‘Riverdale’ Season 4 Trailer Toasts to a Mysterious Senior YearSDCC 2019: ‘Riverdale’ Cast Spills Details on Core ‘Mystery’ for Season 4 Stay on target Cole Sprouse may hate that people keep referring to Riverdale’s second season as “dark,” but so far, that’s what it is. Two episodes in, we have a serial killer, obsessive behavior, and evil parents. Well, more evil parents. That darkness begins to hinder the second episode as it tries to reestablish normalcy. The season premiere spent almost the entire hour in the hospital. It briefly reintroduced the rest of the cast, but for the most part, it was all about Archie. This one took him back to school, and tried to bring everyone back to the status quo of season one. Of course, you can’t really go back at this point. For some scenes, the show appeared to be aware of that, but that didn’t stop it from trying. With widely varying degrees of success.Archie’s story was the weakest here. Towards the end of season one, and even in this season’s premiere, you got the sense that the writers had figured out his place on the show. The story doesn’t have to revolve around him, but he works best as a moral anchor. Jughead called him “Pureheart the Powerful” last week, which is a great comics reference, but it also describes what we like about Archie. Even when everyone else in town is dealing with absolute insanity, Archie should be the one trying to do the right thing. That’s part of the reason audiences hated the Grundy arc so much. Up to a point, subverting the popular image of Archie Comics characters is fun. Seeing Archie defend a serial sexual abuser was a step too far. Especially because the show didn’t seem to realize why people found their relationship so icky. It still doesn’t. When Archie asks about her death, the show almost sounds sympathetic. Like it’s asking us if she was really that bad. Yes. She was. Stop trying to give her a posthumous redemption arc.KJ Apa as Archie Andrews and Charles Melton as Reggie Mantle (Photo: Bettina Strauss /The CW)That’s why it feels so out of character when Archie starts trying to buy drugs. First of all, when did Reggie go from jock rival to the school drug dealer? Second, naming an aphrodisiac stimulant after an Archies song is probably the weirdest pull yet. I get that Archie is trying to stay up all night, and the whole point of this episode is that that’s wearing on his sanity. They really could have chosen a less very-special-episode way to show that. Especially since it doesn’t really go anywhere. Archie spends the rest of the episode insisting that he’s not crazy, but nobody seems to think he is. The show clearly wants us to, but it’s not really sure how to convey that. Instead, we just get a half-written drug story, a PTSD flashback, and an ending where he buys a gun. Maybe they can take this somewhere interesting, but right now if feels like a huge misstep.Thankfully, Betty is here to pick up Archie’s slack. She drives the entire episode with her joyful “Save the Diner” plot. Ever since the attempted murder, Pop’s Chock’lit Shop has been in trouble. Nobody wants to eat there anymore, and someone even spray-painted “Death Diner” on the place. God, this town sucks. They can’t even do graffiti right. Also, really? Some crazy dude in a mask shoots someone in a diner, and you all decide it must be the diner’s fault? There’s a strange glee among the non-main characters in seeing a small business and local institution meet its demise. Enough great east coast diners are closing down already, there’s no need to accelerate the process. Betty does eventually convince the town to rally in support of Pop’s, though it doesn’t come without a little bit of blackmail.Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper and Madchen Amick as Alice Cooper (Photo: Bettina Strauss /The CW)That’s going to be the really fun arc of this season: Watching Betty embrace her darker side. Even as Jughead is drawn deeper into the Southside Serpents, he’s still the same lovable weirdo he always was. He voices serious concerns with the idea of blackmailing a widow and an orphan into helping his father. Betty has no such qualms. She corners Cheryl in the locker room and uses the video of her brother’s murder to get her to do what she wants. Damn Betty, that’s cold. It works, though. Cheryl testifies on FP’s behalf and gets the River Vixens to perform at Pop’s. Cheryl even joins the Pussycats for a fantastic, cheesy cover of “Milkshake.” That instantly became my favorite part of the episode, though it didn’t quite erase the fact that Betty BLACKMAILED A CLASSMATE WITH HER BROTHER’S MURDER to get there. She really is her mother’s daughter. That’s made even more clear after Pop’s diner is apparently saved. While writing her story, Alice claims to have witnessed a bunch of drug deals and a whole bunch of other unsavory activity. Rather than doing anything about it, she uses it to get one up on her daughter. Riverdale parents continue to be the worst.No one at this point is quite as bad as Hiram and Hermione Lodge, though. If Betty’s arc this season is about taking control and embracing her darker side, veronica’s is going to be about getting in over her head. In this episode and the premiere, her confident New York rich girl facade has begun to melt away. She’s a scared teenager desperately trying to prove otherwise. As a unit, her parents are scary. They’re manipulative and hungry for power. Last season, Hermione seemed like the one sane parent in town. Now that Hiram’s back, it’s like she’s in the mafia. It’s still unclear who exactly is pulling strings. Hermione tells Veronica that she fabricated the threatening letter from Hiram, but we find out later in the episode that’s not true. Whether she was behind that lie or not, she seems completely on board with whatever Hiram’s plans are. Now the question is, what does he want with Pop’s diner? Is it just a ploy to keep his daughter happy and out of the way? Or does he have larger plans in mind? In either case, Pop’s remains open, but it’s compromised now. Anything Veronica plans in Pop’s is almost sure to make its way back to Hiram. That’s my bet, anyway.Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Marisol Nichols as Hermione Lodge and Mark Consuelos as Hiram Lodge (Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW)The very end of the episode reminds us that we shouldn’t presume anything, though. The show had us, along with Archie, convinced that the serial killer had some sort of ax to grind with Archie. The two people he had killed so far were connected to him. The end of last night’s episode is forcing us to question that assumption, though. As “Season of the Witch” plays (because Riverdale loves to tease us with the possibility of Sabrina), two students are murdered by the man in the ski mask. Right after they take some jingle jangle, which looks like pixie sticks. The two students aren’t necessarily connected to Archie, so that certainly complicates the mystery. If nothing else, it pulls our focus back in just as the episode ends. That’s something it sorely needed, because this episode was kind of all over the place. It indulged in some of the series worst teen drama cliche tendencies without the usual self-awareness that makes those elements enjoyable. If it wasn’t for Betty, it could have been much worse. But that’s the part of Riverdale that’s consistently amazing. Even when it’s not on its A-game, it’s still too much fun to stop watching.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.