Never Have I Ever, Dare Me, I Am Not Okay With This, & Teenage Bounty Hunters were better teen shows than Riverdale seasons 1-4. Sadly 3/4 were prematurely cancelled. Unfortunately Riverdale survived its teen years. This review is going to be even less coherent than season five itself. There’s a video essay purporting it completely gone insane, whereas I maintain it hasn’t gone insane enough. If you’ve come this far, you might as well read rambling SPOILERS for a series most already had the good sense to bail on.
No matter how many times citizens specifically say “seven years ago” per episode about events that which viewers witnessed only last season, I refuse to believe the time jump actually occurred. (Plus characters refer to it currently being 2021 when the premiere of Love, Simon wasn’t that long ago.) Why would the FBI headquarters & video store be completely unchanged in that gap? The cast hasn’t aged since they were too old for high school, so not altering the sets doesn’t help with the illusion of time passing.
Toni undoubtedly got the most out of the time jump. Whereas she used to smile doe eyed at Cheryl’s shenanigans, she’s now aghast at her ex-girlfriend’s cuckoo-bananas melodramatics. Now that’s character development! Pregnant guidance counselors in cheerleader uniforms is probably someone’s fetish. The series took a mid-season hiatus for several months, presumably to accommodate Vanessa Morgan’s pregnancy. The season’s momentum was completely derailed as a side effect.
I’m glad Archie & Betty finally boned. The the love triangle equilibrium had been upset by Veronica & Archie being a requited romance since season one. Then after a couple episodes it shifts back to Veronica courting Archie again.
Hiram’s last act of Mayor of Riverdale is to have its citizens vote to dissolve the town. Wouldn’t unicorporating a town require actual ballots that could be verified rather than reports of an impromptu hand count at town hall? Now that Riverdale no longer has its own municipal resources, Archie becomes a firefighter, unofficial policeman, & teacher at Riverdale High to compete with Toni for most jobs. The slacker won’t deliver mail though.
Is Archie Andrews the evilest? Archie’s gym was supposed to be a safe haven for troubled youths, but it was just a networking hub for budding crimesters last season. I do not trust these pals to restore hope to Riverdale. Riverdale is discount Gotham & Banshee. This applies to both the fictional cities & actual shows. (Ivana Milicevic & Lili Simmons were on both.) The Ghoulie fight was fun though. High school football is not going to revive the soul of the town that doesn’t exist anymore!
In addition to working at Pop’s, Polly Cooper moonlights as a sex worker along the not at all ominously named The Lonely Highway. She’s a junkie now too.She gets kidnapped early on by serial killer truckers. Most of the season is her sister & mother anguishing over her fate. This show really hates Polly.
Nana Rose Blossom kept a Mothman cadaver preserved in a barrel of maple syrup for decades! Naturally Jughead lost the maple Mothman mummy after she lent it to him. The Mothmen of Riverdale don’t look enough like moths. The scrap metal Mothman statue is nicer.
Why are the writers still laboring under the misapprehension that we care about anything not directly related to Cheryl Blossom? Cheryl’s pre-key party wardrobe was much better than her hosting wardrobe. (Episode eight of season five shows the men’s shirt budget was reduced.) I require more information about the fox lady painting in Thornhill. Is this a self portrait of Cheryl Blossom’s fursona? Give the art department a raise! Minerva blackmailed Cheryl for a free portrait.
Kevin is also getting expanded spotlight. Casey Cott no longer has to pretend he’s not yoked this season. On the minus side, he self-destructively wrecks his engagement to Fangs because he’d rather continue cruising. (Fangs was fine with an open relationship too.) After being the victim of a gratuitous hate crime, Kevin reveals he developed penchant for anonymous hookup after his mom made a joke about him being chubby in high school? UGH. Where is the steam room that Kevin & Fangs frequent? I thought it was in El Royale Gym, but why would they let Hollywood randos in after they turned it into the town firehouse. Why would homophobic LA randos even want to visit a sauna in Discount Gotham?
Hiram’s obsession with utterly ruining Riverdale is so bizarre. Wasn’t it the teens he hated not the town itself? Won’t SoDale being next to such an awful ghost town damage its property value? Apparently the long-gestating development is just a scam to hide his palladium mining, but why doesn’t he actually do both? His mining has been so unfruitful it seems like that’s the enterprise he should use as a confidence scheme. Hiram’s obsession with destroying teenagers is as pathetic as it is hilarious. It’d be generous to consider his Doritos product placement a parody of the Horns eating French sandwiches in Twin Peaks.
Chadwick Gekko, you can’t blackmail your wife with crimes you’ve committed. That’s not how this works. You also don’t understand spousal immunity is inapplicable if your wife sues you for fraud. Why would Veronica be so unwise as to only have a joint bank account with her jerkwad husband?
