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A Pricelessly Deranged Flashback Episode Is Riverdale At Its Best

This post contains spoilers for Riverdale Season 3, Episode 4, “The Midnight Club.”

You can’t give a very good gift while you don’t understand its recipient—and on Wednesday night, Riverdale proved that it understands its audience backward and forward. This week’s episode was once more than mere fan supplier: it was once the platonic excellent of Riverdale, this show at its soapy, playful, zany, somehow however cogent easiest.

Perhaps most impressively of all, “The Midnight Club” showed off creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s knack for world-building, as seen every proper right here and on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Though Riverdale and its surrounding hamlets might replicate American towns, they’re moreover undeniably, intentionally located in a delightfully extraordinary business fact. Only in the world of Riverdale might only a gentle Hiram Lodge—carried out, in an fun twist, by the use of Mark Consuelos’s eldest son, Michael—marvel his pals with a fab new drug known as “fizzle rocks”: “They just hit the streets,” he says with a immediately face, and target audience know enough not to bat a watch fastened. Wednesday’s episode, like most of Riverdale’s easiest, embraced the show’s gimmick-fueled absurdity—and as with last season’s musical episode, the outcome was once herbal popcorn excitement.

As we learn this week, the fogeys of Riverdale High had been taking a look to stick their children transparent of the mysterious role-playing game Gryphons and Gargoyles on account of they became obsessed with it themselves in their younger years. Each of the show’s number one forged contributors spends the episode playing his or her character’s private father or mother in an extended flashback assortment, which kicks off after the older generation finds the game in a locked drawer all over a host detention session. (You knew we wouldn’t get by the use of this with no Breakfast Club riff, right kind?)

The comic story is that each actor was once asked to play in opposition to kind: Lili Reinhart, maximum ceaselessly the essence of preppy poise as Betty Cooper, got to play her mother, Alice’s, rebellious earlier self. As a young Hermione, Camila Mendes shed her cool, distinctly “Veronica” polish and adjusted it with thick glasses and an in a similar way thick layer of meekness. As more youthful F.P., Cole Sprouse—whose maximum ceaselessly plays a person susceptible to announcing things like “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m peculiar. I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in. And I don’t want to fit in. Have you ever seen me without this foolish hat on?”—was once a womanizing, gum-chewing cad. Okay.J. Apa as Fred Andrews was once basically Archie Andrews in a novel shirt, then again even that somehow tracked; the Andrews family is, after all, gorgeous explicitly recognized as one of the vital uninteresting family in Riverdale. And in truth, Madelaine Petsch carried out Cheryl’s mother, Penelope, with noxious aplomb, as a reasonably a lot much less rebellious type of Riverdale’s M.V.P. And she did it all while wearing massive glasses and a retainer.

As the flashback presentations, over time, the kids became increasingly obsessive concerning the recreation—and after all kicked problems up a notch by the use of breaking into the school at night to live-action role-play their adventures, while wearing kicky costumes and the entire thing. In an obtrusive mixture of Breakfast Club and the 1990s kiddie horror show Are You Afraid of the Dark, the group knighted themselves “The Midnight Club.” But in the future, they received a quest from an unknown provide—and that exact same night, while that they had been all playing and buzzed on fizzle rocks, the school’s maximum vital was once murdered. (His demise, naturally, was once ruled a suicide beneath “suspicious circumstances.”) In the highest, the trauma renders the adults of Riverdale into essentially the most recurrently empty shells of other folks we see throughout the show’s present-day sequences.

Unfortunately, no matter what their other people say, it kind of feels that the current-day students of Riverdale High are doomed to replicate the mistakes of their elders. By the highest of the episode, Betty—once more throughout the praise day—finds Jughead completely engrossed throughout the game, in a position to “ascend” to fulfill the feared Gargoyle King himself. (It’s worth noting, just for a 2nd, how so much Sprouse commits within the ones final moments to his character’s manic obsession with the game. If there were an Emmy elegance for “selling it,” the competition wouldn’t stand a possibility.) And so, the episode ends on a timeless question: “Who would win in a fight—a Serpent King, or a Gargoyle King?”

There’s more than a few plot proper right here, and the joy of taking a look on the show’s more youthful stars take a look at on new personas for measurement. But the most productive side of this episode is how it blends the standard and the uncanny in a distinctly Riverdale manner. This collection has all the time appreciated to play with taste tropes, and this week had more than a few them. (Again: Breakfast Club riff.) Now, despite the fact that, it’s moreover beginning to incorporate portions of the supernatural—even supposing it’s however unclear how exact dark magic is in the world of Riverdale. (Did Alice and Polly Cooper in fact go with the flow Polly’s twin small children over a bonfire? Maybe! But Betty moreover had a seizure when she spotted the ceremony—and when she woke up every her mother and sister assured her she’d hallucinated.) As of now, we will be able to’t ensure that whether or not or no longer Gryphons and Gargoyles is a couple of roughly supernaturally charged, Jumanji-like game with a killer that haunts its avid gamers, or if there’s simply each different human murderer on the loose in Riverdale. Either manner, the court cases major up to finding out merely what, exactly, is in fact going down had been utterly absurd—and that, really, is the Riverdale sweet spot.

Going into Season 3, Riverdale enthusiasts had more than a few explanation why for skepticism. Season 2 was once a circuitous parade of twists, digressions, and crimson herrings—all seemingly designed to run out the clock on a bloated season that absolute best found out itself in its last handful of episodes. It feels premature to say that Season 3 isn’t going to commit the an identical mistakes—we are, after all, absolute best four episodes in—then again up to now, it seems that Riverdale has found out a sustainable path forward from Season 1’s initial murder mystery. Yes, mysteries will all the time be what makes this teen drama’s world turn—nevertheless it indubitably’s the neon light-drenched spectacle of the show that really keeps enthusiasts coming once more. And in a season that started with a kid fish fry, it seems protected to assume there’s more than a few craziness however to come back again.

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