“What we’re looking at here, I believe, is the true face of evil.”

Well, Riverdale is back with a bang, and if you can understand what is happening at the moment, we salute you, because Archie’s prison antics and the “Gargoyle King”, things are getting insane.

Following his ridiculous guilty plea of last week, Archie (KJ Apa) has been moved to juvenile detention, and it seems that he has no one on his side – especially not the Serpents, who, following the appearance of the ever-mysterious Joaquin (Rob Raco) who was apparently arrested in last season’s “Riot Night” promptly cast Archie aside when he refuses to shiv another inmate. So, he got that tattoo for nothing. His cellmate, Mad Dog (Eli Goree) is a loner doing a mysterious job for the warden, and while he is set up for a larger storyline, it all seems to be done away with pretty quickly in favour of dropping Archie into another dangerous situation as the warden “taps” him for the same job.

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To be honest, Archie will probably need some form of protection from the other inmates, as he doesn’t seem to understand what can happen inside the detention centre’s walls. When the Ghoulies he got arrested after last season’s drag race beat him up for his shoes, he’s advised to toughen up and “be an animal before they treat [him] like one.” However, his response to this is to organise one big football game to get the inmates to work together as a team, because this is Riverdale, and Archie’s the all-American boy. Cue a big musical number from the cheerleaders, and some interference from Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and you’ve got some great teen drama.

However, in a neck-breaking change of pace, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) find themselves working together to try and find out who the Gargoyle King is, and why two of their schoolmates were prepared to kill themselves by drinking cyanide and “Blueberry FreshAid” at his request. We’re only two episodes into this season, and already the themes are severely unbalanced – to go from Bughead being chased down by some kind of satanic living sculpture in one scene, to a musical number in the next is crazy, and it just makes it seem as though Riverdale is struggling to find a middle-ground between their edgy, thrilling mystery, and fluffy teen drama.

After finding Dilton (Major Curda) and Ben (Moses Thiessen) dead, and half-dead (respectively) in the woods, Jughead is determined, as always, to try and unravel the mystery that Dilton began to describe to him. And naturally, he wants Betty by his side.

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Speaking of Betty, after last week’s bizarre ending, which saw Betty have a seizure after witnessing Alice (Mädchen Amick) and Polly’s (Mädchen Amick) farm cult activities, a visit to the doctor apparently reveals the cause of the fit to be stress – which definitely seems like a fake diagnosis, but okay. Following the incident, Betty meets Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison) the super shady daughter of cult leader Edgar Evernever, who just so happens to be present when someone else has a seizure later in the episode.

A return to form for Bughead, the duo is once again thrown into the centre of danger for the sake of learning the truth – who said romance was dead? Together, they trudge through the woods, after finding out that Ethel (Shannon Purser) was playing “Griffins and Gargoyles” alongside Dilton and Ben, and with every tiny piece of information that we learn, the whole scenario just gets weirder and more sinister. Whoever this Gargoyle King is, he’s definitely the worst the teens have gone up against, and the more they look into the mysterious man, the more danger they will find themselves in.

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Naturally, the parents of our Riverdale teens are adamant that their children shouldn’t pursue this investigation any further – but is it out of loving parental concern? Not exactly, as it seems that they have a connection to the Gargoyle King and they gather, to put their vast differences aside in order to make sure that their deep dark secret stays buried. We won’t have to wait long to find out what that secret is though, as the flashback episode delving into the parents’ past will be released in a couple of weeks.

VERDICT:

Aside from the whiplash we got from the rapid change of tone, Riverdale is doing well with the mystery and intrigue if nothing else. If the writers can find a way to better blend the different themes, Season 3 could well be Riverdale’s best yet, but until then, the Gargoyle King mystery is enough to keep us interested.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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