All the crimesters are obsessed with palladium, whereas Veronica is just fixated by this giant blue opal that was probably conflict mined. I’ve heard much of her arc is a riff on Uncut Gems, which I’ve yet to watch. If I had seen it, however, I’d probably outraged by he lack of bejeweled Furbys here.
Mr. Lodge stages a break out at his prison so the inmates can wreck Riverdale High on parent-teacher night. I’m certain Riverdale High could’ve failed all by itself. (There’s a student whose name is literally Logan Lerman backwards. I’m surprised we haven’t met his classmates Jackson Percy & Daddario Alexandra yet.) Betty has to torture her FBI (ex-)boyfriend to defeat Charles & Chic at the twins’ birthday party. This somehow sounds more interesting than it is.
Hiram Lode is deep discount Kai Proctor. Mark Consuelos looks great with a moustache as Javier Luna, so it’s a pity he doesn’t have one as adult Hiram Lodge too. Michael Consuelos is great casting as the younger version of his own dad. Hiram realizes that being a crimester has tragically alienated his family yet doesn’t stop being a crimester to win them back. He fires eager beaver Reggie to save him from this fate, so Reggie uses his insider information to help Veronica undermine her dad. Hiram also does not know how to drink the Blossoms’ palladium milkshake.
Mädchen Amick’s stylishly spooky “The Night Gallery” is the horror episode of the season & therefore better than most. Cheryl makes a perfect horror anthology hostess. She said she just learned there’s palladium under the Blossom maple groves yet there’s already an old mine shaft there? Its carbon monoxide give miners hallucinations of Mothmen & war horrors. The biggest headscratcher is when Jughead hallucinates meeting a rat king but it’s just his agent in cosplay. They put effort into his costume, but it’s just silly without any rodent makeup.
I prefer Jughead a singleton who’s not involved with everyone else’s romantic shenanigans. They’re definitely going to ruin that by pairing him off with Tabitha Tate & Betty again. Given the show’s past of giving adult jobs to teenagers played by adults, I thought Tabitha was a high schooler for way too long. Jughead is still not over his high school break up with Betty?
Jughead has a “Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Promising Young Woman” vibe this year. He supposedly wrote an entire novel under the influence of hallucinogenic maple mushrooms (surprisingly not from the Blossom maple grove), but odds are it’s terrible. Rather than get ask his ex to return the stolen manuscript or deliver it to his agent, he relapses into alcoholism & tries to do a plagarism. Why is “Jughead” still called that anyway if he’s forsaken his beanie? Did not the whoopie cap confer this title upon FPJIII? It’d be like calling Eddie Brock “Venom” if he no longer wore the symbiote.
Archie fought an unknown war in an antiquated foxhole. This is officially more surreal than his dream of wartime combat on the football field. He’s driven to bring down the colonel whom abused his authority before he gets a commendation. Archie triumphs in a court martial that mercifully happens entirely offscreen. The JAG just calls him up to say say he & Eric are cleared of all charges unlike their former commander. They forgot Archiekins is still AWOL. At least Betty’s ex told her she officially washed out of Quantico whilst trying to entrap truckers that could be serial killers under false pretenses.
I’m glad they finally reunited the original Josie & The Pussycats not seen together since season two instead of those pretenders from Katy Keene. “Return Of The Pussycats” was directed by Robin Givens, Josie’s mom & Kevin’s stepmom who’d also been absent an extended period. “Damn, Mr. Lodge, nice to know you’re still a little bitch.” Josie McCoy also calls out her white former classmates. Then Valerie Brown & Melody Valentine call out Josie for how terrible Josie had been to them. Did the show finally become self-aware? Who knew Melody had personality beyond “the other Pussycat who doesn’t talk?” The Pussycats reunion show finally gets Dr. Curdle Jr. out of the morgue & induces labor in Toni! The trio finally sang their classic theme song but none of the hits from the jerkin’ film. Why can’t Melody’s girlfriend, Nancy, come on the tour bus like the other’s boyfriends? Alan M is dating Valerie instead of Josie because the writers wanted to have Sweet Pea still be relevant or are planning a love triangle.
This was a legitimutantly great episode. I worry that if this backdoor pilot for a Josie & The Pussycats spinoff is successful, they’ll find ways to muck it up beyond not setting it in space. Oh, Josie’s dad’s heart attack was actually a voodoo mob hit. Yep, a reliance on crime & problematic stereotypes sounds like classic Riverdale writing. If it doesn’t get picked up, it’ll look like the show remembered it had a bunch of black characters just to formally banish most of them.
