Riverdale “Chapter Fourteen: A Kiss Before Dying”
Director: Rob Seidenglanz
Starring: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Camila Mendes
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
A review by Michael Walls-Kelly
Our story continues.
It’s fitting that the season 2 premiere is firmly an Archie (KJ Apa) episode. Archie Andrews spent the majority of the first season off in his own universe trying to become John Mayer. His cluelessness was often very funny, but it kept the person who was ostensibly the “lead” of the show at a distance from anything important or interesting. It wasn’t until late in the first season that Archie was drawn into the “who killed Jason Blossom?” drama and he became a much better character for it. Who can forget Archie punching through a frozen lake to rescue Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) from drowning? That’s the Archie we want: a dopey, loyal, labrador of a guy.
“A Kiss Before Dying” continues to center Archie in the show’s main plotline by, you know, shooting his father. Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) took a bullet in what seemed like a robbery-gone-wrong in the final moments of season one. It was a great cliffhanger that cemented Archie’s role in season two’s storyline and left the audience legitimately unsure of the outcome. This adaptation of the Archie Comics would absolutely kill off Fred Andrew, but would Riverdale actually want to lose Perry, who did some great work in the first season?
Luckily, Fred survives, which was probably the right decision. Figuring out the who and why of the attempted murder is just as compelling. It doesn’t start the season off under a totally tragic shadow. For those in the audience who may consider Fred’s survival a cop-out, well, surprise! You get your murder at the end.
Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel) being a sexual predator rightfully didn’t sit well with a large chunk of the audience. It was the kind of crime that’s hard to take in Riverdale’s heightened reality. ‘50s style biker gangs and maple syrup empires are easier to take side-by-side with drug rings and murders. Grundy’s run out of town halfway through the first season. Almost as a promise to the show’s audience, she’s killed by a masked assailant and the end of this premiere.
It will be interesting to see how the mystery unfolds. Was Grundy the real target? Did Fred have her address in his wallet and that’s what the masked man was after? Are Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) or the Southside Serpents involved at all? Hopefully, Archie’s primary role will bring him into the investigation alongside his more curious friends.
Speaking of Archie’s friends, each member of the main cast get a great reintroduction. Betty (Lili Reinhart) is still trading barbs with her mother, Alice (Madchen Amick). Veronica (Camila Mendes) is continuing to rebel against her own mother, Hermione (Marisol Nichols). The Betty and Veronica friendship was a highlight of the first season. It’s fitting that the friends have similar but subtly different introductions. Betty and Alice continue to argue entertainingly, but the discussion and relationship is a lot healthier than it was in early season one. On the opposite end, Veronica and Hermione were extremely close at the beginning of the series. Their relationship was one of the few functional parent-child pairings in the show. Now that’s all changed. With Hiram’s ominous entrance near the end of the episode, it looks like that rift will continue to grow.
Jughead (Cole Sprouse) gets the most fitting and entertaining re-entry into the series. When he learns that Fred is injured and Archie is at the hospital, he dramatically removes a tarp from a motorcycle and speeds over there. When Jughead and Betty go back to Pop Tate’s — both of them ever the intrepid investigators — he gets the best line of the episode, using his best faux-action hero voice: “in times of crisis some people lose their appetite, but me? Mine increases ten-fold”. Jughead continues to be a great character and Sprouse continues to be one of the best actors in the series, always pitching his performance perfectly to fit the tone of the scene.
When Fred is recovering back at home, we end with Archie sitting in the hallway of his house. He’s holding a baseball bat and protecting his family. It’s a sad and endearing image and exactly the kind of Archie we need in this series. I’m excited to see more of him.
Oh, also there’s a drug called the Jingle Jangle in Riverdale. I can only assume is heroin mixed with maple syrup.
Watch it! “A Kiss Before Dying” is a solid starter for season two. It reintroduces us to our main characters, closes off some storylines from season one and sets into motion our main plot for season two. Hiram Lodge introduction to Riverdale and Miss Grundy’s murder are the plotlines I’m most interested in following so far. The show has done such a good job of making the characters fun or entertaining that I’ll almost certainly enjoy any scenes they throw at me.
And if you were wondering if Archie still fucks, I can confirm that Archie Fucks.