We gave it an A
In a way, Fred Andrews was even more Archie than Archie — his moral compass never wavered, his decisions were firm and bolstered by strong conviction, and his heart always accommodated others in the right places. Sadly, that same heart now has holes in the wrong places, as Riverdale’s most respectable citizen is also its latest victim.
It happens fairly fast, at the end of what’s actually a very tantalizing and therapeutic season finale (all things considered). A masked robber pummels Pop in his chocolate shoppe while Archie’s in the bathroom, and when the criminal turns his gun on Fred, Archie flings himself in front of his father just in time to be not in time. Fred will live, as anyone who has ever seen a TV show can tell you, so the cliffhanging question that concludes season 1 is… well, pretty nonexistent. That’s my gut reaction, at least. Fred’s attack seems fairly random, but of course, we’ll learn that it’s pointed. We’ll theorize about who his assailant is. We’ll wonder about what the motivations were. We’ll piece together a layered narrative about who ordered the hit from afar (maybe this is that famous Lodge violence we’ve heard about for so long?). At the very least, we’ll most certainly hear another reiteration from Jughead about how this moment, as with every single other event that’s happened this year, is THE moment the town lost its last bit of innocence.
Yes, my fear is that Fred Andrews will set in motion another outlandish yarn that spins as out of control yet ends so mundanely as Jason Blossom’s murder. The difference, of course, is that we actually care about Fred; I’d like to think I speak for every Riverdale viewer when I say nobody ever cared about, or learned to care about, or even wish they cared about Jason Blossom. As much of a firecracker as Cheryl is, my prayer to Riverdale in season 2 is that we never see nor hear about any Blossom besides Cheryl ever again. Unless it’s on the label of my morning maple syrup or my afternoon heroin, I don’t want to hear it. And if Riverdale loves us, the show will make good on the direction the season finale took in returning the series to its pilot roots: teen angst, tested friendships, dark drama, and alluring love triangles that can still dip a paintbrush into genre tones but leave the show’s two least interesting traits — the gothic and the Grisham — behind.
For the sake of recapping, however, we must acknowledge the wrap-up of Jason’s murder and its many fallouts.
FALLOUT No. 1: A narrative has emerged, once and for all: Cliff’s maple syrup industry was a front for an underground heroin trade from Canada, and Jason’s discovery of this prompted his own death at the hands of his horrible father. However, those drugs are still on the streets, and Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy try to clean up the mess from atop their societal structures.
Keller offers a still-incarcerated FP clemency in exchange for the names of the Serpents who are selling Cliff’s drugs. FP insists that it’s not his guys, nor is he a snitch in the first place, so he refuses to cooperate, despite fleeting (but never forceful) pressure from Jughead. His father’s display of staunch loyalty eventually earns Jughead the Serpents’ own protection and allegiance, and they present him with an official members’ jacket — which, throughout everything else, looks like it’s the single tipping point where Betty realizes that maybe she isn’t really Jughead’s yin-yang perfect-match Harry-Hermione (yeah I said it) soulmate.
Mayor McCoy, meanwhile, tries to distract the town by making Archie and Betty the guests of honor at Riverdale’s 75th anniversary jubilee. Who better to mask underlying issues of cultural anxiety than two white teens who can take credit for the hard work of a rich Latina girl and a homeless boy from a lower-class family? Archie’s reward is getting to sing with the Pussycats, while Betty’s treat is being touted as the “best and brightest” and getting to give a speech in front of the whole crowd. Which brings us to…
FALLOUT No. 2: Betty is upset at Jughead’s exclusion from the celebration as well as FP’s continued incarceration despite his name being cleared. She publishes a damning advocacy essay in the school newspaper, after first trying to get it published in the town paper (“You’re too involved!” say editors Alice and Hal Cooper from inside the hollowed intestines of the Blossom family Tauntaun). Betty receives a threat on her locker as a result of her hot take — a friendly “Go to hell, Serpent slut!” in pig’s blood, a.k.a. a tweet — but nevertheless she persists, using her jubilee speech as a powerful platform to urge Riverdale to remember its identity, tell the truth, and do better with one another to preserve the soul of Riverdale. It’s very touching. Everyone claps. Alice Cooper even puts her hands together in light physical contact to make sounds.
Through all of this, Betty seems to have gained a few key traits over the season: namely, confidence and conviction, which she exercises in a climactic confrontation with her mother. The conversation turns into a very poignant heart-to-heart, offering some significant relationship repair between the always antagonistic mother and daughter. Plus, some news emerges: Betty has a secret brother whom Alice gave up for adoption in high school. As Betty tells it, he’s in his mid-20s; as Veronica tells it, he’s a blond Adonis. As I tell it, he’s my new favorite season 2 cast member.