Riverdale Season 2 is really upping the ante when it comes to the show’s wonderfully ridiculous brand of drama, isn’t it? And while tonight’s episode, entitled “Nighthawks,” does end with the town’s hooded serial killer claiming two more victims, this development feels like an afterthought when compared to the more engrossing and intimate character-driven conflicts that have emerged throughout the second season’s first two episodes.
The stories of Jughead and Veronica and their fathers receive a lot of attention this week and rightfully so, as they produce some of the finest moments of writing and acting we’ve seen yet on Riverdale and provide us with more grounded, human drama to counter-balance all of the heightened, violent action that surrounds Archie’s storyline. The fact that Jughead and Veronica’s struggles with their respective fathers are so satisfying shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who watched the series during Season 1 earlier this year; many of the strongest moments of that uneven first season came from Jughead’s concerns about FP’s behavior and Veronica’s discovery of Hiram’s truly villainous ways. Now that Jughead is doing everything he can to save FP and Veronica is able to butt heads with Hiram (played perfectly by Mark Consuelos) in the flesh, these already promising storylines have become even more dramatically rich and entertaining.
Plus, this continued spotlight on Jughead and Veronica’s complicated relationships with their fathers gives Riverdale the opportunity to stage scenes it’s never had before, like the one between Juggy and Ronnie in tonight’s episode. Their exchange in the Blue and Gold office is easily the standout moment of “Nighthawks,” and it’s not just because Cole Sprouse and Camila Mendes are terrific (though I should mention that both of them are excellent throughout this entire episode and particularly in this scene). No, what makes this scene work so well is that it feels honest and earned; after everything Jughead has experienced, it makes sense that he would tell Veronica to give her a father another shot, and it also makes sense that she would follow his advice. So many times on teen dramas such as Riverdale the plot can dictate characters’ motivations and actions, but Veronica’s choice here feels natural and believable because of everything we’ve seen her and Jughead go through throughout the show’s first dozen-plus episodes. Despite the fact that Jughead and Veronica aren’t the closest of friends, they reach common ground by connecting about their family troubles, and it’s sad and beautiful and immensely satisfying.
Unfortunately, though, the second chance that Veronica gives to Hiram turns out to be undeserved, as it’s revealed later on in “Nighthawks” that Hiram not only secretly purchased Pop’s without telling her but also did indeed write the letter last season that threatened Veronica and her mother. To make matters even worse for Veronica, Hermione fully knows about Hiram’s deceitful actions and helps him keep them hidden from their daughter. It’s good to see that Riverdale isn’t attempting to turn Hiram into a “good guy” and is instead just letting him be his scummy self. It will be tough to watch Veronica believe his lies and I hope she catches on sooner rather than later, but this series also needs a fun, mischievous villain that’s not a serial killer of any kind; here’s hoping Hiram can fill that role.
And when it comes to the identity of that mysterious serial killer, I don’t have any theories at this time, nor am I eager to find out who it is. What’s much more compelling about this entire storyline is its effect on Archie, as he continues to spiral throughout tonight’s episode. First, he tries buying drugs from Reggie and then ends up purchasing a gun in one of the episode’s final scenes. Is Archie’s behavior here stupid? Sure, you can say it is, but it also perfectly fits with the traumatic events Archie has endured recently and is a much more interesting direction for his character than nearly everything Riverdale did with him last season. Archie’s intense desire to not only protect himself but his family and friends is the type of bold, admirable quality that was missing from him as a protagonist in Season 1, and even though he’s pretty much guaranteed to get himself into trouble with that gun, I am excited to see how and when it happens. Keep this darker, more damaged version of Archie Andrews around for as long as you want, Riverdale writers. So far, he’s a lot of fun.
- I didn’t mention her above, but Betty Cooper is, to no one’s surprise, the MVP of this week’s episode. She blackmails Cheryl into testifying (and perjuring herself) on FP’s behalf in the hope that it will reduce his potential 20-year jail sentence. Plus, she also gets Cheryl to recruit the River Vixens to help at a fundraiser at Pop’s and brings in a bigger crowd by convincing Josie and the Pussycats to perform. I’m hoping that Betty gets her own Betty-centric storyline again very soon (and I’m guessing it will have to do that conversation her mom has with her at Pop’s near the end of tonight’s episode), but even as a supporting player in other stories, she still remains a standout.
- Jughead meets with the Serpents’ lawyer, Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan), in an effort to help out his dad, but when FP hears about what he did, he demands that Jughead never contact her again. It was obvious from Penny’s introduction that she would be bad news, but after FP’s frightened warning, I’m very curious to see what type of favor she’ll be asking Jughead for later on in Season 2.
- Another smaller, quieter scene that I loved from this episode: Veronica opening up to Archie about seeing a therapist in New York and recommending that he go see the school counselor. Of course, Archie doesn’t end up doing it, but it feels like a very real conversation that a couple could have. Plus, it shows just how kind, thoughtful, and supportive Veronica is, and anyone who watches Riverdale knows that Veronica Lodge is simply the best.
- Smithers is gone, you guys, and I don’t think I’ll ever be over it. I’ll miss you, you beautiful bastard.
What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of Riverdale? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo credit: Bettina Strauss /The CW]