Riverdale Makes Less Sense Than The Flash?

Now that Agents of SHIELD has returned (“Synergy SNAFU Stymies SHIELD’s Sixth Season!” is the headline I should’ve used) to ABC, the CW’s comic book series are departing! I’m splitting up the SPOILERY season finale reviews this year! First up are The Flash & Riverdale! I haven’t truly blogged about the latter since its season premiere, so there’s plenty to cover & it still won’t make a lick o’ sense!

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Danielle Panabaker aced her directorial debut. I’m still upset it got preempted for baseball. Holy schrap! BD Wong voiced White Zoom Godspeed! They went to the trouble of making him a supersuit, so he’ll probably be back. (Now that Gotham’s gone for good, maybe Golden Glider & The Mist will return too?)

Barry sending XS back to the future when he finds out she was working with the Reverse-Flash was a great character bit … undercut by him letting him escape for no reason in the worst part of Crisis on Earth-X!  The fallout with angry Iris was some of the best drama on the show. She rightfully called him out for his unilateral emotional decisions always backfiring.

Since Thawne’s time sphere got smashed at the end of season one, when did they repair it? Is this the one he was transporting Damien Darhk in on Legends Of Tomorrow? Or is this another continuity non-error due to Flashpoint?

Harry Wells sometimes felt like Batman due to his raspy voice & contempt for everyone else. Maybe Sherloque Wells is a bigger Batman analogue? He’s traversed the multiverse picking up skills from the masters like escapology from Mr. Miracle’s mentor. Not only is he the multiverse’s greatest detective, he’s fought the Mad Hatter too. (I wonder if Batwoman will tie Rachel Skarsten’s Alice into the Earth-1 Mad Hatter, unlike the comics?)

I still don’t understand how you can give people ice powers without dark matter that include mandatory split personalities. (What if Olaf & Marshmallow aren’t actually sentient but merely projections of Elsa’s own subconscious?) With Killer Frost & Icicle both in boring black, they looked like disembodied heads during the ice slide fight.

As goofy as it is, I kinda like Hsalf having his own Ecrof Deeps that leeches power from the positive Speed Force. If the Speed Force exists independent of Barry becoming the Flash, why did changing the timeline cut Thawne off from his power source?

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Brie was bullied into buying contacts.

Crazy Bee Girl returned! Aw yeah! (They didn’t explain how Larvan & the delightful Rag Doll are out of the clink. Did the fools give her computer access again? Does she still have a spinal tumor?) If Brie Larvan doesn’t like being called Bug-Eyed Bandit, can we officially call her Queen Bee now? Nobody else has called live action dibs. She even swapped her spectacles for a hive gauntlet. Hopefully she’ll look even more like Zazzala in her next appearance. Mostly she’d have to trade honeycombs for stripes & coif her hair into a slick bouffant.

Gail Simone is in cahoots with Mirror Master (not the underwhelming one from season three nor the one from Earth-2). Earth-1 McCulloch is an arms merchant, which means someone conflated his clan with McCullen. XS gets to use her canon secret identity Jenni Ognats on her undercover mission to pilfer his mirror-gun, which is the anti-dagger weapon!

Although teased as the new Big Bad, Cicada II doesn’t do that much. Like her predecessor, she’s a little one-note. Does she share her uncle’s vulnerability to being stabbed? Whereas The Thinker killed too many metas with potential, none of Cicadas’ victims have felt like a loss. The superheroes were more competent at averting murders this year! (Insisting they needed the young Grace’s consent to stop her from becoming a serial killer, despite her former legal guardian agreeing she should take the cure, was well-intentioned but ethically extraneous.) Of course the real Big Bad is ya boi, Eobard Thawne!

This season has been handling Thawne’s presence so much better than Arrow did Merlyn’s in seasons three & four. (Even if Oliver didn’t want to kill him just because he’s Thea’s dad, despite having killed folks who’ve done less, he still could’ve handed him over to ARGUS rather than let him run the League of Assassins.) He manipulated Nora into creating an new Cicada the team could identify so they could destroy the lightning-dagger that will be used to negate his powers on future death row. If the “original” timeline’s Cicada was never caught, how did Iron Heights get a hold of his Cicadagger to use on Thawne? (If new timeline Cicada could summon it even when it’s sent to space, I presume original Cicada died unexpectedly with his identity unrevealed rather than lost it.) When & how did he convince Cicada the Sequel to go time travel? If he went to all this trouble to orchestrate a jailbreak, he probably earned his freedom.

Elongated Man is the only one asking the important time travel questions. (Season six spoilers straight from Hartley Sawyer!) Kudos to him & Sherloque being detectives.

