Riverdale is getting into the ties that bind all of the characters and their families together, and it’s proving to be really intriguing, if somewhat predictable.
Last week, I mentioned that Riverdale is finally finding its groove, and it’s definitely apparent in “Chapter Five: Heart of Darkness.” The episode focused heavily on Cheryl Blossom and her “gothic” family-style drama. This week, through her newfound friendship with Veronica, we began seeing the real dents in her facade. There is a real human beneath all the snobbery. We get to see more of Cheryl’s relationship with her mother and father, which is plagued by cruelty and an embarrassment of her existence on their part. All of the parents on this show, with the exceptions being Fred and Hermione, have terrible relationships with their kids. Cheryl is dealing with Jason’s funeral and her parents are inviting all the well-to-do families of Riverdale–they’re also the people Penelope Blossom believes to be suspects in Jason’s murder. Cheryl invites Veronica over so that she isn’t alone the night before the funeral. There is some sympathy to be had when it’s discovered that Cheryl didn’t really have any friends growing up, but given the way she sometimes behaves towards others, it’ll still take longer to warm up to her completely.
After “The Last Picture Show,” Veronica and Cheryl bonded, and the former is comforting the latter for most of “Heart of Darkness.” It’s fascinating (and also really nice) that Veronica, although new to Riverdale, has become the binding force between all of the characters. This episode alone has her speaking with Archie, consoling Cheryl, and hanging out with Betty, Jughead, and Kevin while maintaining knowledge of what’s going on and being a good friend. Veronica is also one of the only people on the show who has a pretty decent relationship with her mother. I hope she continues to grow and be a well-rounded character, but that we also find out what she’s going through now that her father’s in jail.
The real drama of the episode came from Betty and Jughead’s continued investigation of what really happened to Jason. The deeper they dig, the more everything ties back to Riverdale’s founding families. Betty discovers that her dad sent Polly away after an attempted suicide and that Jason and Polly were engaged. The Coopers and the Blossoms also have a blood feud that goes back a couple of generations and so even Betty’s father has become a suspect in Jason’s murder. Betty continues to be mistaken for Polly, and it seems as though every episode is attempting to push her over the edge–from her sister, to finding out dark secrets about her father, to her mother’s super controlling behavior, I fear Betty will eventually snap. She and Jughead are growing closer, but I’m not sure if it’ll lead to anything romantic (and they don’t look to be staying true to Jughead’s asexuality as of right now), but we’ll see.
Elsewhere in the episode, Archie gets help from Valerie. I found it a bit strange that she sought to help him and was so persistent about it given that they haven’t spoken all that much before. I wish there had been more time spent on this because I like Valerie and needed to know more about what motivated her to help Archie find someone to mentor him in his musical endeavors. Was it more about sympathy? She obviously sees his potential, but does she like him in a way that could prove to be more than just friendly? Regardless, I still really liked their dynamic and look forward to seeing more of it, especially now that Archie is in his PG (“post-Grundy”) phase. Although I doubt Josie (who was absent once again) will be happy about this when she finds out. Archie also juggles football so he can make team captain and get a scholarship to support his music. He’s in competition with Reggie, who is finally allotted some much-needed screen time and isn’t simply portrayed as the jerk football player this time around.
Hermione and Fred grow closer after a box of snakes (courtesy of the South Side Serpents) is left for her at the diner late one night. Even though they don’t always get a lot of screen time, I have been thoroughly enjoying them together. Hermione is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on the show. She’s complex and her personality understated. I like that she has a generally good relationship with her daughter, especially in comparison to everyone else, and that, even though it’s clear she likes Fred, she’s not jumping into that relationship. Fred does offer her the bookkeeping job by episode’s end, so we’ll definitely be seeing more of the two of them in upcoming episodes.
“Heart of Darkness” got really up close and personal with several characters and kept the mystery at the center of it all. It teased us with new discoveries and opened the doors for even more potential suspects. It didn’t always flow well, something the writers need to strengthen is the pace and balance of the episodes, but regardless, it gave us some fascinating new information and humanized Cheryl a bit (something that was overdue).
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.