Welcome back to Riverdale, everybody! It’s a place where time stands still, milkshakes have zero calories, and murder happens about as often as Cheryl reapplies lipstick. Or, as Jughead’s voiceover put it, at its heart, it’s a “haunted town.”
And right now, all of the action is focusing on Archie, who’s attempting to “outrace death” without a driver’s license as he transports his father — who was shot in the season 1 finale — to the nearest hospital. And let’s just say it’s a miracle they get there, because based on those ridiculously bad driving skills, I’d bet Archie Andrews is never going to get a driver’s license.
But long story short, he gets his dad to the hospital, where Fred is rushed into surgery and we get our first trip inside Fred’s mind, where he’s taking a photo of the core four on graduation day. But when they remind Fred that he didn’t live to see graduation day, we snap back to reality — a reality where Betty is far too honest with her judgmental mother when Mrs. Cooper asks “if that beanie-wearing cad defiled you.” Betty’s response? OF COURSE NOT. But also, almost. Actually, I wanted him to but we were interrupted by Southside Serpents.
Okay, Betty. Let’s have a chat. From a former teen to a current teen, your parents do not need to know that you wanted to have sex with someone. They only need to know when you do. And even then, I wouldn’t tell YOUR mother anything unless you want to end up living with nuns.
Thankfully, before Betty can overshare any more, Archie calls her, and she quickly spreads the news. First, she updates Veronica, who’s enjoying a morning mimosa with the Cristal that Hermione had bought for Hiram. Fun fact: Apparently, drinking their expensive booze is the No. 1 way to piss off rich people!
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Then, Betty calls Jughead, who hops on his father’s motorcycle — so Archie is a terrible driver and Jug can navigate a motorcycle on icy roads?! — and heads to the hospital. There, they hug Archie and his bloody cast — that somehow never gets replaced despite most of this episode taking place in a HOSPITAL — and get the full story of what happened. Or at least what Archie is ready to tell them. He explains that the perp shot Fred and then ran. So really, it’s a pretty boring story. But hey, at least Jug is there to propose a truly terrible superhero name for his best friend: Pure Heart the Powerful. (Writer to writer, you might want to workshop that one, dude.)
After Mrs. Cooper uses Fred’s shooting as a chance to blame the Serpents, Archie calls and updates his mom before sitting down with Sheriff Keller. According to Archie, the shooter wasn’t wearing a ski mask; it was a HOMEMADE HOOD! Geez, know the difference, Keller. The shooter also had green eyes, and that’s all Archie is willing to say at this point. Keller’s professional opinion? The guy was “probably out of his head on meth or the jingle jangle.” I’m sorry, WHAT?!
1. Is there a big meth business in Riverdale?
2. What is the jingle jangle?!
But when the sheriff mentions that it could be someone who had a grudge against Fred, Archie tells Jug that his dad fired the Serpents who had been working on his crew. With that, Jug heads off to ask his new serpent buddies to do some digging.
Meanwhile, Betty assures Veronica that she can be a good girlfriend and suggests V accompany Archie home so that he can shower and change. At this point, Fred is out of surgery and Archie won’t be able to see him for at least an hour. In the end, Archie decides a shower is a good idea, mostly because Mrs. Cooper offers him these great, consoling words: “Your dad is strong stock.” That he is, Mrs. Coop. That he is. (Next: The angel of death picks a second victim)
After we flash to another of Fred’s visions — this time he has a suitcase packed but doesn’t want to leave his son behind — we find Archie and Veronica back at the house. V tries to convince him to shower — “You look like you’re auditioning for a teen reboot of The Shining” — but first, he wants to walk Vegas, a seemingly harmless act that once again makes him think about how much he needs his dad. And yet somehow the story ends with Archie comforting Veronica? I’m confused.
Once they’re back at the house, Veronica figures out just how she can comfort her man: with some sex. As Archie showers — sans a plastic bag over his cast because the poor guy is clearly trying to sabotage his in the hopes that he’ll get a new one — she decides to join him, and considering Archie is a teenage boy, he doesn’t object.
However, he does object when Veronica decides to unpack Fred’s personal belongings. When they can’t find Fred’s wallet, Archie lets his anger get the best of him and tells Veronica to leave. But, realizing what it means to be a good girlfriend, she refuses. Instead, she holds Archie as she cries and asks Betty and Jughead to head to Pop’s to look for the wallet. In the meantime, Archie is called to the police station to look at the world’s fastest lineup, which cannot contain the shooter because no cops are that good. (Spoiler: I’m right. The guy’s not there.)
