Riverdale gets deep and goes dark in this week’s episode, “Chapter Seventeen: The Town that Dreaded Sundown.” While the title could possibly use a little work, the episode itself harnesses its talents for self-aware drama and pulls us in emotionally as a suspenseful plot full of tension and rivalries plays out before us.
First let me – yet again – readjust my views on Hermione Lodge. I know last week I backpedaled my original infuriation at Hermione’s seemingly spineless inability to leave her husband, coming to the conclusion that the depiction of her marriage with her husband was emotionally abusive and that she didn’t feel as though she had an out to it, but assuming that she would take the out, if given to her.
This week’s episode went one step further to elaborate on Hermione’s decision to stay by her husband’s side.In her attempt to forewarn Veronica to beware of the man that Archie might possibly be or become, Hermione gives Veronica a little speech about Loyalty. She says loyalty is the most noble thing a person can have (woah, that’s some real Hufflepuff talk right there, Hermione), but that blind loyalty is equally the most idiotic thing a person can have.
This is, of course, a direct commentary on Hermione’s own character and motivations, as we learn that Hermione values loyalty above all else. What does this say about her marriage? Well, nothing terribly solid – her marriage is still emotionally abusive, and her husband is still a manipulative man with chaos and selfish means on his mind. But, it does tell us that, while Hermione is the victim in an abusive relationship, she doesn’t endure it simply because she’s afraid of her husband or what he might do; she stays in her marriage because she values loyalty and believes it’s the right thing to do.
Okay, now back to the episode at hand, because Hermione Lodge was such a miniscule part of this episode by comparison to everything else happening.
First, let’s start with the fact that the Red Circle did not go over well in the town. The entire football team is suspended until Archie signs a letter renouncing everything he said in the video. He refuses to do that, because Archie has let himself go a bit crazy over this black hood guy. In fact, Archie’s obsession with this guy makes me believe that he’s never experienced true trauma before his father being shot. The incident seems to have opened the floodgates of anxiety, and his anxiety is driving him to seek revenge. Perhaps he thinks that if he kills the Black Hood the anxieties that he now feels will go away? Perhaps he wants revenge for the Black Hood making him feel the way he does.
It’s unclear to me as to whether the writers have intentionally given Archie anxiety as a long-term health issue that he’ll have to continue to deal with, or if they’re using it simply as a device to motivate his actions, and it will go away once the Black Hood is caught. But, as someone who personally does deal with anxiety as a result of a serious childhood trauma, I can say that realistically, coping with a mental illness doesn’t just go away when whatever perceived threat that initiated the anxiety disappears. This is because, in reality, some people are just prone to struggling with anxiety – or depression – or other emotional, mental illnesses, and whatever trauma that first put them in a spiral with it only amplified an issue that was already there.
So, if the show really wants to be realistic about the feelings that Archie is struggling with, the writers need to recognize that Archie is going to be dealing with this long after the Black Hood is gone. Anxiety isn’t something that can just be turned on or off. And sometimes it’s so subtle, the person experiencing it doesn’t even realize what’s happening. It simply becomes a motivator for certain decisions or choices – in Archie’s case, it was a motivator for defying the authority of his principal and defying his father’s wishes. It was also a motivator for him to buy a gun.
Which is another thing I want to give a shout out to – the show is really highlighting the stunningly crazy flaws in how easy it is for an anxiety-driven teenager to buy a gun. And, on top of that, the dude at the store asks Archie if he’s going hunting. With a handgun?? The store clerk obviously knows Archie isn’t going to go hunting with that gun. At least, not hunting animals. He doesn’t really care – he probably just asks so that, if questioned about it later, he can say, “Oh, he told me he was going hunting.” Honestly, it’s absolutely bonkers.
Finally, I’ll touch on the continued tension growing between Jughead’s inability to shake his connection to the serpents, the growing hatred between Northsiders and Southsiders, and Toni’s clear attempt at breaking Jughead and Betty up. Ugh, I really hate Toni. She’s the worst.
So, will Archie get in more trouble with Southsiders and the sheriff? With Bughead endure, though the Serpents try to pull Jughead down? I guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out.
Season 2, Episode 4 (S02E04)
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9PM on The CW
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor