Riverdale’s second episode, “Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil,” really heightened the sense of mystery surrounding the death of Jason Blossom, although the episode’s highlights came from the budding friendship between Betty and Veronica. Archie continues to be hung up on Ms. Grundy, and Jughead finally comes out of the social shadows to interact with his estranged friend and find out some new information. The episode had a lot going on, and it didn’t always feel balanced in terms of giving some characters equal footing, but it did progress the story and solidify the show’s main friendships.
The show’s formula isn’t hinging on one big problem of the week so much as it’s using its main players to help unravel the darkness that has hung itself over the town. At the end of the pilot, it was discovered that Jason Blossom, Cheryl’s twin brother, didn’t die of an accidental drowning, but was shot in the head. “A Touch of Evil” developed that aspect of the plot and broadened its character horizons a bit more.
One of my biggest issues with the show so far is the continued relationship between Archie and Ms. Grundy. For one, it’s absolutely problematic in that it’s illegal and uncomfortable to watch. This episode also made Ms. Grundy seem manipulative in telling Archie that they’d no longer be together if he talked to the police about their presence near the scene of the crime. They both know what they’re doing wrong, but only Archie seems morally concerned. Obviously, Ms. Grundy is worried about her job, but the entire relationship is simply one of those irksome matters that didn’t really need to explored in the show. If Riverdale wanted so badly for Archie to have been at the river, then it would’ve been wiser to have used another character in Ms. Grundy’s place.
That aside, one of the show’s biggest strengths thus far is the growing friendship between Betty and Veronica. After last week, when Veronica and Archie kissed while aware of Betty’s feelings for Archie, this episode had them at odds with each other at first. Veronica, however, spent most of the episode trying to make amends. Even though the two have only just met, it’s easy to tell that they have a spark in their interactions. While Archie is busy trying to keep his relationship with his teacher under wraps and sorting things out between him and Jughead, it’s Betty who lets Veronica further into her life despite feeling hurt over Archie’s romantic rejection. The show, amidst one-dimensional mean girls like Cheryl, needs a solid relationship that is central to the show and I believe Betty and Veronica to be just that.
Elsewhere in the episode, Jason’s body is sent in for autopsy, and it’s there that Betty’s mother offers bribe money to the doctor. What she’s hiding isn’t clear, but perhaps it’s tied into the several wounds found on Jason’s body. Cheryl invites Betty over, and it quickly turns into an interrogation, with Cheryl accusing Betty’s sister Polly of murdering Jason now that his death has been named a homicide. After breaking down about her brother, Cheryl admits to being guilty and is arrested. Jughead and Archie reconcile, but not before the former finds out about the affair between Archie and his teacher. Jughead urges him to confess about what he heard while at the river even though Ms. Grundy is against it.
Riverdale continues to be intriguing despite certain shortfalls. If it can further develop its characters and keep the information surrounding the mystery interesting, then it definitely has even more potential to grow into its own. I’d really like to see more of Josie and the Pussycats who have so far had very, very minimal screen time, only appearing to sing at school events. They seem like interesting characters, and the show most certainly needs them to interact with everyone else. “A Touch of Evil” continued to build upon what it already set up in the pilot and gave us little parts of the mystery while exploring character motivations and interactions. However, the show does need to work on better balancing all of the characters and not sticking to stereotypes or one-dimensional portrayals of some.
Riverdale airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW. The series stars K.J. Apa, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Marisol Nicols, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, Casey Cott, Ross Butler, and Sarah Habel.