As for the wallet, Betty and Jughead don’t have any luck at Pop’s, though they do get an overly dramatic earful from Pop about an “angel of death,” and, eventually, a meal. It’s there that Betty voices her concern about Jughead growing closer to the Serpents. He explains that he’s not going to be staying with his new foster family. Instead, he’ll remain at his father’s trailer, because, much like wearing the Serpent jacket and riding his father’s motorcycle, it’s a way for him to feel close to his dad no matter what.
Back at the hospital, Cheryl arrives with her mother, who somehow ended up severely burned in that fire? Cheryl’s story is that a breeze knocked over a candle while she was sleeping and her mother rushed in to save her life, but we all know the real story. Although we might be the only ones: Cheryl threatens her mother that if she tells anyone the truth, Cheryl will reveal “what really happened in the barn with daddy.” (New mystery alert!) After years of “abuse,” Cheryl is done. As she puts it, “Things are going to be different now…better.” Well, better if your name is Cheryl.
Speaking of complicated mother-daughter situations, Veronica follows her mother into the hospital’s chapel to accuse her of putting out a hit on Fred. Veronica has decided that her mother is not an innocent pawn, but rather she’s “daddy’s eyes and ears on the ground, calling the shots.” And Hermione does NOT appreciate the accusation. But instead of trying to convince her daughter otherwise, she tells Veronica, “Your disrespect will no longer be tolerated.” Hermione then claims it’s time for Veronica to “get back in line with this family because you are a Lodge before anything else. Now, I should slap you for what you’re insinuating, but I’m not a violent person.” What do you want to bet that last part was a lie?
Veronica then refocuses her attention on Archie and hands him a new wallet for Fred — at least until they find his old one. Then Archie sits down with Veronica, Betty, and Jug and finally tells them the entire story of the shooting. The big secret? After Fred was shot, Archie froze. He didn’t go into hero mode after all. Instead, he was a coward. That reveal was way less exciting than I was hoping for, but I do feel for poor, precious Arch.
Once that’s off his chest, Archie’s allowed in to see his father, where somehow Cheryl is waiting?? How did she get in?! Kissing Fred on the head, she claims that Archie gave her the kiss of life at Sweetwater River, so now she’s giving it to Fred. (So she’s a witch now? Is there something in that lipstick?) She promises that Fred will be just fine, and you know what? She’s right!
After Archie tells his dad that he’s crazy about Veronica, we flash to inside Fred’s mind, where’s he’s imagining Archie and Veronica’s wedding. Only, when the shooter walks down the aisle, Fred dives in front of his son and takes the bullet. On impact, he wakes up. (The most unrealistic part of this vision? Veronica would NEVER choose royal blue for Betty’s bridesmaid dress.)
When Fred wakes up, Archie promises to protect him, and it’s a promise he intends to keep. He ends the episode sitting in his front entryway with a bat in hand while his mom tends to his dad. As for the others, Betty promises to support Jug no matter what he needs to “do or explore,” though she might want to rethink that considering he comes home to discover the Serpents beat a man half to death only to find out the guy didn’t have any information about the shooting. Then they inform him, “With or without the jacket, you’re a Serpent.”
Then there’s Veronica, who gets home just in time to meet Hiram (Mark Consuelos), who thinks her drinking his Cristal was “so disrespectful.” (Talk about a strange thing to be so hung up on.) She welcomes her father home with a kiss before making it clear that she thinks her parents were behind Fred’s shooting.
But if they were, were they also behind what happens next? In the episode’s final moments, the “angel of death” makes his way across Sweetwater River to find Ms. Grundy, who’s a full-blown pedophile and has found another student to seduce. But not for long. Once she’s alone, the angel of death strangles her (in a very bloody way). And that marks victim No. 2.
Overall, I enjoyed this premiere. It definitely feels as though they’re setting up a bit of a darker vibe in the second season, with the “whodunnit” taking center stage. Sure, there were a couple of lines that felt like a bit much — and there was Cheryl’s slow-mo hair flip in the hospital — but that ridiculousness is also part of what I love about this show. As a whole, I’m ready for what comes next.
What did you think of the premiere? Which mystery are you most excited about? Personally, I can’t wait to find out if Archie ever passes a driver’s test! Hit the comments with your thoughts or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.