Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 501, "Climax"

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Riverdale 501, Climax

Riverdale makes its fifth season debut, picking right up with the mysterious videotapes being left around the town where every house apparently still has a functioning VCR in the living room. The last tape was saw featured a group of teens wearing plastic masks resembling Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica all killing a masked version of Principal Honey, who was disgraced out of his office. And while there was a lot of high tension to capitalize on, so much of it was burned through so quickly it didn't feel like it had time to fully impact the storylines.

First up: Archie (KJ Apa) is preparing to meet with Commandant Carter (Garfield Wilson) of the naval academy. He wants to make a good impression, but when he learns he may have lost his chance to another candidate when he bowed out of contention the first time, Veronica (Camila Mendes) proposes that Archie and the other contender have a boxing match for the opportunity -- especially as the other contender turns out to be none other than KO Kelly (Zane Holtz), the boyfriend of Veronica's BFF, Katy Keene. The stakes are in place, and the two boys get to train together, leading up to the boxing match and a winner decided on points -- all before the episode is over. But Archie's future education isn't even his most dramatic moment in the episode -- because while he was pretending to date Betty (Lili Reinhart) last season, he and she had an actual moment of kissing, which impacted Archie enough to write a song for her. Veronica discovers the song, thinks it's about the two of them, and ends up singing it at a pre-prom bash at the speakeasy, making for an awkward moment between Archie and Betty. And even that tension is brought to a too-soon closure as Archie makes a prom-night confession to Veronica, which makes its way back to the all-hearing ears of her father, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).

Betty and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) have their hands full following the videotapes left by the mystery person they are now calling "The Auteur." Working with Betty's FBI agent brother, Charles (Wyatt Nash), they hatch a scheme to infiltrate the underground video scene in Riverdale hosted by Blue Velvet's proprietor, David (Birkett Turton). To gain his attention, they film a fake snuff film with Reggie (Charles Melton) and Cheryl Blosom (Madelaine Petsch). When that video doesn't make the grade, however, Betty pulls out her backup tape -- which is more than enough to get David to want to screen it to his friends and get Betty an invitation. What she and Jughead find is an underground x-rated rave where different rooms show different films -- including some of the fetish films Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) made, and "Ponytail Playmate," the sex tape taken of Betty and Jughead. But as they go looking for the director of the snuff films, they find someone else in the crowd they were least expecting, bringing an end to their sleuthing for the night.

With prom looming large, Cheryl is intent on being crowned queen, alongside her girlfriend Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). But their relationship is suffers a setback when Cheryl learns that Toni is reluctant to let Cheryl meet her family. Cheryl's first thought is that Toni hasn't come out to them as a lesbian and is ashamed to move forward, but when Cheryl has a one-on-one with Toni's Nana (Doreen Calderon), she learns the truth is something that goes back generations in both families.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Riverdale school night event without someone getting brutally murdered. This time it happens by proxy, as the dance is interrupted by the sudden introduction of another video by The Auteur, set to the soundtrack of 'Psycho Killer' and showing what appears to be the brutal stabbing of Blue Velvet's owner. But it's the tape The Auteur has waiting for Archie back at the Andrews' residence that forms the cliffhanger of this episode, as Archie sees a traumatic event from his own past re-enacted.

4.0 / 5.0