Riverdale Movie companion: Quid Pro Quo

5:24:00 AM

Riverdale Season two finale recap, Jughead

In these last two episodes, Riverdale went all out nineties baby, paying homage to two of my favorite movies of the decade. For the first one, all the signs were already pointing in that direction long before Jug paid the price for the sins of his father. I was dreading it, and with a swift kick to my stomach and many more for poor Jug, Riverdale went all out with the Derek and Danny drama.
It was a straight line, from the Outsiders to Rumble Fish, the car revved up and made his way down the canyon, into the dark abyss of American History X. Of course, It was always there, the insidious dark undercurrent, the very unsafe water in the 'River' part.  This is a show about a bunch of kids dealing with the sins of those who came before. Kids themselves edging on that cliff, one part in heaven, one part going straight to hell.
Alright, American History X, strangely looking back, Tony Kaye wanted to have his name taken off his debut film, Edward Norton himself was involved with the final cut. If you ever saw it, I am sure you're thinking about that one horrifying scene, named one of the 5 most horrendous things ever put on film, but let's recap the rest. It follows Norton as Derek, just released from prison, back In Venice California, trying to hold back his little brother Danny from going all out Nazi, like Derek was, before getting arrested for killing two black men who wanted to steal his car.
Danny, played by Edward Furlong, adores Derek, so much that he does Mein Kampf as a school project. His punishment from the principle is to write about his big brother, a story Danny calls American History X. Initially they get off very lightly these two. The race relationships in this movie are simplistic, I have a problem with how the circle of violence starts when the father was killed by a black man, and ends by an act of violence perpetrated by a black man. It could be seen as an excuse, victimizing Derek. On the other side, it's another black man, Principle Sweeney that helps both Derek and Danny and gets through to them. There's too much justification of their behavior, absolving a lot of people whose hate is born out of ignorance and sense of inferiority, but apart from that, the movie is a blistering one.
Derek tries to save his brother soul, getting into his teenage skull that hate and violence only incite more violence. Norton performance is one of the best I've ever seen. His eyes burn, burn, burn. And Fairuza Balk is fantastic as Danny very fervent skinhead girlfriend. The movie conveys the pack mentality of a skinhead group, the rules, the infighting, power struggles very convincingly. And the inevitability of it; once you are in it, well not to go all Godfather on you, but you thought you were out, and they'll keep pulling you back in.
When Derek finally makes a breakthrough with his brother, it's already too late. Danny gets gunned in down in the bathroom of his school, leaving Derek clutching his lifeless body, crying out in grief, frustration, and regret.

Now I am not comparing the Serpents with skinheads. But it's a pack.  And the trajectory in Riverdale was the same. FP Jones sinned, FP went to prison, FP got out, tried to change is life, but his son was already much deeper with the Serpents that FP would have wanted. FP is ready to give up, steer away, release his son from the burden, only it's too late, FP couldn't stop the rollicking vengeance of Penny and her Ghoulies, resulting in him walking out with Jug's body beaten to a pulp.
But hey, this is Riverdale, and Jug Jones fares a whole lot better than Danny, he recovers with just a few scratches and is crowned King of the Serpents, the first order of business handing out that flame red Serpent jacket to Cheryl.
(PS FP walking out was of also very similar Daryl walking out with Beth, but I don't want to think about that).
Now for the finale. Riverdale had one last great homage in petto. This one was shot by shot. Betty, 'I'm supposed to be this great detective', feels a sudden urge to visit her psychopathic dad. Walks into a cavernous room—where was this? And sees Hal standing in the middle of his cell, a glass partition dividing them. And Clarice tells the story about the lambs. No, wait, Betty tells her father he no longer has a hold on her, while he insists that Betty can't escape the darkness inside.
Read this article on Jonathan Demme use of the POV shot and why this scene is so compelling. It's filmed just so, that the barrier, between Clarice and Hannibal Lecter, a glass one, seems to dissolve and they seem to be standing face to face. Breathing on each other. Clarice in the clutches of a cannibal.

You know this is not just one scene, after this season it's evident that Riverdale doesn't just mess around with movie history, it uses what came before to point forward. Putting Hal and Betty face to face like Lecter and Clarice can only mean that Betty will be back to visit her father. That she will need his advice. And worse than that, that Hal might be able to escape.
Isn't that something to look forward to.

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