I finally saw the last season of Game of Thrones. Selfishly I hoped I might be the weirdo who genuinely enjoyed it. It was as terrible as everyone said. I tried to be as unspoiled as possible, but it was an uphill battle. I expected disappointment & was still aghast at how hard they dropped the ball. It was dreadful, with high production values & attachment to the cast being the meager saving graces. Has its reception further derailed Martin’s momentum for finishing the novels?
I could go into further detail, but it seems like there’s already a surplus of GOT think pieces. Forgoing an extended cold take, let us turn to Riverdale season four instead as it is moderately fresher. If you’d prefer to hear more of televisual travesties, however, I will be lamenting Lodge 49. (Orlando Jones being fired from American Gods is also disgraceful, but I haven’t even begun season two yet.) I’m gonna be real unpleasant to be around for the immediate future, but you should read onward notheless. EMBRACE THE ZUGZWANG, BABY!
Riverdale’s fourth season opens with a touching memorial to Luke Perry & his character, Fred Andrews. Some contrivances aside, it’s actually a moving episode. If only every episode could be of such quality.
This year it feels like there’s five discrete storylines that glide against each other. I don’t necessarily mind. Previous attempts to unify seasons have focused on killing off underdeveloped canon characters as if Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has the same sensibilities of fun as Zack Snyder (Boy v. Daddykins: Dawn of Riverdale). They’ve run that path into a dead end. Being forced to develop characters isn’t a bad idea.
Last finale, I erroneously thought all the non-leadership Farmies besides Kevin had committed suicide & the The CW was just being tasteful not showing all the corpses. It turns out all the Farmies had just skedaddled to a motel & left Kevin behind to be dicks. WHY DIDN’T WE GET EDGAR EVERNEVER COSPLAYING EVEL KNIEVIL WHILST BUILDING A ROCKET SHIP LAST SEASON? Also ex-Principal Waldo Weatherbee got some of his fingers cut off. (I knew he was no Jefferson Pierce, but maybe Weatherbee is worse than Prinicpal Lowry?) Betty & Alice surprisingly wrapped up this subplot in a single episode. All the insane cult stuff feels like a season finale … except the rest of the season will focus on Jughead at snooty prep school?
The Lodges’ stays in prison were quite short. Mr. Lodge winning unopposed as Mayor is ridiculous. We should’ve heard about Mr. Lodge’s bastard daughter, rum passion, & Miami clubs earlier if they didn’t want them to sound like cheap retcons. Hiram & Hermione are renewing their vows because the writers forgot they just got a late-term annulment last season. Hermione is reduced to an abused wife because the writers forgot to give her characterization.
Veronica & her moustacheless dad continue sabotaging each other. The notion that Veronica could crush her dad in the business world while still in high school is ludicrous. Lodge drama feels like a diluted version of Blossom melodrama. She, with a brief assist from Kevin, at least provide an energetic Elton John cover for Archie to brutalize Beagle Boys to.
“No, bitch, it’s your sister!” is the line delivery of the season courtesy of Lili Reinhart. So Betty’s (& Jughead’s) real half-brother FBI agent Charles Smith is the lover of her fake half-brother, Chic, & is planning something nefarious with him? I never expected Riverdale to reference Michael Haneke’s Cache, but Charles is most likely behind this citywide psychological warfare. Can’t Betty have someone in her family who’s not cuckoo bananas? (Is this a
Star Trek Degrassi: The Next Generation reference?)
Archie is trying to help the town by being a vigillante with a community rec center as opposed to being a vigillante mob stooge. It’s telling that his disguise resembles the Black Hood’s. If he wants to be a positive symbol for the community, he should wear the keen Pureheart or The Shield costumes tailored by Katy Keene instead! He gets his own “Spider-Man no more!” moment, which he backtracks upon by episode’s end. Still, the writing & KJ Apa’s performance make him come off as a more empathetic lunkhead than previously.
