Riverdale season 2: Five questions we have after episode 17

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This week’s episode of Riverdale was another twisting and turning instalment of the quirky teen drama that gives us a lot to ponder.

We saw the Blossoms at each other’s’ throats, the Coopers’ crime come to light, and Archie seemingly enlisting his friends as mob enforcers – it’s an intense time to live in Riverdale.

Here’s my piece on the seventeenth episode of Riverdale season 2, The Noose Tightens, which was the last one for a couple of weeks.

It was a nice reprieve, to be honest – the weekly Riverdale article was becoming increasingly frustrating. I’m basically fond of the show, but it was going through a rough patch, and these “five questions we have after” articles are not the most mentally stimulating to write. (Which isn’t a knock on the format, incidentally; I think a big part of why I struggled with them is because I didn’t know how to write them well. Listicle type things are a skill unto themselves, I reckon.)

Anyway! Hope you enjoy this piece.

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Jamestown and the dynamics of power

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Focusing, as the series does, primarily on three female characters, it’s interesting to note how the series examines gendered portrayals of power. When the series debuted last year, a common critique of Jamestown was that its depiction of women was ahistorical – that, largely speaking, portraying the female characters exercising their own agency was inaccurate. Fealty to history aside, it’s worth noting that that’s not really the point; as with any historical drama, Jamestown is much more about the present than it is the past, depicting as it does still relevant concerns about patriarchal power structures. 

This examination of power and gender is most obvious through the character Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick), a widow who refuses to remarry, and gets increasingly involved with the political machinations of the colony. Marriage, in Jamestown, is an explicit microcosm of the wider confines of the patriarchy; Jocelyn refuses to be “owned, possessed, confined, or determined by wedlock”, in turn arguably exercising the most agency of any character on the programme. Notably, the opening of the final episode draws an implicit parallel between Jocelyn and Governor Yeardley (Jason Flemyng), the ultimate authority at the colony – both dressed in shades of blue, atop their horses, at this point the pair are near equals.

An article I was actually very pleased with, on a show I quite enjoyed. This was actually prompted, in a couple of roundabout ways and in a few more direct ways, by some interviews I did with the cast of Jamestown. I watched the very first episode of Jamestown when it was broadcast, and admittedly didn’t quite like it; there was a sexual assault scene about halfway through, which I was rather dubious of, so I didn’t continue with the show.

However! Ahead of the second series, I was invited to watch a screening of the premiere and interview the cast. I wasn’t going to turn that down, especially since it was going to be the first interview I ever conducted in person, so off I went into London (getting horrendously, embarrassingly lost in the process) for that. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed that episode, and the cast were all lovely – I stuck with the show, having more or less decided on writing this article already, and also having promised Ben Starr I’d write it.

And so, this is the article I ended up with. Meant to tweet it to them all but never did (though Max Beesley, who I didn’t interview but is on the show, came across it independently and said it was great, which was nice) – I’ll try and remember to before the third series.

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Riverdale Season 2: Where is Cheryl? Who is Chic’s true father?

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Another exciting installment of Riverdale gave us some more twists and turns to ponder on this week. No doubt, the next few episodes will have a lot to deal with. 

Where is Cheryl? Who is Chic’s true father? Will Archie and Veronica see what Hiram is really up to? Things are getting increasingly complex for the residents of Riverdale, and they show no sign of relenting any time soon. Here are five questions we need answered after episode 16, Primary Colours.

Oh, this is an odd one. Obviously, because Riverdale is an America show, the episode is called Primary Colors – but I really can’t bring myself to call it anything but Primary Colours.

That’s not actually an especially fun fact, is it? Ah well. It can be difficult to write these litttle bits of commentary for each individual episode, especially since they blur together so much. Looking back, I can’t even remember who Chic’s real father turned out to be.

Anyway, this piece talks about Cheryl’s whereabouts after a mysterious cliffhanger, speculates about the truth behind Chic’s parents, and ponders whether or not Veronica actually understands any of what her family is doing. (It was very inconsistent, and one of the things that annoyed me most over the course of the season.)

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Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after episode 15

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This week’s episode of Riverdale was a pretty momentous one, with some big revelations that’ll change the course of the show – we now know just what Hiram Lodge is up to, and what his plans are for the town. But where we go from here is anyone’s guess – and that leaves us with a lot of questions. 

