The ridiculous but addictive teen drama that's a twisted cross between Dawson's Creek and Blue Velvet is back, and on the basis of the premiere episode, it's looking like it will be even darker than the first season. (And that's saying something when you remember season one's themes included incest, sexual assault, drug dealing and murder).
It's already much more deliciously demented than its twee comic book origins. Riverdale's four attractive school friends – Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) – and their families first appeared in the 1940s Archie Comics, but the TV version takes the teens to the 21st century, giving them all those Gossip Girl-style self referential moments along the way.
The Archie here has a six pack (and in season one, an affair with his music teacher Miss Grundy), Betty has a pregnant teen sister, Jughead is a brooding writer, and Veronica a rich girl whose daddy is in jail for fraud.
By the end of the first season they had solved the murder of one of their classmates, but any celebration was quickly curtailed when Archie's dad, Fred (Luke Perry), was shot by a masked gunman, ending the season on a cliffhanger.
The first episode of season two picks up moments later, with Archie driving his bleeding father to hospital. Dear God, will Luke Perry survive? It's not looking too promising as Fred, unconscious on the operating table, hallucinates important events in his son's life only to realise that in each fantasy he's not really there.... because, well, he's dead.
His dreams are spookily similar to a Beverly Hills 90210 episode Perry was in ('The Dreams Of Dylan McKay'), in which a near-death Dylan dreamed all sorts of trippy future stuff, and if that's creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa nodding his hat to the teen shows that have influenced Riverdale, we like it a lot.
While Fred's life hangs in the balance and a blood-soaked Archie paces the corridors, his friends arrive and discover Fred wasn't the only new hospital admission – we last saw redheaded teen Cherry Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) torch her family manor, and it seems that while she escaped the burning mansion with only a slightly singed dress, her mother wasn't so lucky.
Mommie Dearest is brought in heavily bandaged, and completely at the mercy of her daughter, who looks like she is going to go full psycho this season (well, you might too, if your father murdered your brother and then hung himself).
This season's big mystery may be "who shot Fred?" – was it a botched robbery or something more sinister? – but from the look of this episode that doesn't mean that the tangled teen and family relationships will be put on the back burner.
Betty declares her love for Jughead, even though he may be going to the dark side (in Riverdale, that means joining the Southside drug dealing gang the Serpents), and Veronica is trying her best to comfort boyfriend Archie. Which here equals some steamy shower sex while his dad is comatose, but hey, Archie's a horny teenager so we will overlook it. Though it is a bit icky.
Throughout, Aguirre-Sacassa (who is also developing the Sabrina: The Teenage Witch reboot) and his team frame our beautifully costumed characters with moody lighting and a cool soundtrack as Pops (of Pop's Diner, where Fred was shot) gloomily predicts that an angel of death has come to Riverdale.
And while death doesn't take Fred this week (yay! Luke Perry lives!), the show once again proves what sharp writers it has by completely subverting the plot before the end of the episode in a twist that not even Betty's nosey reporter mother (Madchen Amick) would have seen coming.
You thought this season would be about a shooting? Well, the final scenes of the episode blast that theory right out of the icy Riverdale water. While Archie guards his dad's front door by sitting on a stool holding a baseball bat (yeah, Archie, that's really going to stop a bullet), and Veronica greets her father Hiram (Mark Conseulos) following his release from prison, the camera takes us to a neighbouring town, where a familiar Volkswagen Beetle is parked on a residential street.
Miss Grundy is back! She is giving a teenage boy music lessons and, by the looks of it, some sex education like Archie received as well. But just as we're wondering what twisted issues this woman has, that masked dude pops up in her living room and strangles her.
Good grief – underage sex, murder, drugs… this stuff never happened to Dennis The Menace.
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