Penelope has the best Thornhill entrance. The Blossoms use the power of prayer for Divine Intervention, which was Betty’s thing in the Spire Christian Comics along with unintentional double entendres. Cheryl announces she’s not joining another cult mere minutes before joining her mother’s new cult. Her white-clad mother spitefully put an end to her scarlet musical ministry by invoking Jason’s silence (Even as a ghost, he does not speak.) & a haunted hearth. The Red Dahlia betrayed her Nightmare Child? This show owes me a new monocle!
Cheryl opts to dethrone her mother with sham miracles so she can become a saint. Kevin is her hype man. Cheryl goes full Candyman / The Wicker Man remake, making her latest DC cosplay Brie Larvan the Bug-Eyed Bandit. (My dozing foot cat was startled by my uncontrollable giggling once I saw it it the coming attractions.) She may have used real magic to save Archie & Eric, in tandem with Archie’s PTSD hallucination ghosts, from a cave-in.
Archie thwarts Chad’s assassination attempt Captain America-style by tossing a trash can lid at his nose. After their divorce, Veronica shoots her ex-husband in self-defense.
As expected, the Mothmen were imposters trying to besmirch its reputation. (The genuine article would’ve fit under Archie’s Weird Mysteries.) The pickled Mothman cadaver turned out to be a deformed Blossom bastard sired by Nana Rose’s husband. His kin have become a family of serial killers that killed Polly. The genuine article would’ve been obviously superior, but at least these imposters wear scrap metal armor with red lenses. It didn’t help them fight off do-gooder trespassers though. Polly’s corpse is found in a trunk. (Nathalie Boltt made her directing debut on this one.)
I thought the Pussycats episode was the annual musical, but the penultimate does Next To Normal in honor of Polly Cooper’s murder. (The Blossom ministry also did showtunes if you want to argue most of the backhalf was musical episodes.) Alice Cooper dissociating into her daughter’s favorite musical would be clever if the musical wasn’t so spot on. The conceit is broken (again) when characters outside of the grieving Cooper duo also belt out tunes.
Veronica realizes that Archie is holding her back in the least contrived breakup. Veggie makes much more sense than Varchie, both as a couple & a portmanteau. Jughead & Tabitha go for it even though she deserves better. Toni & Fangs decide to actually become a couple while they’re co-parenting Anthony Topaz. Although both are bisexuals, fans are outraged that the two prominent homosexual couples were broken up for artificial drama & then replaced with another heterosexual pairing of dubious chemistry. That leaves Cheryl & Kevin out in the cold. At least Cheryl immediately got her new ward, petite footballer
Artemis Crock Britta Beach, into a cape.
Betty officially becomes an FBI agent despite being told she’d officially washed out a few episodes ago? The Trash Bag Killer calls her to further rip off Silence Of The Lambs & foreshadow next season. Tabitha can’t afford to repair Pop’s fire damage even though Alexandra Cabot is turning it into a national franchise? Her grandpa has to return from
his interstellar bowling alley Florida to bail her out with his nest egg.
After he has a Ghoulie firebomb Pop’s, they finally decide to arrest Mr. Lodge again. He’s had the SoDale wasteland incorporated & plans to seize the unincorporated community of Riverdale as eminent domain. While pondering whether they have enough to convict, assorted characters decide they should just murder Hiram & be done with it. Reggie produces a damning video of Lodge doing murder, at which point … the entire cast exiles him from Riverdale? (Cheryl’s Little Red Riding Archer outfit makes a welcome comeback.) Why don’t they keep him in jail & use the video to bolster their case since they sent it to the FBI anyway? An exile isn’t even legally binding! How did they all forget how obsessively vengeful he is?
The not at all biased sounding The Lodge Ledger is arsoned by Jughead. Then he commands the regrouped high school newspaper, terribly renbranded as The Riverdale Choice, to do all the town’s hard hitting journalism as if it has worthwhile circulation. Destroying your rivals & pressuring inexperienced unpaid staff to prioritize journalism over their other responsibilities is a surefire path to freedom of press.
Nana Rose informs Cheryl that her ancestor, Abigail, was burned as a witch by ancestors of Archie, Jughead, & Betty in amusing period attire. (Veronica is pleased the writers remembered her forebearers wouldn’t have been present.) Madelaine Petsch sounds like she’s doing something extra dramatic with Abigail Blossom’s voice in the flashback, so it’s a bummer it’s obfuscated by Cheryl’s regular voice. How has Nana Rose not spilled this ancestral tea sooner?
