Be aware! The following review contains spoilers.
When the first episode of Riverdale aired back in 2017, it reminded us of ,some of the best elements of Twin Peaks — the small town, its generations of eccentric inhabitants, the diner, and the body of a well-known teenager found lifeless on the banks of a river — associated with a unique aesthetic. The presence of actress Mädchen Amick in the cast further reinforces this list of similarity between the two series. Unfortunately, just as the writers of Twin Peaks failed to find a new mystery as interesting as the death of Laura Palmer in season two, Riverdale writers were not able to develop a story as engaging as the murder of Jason Blossom.
Perhaps the major flaw of Riverdale‘s third season was the division of a central story into three sub-plots — The Gargoyle King, The Farm, and drug trafficking — which, though related, were not fully developed. Thus, with each episode, a new conflict was presented and, instead of offering concrete answers to the general plot, only added more doubts.
To make matters worse, new characters were introduced in each of these narratives — Kurtz (Jonathan Whitesell), Ricky DeSantos (Nico Bustamante), Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison), Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray), Peaches’ N Cream (Bernadette Beck), and members of Jughead’s family, Gladys Jones (Gina Gershon) and Jellybean Jones (Trinity Likins). There were so many random cases that the body of work is lost, and not even the total of twenty-two episodes was enough for the evolution of the arc of each character.
Of all the subplots, I would say that The Farm was the worst, becoming such an absurd nightmare that some inattentive viewers may forget that it had been related to Polly (Tiera Skovbye) and Jason (Trevor Stines) since the first season. In Chapter Fifty-Two: The Raid, Betty (Lili Reinhart) asks Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch): “Don’t you want to know why Jason wanted to take Polly and runaway to The Farm?” Yes, we all want it! But, the season ends without any hint of an answer to that question. I never thought The Farm would turn out to be an organ farm, but so what?
In Chapter Fifty-Six: The Dark Secret of Harvest House, we saw Polly helping Edgar during a hypnosis session with Betty, pretending to be her evil-half, but what exactly does that mean? Have Polly and Jason been working with The Farm all this time? Some say that Polly would be taking revenge on Alice (Mädchen Amick), who was responsible for leaving her with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy due to her unplanned pregnancy. However, this theory does not explain why Polly acted so cruelly to Betty, the person who was always by her side.
This incoherence leads to the second serious flaw committed by the writers during this season — the characters don’t act as if they were themselves, but as if they were other people.
Archie (K.J. Apa), for instance, looks more like of a collection of different characters than a simple teenager boy — began as a jock who would like to be a singer, became a prisoner, then a fugitive and is now a box fighter. Veronica (Camila Mendes) spent an entire episode lamenting her parents’ divorce, when their relationship has been clearly toxic for more than one season — they both committed adultery and put the other’s life in danger — and she always knew it. But Alice was the most destroyed character — after acting like she had been brainwashed, stealing money from her youngest daughter, abandoning her, selling their home and prioritizing a cult, the last episode of the season reveals she is an FBI informer and been faking all this time to gain Edgar’s confidence and catch him in the act. Seriously? All the murders involving G&G, besides the intense drug trafficking, were not worthy of FBI investigation before? And even if not, why Alice didn’t tell Betty her plan in Chapter Fifty-Three: Jawbreaker, when they were both alone in the bunker? It’s frustrating to watch characters with so much potential being ruined by bad writing.
The references to pop culture that used to be a great part of Veronica’s and Kevin’s (Casey Cott) speeches were lessened during this season, summing up in a terrible musical episode inspired by Heathers, similarities between the jail cell of Hal (Lochlyn Munro) and Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs, “Eye of the Tiger” playing during one of Archie’s training scenes, inspired by Rocky III, and Ethel (Shannon Purser) saying: “Help me, Jughead Jones. You’re my only hope.”, referring to the classic phrase of Princess Leia in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
In this sense, the Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club is undoubtedly the highlight of this season. Inspired by The Breakfast Club, the episode recounts how the involvement of Fred (Perke), FP (Skeet Ulrich), Hermione (Marisol Nichols), Hiram (Mark Consuelos), Sierra (Robin Givens), Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) and Tom (Martin Cummins) with G&G as teenagers led them to become who they are today. The episode gains even more merit by revealing that Penelope was adopted by the Blossoms with the purpose of serving as wife of Clifford (Barclay Hope), a fact that added to the murder of Jason, years later, approached her to the ideals of Black Hood (Lochlyn Munro), culminating in the tense hunt that we watched in the last episode of the season.
It’s also in the season finale that we find out that The Farm kept Jason’s dead body in a wheelchair, but for what reason? And now that Cheryl has brought him back to Thornhill, what will she do with him? There are some theories about the use of necromancy, and from there, a possible crossover with the series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which already shares the same universe of Archie Comics. I believe that the show will only get even more out of control if the supernatural factor is added to its storyline, so it better not happen.
Speaking of the finale, although the Black Hood’s death was confirmed, the plot of The Farm should probably continue next season — where would the farmers have gone to after the ascent? Same goes to the plot of the Gargoyle King — Penelope was last seen as a fugitive and Chic (Hart Denton) is in jail. The only fact is that Chic couldn’t be the first Gargoyle King in Riverdale, since he was not yet born when Principal Featherhead (Anthony Michael Hall) was murdered. Who would have been the first, then? And for what reason?
Hiram, despite having been arrested, appears to be more powerful than ever — commanding his business from his own prison while making life difficult for Hermione and Veronica. Charles (Wyatt Nash), the long gone half-brother of Betty and Jughead, already appears as the newest addition to the cast of next season. Nevertheless, the cliffhanger of the final episode points to a dreadful scenario happening to the main characters during Spring Break — Veronica, Betty and Archie appear bathed in blood, burning incriminating evidence in a fire while Jughead is nowhere to be found.
At this point, hardly anyone bets on the death of Jughead — some because he is the narrator of the series, others because he is a character too beloved to die. Regardless of the reasons, it is worth remembering that this is not the first time the writers made viewers believe that Jug’s life was at risk — the end of Chapter Thirty-Four: Judgment Night has already made us believe that Jughead could be murdered by the hands of Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan). The school used to play an important role in the lives of the characters during the first season, unlike the current season, in which we often forget that the characters were students aged 16-17. It would be interesting to go back to this theme, with their senior year approaching, as long as it’s better developed — unlike Chapter Forty-Five: The Stranger, which addresses the SAT while Archie had just escaped from prison and fought with a bear.
The third season of Riverdale was complete nonsense and all over the place — as if anything could happen, but always in a wrong way. In wanting to solve the problems of an entire season in 40 minutes, the result was a rushed finale, with plot twists that barely offers solutions to previous problems — a mistake that shouldn’t be committed again. The bad writing is constant, giving the impression that the writers are more committed to social media, publishing extra content of the series on their Twitter profiles, than to the screenplay itself. The little motivation to continue following the series comes from the certainty that it can’t get worse than it already is — or does it?