Last night, a bunch of ‘90s teens LARPing Dungeons & Dragons got hopped up on Pop Rocks, started a jam band, and worshipped a giant tree god lurking in the high school hallway, possibly getting someone killed in the process. Just another (perfect) day at Riverdale High.
The latest episode of Riverdale, “The Midnight Club,” was a look back at the parents of our beloved Riverdale teens. Back in the generic late-80s/early-90s, they were a bunch of young dream warriors who—“Isn’t it ironic?”—were polar opposite versions of their adult counterparts. That is, until something changed their lives forever. I’m talking, of course, about Gryphons & Gargoyles.
Can I just pause for a second and talk about the fact that the big bad this season revolves around a fantasy roleplaying game? One that’s apparently so addictive, the jocks are playing it in the locker room at school! It’s just about the dumbest thing the series has done so far, but don’t confuse dumb with bad. This whole situation is glorious, and I’m here for every single dice roll.
After the teens—who have spend the past few weeks under Principal Featherhead’s (Anthony Michael Hall) Breakfast Club-style detention—discover a secret copy of Gryphons & Gargoyles, they decide to delve into the super sexy world of tabletop RPGs. The game quickly turns into an obsession, with the teens sneaking into school at night to Live Action Role Play (or LARP) through the game’s many epic quests. But it turns out, they’re not alone! A bunch of other teens, including Hermione’s future hubby Hiram Lodge (played by Mark Consuelos’ actual son), are also taking part. They join forces for a final mission—in more ways than one.
It’s Ascension Day, and all the teens gather for their biggest challenge yet: Drink from a goblet and determine their fate. But not before Hiram Lodge gives everybody some drugged-out fake Pop Rocks, because he’s Hiram Lodge. The teens proceed to get FUBAR’d (that’s still a thing people say, right?)—except for Alice, who’s hiding that she’s pregnant with Betty’s brother. What ensues is a massive, messed-up trip where the teens have descended into Bacchanalian chaos. And, in true Riverdale fashion, it’s given to us as a music video.
This isn’t some goofy promotion: This is what actually happened. The Riverdale parents got high and started a band, jamming to Dokken’s “Dream Warriors,” a song created for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It made me think of that Saved By The Bell episode where it suddenly turned into some weird Behind The Music thing starring Casey Kasem, even down to the band name. That group was Zack Attack, here they’re the Fred Heads. There was nothing about this that did not appeal to the core of my being.
Riverdale is the only show that could get away with things like this, and I am so thankful for that. Much like Legends of Tomorrow, sometimes you need a show that doesn’t limit itself to the conventions of time, space, or normalcy. You want a bunch of 20-somethings playing teen versions of their parents to snort Pop Rocks, LARP at their high school, and start a band. While a demonic tree god watches from the distance, and a principal played by the Breakfast Club legend himself is found rotting in a closet, with blue-tinted lips. Riverdale, you’re a world that will never exist, but you deserve to be here. Righteous.
- I feel like most of the actors did pretty well playing younger versions of their parents, but the Jughead crown has to go to Cole Sprouse. His Skeet Ulrich as FP Jones was spot-on.
- I didn’t want to bum everyone out in the main post by delving into the fucked-up Penelope situation, but holy crap what the hell?! The Blossoms chose her from a line-up of redheaded orphans so she could be Clifford’s sister... and future wife? This adds a whole new level of what-the-fuckery to the whole Blossom situation, and I don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, it’s Riverdale. On the other, it’s profane.
- Alice’s adult narration was bad. I did like how it returned to her and Betty at one point just to remind us how bad it was.
- There were plenty of Easter eggs in the episodes, but my favorite was probably the “Lover/Loser” cast on young FP’s arm. A nice nod to the reboot of Stephen King’s IT.
- I found it weird that all of the parents instantly transformed into tiny versions of their adult selves at the exact same time, after the events of the episode. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said he wanted to see the transformation as they felt like “huge, mythic moments.” I get why this would happen, because the Gryphons & Gargoyles game traumatized them so much, but it felt more like fan service than a realistic response. Then again, as in all things, the best explanation is IT’S RIVERDALE.