Or maybe it’s just because there’s less moral ambiguity in him beating up the new gang in town. (Crimedale has been mercifully light on the Southside gangs this season.) Dodger Dickinson’s family are the Beagle Boys. The actress playing Dodger’s mom is younger than him by a few months. She may also be the beloved of Dwayne, “the shady man” killed in the Cooper home in season two. We’re supposed to be appalled by Archie feeding Dodger his teeth before he can flee town, but the nogoodnik did just shoot an unarmed FP the Serpent Sheriff. Seeing fathers get shot in Pop’s is Archie’s trigger.
If Jughead is causing such a nuisance at Stonewall Prep for his teachers & students, why not just expel him? Sean Depner is playing the same character from Deadly Class minus the Russian accent. So Mr. Chipping died the first time he defenestrated himself like an amateur. L. Marvin Metz survives every time he jumps through a window because he’s a genius!
Jughead is paranoid that one of Stonewall Prep’s professors stole The
Hardy Boys Baxter Brothers from his grandpa (a.k. Frosty Pajamas) & maybe even killed him. Surprisingly this turns out to be wrong on both counts! (Charles Chickens was totes killed though, right?) This subversion is pleasantly unexpected, but makes Jughead’s storyline even comparatively duller.
One-kidney Kevin Keller does nothing but be sad & horny. Poor Casey Cott should’ve jumped ship to Katy Keene with Ashleigh Murray. At least he still gets a paycheck as a regular for being a glorified extra.
Art historians conspire to hush up the era before Cheryl Blossom invented red. (It seems like Madelaine Petch would be a good My Drunk Kitchen guest. This may be its finest installment.) Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn are good Halloween costumes (Cheryl Blossom already sounds like a Poison Ivy alias, & Vanessa Morgan’s outfit is better than most of Margot Robbie’s.), but Barbara Kean & Tabitha Galavan would’ve been more on point for Choni. They buried & exhumed Jason with shovels in a single evening so they must be #RiverdaleStrong! Toni Topaz exists to react to Cheryl with expressions of “That is some Grade-A white people nonsense, but I’m here for it?”
I’m disappointed Cheryl didn’t go full Professor Pyg. (Jughead once skinned someone but didn’t put the flayed flesh on a hamburger. I can’t believe Riverdale had an opportunity for cannibal Jughead & didn’t take it either.) Her relatives are suddenly disinterested in having her institutionalized once a family murder is involved? When will Aunt Cricket display her ability to literally sniff out money like a bloodhound? Ditto Betty’s true power to summon the wrath of God.
Cheryl needs Sabrina Spellman to rid her of this devil doll! (Madame Satan & Penelope Blossom already hang out. CAOS Part III wasn’t be out for Halloween this year because it took Netflix too long to build Hell. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the really Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.) Or is Nana Rose gaslighting her daughter? Nah, her mom is just living in Thistlehouse’s walls to cement The Boy homage. Her motive is she was jealous of her daughter’s relationship with a cadaver? How is it that the new Nancy Drew (her second live action reboot this year) is hogging all the legitimutant specters?
After a brief kangaroo court where Cheryl compares herself to the Red Queen instead of Alice (that’s one DC character we can scratch off her potential cosplay list), she sentences her mother to imprisonment in the G&G sex bunker. It kinda feels like Cheryl should’ve just committed outright matricide at this point. (It’d certainly be more fitting than Toni manslaughtering Cheryl’s relative that was justifiably disgusted by Jason’s corpse.) This is so the show can keep Penelope around as antagonist, but why not just ship her off to Shankshaw? Cheryl’s got a full plate without worrying about feeding her mom & changing the slop buckets. Cheryl giving her brother a viking funeral was a cathartic moment.