Just who is Chic? What does Claudius’ return mean? Will Archie ever be the same again? Here are five questions we need answered after episode 15, There Will Be Blood.

Questions about Riverdale!

I feel like I need to make some sort of comment on each of these posts, vis a vis Riverdale, my thoughts on it, and my relationship with it. I suspect, admittedly, I do not have 22 different such thoughts for each of the episodic posts I’ve written about Riverdale.

But, you know, if you want to ask me questions about the show or anything, feel free to get in touch?

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In season 2, Jessica Jones became more of a superhero show – but that’s not exactly a good thing

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No, Kilgrave – and, indeed, the first season of Jessica Jones as a whole – worked because there was a certain truth to him. The character served as part of Jessica Jones’ exploration of rape culture, of pervasive and insidious attitudes that can be observed in real life. A lot of the drama and tension comes from the fact that audiences are familiar with him, and those like him, both on a diegetic and extra-diegetic level; there’s something recognisable about Kilgrave, something that maps onto real life experiences.

Across season 2, we follow our eponymous hero as she’s drawn deeper and deeper into a convoluted conspiracy, uncovering information about the shady organisation that are responsible for her powers. It’s something that Jessica Jones isn’t particularly well suited to: the conspiracy angle is weak, and the return of a key character from Jessica’s past marks a genre shift that the show can’t sustain. In essence, it’s because little of this is analogous to real experiences. A huge amount of the strength of Jessica Jones previously came from its ability to use the trappings of the superhero genre to tell a story about trauma and surviving abuse; here, it’s weighed down by old tropes and familiar archetypes. Where the fantasy angle of Kilgrave’s powers was used to great effect to tell a story about genuine human experiences, that’s not the case in season 2.

Very heavy spoilers for Jessica Jones series 2 here, particularly after episode six – wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve seen the whole season, personally.

Not sure I quite got this article right – often the way when you’re writing quickly to meet a deadline, moreso after having binge-watched something. (One day, I should write about my growing disdain for binge-watching television programmes. It’s often a necessary evil of my job – gotta get the clicks within the optimal search hours – but I do think that television criticism, and actually in a broader sense television viewing, suffers from binge-watching.)

Anyway, though, this article. It perhaps might have been better titled “Jessica Jones loses sight of human experiences”, or words to that effect. In short, my feelings are that the best parts of Jessica Jones season 1 were the moments when it was least like a superhero show – when it reflected real life, even if only in an allegorical sense. The fact that it’s increasingly like a fairly over-the-top and convoluted superhero show in S2 was a bit disappointing – it felt like a genre shift in a show that didn’t need one. (Again, I have fairly complex thoughts on “superhero” as a genre definition, but that’s for another time.)

Still! I hope you like this article – or, if not the article itself, at least the basic gist of the ideas that are going on within it. Let me know in the comments below what you think!

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Writer Cavan Scott on Pacific Rim: Aftermath, ordinary people in extraordinary worlds, and more

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I’m massively influenced by comic books, no matter what I’m writing. As I said, when I was starting to read as a kid, they were pretty much what I first read, rather than books, rather than prose. Also, anyone who knows my past, knows that I’m quite heavily linked to Doctor Who, and Doctor Who has been a massive influence on my storytelling. From the classic series of the last century, that’s all episodic cliffhanger based storytelling – which again works very well for comics, yeah, and the kind of books that I write as well. [The books] are usually thriller based, both for adults and kids, and very much [shaped around] cliffhangers. At the end of every chapter there is a cliffhanger – it hopefully keeps you reading on! I have to thank Doctor Who for that, because at such an early age [it was] so influential.

Had a very nice chat with Cavan Scott recently about Pacific Rim, visual storytelling, and of course Doctor Who. Cavan is a very nice guy, whose voice was much deeper than I expected it to be. Though that might just have been our phone connection. Anyway, check it out!

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Collateral is an intimate drama fascinated by individuals and sceptical of institutions

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What’s interesting about Collateral, of course, is that it’s very pointedly not a whodunnit. It spends very little time dwelling on questions of the murder’s identity, revealing this roughly halfway through the second episode; instead, Collateral unfolds from both directions, focused on questions of how and why rather than who. At each turn, the show avoids leaning into any simplistic formulae – it’s consistently something more interesting.