After a year of being an unincorporated community (This is probably meant to be the total duration of season five, although it may be equally as likely another time skip.), they scrounge up enough votes to get Riverdale re-incorporated under a council of four (Alice Cooper, Frank Andrews, Tabitha Tate, & Toni Topaz) at a sparsely attended town hall in Archie’s gym. When their descendants refuse to publicly apologize, Cheryl pulls a Republic Of Sarah (It has always been at war with The Republic Of Doyle.) by proclaiming her maple groves & palladium mine are seceding from Riverdale. I don’t think you can unilaterally secede your property from a town it’s permanently located in. Because the new council didn’t immediately accept their gambling initiative, Reggie & Veronica instantly open a secret casino. While the council does have practical concerns to tackle, it’s doing a bang-up job alienating its most prominent tax payers & potential revenue streams. Will its split composition balance interests successfully or just deadlock action?
With her demand for an apology ignored, Cheryl curses the town. She’s been exhibiting ambiguous supernatural powers this season, so this might not be empty words. If they make Cheryl a fullblown witch, this could be an opportunity to introduce an alternate version of Sabrina Spellman with a Salem whom talks. Of course this series keeps teasing fantastical elements that they drive into the ground with mundane explanations, so don’t hold your breath on a CAOS crossover outside of comics. At least Nancy
Druid Drew delivers the ghost goods. Wait, Kiernan Shipka will actually guest star in season six? They better bring Nick Bakay along to voice her furry familar! For the love of Madam Satan, please go all in on the crazy magic! Unfortunately with this show’s track record, the Sabrina variant that appears will most likely be a muggle.
Once Cheryl wrests control of the ministry, it oddly dissolves offscreen. She vows to turn Thornhill into the women’s school it was in 1890. Since Riverdale High is struggling for students, from whence does she expect her influx of pupils to come? The coming attractions make it seem like it’ll be even more like Summersisle. The last minute Abigail reveal appears to have set Cheryl back on the path to being a chaotic antagonist. If so, that’s some troubling character regression. She desperately needs therapy like dramatic sometimes sisters Lorna & Wanda.
Barchie consummating their coupleship is interrupted by Hiram setting off a bomb underneath his bed. That’s why you don’t release spiteful crimesters into the wild! (Apparently this is Consuelos’s last episode, so it’s an odd note for Mr. Lodge to go out on.) The fifth season finale is titled “RIP?.’ but they’re definitely not killing off both Archie & Betty. This is the most bogus cliffhanger explosion since Arrow season five.
“What If …?” has plenty of plot holes, but they’re much more excusable than those Riverdale indulges in without juggling a multiverse. Season five had to devote three episodes to wrapping up season four, but I doubt it would’ve been more cogent with those available. I do have to give it credit for not reverting back to the status quo relationships by the season finale. Of course now they have the opportunity to string shippers along for another season in hopes that the next episode will finally reunite their favorite pairings. This strategy may’ve backfired if enough ragequit over the questionable ‘ships it ended upon. Choni & Bughead fans appear the most vocal over their discontent.
If you made the decision to abandon this show, I can’t say you’ve chosen poorly. It did manage to produce a handful of good episodes 3/4 through though. Otherwise it continues to be a series that gaslights people into confusing shoddy writing for camp fun. (Well the Blossom scenes are, but they play like they’re cooked up by a separate writers’ room.) Season six is already starting in November?
Or you could just binge Banshee like I did during its long mid-season hiatus. Not that it doesn’t have its share of problematic tropes (It’s a good thing the Amish couldn’t watch it.), but Banshee has the advantage of being a higher quality show all around. Antony “The Homelander” Starr is a much more charismatic Kiwi import than KJ Apa even if his buzzed hair makes him look too much like Green Arrow. The car carnage in 3 x 3 is off the flippin’ chain! The series finale ends well!
After hearing Hoon Lee voice Master Splinter for so many years, it’s a bit odd seeing him as a non-mutant. Frankie Faison was Hannibal Lecter’s friendly jailer, Barney. Dennis O’Hare swung by town just to ruin Hood’s life.
A pair of glasses is the only thing that keeps Clay Burton from being an unfuckingstoppable murder machine! Don’t make Clay Burton take off his glasses. You wouldn’t like him without his glasses.
Betty & Veronica by Adam Hughes makes me resent Riverdale more. It somehow has the perfect ratio of cheesecake to wholesome. Much like the new Jughead comics, it does clever Fourth Wall-breaking comedy Riverdale doesn’t dare. The town courthouse is closed due to low crime rates. Hot Dog’s real name is J. Farnsworth Wigglebottom II, whereas Betty Cooper’s is Earscratch McAwesome-Lap. Archie is affable here? My beloved Cheryl Blossom is only in it for one panel yet it’s still delightful.
Batwoman & Legends Of Tomorrow already return for reviews next week!