There’s an episode that finally gets these traumatized teens into therapy! (They directly address Reggie being abused by his dad earlier, only to resolve it by the two sharing their feelings offscreen after Reggie vengefully vandalizes his prize automobile?) Gina Torres guest stars as Mrs. Burble the overqualified guidance counselor with an enormous office & a bowl of counterfeit candy. Tessa Leigh Williams’s episode does more with less. Instead of trying to top itself, it examines how all the players are coping. Hearing the kids summarize all the trauma they’ve endured is unintentional comedy gold! Alice gets to rail against her mother to her face. Riverdale is often beautiful garbage, but this is one of the few each season that’s a diamond in the rough.
Of course just because Cheryl is being manipulated doesn’t mean she shouldn’t seek treatment for an underlying disorder. By dissociating from reality through her dead siblings, Cheryl exhibits more symptoms of borderline personality disorder or even schizophrenia. If this was a better series like She-Ra or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I’d say these signs were weaved in organically. Then I remembered they quickly abandoned Betty’s dissociative identity so she could just use the bob wig for sexytimes. So I’m betting any realistic nuance was accidental.
The Farm hypnotized its cultists to try to kill Betty when they hear “tangerine” thrice. Betty tries this on herself to see what happens. (I thought Edgar only programmed the Farmies at the motel, but apparently he’d he’d done it whilst Betty was a member since it effects her too?) There is a psychodrama where she prevents her younger self from euthanizing her cat. She believes this has erased her Dark Betty persona, as if she genuinely time traveled & deleted her “serial killer gene.” It actually put Dark Betty, who arguably hadn’t been active since the first season, back on the menu.
The spine of this season, however, looks to be the death of Jughead that was last season’s cliffhanger. This is an obvious fakeout. It might even wind up being The Baxter Brothers novel he’s ghostwriting. Except the midseason cliffhanger really wants you to think Dark Betty brained him to death with a rock in front of Archie & Veronica. That will be super dark if they have the gumption to commit to this foreshadowing.
Some of the cast have been open about their own mental health issues, which just emphasizes how the disconnect of this teen-targeted show’s approach. Unlike Batman, absurdly unrealistic madness isn’t baked into this franchise’s DNA. Riverdale residents in the mainline Archie canon are peppy & well adjusted because Sweetwater River is contaminated by maple syrup not fizzle rocks. Regardless, the Joker will fight Archiekins! In a sadly deleted November 20 tweet, Cameron Monaghan responded to comparisons between Cal Kestis & Archie Andrews. “Well, I’m older and @kj_apa is but a wee babe in comparison. So technically he looks like me. That’s right, I said it. I’m calling you out, Apa. Fight me, you charismatic hunk.” Throw in Choni vs. Barbitha tag team & Solomon Grundy vs. fake Mrs. Grundy too!
What is the point of all these streaming TV outlets if none of them will let Lodge 49 finish? Appearing on multiple Best Series & Best Episodes lists of 2019 in publications of note counted for naught? The endorsements of Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, & other notable thespians was insufficient? Why squander money looking for unicorns when Lodge 49 was right there? Fans showed there was already a demand they just needed to nurture! While other series shamble on well past their expiration dates, twenty more episodes spread out over two seasons didn’t seem unreasonable. Damn AMC for killing this work of genius in the first place!
Some say Lodge 49 was too good for this world. POPPYCOCK! Anyone who would deny the world art because its quality is too high is a nihilist cretin. This scrappy magical-realist underdog gifted us with a cornucopia of quirky flawed humans & made me root for them all. My sincerest thanks to its co-creators Jim Gavin & Peter Ocko, cast, & crew for the two brillant seasons we had together. Like the dearly departed Wonderfalls (It suddenly occurs to me that Jaye Tyler & Liz Dudley share many commonalities.) & Pushing Daisies, Lodge 49 brought me joy & inspired me to be a better person. It’s a travesty that TV failed us, but I am so down for dumplings & donuts at the touring dinner theater production of Lodge 49!
Next time I shall review Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Unless I do The Witcher or CATS. I will not be in a good mood regardless. Now that Lodge 49 has been taken away halfway through, I’m gonna backslide! Let’s burn the map of reality!