When Barry vaporizes the Cicadagger with the mirror-gun, it ceases to be an impediment to Thawne in the future. Why are timeline changes happening in synch betwixt these two periods? Shouldn’t it appear as though the dagger never came into contact with Thawne rather than spontaneously disappearing dramatically just before his execution?

After Cicada II & the Cicadagger get erased from the existence, the team faces off with the freed Reverse-Flash in the future. Crashing the time sphere into him is cool inverted callback. Because of their time travel shenanigans, however, Nora begins to dematerialize too. Rather than corrupt herself by surviving in the Negative Speed Force, she accepts her fate whilst hugging her parents. I’m going to miss XS. She always tried her best & went out a big damn heroine as her legacy. Although they should’ve titled an episode “XS-ive Force,” the writers made her a more vital component than Kid Flash. (Avoid Heroes In Crisis if you’re a Wally West fan!) Rest in peace, Little Runner. (Potentially Jessica Parker Kennedy could reappear as a new West-Allen daughter from the latest future shift.)

This was a very effective twist. Fluctuations to the timestream have been part of the series since the beginning, but how that could affect Nora West-Allen hadn’t been foreshadowed directly. There’s plenty of instances where super-science acts saves the day, but this is a rare instance of it snapping back with unforeseen consequences. (Can her ghost chill with Sara Diggle’s?) Her Pyrrhic victory is distracting enough for Thawne to smugly make his getaway for the early Crisis On Infinite Earths!

Vibe takes the metahuman cure even though he already accepted his powers long ago & his new girlfriend is also cool with them. Despite wanting to focus on all the improbable gizmos he engineers, it seems like he’s leaving STAR Labs entirely. (This could be a good opportunity to bring back Pied Piper to fill his duties.) Hopefully the supersuit he made Killer Frost is spiffy. Carlos Valdes wanted to leave the series, but it doesn’t make much narrative sense. Conversely Joe West got promoted to captain! Sue Dearborn Dibny is foreshadowed.

Despite its complete lack of Captain Cold, The F-Lash’s fifth season may be better than its last. (I didn’t dislike season four, so this compliment isn’t backhanded.) This one’s ending didn’t sputter out. It had good exciting action beats & made me feel emotions!

Michael Rooker will be King Shark in the Suicide Squad sequel. (Weird that none of the DC movies’ Pacific Islander actors are voicing him.) Luckily this series had him battle Grodd before WB embargoes him. David “Abra Kadabra” Dalmatian Dastmalchian is cast as Polka-Dot Man! It’s the least the universe could do after he was screwed out of starring in Morbius.

Sideshow’s 12″ Flash has Barry’s boots & Wally’s belt plus alternate heads so it could be either! It’s still way too pricey.

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Riverdale is not good show per se, but it’s as addictive as pop fizzle rocks. Season one hit a good balance of a seemingly wholesome town with sordid secrets, but subsequent seasons have gone overboard. By ignoring the assorted sci-fi & fantasy hijinks the comics have dabbled in, focusing on grounded crime has made it a grimdark Hellhole. The series has been described as “camp,” but this seems as mislabeled as surrealist wardrobe at this year’s Met Gala. While it’s a tricky term to apply, most of the series treats serious topics with realistic gravity. The classy production values undercut the soap operatics. Aside from absurd details sprinkled in, Riverdale isn’t a send-up of teen dramas. It just is a teen drama. (On the other paw, the superlative Josie & the Pussycats movie is predominantly campy.)

Luke Perry’s untimely death was a tragedy. The series does not address it. Mary Andrews just conveniently reappears whilst Fred “best parent in town” Andrews out driving someplace.

I have now seen an entire juvie inmate population hump a chainlink fence because cheerleaders ill-advisedly arrived. Despite pleading guilty & escaping, Archie’s conviction is somehow overturned. His new passion is boxing for maximum shirtlessness.

You don’t just play Gryphons & Gargoyles; Gryphons & Gargoyles plays you! The Gargoyle King is confirmed as an Archie Comics fan for shipping Ethelhead. (The cool nerds call it Jethel.) “The Midnight Society” flashback episode, written by Tessa Williams & directed by Dawn Wilkinson, with the young cast playing their parents was actually good!

Evelyn Evernever is played by the equally wonderfully named Zoé De Grand Maison of Orphan Black. (Her name translates as “Life of the Big House.”) I’m disappointed she doesn’t have seizure-inducing powers. In a shocking twist, Evelyn is actually older than Zoé! She’s really Edgar Evernever’s wife posing as his daughter to recruit highschoolers into his cult.

