This post contains spoilers for Riverdale.
Check out last week's review here.
When Riverdale’s flashback episode was announced at this year’s SDCC, fan’s couldn’t wait for the chance to dig into the stories of the show’s parents. While some may be more popular than others, the writers have consistently done a good job giving the adults as much intrigue as the kids. “The Midnight Club” gave them a chance to merge the two, with the younger generation of stars taking on the roles of their parents (to uncanny accuracy). What they came up with was both an exceptional watch and startlingly sad.
Alice Cooper recants the tale of the older generation of Riverdale stumbling upon the fabled Griffins & Gargoyles to Betty after their loose-lipped coroner friend reveals a little bit more than she’d like to her daughter. It all started when a bad girl, a rebelling catholic, a hall monitor, an artist, a jock, and an activist ended up in detention. Each one of them was experiencing one heartbreak or another at the time. Kids are often forced to grow up way faster than they should have to in Riverdale, and it seems it’s not limited to the present generation.
As a matter of fact, the problems their parents faced back in their high school days make Riverdale’s main cast look like a bunch of wimps. Their problems vary in severity, but among them are Sierra and Tom Keller’s forbidden interracial relationship, and Penelope Cooper literally being bought from the orphanage to be a sister and then wife to Clifford Blossom. No wonder almost every parent within the Riverdale city limits is a monster. Their kids are running around whining about murders when they had to deal with some real shit back in the day!
All the kids had a past, and all of them needed an escape. Enter Griffins & Gargoyles, and all of the creepy that came with it. The game formed a bond between the misfits, resulting in their relationships living much longer than their four-week detention as they got deeper and deeper into their mythical world. Then things got bloodier than they intended.
In one of their midnight missions to Riverdale High, the kids have an ascension party. At this point, their group has joined forces with another. Each Game Master believes that the other set the party up, but it turns out the party was provided by a mysterious third party. As the kids go deeper into the game (and deeper into their pop-rock induced highs), Alice breaks off from the group. She was pregnant with her and FP’s first child, and elected to abstain from the drugs, but the Gargoyle King still needed her to flip for her fate.
The bad girl flees from her nightmare bathroom scene to almost run into the school’s principal, Mr. Featherhead. After she manages to avoid a being caught and the lifetime sentence of detention that would follow, Alice leaves the school and her friends to their game. Principle Featherhead, on the other hand, wouldn’t leave Riverdale High alive.
Featherhead’s tragic death results in the kids dismantling G&G and taking a vow of silence. None of them know who kills the principle, but each of them believe it was a member of one of their respective parties. With the Midnight Club dissolved, each member goes their own way. They survived the Gargoyle King’s reign, and that survival is exactly what makes “The Midnight Club” so tragic.
In the present day, the Gargoyle King has already claimed two victims in a short period of time. At face value, the creature only managed to take one life back in the day. But was it really just one? Each member of the Midnight Club survives. Thank god, because Riverdale wouldn’t be the same without them, but surviving is all they did. Every single one of them gave up a critical piece of themselves in exchange for that survival, only to grow up shadows of who they were.
That sounds dramatic when you consider that everyone becomes a different person than who they were as a child, but what the Midnight Club gave up was a bit different, wasn’t it? Alice gave up her identity, Hermione her beliefs, Penelope her autonomy, Sierra her love, Fred his passion, and FP his future. They all sacrificed a part of themselves to the Gargoyle King, and perhaps that’s why he gave up so easily back in their time.
Or, perhaps it’s a Scooby-Doo situation, and there really is just another psycho running around the town waiting to off people. But then what of the obsession? The feral need to play the game that comes after several rounds leans a little bit more supernatural than Riverdale has in the past. Couple that with the whole Farm situation and there’s a long list of questions just waiting to be answered.
“The Midnight Club” forwards the story, but it’s also perfect as a surprisingly tragic stand-alone. It’s filled with shout-outs, from The Breakfast Club screaming at you every turn all the way to FP’s subtler “LoVer” cast. The context it provides for the behavior of the parents of Riverdale is jarring, and it makes you root for every single one of those jerks in the most complicated kind of way.
It’s back to the present next week, where we’ll have to deal with Jughead’s idiot decision to continue playing the game, and dragging the Serpents into his terrible plan. In his defense, the whole “the game gets stronger the more you play it” thing is new, but come on, Jug! You’re the smart one. In the meantime, let’s just bask in the glory of this week’s episode. Head down to the comments if you have thoughts!