Riverdale season 5, episode 1 review: The beginning of the end

Riverdale -- "Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax" -- Image Number: RVD501b_0410r -- Pictured (L-R): Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Riverdale -- "Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax" -- Image Number: RVD501b_0410r -- Pictured (L-R): Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Riverdale season 5 made its debut on screens and fans were left in shock by the premiere episode. But was “Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” worth the near year-long wait?

Riverdale season 5 has been off screens for nearly a year but the beloved CW TV series finally returned to screens this week with a pretty monumental premiere episode – and that’s a victory in itself because it wasn’t initially written as a premiere episode.

“Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” saw the gang of Riverdale High finally get to enjoy one night of their high school experience like actual high school students. With that, Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, Kevin Keller, Cheryl Blossom, Fangs Fogarty, Toni Topaz and Reggie Mantle all celebrated Prom Night.

Of course, this is Riverdale we’re talking about, so literally nothing went how it was supposed to. As we’ve seen on the show before, there are pros and cons to that approach. For this premiere, however, it did mostly lean in the pro direction. Whether it will stay there remains to be seen.

What happened in the Riverdale season 5 premiere?

Prom Night is a major milestone of the high school journey that students often look forward to ahead of graduation. For the students of Riverdale High, it was probably the only chance to enjoy some semblance of normality before they all finally leave that bizarre little town. That couldn’t happen, however, as horror unfolded (duh, am I right?) when the auteur – the videotape stalker that has been filming the town residents for the whole of season 4 – struck and unveiled a snuff film in the middle of the dance.

This was so undeniably Riverdale because all of the nameless side character students randomly decided to dance it out to the rave music when someone was apparently being killed in the footage while all of the not-so-nameless important characters recognized the importance of the situation to such an extent that they stared at it for a considerably long time before actually doing anything about it.

Nevertheless, the prom itself was wonderfully executed, nailing that inexplicably nostalgic feeling of the dance that would have made SmallvilleGossip GirlThe Vampire Diaries and just about every other teen show ever made so darn proud. And seeing Betty and Jughead, Archie and Veronica, Cheryl and Toni and Fangs and Kevin dancing together brought the biggest smile to this writer’s face.

Heartbreak hotel

The long-standing reasoning behind Betty and Archie’s controversial affair-that-wasn’t was finally addressed in the Riverdale season 5 premiere as Archie finally came clean to Veronica about what happened. This was a long overdue moment of honesty that was welcome because, in order for “Varchie” to flourish in the way that they once did, the truth had to come out.

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What wasn’t welcome, however, was Archie’s sudden indifference to his girlfriend. Yes, being a teenager is a confusing time in your life, and yes, Varchie is headed for the breaks ahead of the time-jump, but realistically, there was nothing in play before the season 5 premiere to suggest that Archie was feeling this way about his relationship.

Of course, this could all be down to his indifference to life right now because his loss to Katy Keene‘s KO Kelly and refusal to confront his uncertainty does go hand-in-hand with that, but other than the sudden kiss with Betty, there was nothing to suggest he’d grown a little confused about his relationship with Ronnie.

If you’re going to go there, fine – it will make the pair’s reunion seven years down the line all the more powerful – but it needs to be believable. Unfortunately, just like Archie and Betty’s random romantic reunion, none of this felt earned.

An impromptu premiere with promise

“Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” was originally meant to serve as the twentieth episode in Riverdale‘s fourth season. Obviously, we know that didn’t happen because of the way things worked out for the world in 2020, but the point is that it wasn’t intended to be a season premiere. And yet, all things considered, it did a pretty fine job of being one.

The episode successfully reintroduced us to the show’s current status quo, with the mystery of the auteur playing a central role. This not only reminded us of how threatening the baddie could be, it actually increased the tension really well as the mysterious villain began changing his shtick at the worst time for Betty and Jughead, making the investigation that much trickier for the pair.

Furthermore, in spite of the issues with Archie’s behavior, having him address the kiss-that-missed at the very least shook up that status quo early on and allowed the show to address that angle so that it can finally move on from it.

You know what else worked well? Giving Toni a storyline outside of Thistle House. It was refreshing to see her struggle with her grandmother’s hatred towards the Blossoms (even if it did feel like she would have at least had an inkling by now) and, in a few short scenes, Vanessa Morgan showcased why we need to see more of this going forward.

Riverdale Ramblings

  • Camila Mendes was stunning. Everyone brought their A-Game in the premiere, but her performance stood out in a sea of strong ones.
  • Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones are made for each other and their cure little pre-Prom scene was the perfect example of that.
  • Cheryl and Toni taking those crowns like the KWEENS that they are!
  • Considering they are now both series regulars, Kevin and Fangs deserved a little more screen-time.
  • Riverdale went from “let’s enjoy Prom” to “let’s make a snuff film” really fast.
  • I do still feel like the events tend to move a little too quickly. Maybe it’s the ambitious plotlines or the execution of them but it often feels like everything just happens really fast and there isn’t enough time to deal with the aftermath or the consequences of them.
  • BEST LINE OF THE EPISODE: “Why do all of our high school dances end up like a Jamie Lee Curtis movie?” – Jughead Jones spilling the facts.
  • Riverdale providing the world with the wacky escapism we all need right now. For that, I can say with all my heart: Welcome back!

Riverdale. S5E1. Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax. B. <em>Riverdale</em> ensured that its return was worth the wait with a premiere episode that, though flawed, did a great job of setting up what could be the show’s most intriguing season.

Next. 10 questions Riverdale season 5 must answer. dark

What did you think of the Riverdale season 5 premiere? Are you excited that the show has returned? Are you looking forward to that illusive time-jump? What do you think will happen in the show’s upcoming fifth season? Let us know in the comments below!