The town didn’t notice The Sisters of Quiet Mercy lost its religious charter sixty years ago? When Betty sees the Black Hood inkblot she says butterfly. Then the next Gargoyle King one arguably looks even more like one. Her expression is priceless: “Monarch butterfly! CRAP! I just said that. I swear I’m not an obsessed lepidopterist! Can I get a do-over? Uh … childhood jungle gym? Yeah that’s the ticket!”

When it left off for winter break, the town had been quarantined by Hiram Lodge’s faux seizure epidemic. That cliffhanger might as well never have happened as the quarantine didn’t even last an episode. “Well we were going to spend the rest of the season in No Man’s Land, but then Gotham sent us all these C&D letters…” It turns out the mysterious seizures are the result of runoff from Lodge’s drug manufacturing into the town water supply that only sporadically affects teen girls? So it would’ve made more sense if Evelyn was just a seizure-inducing witch.

If Archie was actually killed off via random unseen Canadian grizzly, that would’ve been the funniest thing ever. (Gordon was supposed to fight a bear in Gotham’s third season.) Did you know invisibears roam Canada? (The Golden Kamuy used up the world’s supply of realistic bear CGI.) Alas, its ursine labors didn’t lead to Afterlife With Archie!

Hiram Lodge was shot by none other than Maggie Simpson! It was actually FP on orders of Hermione. Although the assassination failed, FP was rewarded with the position of sheriff. You’d think he’d need to go to police academy or have a clean criminal record first.

Kudos to director Gregory Smith plus writers Devon Turner & Will Ewing to making “The Red Dhalia” as noir as possible. If only they could all be! How does Smithers have personal WWI anecdotes? It was so easy for Reggie to single-handedly raid a prison drug lab they didn’t bother showing it!

First Speedy, now Catwoman! Which DC character will Cheryl Blossom become next? Jughead expels Choni from the Southside Serpents for doing crimes against their enemy, Mr. Lodge. (He gives Fangs a pass.) Betty wouldn’t have minded Jughead elevating Toni to Serpent Queen. Toni Topaz was the only thing the Southside Serpents had going for them & they didn’t deserve her! Cheryl forms an all girl gang, the Pretty Poisons, to make it up to Toni because there are too damn many townies ready to become gangbangers. Now that FP is sheriff, the Serpents become narcs? Do the writers even know what gangs are?

An episode is called “Bizarrodale,” but that just describes the series as a whole. The least believable thing may be the teens answering calls from their parents during synchronized sexytimes. It’s a pity UpSwipz was outbid on product placement by Bumble.

Kevin was into fantasy gaming last season, so it’s odd that he’s specifically not swept up in the G&G madness. He does make smoke bombs & tend to Archie’s wounds, which could’ve been Dilton’s duties had he not died. Dilton Doiley’s death is one thing, but killing Dr. Curdle Sr. offscreen goes too far! Was there ever a more pointless character than Claudius Blossom?

Remember in season one when it seemed like Gladys was the responsible parent & FP was the toxic criminal? Their neutron flow polarities got reversed. Boo to jerkface interrupting Gladys’s song! Just when I was getting bored, Gladys & Penny reenact The Mummy Returns while Josie sings a torch song!

Cheryl didn’t even have to bribe, blackmail, or threaten Kevin into changing the musical at the last minute. Was this year’s musical more logistically improbable than the last? How’d the get the license to perform Heathers so soon after they’d committed to Godspell? Having the characters sing outside of rehearsal works isolated to this episode but not in the larger context of the series. Despite being the musical’s lead, Josie was still inconsequential. They really poured Toni into that red number. As much as I enjoy Cheryl backsliding, I’m glad she & Toni worked it out. (Surely there’s enough rooms in Thistle House to give Toni a bedroom of her own?) The seating in Riverdale High looks uncomfortable.

So Kurtz should be expelled & arrested for attempted murder on school grounds. Not only is Weatherbee ineffectual, he’s also brainwashed by The Farm. He’s no Jefferson Pierce.

Evelyn spikes Kevin’s & Fang’s punch at pre-show cast party so they get a hallucinatory Midge cameo! Then they get cult-married over their shared grief? This is just a weird background detail that would’ve gotten more attention on another show.

Veronica is sad her scummy crimelord dad is moving out. UGH. Now that her parents’ marriage has been inexplicably annulled after 17+ years, Veronica is officially a bastard. (How does that give Hermione extra protection from rival crimesters?) Mr. Lodge is wasting riverfront views on convicts?  I just can’t take Hiram Lodge seriously as the arch-villain of Riverdale without his moustache & glasses. He’s at his most relatable when he tries to punch his daughter’s ex-boyfriend to death.

