When Riverdale returns to The CW for its third season, fans will undoubtedly be wondering if it can bounce back from an uneven sophomore outing. The quick answer is that signs point to yes, but there is one glaring problem that is emblematic of a larger issue the show has had from the outset. If Riverdale can quickly dispense with this one storyline, things are looking fairly solid for the town with pep.
First, let’s talk about the positive aspects of the Season 3 premiere (Spoiler-free! But if you want to be completely surprised, come back after you’ve watched). Betty (Lili Reinhart) and her family are front and center in a storyline that stems from her sister Polly’s (Tiera Skovbye) return from “The Farm,” a.k.a. the obvious front for a creepy-ass cult. Polly brings with her Edgar Evernever, head of said cult, who instantly has Alice (Madchen Amick) wrapped around his mood-ring-wearing finger.
While it’s completely understandable that Alice would have a mental breakdown after learning her husband is a psychotic serial killer, it’s still very jarring to see the normally buttoned-up, Type-A Alice going all crunchy granola and draping herself in crystals. Polly is completely supportive of this transformation, while Betty knows that Edgar and his Farm are up to no good — something that is confirmed by Betty in “Labor Day’s” waning moments, which is also one of the two best scenes of the premiere. The Cooper family dynamic has always been one of the strongest parts of Riverdale and Season 3 is so far using it to full effect.
Also, the Coopers and their “Farm”-ers dovetail nicely with one of Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) story threads that leads to him discovering a cult-like altar and creepy symbols in Fox Forest. The show doesn’t come right out and say it, but it would be an awfully big coincidence if Jughead’s discovery isn’t connected to The Farm. That spooky, supernatural storyline already looks like an exciting turn for the show. Bring on the evil cult!
Speaking of Jughead, he’s also involved in the second most interesting storyline of the premiere — namely, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) and his Legion of Doom taking over the South Side and the (formerly South Side) Serpents being forced to work together with the North Side Bulldog preppy kids to combat these evil, wealthy adults and their army of Ghoulies.
It’s hard to tell from the premiere exactly where the show is going with this, though. The only thing that happens in the premiere is Jughead and his Serpent ladies rescuing one of their own from Ghoulie territory and having a confrontation with Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan), who vows to come after the North Side. It’s not the most exciting scene, but it’s laying the groundwork for some good-versus-evil material that could be interesting. At least it would bring all the kids working together against some evil adults, instead of against each other like in Season 2. There’s potential here.
The storyline where the potential seems nearly nonexistent is, unfortunately, the one that takes up the lion’s share of the first episode and is in keeping with Riverdale’s biggest problem — what to do with Archie Andrews (KJ Apa)?
The premiere at least does viewers the courtesy of skipping over Archie’s trial for the murder of Cassidy Bullock (Harrison Macdonald). We basically pick up with the jury returning a hung verdict, but after said verdict, Archie does something so unbelievably stupid that it immediately vaults to the top of the list of Stupidest Things Archie Has Done Since Riverdale Premiered.
To make matters worse, Riverdale treats it like something that can be easily handled by Archie’s lawyer mom (Molly Ringwald), when in fact it’s actually something that will be quite complicated to fix, legally speaking. Without going into spoilers, let’s just say that the writers have kind of painted themselves into a corner here and when the fix inevitably comes, it’s going to annihilate the bounds of believability.
Hopefully, the resolution will come sooner rather than later, because viewers can only sit around and watch Archie the Martyr be emo for so long. Unless of course this is the show’s way of dispensing with its most boring main character for awhile, because that would actually be great. Riverdale has never known quite what to do with its milquetoast hero (other than have him be shirtless as often as possible) and this storyline does not appear to be remedying that — unless, as was mentioned, they’re ultimately getting rid of him.
Don’t hold your breath on that one! We’re all just going to have to grit our teeth and focus on the better storylines. At least the show has Betty and Jughead around to be awesome together. They are definitely worth tuning in for, and there is potential for a few other storylines to blossom into some strong material as well.
Riverdale premieres Wednesday, October 10th on The CW.