Welcome back to my weekly recap/reviews of The CW’s Riverdale. To read previous coverage, click here.
After last week’s fantastic penultimate episode, there were some pretty high expectations going into the season one finale of Riverdale. However, most of the direct aftermath involving the murder reveal was kept limited to Jughead’s narration. It’s during the quick opening montage that we discover Clifford Blossom hanged himself and the Coopers are back together acting all domestic, like their life hadn’t just been turned upside down. There were some intense moments and a sweet scene between Betty and Jughead, but most of “The Sweet Hereafter” was spent trying to setup season two, leaving us with another cliffhanger mystery that felt random in a largely unsatisfactory finale.
In many ways, the episode was an information overload. With the mystery finally solved regarding Jason’s murder, the question of why Clifford would kill his own son still hung in the air. Per Jughead’s narration, it’s because Jason had found out about Clifford using their family’s maple trucks to smuggle and ship drugs. For someone whose father just committed suicide, the episode doesn’t spend enough time on Cheryl, leaving her to act drastically by attempting to drown herself in the water. And no one really talks to her about it afterward. Even Polly, after finding out that Jason was her third cousin doesn’t get a proper scene. It seems Riverdale didn’t really want to deal with the any of the fallout and brushed aside several potentially emotionally satisfying subplots to give us… Archie’s fleeting, but longing glances at Betty, which make an appearance only after he and Veronica tell her they’re going out.
This subplot frustrated me so much in that Archie has been so quick to jump from one woman to the next without a second thought or care. It hasn’t even helped him develop in any healthy way either. He and Veronica are now together after a lackluster buildup and he keeps asking Betty if she’s sure that it’s ok they’re dating. Veronica asks the same, but the questions are for different reasons. For Veronica, she truly wants to know if her friend is ok with the fact that she’s dating the guy she used to want to be with. Not for ulterior motives, but because she doesn’t want it ruining their friendship. And given what happened earlier in the season, this is understandable. Archie, on the other hand, seemed like he wanted Betty to say that she has a problem with it, but it’s not entirely clear it’s because he’s starting to suddenly have romantic feelings for her or because he just doesn’t want her to have moved on from him. Whatever the reason may be, there was no true progression for his potential feelings to suddenly appear.
Elsewhere, Jughead is sent to live with a foster family and is relocated to South Side High School where he feels like he belongs. And he kind of does fit in his new home more so than he ever did before. One scene had Archie, Betty, and Veronica dramatically running to save Jughead from this new school only to find him laughing and hitting it off with a group of friends in the cafeteria. His sense of belonging on this side of town increases after the South Side Serpents bestow Jughead with a jacket and tell him they take care of their own now that his dad’s in jail. Jughead’s development has been the most distinct this season and its progression leading up to his final scene made a lot of sense. He’s been lost for so long, not knowing where he stands, being carted off left and right, and often neglected by his family and left feeling alone. Betty provided him with some sense of belonging. And while they do seem to have some kind of connection, after they say “I love you” to each other, Riverdale leaves their relationship up in the air as the prospect of Jughead joining the Serpents begins to feel more like a reality.
Hermione tries to convince Fred to sell to her and Hiram, who is getting out of jail soon. He refuses, but I’m not convinced Hermione was just trying to get the company. She knows if Fred still owns it and she continues working with him, it’s going to cause problems in her marriage. The Coopers are acting like nothing has happened, the creepy version of the Brady Bunch, if you will. But Betty is sick of all the lies and it’s not long before she gets another truth bomb dropped on her: Alice was pregnant in high school and gave up the baby for adoption. So Betty has a brother she never knew about. Add another mystery to be solved next season.
My biggest issue with the finale is that no one really deals with anything and the episode tries to do too much in terms of bringing in new plots without having dealt with some of the old ones. The fallout from the reveal is almost completely neglected and given a few throwaway lines in the beginning to explain what happened; the only person who has some great emotional payoff is Jughead. Josie and the Pussycats continue to be unacceptably sidelined, too; it’s something that needs to be corrected in the show’s second season. Mostly, “The Sweet Hereafter” felt more like a season premiere where there’s a lot of setup for what’s to come, but it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion and there was no real emotional payoff to a season-long mystery regarding blood feuds and parent/child tensions. In the final moments, the cliffhanger is Fred being shot by an unknown man during what looks to be a simple robbery, but again, we’re told via Jughead that it wasn’t random. Ultimately, the episode was a bit of a disappointment. And after a wonderful penultimate episode last week, the finale was a bit too lackluster.