Le Bon Nuit was originally selling pricey mocktails to highschoolers who met the vintage dress code, but the show decided a fake speakeasy was too dumb even for it. So Veronica switched to serving real alcohol without a liquor license at some point. Hiram gave Veronica a fake deed because she’s not even good at business anymore. Serving alcohol to minors & illegal gambling are what the feds arrest Mr. Lodge for moments before he can cave in a teen’s skull with his bare hands. I thought it’d be for something serious, like enslaving an entire Rustbelt town & executing Riley Keough’s family for her failure to confine the Red Paladin. Somehow his assets got immediately transferred to his disavowed family the day after he was arrested?

Is Josie just blowing off finals, prom, & graduation all because she didn’t get into Julliard? I guess not wanting to die in Crimedale is a wise motive. She’s jumping ship to Kate Kane Katy Keene starring Lucy Hale. It should’ve been a Josie & the Pussycats (In Outer Space) spinoff!

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“But the third time I send a teenager to infiltrate a cult has to work!”

Junior prom? I thought this was senior year? The linear progression of time: HOW DOES IT WORK? (I’ve been informed this timeline makes sense if season two only spans the second semester of sophomore year. Did so much happen that I imagined a time jump into a new school year?) You’d think that the series would specifically have some underclassmen so they can keep using the high school after the core cast graduates. A bunch of colleges will suddenly spring up in Riverdale overnight, I suppose.

Cheryl being disillusioned with The Farm for not letting Choni run for joint prom king was the funniest subplot. She’s begrudgingly resigned not to care about Bughead usurping them & snaps at Evelyn for pulling an Orphan.

Riverdale is surprisingly more effective at horror than The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. None of its characters have supernatural powers, so the danger is greater. While the anything goes context of CAOS makes it more fantasy, Riverdale is theoretically more grounded so it’s more shocking when horrific plot twists strike. It also lacks weaksauce demons.

Remember in season one when Betty was on Adderall & tried to drown Chuck during a dissociative fugue state? Then instead of using this to discuss mental health stigma in teens, Dark Betty became roleplay kink for Bughead? Well now it’s back to being symptomatic for madness as Betty is told she’s the only one in her family with the MAOA & CDH13 genes tangentially “linked to being a serial killer.” (Betty trying to burn down her own house to spite her mom feels cribbed from her cousin’s playbook.) It’s impressive how they show can give me what I want while still finding new ways to screw it up.

It says a lot about Riverdale’s available mental health services that The Farm doesn’t seem that villainous. Suddenly they’re all about harvesting the organs of young converts. Okay, that’s pretty horrifying! Then they get all the unamed Farmies & Fangs to commit ritual suicide with one-kidney Kevin Keller the sole survivor. (The only time Kevin is consequential is when he’s suffering.) So that’s a repeat of what Father Blackwood did on CAOS. It’s as if the Peoples Temple is the only cult Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa has heard of.

We’ve had umpteen Gargoyle King unmaskings. Will the real Gargoyle King please stand up? Jason Blossom is the reddest of herrings because no way he’d ever be allowed to speak. Also the series keeps bunting on going full supernaural. It appeared the series would be taking the easy route of conflating the Gargoyle King with Lodge or Evernever, but I’m glad it resisted. So Penelope Blossom is the “real” Gargoyle King. This actually tracks: You can tell she’s bad news because she dresses like Sofia Falcone. (It’s an Olivia Palmero coat from Banana Republic.) Kudos to her executing hook-hand Hal for being a lousy serial killer.

The patsy wearing the Gargoyle King costume was “Chic” with dyed ginger hair pretending to be Jason Blossom. He’s even more of a cipher than last season. The real Chic, half-brother to Bughead, appears at the end as a fed claiming his mom was an FBI informant.

Penelope’s plan to make the core four’s parents sad by killing them via G&G wasn’t well plotted, although getting half Polly’s  twins is a good bargain! (It would’ve gone worse if they were wise enough to dishonor the rules of her trap invitation.) Not only did she needlessly expose herself, the trials were tailored to the characters best suited to win (aside from random Jughead vs. Chic). Pitting Veronica against the bear-dude from Hannibal would’ve worked out better for the Red Dahlia. Brawling in shallow pits made me think of Predators. Cheryl swoops in to save the day with arrows as is her wont. (This episode made good use of Nana Rose.) Her mom, much like the Evernevers, escaped, so the finale didn’t provide much closure.

This series is often too serious for its own good, but that smash cut to spring break was comedy gold! Looks like the central love triangle of the comics may be back on after they have to cover up Jughead’s death! (Nah, they’re just faking his demise … again.) So much for their vow to be boring teens. When there’s an army of Boy Scouts wielding spears, however, it’ll be hard to raise the stakes without going straight to a Post-Apocalyptic iteration.

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Supergirl & Legends of Tomorrow season finale reviews will be up next week!

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