Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 201, "A Kiss Before Dying"

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Riverdale 201, A Kiss Before Dying

Last season's cliffhanger ending brought back to this old-timer a sense of deja vu, hearkening back to the era of DALLAS and the burning question that enveloped a nation: Who Shot J.R.? Only for this generation, the question was, "Who shot Fred Andrews?" And it being RIVERDALE, the secondary question: Why?

The second season opens with Archie (KJ APA) careening through town in his dad's truck trying desperatetly to get him to the hospital. Fred Andrews (LUKE PERRY) had been shot by a hooded gunman at Pop Tate's in what seemed to be a simple smash-and-grab robbery. Only nothing is simple in Riverdale, and when Jughead (COLE SPROUSE) learns from Pop Tate (ALVIN SANDERS) that nothing was taken from the cash register, he's certain there is an underlying motivation. But something has, in fact, gone missing: Fred's wallet, with all his information in it.

Jughead's not the only one who thinks there's more to the story. Archie's girlfriend, Veronica Lodge (CAMILA MENDES) suspects her parents might have been behind it since Fred wouldn't sell his portion of a construction contract back to Hermione Lodge (MARISOL NICHOLS) before her husband returns home from a short prison stint for fraud.

Betty Cooper (LILI REINHART) has additional concerns; she's worried that Jughead is going to embrace the South Side Serpents as family and become one of them. And the truth is, it's a real struggle for Jughead as he's about to be placed with a south side foster family while his father serves out his sentence.

That's all dramatic enough for a single episode. But throwing the thing completely into the orbit of melodrama is Cheryl Blossom, played to the delightfully over-the-top hilt by MADELAINE PETSCH. Cheryl is also at the hospital, where her mother has been admitted with third-degree burns. We all saw Cheryl set the family homestead on fire at the end of last season, so we know the story she tells of her mother's wounds is a lie. But it's only when we see Cheryl alone with "Mommy Dearest" that we learn the real reason for her burns, and learn just how damaged the Blossom family is -- and just how unstable Chery is at her core.

There are other Archie Comics references in this episode that are a sort of Easter egg to longtime fans. Having saved Cheryl from drowning last season, and now saving his dad, Archie is told he might have to get a superhero name, and "Pureheart the Powerful" is suggested. There was, in fact, a spinoff of the Archie line called just that, which featured Archie as a well-meaning hero who bumbled things up a lot. (My son's Archie collection boast the #1 issue of this series, framed on his bedroom wall.)

The second reference is to the shooter. Archie takes to calling him "The Black Hood," which was the name of another vigilante in Archie's more serious line of superheroes that featured characters like The Fly, The Jaguar, and The Shield.

As the episode wraps, we learn just how devoted the South Side Serpents are to the Jones family, and the lengths they'll go to prove that loyalty, while over at the Lodge household -- Daddy's home, as we finally meet Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge (QUEEN OF THE SOUTH's MARK CONSUELOS).

And as Archie sits vigil, determined to make up for the feelings of cowardice he has for not protecting his father better, we learn that the Black Hood has someone else in his sights -- not in Riverdale, but across Sweetwater River in Greendale, where music teacher Geraldine Grundy (SARAH HABEL) continues to sate her pedophilic appetite for teenage boys. But did she just give her last kiss? The title of this episode might just be a hint.

 

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0