Riverdale is back, and cheesier than ever

Image courtesy of the CW Network

What do you get when you blend over the top acting, sexy twenty-something-year-olds playing teens, and more out-of-nowhere musical numbers than a standard Glee episode?

You get Riverdale; a dark re-imagining of the Archie Comics that follows Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), and his pals Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) as they try to solve a new mystery each season.

The show has held strong for three seasons since its debut in 2017 despite the endless criticism it gets for its script, wooden performances, and just its bizarre existence in pop culture in general - even Saturday Night Live had a Riverdale skit.

To put it simply: Riverdale is trash. But its my trash. It’s my ultimate guilty pleasure; its an hour of my week where my brain can shut off and I can watch Betty turn into Nancy Drew and Archie and Veronica have some inappropriately timed sex (Like the time they had shower sex about ten minutes after Archie’s dad was shot!)

With the fourth season looming, I thought it would be an opportune time to look back one of the show’s infamous and worst rated episodes so far, which is currently averaging a 4.2/10 rating on IMDb, sure to be filled with as much cheesy, soap opera performances and teen angst as I remember.

Season 03, Episode 16: “Big Fun” (4.2 Rating).

“Big Fun” is season three’s big musical episode (based on Heathers: The Musical) and gives Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) some much needed screen time after spending most of the series in the background. Kevin’s arc focuses on his indoctrination into a cult called the Farm, the main antagonists of season three, and “Big Fun” lets Cott show off his terrific vocal range.

That’s probably the only thing going for the episode unfortunately. The performances are mediocre, even compared to last season’s musical. Most likely because of network regulations, lyrics to certain numbers have been altered, and consequently ‘Candy Store’ performed by the Heathers is excruciating to watch. Even more so, Vanessa Morgan’s rendition of ‘Dead Girl Walking’ as Toni Topaz is simply the worst and too over-dramatic, even by Riverdale’s standards.

The episode also takes a weird turn when Betty investigates the Farm and finds Kevin and his love interest Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner) in the middle of a ritual, performing ‘Our Love is God’. Meanwhile, Jughead finds the drug lab his mother is running in their old home and Cheryl and Toni couple up again after the shortest breakup ever (so many storylines!).

“Big Fun” does end on an admittedly creepy note. The musical ends with ‘Seventeen’ and a standing ovation, including the first appearance of Edgar Evernever, the leader of the Farm (played by One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray) as well as his followers. It’s a decent cliff-hanger for a show filled with so many of them and transitions season three into the next six episodes where the story really ramps up and we finally get some answers to a couple of our big questions: Just what is the Farm’s ultimate goal? Will Jughead stop his mother’s drug trade? Will we get even more auto-tuned musical ballads?!

Despite this episode, Riverdale season three is actually a fun watch – big fun, even! It’s an improvement over season two’s mafia storyline and feels like a return to form, focusing more on a more focussed singular murder mystery similar to season one. Its difficult to binge watch a show like this, because there’s a lot of plot threads and there’s only so much teen soap opera you can take.

Yet here’s the thing that’s great about Riverdale: It’s meant to be a guilty pleasure. The over-the-top acting, cheesy dialogue and random plotlines that seem to come out of nowhere (including – but not limited to – a Dungeons and Dragons style game that lead to dozens of students having seizures) are orchestrated purposefully to be this cringe-inducing.

Its complete absurdity generates social media attention and some pretty stellar memes on Twitter. It’s actually great publicity because the cast themselves join in on the fun too; they know its silly. Moreover, the cast and crew have so much fun making Riverdale, it makes the show more enjoyable to watch. There’s an added quality to certain shows when the cast have such authentic chemistry that isn’t forced, and Riverdale is one of those shows.

Season four intends on tying up the loose ends from the season three finale but the premiere episode will be in honour of Luke Perry, who played Archie’s father Fred Andrews and who unfortunately passed away on March 4, 2019 from a stroke. The Riverdale cast and crew have assured fans that the episode will be a lovely tribute Fred’s character as well as Perry himself.

Riverdale season four premieres on Thursday, October 10, 2019 on Netflix UK.