This season of Riverdale has been more intense (and more ridiculous) than the previous two seasons combined. So far, there’s been a courtroom display that would make any attorney cringe, major prison corruption, a questionably sexist pep rally, and multiple teen suicides, to name a few recent events, all of which contribute to a growing divide within the town.
Even though Riverdale’s campy nature makes it feel like it exists within a political vacuum where only local and social politics matter, this season’s fictionalized issues parallel real issues facing our country today — a time when activists call for prison reform and women march to be heard — adding a heaviness to the teen drama that we haven’t experienced until now.
This all disappears in “The Midnight Club,” the CW show’s flashback episode about the previous generation's Gryphons and Gargoyles experience airing Wednesday night (November 7). The highly anticipated trip to 1992 offers a welcomed break from this season’s heightened world and delivers a perfectly packaged jaunt back to the town we know and love at a time when we need it the most.
Airing the day after the contentious midterm elections — a battle that left the nation more divided than it had been, with wild cries of a nefarious caravan barreling toward our southern boarder preparing to pillage our entire country (it’s not) being met with fears that rights are being stolen from citizens (well…), all punctuated by urgent pleas to vote (it's important!) — the episode respects our need for a step back from politicking as we come to terms with our new reality for the next two years.
Draped in flannel and oversized specs and brought to life with the soundtrack of your parents’ younger years — and even featuring a cameo from 80’s teen dream Anthony Michael Hall — the Breakfast Club-inspired flashback episode sheds the real-life drama in favor of coloring the backstories we are already familiar with.
Most notably, we get to see the love stories that mirror the Core Four's, with FP and Alice and Fred and Hermione, which is, small-town weirdness aside, a very fun experience. Plus, we gain a new understanding of modern-day Penelope Blossom, Sierra McCoy, Tom Keller, and Hiram Lodge through a glimpse into their pasts, and realize that there may be more similarities between the parents and their children than we initially realized.
Seeing these relationships play out is exciting in itself, but seeing them portrayed by the actors who now play their children (or in Hiram’s case, the actor's real-life son, Michael Consuelos) stamps the episode with Riverdale’s signature light-hearted fun. You can just imagine Luke Perry’s chuckle when he first saw KJ Apa’s deeply furrowed brow or Skeet Ulrich’s proud smile when Cole Sprouse showed off his messily slicked hair, and we already know Mädchen Amick wholeheartedly approved of Lili Reinhart’s dramatic makeup application.
All-in-all, “The Midnight Club” doesn’t bring us any closer to finding out who’s behind the Gargoyle King; it’s an illustration of everything we already know about the town’s repetitive history. But it is an apt reminder of why we all fell in love with Riverdale in the first place, when the town was a simpler place, unburdened by the lunacy of prison fight clubs and a corrupt local government, and a dark family mystery took center stage.
Well, at least until the episode’s final scene.