REVIEWED: SEASON 3 (EPISODES 1 - 10) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX UK
The third season of Riverdale sees the show moving further from the ensemble feeling of the first, continuing a trend which really started in the middle of the second. It's unfortunate, because the development of ‘Cherry Bombshell’ Cheryl Blossom as a character has been a source of some of the show's best one-liners and sheer craziness. When Cheryl paired up with the Serpents, after Toni Topaz helped rescue her from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy in The Noose Tightens, it seemed as though the pairing of her and Toni (Choni, natch) would become the third leg, solidifying the sometimes-shaky reliance on the Betty / Jughead (Bughead) and Veronica / Archie (Varchie) pairings.
After the excellent second season episode, Tales from the Darkside, which saw a trio of interweaving stories told from the perspectives of Archie and Jughead, Josie and Cheryl, and Betty and Veronica, it seems that the show is slowly but surely turning into the Bughead and Varchie show. It seems that the Cheryl and Toni pairing is only brought onscreen for some madcap antics in order to remind the viewer that they exist.
It's a damned shame, because this season has otherwise seen some highlights. The development of the Riverdale version of Dungeons & Dragons – Griffons & Gargoyles – has allowed the show a solid basis for going way out there in its third season. That's really necessary, because Archie being thrown into the very-cleverly named Leopold and Loeb Juvenile Detention Centre at the start of the season really led to some seriously dragging moments.
KJ Apa is a fine actor, and doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for his note-perfect American accent, but he's best when playing off characters with a little more energy and verve. The bunch of sullen teens locked up with him – the Serpents' Joaquin notwithstanding – really don't give him much to do, so Archie's inevitable escape definitely perks things up during the fifth episode, The Great Escape.
Griffons & Gargoyles is – hopefully, hopefully, hopefully – a way to maybe tie the show into the Netflix spin-off, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The whole story behind it has been hinted at, especially in the excellent '90s throwback episode strangely featuring '80s music that was The Midnight Club, which showed viewers that the game's at least been around since the gang's parents were in high school. Still, it's unclear as to whether or not it's actually supernatural, or just a way for some hidden figure to manipulate everything behind a curtain of secrecy.
Given the way things are working out, it seems like this season might end up in a really culty place. There's already been the children locked up at Quiet Mercy, all playing G&G, and being taken to see the Gargoyle King. Then, we have the appearance of a masked gang of Gargoyles who do the King's bidding. Finally though, take, for instance, the fact that there are increasingly-frequent references to Edgar Evernever and The Farm, up to and including the appearance of his daughter, Everlyn (played with disturbingly guileless innocence by Orphan Black's Zoé De Grand Maison): Betty's mom Alice took all of Betty's savings and gave them to The Farm.
We're wagering cold hard cash that Edgar will end up being the Gargoyle King, and that revelation will end up being the season's big to-do, much as Hal Cooper's reveal as the Black Hood and Jason Blossom's murderer being his father, Clifford, were. How we get there is anybody's guess, but the journey should be crazy enough to keep watching through to episode 22.