“Our story continues…“
These are the first words spoken in the second season of Riverdale. The season picks up only short, agonising moments after Archie Andrews’ father is shot by a masked thug at Pop’s Chock’lit Shop.
Archie (who Jughead notes to not even have a license yet) makes his first appearance in this episode by driving his father’s pickup truck frantically (and haphazardly) through town to get him to the hospital. Miraculously, they make it in one piece just as Fred loses consciousness. The doctors rush Fred into surgery and tell Archie to wait outside. The junior Andrews feels helpless, but complies anyway.
At the Cooper household, Betty and her mother, Alice, begin to argue about the former’s steamy hook-up with Jughead at the end of season one. Alice calls out Jughead’s new ‘allegiances’ to the Southside Serpents, adamant that the boy will follow in his father’s criminal footsteps. Before Betty can even get a word in, she gets a phone call from Archie.
Things are going even worse for Veronica and her mother Hermione as the younger walks in with breakfast: a chocolate almond croissant and a mimosa made from a bottle of Cristal champagne intended to celebrate her father’s release from prison. Things begin to boil over, but like Betty before her, Veronica gets an abrupt phone call.
Soon, everyone from the Cooper family, the Lodge women and Jughead have arrived to support Archie. A tender group hug and spine-chilling recount of the shooting later, Alice and Hermione come from the reception to inform Archie that his father is in surgery and that his mother should hear about what happened. The support Archie is receiving from everyone is overwhelming, but crumbles away when Alice accuses the Southside Serpents (and indirectly Jughead’s father, FP) of having something to do with Fred’s injuries. Jughead reminds Alice that FP is in jail and for Archie’s sake, everyone stops the questioning.
After Archie calls his mother, Sheriff Keller arrives to question him on what happened. Questions between the Sheriff, Archie and Jughead fly about, except for one haunting speculation:
What if robbery wasn’t the motive? What if it was an attempt on Fred Andrew’s life?
And with that terrifying possibility out in the open, the interview ends.
The scene cuts to Veronica confiding in Betty about her wanting to help Archie, but being worried that she isn’t good enough at comforting people. The two girls reach an uneasy agreement as Archie and Jughead come back, wondering if one of the Southside Serpents Fred laid off may have been responsible for the attack. Jughead promises to look around and leaves.
Meanwhile, Fred is out of surgery, is having problems breathing without support. Discouraged, Archie goes home with Veronica and takes his dog Vegas for a walk, reminiscing on the day he first got him. He solidifies his love for the dog, but remembers that Fred loves Vegas
even more. Veronica begins to tear up and the two console each other on the pier.
Meanwhile, Jughead meets up with two Serpents for help in tracking down Fred’s would-be killer. The two men agree to “knock some heads” and get back to him later.
Another scene cut to the Andrews house, where Archie is showering off all the blood and grime from the shooting, while a downcast Veronica talks to him through the bathroom door. Archie goes quiet for a while, until Veronica to walks in and strips down and joins him in the shower…
While Veronica and Archie get it on, Kevin discreetly questions her on her ‘almost’ first time with Jughead, which Betty dejectedly admits didn’t happen. Their conversation is soon interrupted by the arrival of Cheryl Blossom and her mother, the latter strapped to a hospital bed and covered in bandages. According to Cheryl, her mother Penelope attempted to save her from a blaze at Thornhill Mansion, but received third degree burns and smoke inhalation doing so.
Not an hour after Archie and Veronica’s shower hook-up, the couple have already fallen into a post-coitus argument by the realization that Fred’s wallet is missing. Archie’s concern is understandable, since everything important to his father is within that wallet, but he ends up taking his frustration out on Veronica and tells her to leave. Fortunately, the latter sees through his sadness and stands her ground, just as Archie breaks down in her arms.
Back at the hospital, Veronica arrives to tell Betty and Jughead about Fred’s missing wallet. Jughead still believes the wallet going missing could have been premeditated to make the shooting look like a robbery when the actual goal was Fred’s murder. He and Betty leave for Pop’s, while Veronica confronts her mother in the hospital chapel. She asks Hermione if she is praying for Fred’s recovery or asking for him to die, adamant that she suspects her to be involved with Fred’s shooting. Hermione dodges the question and reminds Veronica that neither she nor her father, Hiram will tolerate any ‘disrespect’.
Betty and Jughead finally arrive at Pop’s Chock’lit Shop in time to see Pops cleaning up after the robbery. Visibly shaken, he reveals that the shooter didn’t take any money at all (confirming Jughead’s theory on a murder attempt) and that there was something mysterious and frightening about the shooter, saying it was “like the Angel of Death had come to Riverdale”. The man treats them to some food while Betty questions Jughead’s new relationship with the Serpents. Jughead argues that his alignment with them is to mend the rift left by his father’s incarceration, but Betty refuses to let the matter go.
After an impromptu hospital dinner, Archie finally confesses to his friends what’s been bothering him so much. He admits
that during the robbery, the shooter had scared him to the point of inaction and submission, damning himself for being a ‘coward’. After his confession, Archie leaves for his dad’s hospital room, just as the latter finally wakes up.
Jughead rides back home, only to be greeted by the two Serpents beating a man tied to a chair in the middle of his lounge room, a show to demonstrate their fraternal ‘loyalty’ to Jughead. Just when the boy thought he could leave, the Serpents’ life has pulled him right back in…
Back at the Lodge penthouse, Veronica is greeted by her newly-released father, Hiram Lodge. Following an ominous conversation, Veronica announces that Fred has awoken, leaving Hiram seemingly shaken by the news.
Meanwhile in Greendale, Riverdale’s sister town, Geraldine Grundy is up to her usual predator tricks. Fresh from her break-up with Archie, the woman has taken on a new beau, another high school student named Ben. After a long piano playing/leering session with the boy, Ben leaves Grundy’s house, just as the latter notices her front window’s been left open. But before the woman can do anything about it, an unknown assailant comes up from behind her and chokes her with a cello bow, brutally murdering her.
The killer steps back into the light and it is none other than Fred’s attacker. Riverdale’s Angel of Death has claimed another victim…
Well, the showrunners of Riverdale promised us a much darker season two and they certainly delivered!
The drama was at an all-time high this episode, with props to KJ Apa (Archie Andrews) and Luke Perry (Fred Andrews) for their emotional performances this episode. The showrunners did their part too, doing an excellent job setting up the players and character conflicts for the season ahead, from Archie’s trauma and self-doubt to the family in-fighting foreshadowed among the Lodges’.
Then there’s the Angel of Death stalking the town, attacking two people close to Archie’s heart. Is he just a psychopath out for blood? Or is he out for Archie’s?
My only criticisms for this episode was the extensive assessment of Jughead and Betty’s relationship and the Archie x Veronica shower scene. The conflict between Betty and Jughead was palpable, but could have been dealt with in fewer scenes and still been left to simmer for the next few episodes.
Archie and Veronica go well together, but not in a blood-ridden shower. His dad was shot? Washing off his blood? Emotionally wrecked? What better time to have a quick smash with the new girl? Anytime would have been better…
This episode was fittingly titled ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ and with all the dark chaos this episode, whatever was left of Riverdale’s former glory is now certainly dead and buried.
I give this episode 4.5/5 stars.