I went back and forth a lot over whether or not that title needed a comma after “drama”. Still not sure. Also, come to think of it, the inclusion of “intimate” full stop. I suspect I’ve come to overuse that word.

Anyway, here’s a piece on a show I really really enjoyed, but no one has really seemed to be talking about much. It also, entertainingly, fairly neatly highlights the problems with how I’ve broken down the television genres on the blog, given that this is tagged as a “crime drama” and I open the piece by talking about all the ways it’s not exactly that.

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Riverdale Season 2: Five things we need to know after The Hills Have Eyes, which was a particularly odd episode

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After a few weeks off because of the Olympics, we’re back to the town with pep. In this episode of the quirky teen drama, the gang went on holiday, Cheryl had an emotional moment, and there was a lengthy advert for showrunner Greg Berlanti’s new film Love, Simon

As ever, we’ve got a lot of questions after this week’s episode of Riverdale – is Betty in danger because of Chic? What is Hiram Lodge doing? Will Riverdale ever be the same again? Here’s everything we need to know about The Hills Have Eyes, the 14th episode of Riverdale’s second season.

At this point, these are mostly just exercises in snark. Which is fun, I guess.

Also, my gosh, wasn’t the Love, Simon advert in this one ridiculous? Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty pro Love, Simon – I’ve not seen it, but I enjoyed the book a lot, and it seems like a fun and important movie for all the obvious reasons. But, oh man, the product placement here was insane. I’m not sure if I’m affronted or impressed by the way they took it and made it pivotal to Cheryl’s character development.

Of course, this is also the one where they went to a cabin in the woods for a weird sex holiday, which apparently is going to be pivotal to the season 3 plot, so maybe the Love, Simon advert isn’t the most important thing. It’s an odd show, is Riverdale.

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The problem with poor pacing, and increasingly overlong television

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Having a more flexible runtime makes sense – generally speaking, the traditional forty-five-ish minute slot for a drama or the twenty-five-ish minute slot for comedy are fairly arbitrary ideas imposed by the demands of advertisers rather than anything else. There’s nothing inherent to the stories that dictate they hold this structure, so the opportunity to be a little bit more malleable and adaptable can be worth pursuing.

Yet it’s debatable whether this approach is really effective, and whether the freedom that’s been allowed has ultimately been a good thing. There’s an argument to be made that, over the past few years, it’s led to a slew of poorly paced television series; slow and plodding, not using their runtime effectively. It’s not so much that a serial has to be filled with incident, but that there’s a sense that not every minute has to be earned in the way that perhaps it used to be – in turn leading to more meandering, more superfluous storytelling.

This article brought to you by the hour I spent watching the first episode of Seven Seconds, though could just have easily been brought to you by the interminable thirteen hours spent on Jessica Jones series 2.

A while ago, I changed up my approach with how I write about television; I decided, basically, that I was only going to write about a show when I’d seen the entire thing. Just a different way of looking at it, taking the series more holistically basically, and a way to stop myself getting too complacent – after a while, I figure I’ll probably switch it up again.

But anyway, this led to a lot of Netflix binge-watching, which was always frustrating – with the above Seven Seconds, ten episodes totalled around eleven hours entirely (there was one episode which was seventy-five minutes long, which is pretty much never necessary) and it worked out that if I watched all ten episodes, then spent another three hours or so writing an article on the show, my final pay would work out as less than minimum wage. Which I was not wholly impressed by. So I wrote this article about why TV episodes are too long instead. Though admittedly I’d probably mind less if I was paid more. So, you know.

(Some months later, a more well established TV critic, the name of whom escapes me, wrote something similar titled something to the effect of “overly long episodes are the TV equivalent of manspreading”, which is a much better title than mine. Made me laugh, anyway.)

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Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett on the sound of Blade Runner 2049, their creative process and more

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When we work on a film, and Ron can speak on this, we’re always responding to the audience in the moment, as you do when you watch a movie as audiences do. We were marinated, so to speak, in the original Blade Runner but each thing was new. We approached each day, each scene, as a new thing.

Another interview I was very pleased with here – Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, sound mixers on Blade Runner 2049. Very funny guys, they have some good jokes in here.

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