Riverdale “Chapter Seventeen: The Town That Dreaded Sundown”
Director: Allison Anders
Actors: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Camila Mendes
Writer: Amanda Lasher
A review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Like Nancy Drew meets Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Well, things have certainly escalated quickly in Riverdale, haven’t they?
Ever since Archie (KJ Apa) made his amateur ISIS video, people have been rightfully freaked out. He’s getting weird looks at school. Veronica (Camila Mendes) is being warned to stay away from him by her parents. Fred (Luke Perry) has to deal with recovering from being shot and Archie’s bullshit. It’s bad news all around. It’s also extremely entertaining – a nice melding of the doofus Archie from season one with the more story-centric Archie of season two. Just because he’s involved in the major plot doesn’t mean he’ll start making the right decisions. In fact, he’ll usually make the worst decisions possible. Like hiding a gun on school property or sending his girlfriend to get it in the middle of the night while a killer is on the loose.
Archie’s well-meaning stupidity knows no bounds. It’s very much in character. Frankly, Veronica is a saint for putting up with him. She believes in Archie’s pure heart and helps him expand his neighourhood watch/vigilante group/Pussy Riot cosplayers, The Red Circle. She even breaks up the rumble with the Southside Serpents that Archie starts by going across town, spraying graffiti on the walls and pulling a gun on people.
Oh yeah, he does those things too.
By the end of the episode, he agrees to take it down about 50 million notcheS. He and Veronica toss his gun into the water. It’s a good decision for them, but I’m surprised how quickly they amped up Archie’s vigilante spiral. It wasn’t a shock that he was willing to go full Death Wish, but I expected it to stretch out over a few episodes. But this is The CW and, more specifically, Riverdale. Everything is always capital-H Happening.
As odd as it is to say, the serial killer hunt is the slightly more toned down storyline of the week. I’m glad that the show is name-checking its homages. Jughead (Cole Sprouse) specifically calls out the Zodiac Killer, the Axeman of New Orleans and the Texarkana Phantom Killer, as depicted in the titular movie, The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Riverdale’s own Black Hood is sending fan mail to Betty (Lili Reinhart), letting her know that her speech to the town in the season one finale was his inspiration. He also sends a very Zodiac-like cypher, because why the hell not?
While Alice Cooper (Madchen Amick) continues to be entertainingly the worst by publishing the cypher on her front page, Betty, Jughead, Kevin (Casey Cott) and Jughead’s Southside High friend, Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) all team up to break the code. It’s great when the show brings the cast together in a large group. We do get a line where Kevin calls Betty’s ponytail “iconic, ” but the proceedings are broken up pretty quickly with Southside vs. Northside bickering. It just wasn’t as natural as it could have been, and it’s well-trod territory by now. The rumble in the rain was a better example of this rivalry.
Once Betty actually tells Jughead about the letter that came with the cypher the two of them figure out that the code is personal to Betty. It’s from a literal Nancy Drew book that Betty loved when she was younger. They break the code and interrupt a town hall meeting where, as usual, Fred is being disappointed, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and Hermione (Marisol Nichols) are quietly scheming, and Alice is still the worst. But once again the Black Hood doesn’t actually strike.
You know, for a “serial killer,” he’s kind of shit, huh? He killed one woman, shot two men and scared two other women. It’s not the greatest track record in the world. Maybe he was just too busy being in a rain rumble across town to actually enact his plan though. Hmm. I definitely have my suspicions of Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) because I naturally don’t trust someone who stands in the back of a room and whittles.
The episode ends with Betty alone in her room when she receives a call from an unknown number. I can handle all of the ridiculous things in Riverdale. Hell, I love all of the ridiculous things in Riverdale, but someone actually answering an unknown number on their cell phone? I just don’t buy it, show.
Anyway, it was the Black Hood calling her.
Verdict: Keep Watching! Season two is off to a much stronger start than season one. The storyline is more focused and encapsulates more of the main characters. The new additions to the cast, in particular, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) and Reggie 2.0 (Charles Melton) have been great across-the-board. Melton, in particular, is really fun. His Reggie is the perfect combination of friend and foe that the character needs to be. My only real complaint so far is that Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). She was a breakout character in the first season and she’s been a little sidelined so far. I know that’s necessary to help flesh out other characters like Kevin and — oddly enough — Archie, but I do miss the drama.