TV Reviews

Riverdale Season 3 Episode 1: Labor Day Review

Last season of Riverdale found itself going back and forth between thoroughly entertaining and excruciating unbearable as many of the lovable aspects of the show were flipped for the sake of brooding drama. Will this season be able to right the ship and stay on the path that the finale set it on? If you would like to read my review of last season, click here. Unlike last year’s detailed recaps of each episode, I’m going to summarize the general storylines of the week and give more of an opinion on them. There’s no way that this could end badly right?

Synopsis:The jury begins deliberations in the murder trial; and Archie makes a surprising request about how he wants to spend his final days of summer. Betty is forced to deal with her problems head-on after a heated confrontation with Alice and Polly brings up some dark secrets she’s kept hidden. Veronica pleads with Hiram to step in and help Archie before a verdict is announced. Finally, Jughead leads the Serpents against the Ghoulies latest attack. (TVGuide)

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Director: Kevin Sullivan

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 45mins

Airs: Wednesdays at 8pm on The CW (United States)

“Labor Day” starts off with Jughead catching us up on how everyone’s summer went. From Veronica’s job at Pop’s to Betty’s internship at Mrs. McCoy’s law firm, they all seemed to have a decent summer. That is until we are hit with the realization that Archie was arrested at the end of last season and he’s been spending his summer on trial for first-degree murder. The judge announces that the jury will reconvene after the Labor Day weekend, giving Archie a potential last weekend of freedom to spend with his loved ones.

Archie decides to spend that time going for a dip with his friends at Sweetwater swimming hole after getting an honorary Serpent tattoo and fatherly advice from FP. Jughead suggests that Archie could run away, but he feels like his past has caught up to him. He feels guilty about all of the violence he has been a part of. Upon returning to the courtroom it’s revealed that the jury is in deadlock and with a potentially expensive and drawn out trial, the prosecution offers two years in a juvenile detention center for manslaughter and Archie takes it. He ends up being carted off to juvie where he will hopefully seek the protection of the Serpents. FYI, the best part of this storyline is when Fred, FP and Tom Keller make a pact to take down Hiram Lodge by any means necessary.

It’s odd to send your protagonist to prison, but most CW shows seem to do that at some point in their run. Instead of dragging out the trial like in The Flash or trying to focus on a ridiculously unrealistic law drama storyline like 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale does it quick and easy. Archie may very well be in juvie for a couple of episodes, maybe even until the midseason finale. It will be interesting to see if any other characters are sent to juvie, purposefully or otherwise, to continue their interaction with Archie or if a new group of characters may arise that relate to the theme of this season.

That theme is evident in the other two storylines of this premiere which seems to be that Riverdale is darker than anyone imagined. Jughead wants to help his friend Archie, but he has to deal with the Ghoulies after they kidnap Hot Dog. After a confrontation with Penny, and a Cheryl arrow to the shoulder of a Ghoulie, Peabody exclaims that the North side is now fair game for their war. This is the lesser of the two darker stories involving Jughead as he stumbles upon a weird Dungeons & Dragons-style board game called Griffins & Gargoyles that resident Boy Scout and Gun Enthusiast Dilton Doiley is obsessed with. After Dilton rambles to Jughead about the Gargoyle King, he goes missing, and Jughead investigates a map left by him that leads to a creepy field where Dilton and another gamer are unconscious and naked in front of a cult-y shrine.

This is where the new antagonist for season three comes into play. Archie’s storyline has an adversary in Hiram Lodge, but he’s always been a character lurking in the shadows. There needs to be some annual murder in this town and after Clifford Blossom and The Black Hood, it seems that the Gargoyle King is the next on this list. With the odd shrine built to this ominous game character, it seems like the dark, supernatural elements of the sister series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are starting to show up in Riverdale.

That brings us to the final and strangest story that revolves around the Coopers in their attempt to become a normal family again. With Polly now home, she tries to convince the family to join The Farm, the commune (cult) that she has been a part of since leaving home. She manages to convince Alice to join, but Betty is dealing with her own demons by faking therapist appointments and self-prescribing Adderall. She awakes one night to find her mother and sister holding Polly’s twins above a fire in some ritual and as they drop the babies they float above the flames and Betty collapses to the ground in a seizure.

This is where the supernatural side of Riverdale is coming out in full force as we are introduced to the mysterious cult of The Farm led by Edgar Evernever (nice name). The addition of two cults now with The Farm and the Gargoyle King shows a turn down a very dark path for the residents of this small-town. They no longer need to worry about serial killers and gang wars because now they have potential demons wreaking havoc on their community. It’s not immediately clear where these themes and this storyline want to go and it’s easy to be both excited and skeptical on how they can continue to ride the line of ridiculous and campy without become too far-fetched. Time will tell.

Questions

  • Will Josie and Sweet Pea’s summer fling become a full fledged romance?
  • Will Hermione intervene and flip on Hiram?
  • How will Veronica get back at her dad for his ‘punishment?’
  • Will someone die in the battle against the Ghoulies?
  • How long until Archie is released?

Overall, this was a good premiere episode. While the storyline jumps between three major arcs that they introduced for this season, they never really dive deep enough into any of them to make an impact worth commenting on. The introduction of these darker themes could flip the world of Riverdale on its head and change the entire tone of the series, but hopefully it plays as an accent to its characters which are what makes this show so entertaining to watch. The moral struggles that each of these teenagers deal with are maturing them beyond their years, but it makes for some damn good television. Hopefully Archie’s time in isolation can help him reevaluate his choices from last season and become that altruistic, music-loving hero we love from season one.

Score: 8.5/10

What did you think of “Labor Day”? Was it a good premiere after last season’s cliffhanger? Let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this, check out my other reviews here and my website! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook.

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