Riverdale is back for a fifth season and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa won’t let us breathe. This intricately plotted season premiere includes a high-stakes boxing bout, a prom that doesn’t exactly go to plan, and ancestral beef interfering with the course of true love. Oh, and if you’re never heard of a snuff film before, you’ll be well versed by the end of the episode.
Archie (KJ Apa) spends most of the episode sweating, shirtless, or both – hey, this is Riverdale – but our hero doesn’t have much to smile about. Still unsure of his future, he’s applied to the Naval Academy, but needs to beat Katy Keene’s boyfriend KO Kelly (Zane Holtz) in the boxing ring to secure his place. Archie outlasts KO in a pre-bout fitness contest, but can’t overcome his 50lb weight deficit in the ring. The decision goes to KO on points, and though the Naval Academy Commandant tells Archie to “stay in touch”, he appears to have put his seafaring dreams behind him.
Meanwhile, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) are playing detectives. The mysterious menace known as “the Auteur” has sent them another creepy video, but this time he’s raised his game. The Auteur’s latest masterpiece shows a group of people in Archie gang masks enacting the murder of Mr. Honey, which is extra-freaky because Jughead imagined this exact scenario in his short story. But, Jughead wonders, how could the Auteur have possibly known about his story?
The trail of clues leads Jughead and Betty to David (Kett Turton), somewhat sinister manager of the Blue Velvet video store. In order to gain entry to David’s underground movie club, where they’re convinced they’ll find the Auteur, they’re told to bring him a snuff film – a black market movie where someone is actually killed. Their fake snuff film starring Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) in a wig and Reggie (Charles Melton) in a gimp outfit doesn’t convince David, but Betty has an ace up her sleeve: a grimly fascinating home movie of her serial killer dad, the Black Hood, as a kid. They’re in!
Cheryl has more pressing problems than a dodgy wig. Though she and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) get to reign over prom as Riverdale High’s “first ever openly gay Royal family”, their relationship appears to be on the rocks. Toni tells Cheryl after prom that her grandmother has forbidden their romance not because they’re gay, but because Cheryl’s ruthless family screwed over Toni’s relatives in the past. Toni promises to work on her nana, but it doesn’t look good.
Before Prom, Betty and Jughead make it to the underground film club, which is really a rave with x-rated movies playing in every room. They spot someone in an owl mask who might be the Auteur, but before they can get to them, they bump into Jughead’s little sister Jellybean, who’s really much too young to be there. This distraction gives the Auteur – or whoever it was – time to get away. But the Auteur has no intention of lying low and proceeds to disrupt Prom with a new video showing people in Archie gang masks stabbing someone named David: has the Auteur just killed the video store guy?
Prom also proves disruptive for Archie’s relationship with Ronnie (Camila Mendes). When she tells Archie she wants to defer college so she can spend another year with him in Riverdale, he decides to come clean. A romantic song he wrote that Ronnie found in his wastepaper bin, then performed at the speakeasy earlier in the episode, was actually inspired by Archie’s brief frisson with Betty. Back home after prom, Ronnie sobs into her mother’s lap. Her dad Hiram (Mark Consuelos) walks in just in time to hear that it’s all Archie’s fault. Given Hiram’s predilection for protecting his own, Archie better watch his back. Riverdale season 5 episode 1 ends with Archie finding a video on his doorstep. It’s a reenactment of the Black Hood putting a gun to his head. It doesn’t look as though he’s going to be smiling again any time soon.
Did you notice?
- Does Senior Prom have a low-key ’90s theme? It’s never mentioned, but we do hear a couple of ’90s classics playing: ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None The Richer and ‘Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star.
- KO Kelly’s appearance is obviously a cute crossover with Riverdale spin-off series Katy Keene, in which Zane Holtz is a main cast member.
- Oh, and KO Kelly doesn’t just have a 50lb weight advantage over Archie; in real life, 34-year-old Holtz is a full 11 years older than 23-year-old Apa. This could only happen in a US high school series.