season 1 came out of nowhere and quickly became one of TV's best guilty pleasures. It was dark, moody but peppered with some surprisingly deep moments, ultimately though it was a fun soap opera. The season 2 premiere, entitled "Kiss Before Dying," is the exact opposite of fun. Picking up directly after season 1's possibly fatal cliffhanger, season 2 opens not with a murder, but a possible one, as Fred Andrew's death hangs in the balance.
How to Grieve and Look Flawless Doing It
"Kiss Before Dying" might not be easy viewing but it's definitely an attention-grabbing. The premiere starts off with a bang (literally) and doesn't let up. Following the shooting at the hands of the mysterious man, Archie rushes his bleeding dad to the hospital. In a great sequence every major Riverdale character gets the news and converges to gather around Archie.
There's not a whole lot in the way of plot movement, it's just a lot of collective grief. This grief does, however, facilitate some great performances, especially from K.J. Apa (for obvious reasons) and Camila Mendes (for less obvious reasons). While most of Archie's friends flock to his side like a fish to water, Veronica feels out of place. She wants to be there for Archie but she can't figure out how to do it.
Mendes has always been Riverdale's not-so-secret weapon, taking a character who could be incredibly one-note and imbuing with her humanity. "Kiss Before Dying" is a shining example of why Veronica is one of, if not the best, character on the show. Most of the grief about Fred is filtered through Veronica, who keeps trying to make the situation better while feeling on the outside. This ends up being a very helpful viewpoint as the audience is more of an outsider to Archie's sorrow than Veronica.
Who Shot Fred?
It also helps that Veronica being the focal point helps things lead nicely into the second half of the shooting, the mystery of the supposed killer. As Fred lies unconscious having dreams of Archie's life and future (which further underlines the paranoia that he might not make it), the gang determines that this wasn't a simple shooting. When Archie and Veronica discover that Fred's wallet has been taken, they become convinced. This was a hit and Veronica is sure her father, Hiram, is behind it.
As Hermione Lodge prays in the hospital chapel, Veronica comes up behind her mother. Veronica asks if Hermione is praying for Fred's survival or his easy death. This is Veronica's "subtle" (and incredibly bad-ass) way of asking if Hermione ordered the hit on Mr. Andrews. Veronica's growing discontent with her criminal parents was one of the most intriguing elements left on the table in season 1 and right away Riverdale jumps back into it. The whole series could be devoted to the Lodge family and it would be fascinating.
While Hermione expertly dodges the question, and tells Veronica she needs to get back in line with her parents, the list of suspects grows. Betty (and Alice) Cooper wonder if the Southside Serpents could behind it. Meanwhile, Jughead, who admits that his new connection to the Serpents is something he's "trying out," uses the gang to figure out if they can find Fred's shooter. (The effort comes up dry, which only causes more suspicion.)
Cheryl Takes Charge
While all this is going on, the hospital gets another parental patient. Cheryl Blossom sweeps in with her ever present slow-motion walk. Cheryl reveals that following the big fire at Thorn Hill (which Cheryl herself set) her mother got caught in the blaze. Penelope Blossom is alive but covered in burns.
Cheryl takes advantage of her mother's vulnerable position to inform her that everything is going to change. Cheryl say that her mother was abusive and terrible to her but now Cheryl is in charge. Nothing will happen without Cheryl's say so, or Cheryl will tell the cops what "really happened" to her father. (Everyone who knew Cliff didn't commit suicide, pat yourself on the back.)
This whole daughter blackmail thing is over-the-top but so deliciously soapy at the same time. It's perfect. Cheryl might very well be insane and in need of serious help, but every instance of her melodramatic nature is pure TV gold.
The Angel of Death Returns
By the end of the premiere things do start to fizzle out. Fred makes it out of his coma and although Archie resolves to never let his father get shot again, Fred informs Archie that he "came back" to protect his son. It's not the other way around. Veronica goes home to find her terrifying father (whose arrival is worth the incredibly long wait) and twists the knife that Fred survived. Hermione and Hiram's reactions are perfectly nondescript. Jughead and Betty reassure each other that they will work through their new romantic obstacles.
It looks like a happy ending all around, even though Archie is SEVERELY traumatized by the day's events. Riverdale is saving the juicy story meat for the very last moment. Across town we discover that pedophile musician extraordinaire, Ms. Grundy, is back to her old tricks. She's teaching kids and sticking her tongue down their throats. (Although Grundy's new victim is no way near as hunky as Archie.)
Ms. Grundy doesn't have long to ruin this new kid's life, however. As her latest victim leaves her house, Grundy is attacked ... by the same hooded man who shot Fred Andrews or at least it appears to be that way. The man puts a knife to Grundy's neck and apparently cuts it wide open. Grundy is dead.
Evidently, Riverdale has traded in a child murderer for a serial killer. Unless that's exactly what Fred's real attacker wants people to think. Is it strange or just plain wrong to be excited about this?
What did you think of the killer cliffhanger? Is Grundy's murder actually related to Fred's shooting? Do you think Hiram Lodge is behind it all? What did you think of his entrance?
(Image courtesy of The CW)