‘Riverdale’ (Season 2): How Far is Too Far?

With each episode of Riverdale, I have a single question on my mind at all times: When will this show go too far? This is a show that is all about taking the blandest, most innocent piece of Americana in comics and injecting darkness in it. So far, that’s been a plus, creating a deliciously trashy show that still manages to be engaging, whether you know anything about Archie history or not.

However, the question persists, as the show chases more and more ridiculous dark depths, can it cross over to the point where it’s too much? Where it’s twisting Archie iconography just for the sake of twisting it? Already this season, a song by The Archies has been turned into a party drug and a classic superhero imprint into a vigilante gang of teenagers. And while these are more minor references, on the whole, it feels like the second season is going all in taking the characters to even darker depths.

There’s no clearer way to see the depths the characters are sinking to than to just look at the show’s core four; across the board, the slight darkness imbued in each character is being intensified. For Jughead, a connection to the south side of town is evolving into full-on Serpent membership. Though he initially does so to try and keep the peace, the growing fissures with his friends is making it just seem like an inevitable outcome.

For Veronica, meanwhile, her troubled past is coming back to haunt her, both in terms of past bad decisions and the return of her scheming father Hiram. And then there’s Betty, who’s inability to turn a mystery down has led to her ongoing torture at the hands of the Black Hood (or, more likely, a copycat).

But there’s no clearer character barreling down a dark road this season than Archie Andrews himself. In season one, the show made a point of why it was called Riverdale and not Archie; though he was at the center of this group of friends, Archie was frequently the least interesting character in the show. Sure, he was ripped and sleeping with a teacher, but he was still the most “normal” character, a bit on the bland side even.

This season, though, Archie’s reaction to his father’s shooting has sent him off the deep end. Instead of working on his fledgling musical career, he’s keeping all-night watch over his house, starting a private army, and waving a gun around. Sure, he dumped a lot of that stuff in last week’s episode, but it’s clear that the writers are planning to take the character on a journey this season, and a fairly grim one at that.

Which brings me back to that original question. At this point, I don’t think the show has gone too far, pushing darkness for darkness’ sake. At the very least, it’s tipping closer to that line, but it’s getting by thanks to committed performances from the main cast and fairly self-aware writing. Honestly, as long as we keep getting great scenes like the Pussycats beating up an attempted rapist, I think the show will be just fine.