Kicking off right where the season one finale left us, Fred Andrews has been shot by an unknown assailant. “Chapter Fourteen: A Kiss Before Dying” deals with some emotional turmoil for Archie, sets up potential drama between Betty and Jughead, all while the Lodge household is hanging on by a thread. The episode struggled a bit with maintaining interest because the pacing stuttered here and there and didn’t move between scenes very fluidly. Despite this, it set up some potentially intriguing plots that maintain the dark mystery that has made up Riverdale.
For a show that never really gave us too much of Fred’s point of view last season, it was a little confusing to see the focus on his fears while in his coma. These scenes were one of the standouts of the episode, simply because they were creepy and flowed back into the real world really well, but as of right now, it’s not clear how they moved the plot forward other than to show us that Fred was scared of dying and showed us events that haven’t or might not happen yet (like Archie and Veronica’s wedding). Fred didn’t spend long in the coma and, to be honest, there was no major payoff from this storyline in terms of suspense.
While Fred is fighting for his life, everyone gathers at the hospital to support Archie, who’s worried about his dad and fears he didn’t do enough to stop the gunman. I appreciate that the writers are trying to develop Archie into a more three-dimensional character this season and “A Kiss Before Dying” is a step in the right direction. He has to make some tough calls in the episode and the scene where he calls his mom is a standout for him because you can tell that all he wants to do is curl up in her arms and cry.
Veronica struggled with a couple of things in the premiere. One of them being avoiding her flight instinct and sticking by Archie’s side to provide support. Old Veronica didn’t know how, but New Veronica is ever the supportive girlfriend. It means she’s growing and trying to stick around for the people she cares about. Right now, this doesn’t include her mother. Veronica and Hermione’s relationship is strained after Fred’s shooting and becomes even more so after Veronica accuses her of having something to do with it. It’s a little presumptuous of Veronica and a steep accusation to throw at Hermione so early on. Veronica knows her dad is coming back into the picture, but I was hoping that there’d be more a show of solidarity between the Lodge women. I guess that’s now thrown out the window.
Betty is still shaken after seeing Jughead embraced by the Southside Serpents and wearing their jacket. She believes it will change him (and let’s be real, there will be some changes down the line that will cause tension), but Jughead assures her that everything will be fine. The Serpents, despite their reputation, are still Jughead’s family in many ways. Even though Jughead doesn’t fully consider himself a member, it’s clear they’ve got his back no matter what. Betty comes to terms with this, declaring her support with whatever path Jughead chooses. However, Betty is one to keep things inside for awhile and sets aside her feelings to please, so this will continue to bother her in some way and it’ll be interesting how her concerns might appear later on.
It continues to be a struggle for Riverdale to balance its large cast, but (not surprisingly) it’s Josie and the Pussycats who are once again slighted. They appear in only one scene, and it’s to offer support to Archie in this difficult time. Blink and you’ll miss them. Kevin appears to talk to Betty about Jughead, but it was annoying because it felt distinctly like a conversation Betty would have with Veronica. The two didn’t share many scenes together, too busy taking care of their issues with their significant others, so I need their friendship to come back in full force at some point in the next couple of episodes and not have the focus simply be on their romantic relationships.
Riverdale ends the episode with an unnecessary murder. Ms. Grundy is back. I was ready to be frustrated about her return only for those fears to be squished two seconds later when the masked assailant grabs her from behind and slits her throat. It was fairly shocking and although I had several issues with the way the show handled Ms. Grundy and her storyline last season, killing her was unnecessary given that there was already drama and mystery surrounding who had shot Fred. It’s now more than clear that whoever the murderer is, it’s someone connected to Archie, which means no one close to him is safe.
Riverdale’s season two premiere wasn’t as engaging as it could have been and was lackluster in several instances, partly because of pacing, and partly due to certain storylines. I hope that the show doesn’t continue to use shock value to sell its story because there’s plenty of meat where the characters and their ever complicated relationships are concerned. With Hiram Lodge now in the picture and Fred out of the hospital (and let’s not forget about Cheryl’s mental state), hopefully the season will be able to find a more solid groove.