistic that the execution of those ideas will be just as gripping.

If nothing else, I just want the heightened, guilty-pleasure reality of Riverdale to be as entertaining as it can be. This show is at its best when its characters are grounded but the situations around them are ridiculous. Let everything go crazy in Season 3, Riverdale writers. Forget about being dark and just be fun. That’s the Riverdale I enjoy the most. That’s the show I want to watch every week.

Other thoughts:

  • After Kevin comforts Moose about the stolen items from Midge’s locker, the two of them kiss again. One of things that disappointed me the most about Riverdale Season 2 was a lack of a real storyline for Kevin, especially after Casey Cott was promoted to a series regular. Hopefully, Season 3 will finally give him one, whether it involves Moose or not.
  • Betty going over to the Andrews’ house to apologize to Fred for Hal being the Black Hood is one of the many reasons I will always love Betty Cooper. She consistently goes above and beyond to help and be kind to others. It’s a small but important scene from the finale, featuring two of Riverdale‘s best characters. And sure, you can try to argue about how good of a person Betty is because she kind of sent Chic off to be murdered, but honestly, wouldn’t we all have done that?
  • Polly suggests someone from the farm come to talk to Alice to help her deal with all of her complicated feelings about Hal, but the music during the scene and the lingering shot on Polly’s face when she says this indicate that her intentions might be more nefarious than she’s letting on.
  • I’ve never liked Principal Weatherbee, and with how he’s treated the Southsiders in this finale and last week’s episode, I don’t think I ever will.
  • “That jacket looks good on you.” “Everything looks good on me.”
  • And that’s a wrap for Riverdale Season 2! Thanks so much for taking the time to read, share, and comment on these reviews. My apologies for the inconsistent coverage of this season. I only signed up to review the series bi-weekly so that’s what I did. I hope that, when I did review the show, you enjoyed my thoughts because I enjoyed writing about Riverdale, even when I didn’t like what was happening on screen. Fingers crossed that Season 3 is an improvement over this sophomore slump.

What did everyone else think about the Riverdale Season 2 finale? What did you think of the second season as a whole? Comment below and let me know.

[Photo credit: Dean Buscher/The CW]

Riverdale Season 2 Finale Review: "Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World"
3.5

Summary

Archie and Veronica challenge Hiram in unexpected ways, and Betty comes to terms with the Black Hood’s identity in the Riverdale Season 2 finale.

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