By Bryce Cross

Teens usually spend their time with friends, shopping, playing video games or going to the beach. This is not the case with those in Riverdale. These kids have more pressing matters: new mysteries to uncover in their deceptive little town of lies, blood and so much drama. The season two premiere, titled “Chapter Fourteen: A Kiss Before Dying” is one of the series’ densest episodes yet.

“Riverdale” picks up immediately where season one left off with Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) watching in horror as his father is shot by a masked gunman in Pop’s.

What follows is what you’d normally expect. We follow a grief stricken and panicked Archie who is barely managing to keep himself together as his father’s fate is up in the air. While that element, along with Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) battling for life, are more than enough to pad out the episode, the premiere instead moves at a breakneck pace. It’s maybe even faster than we’ve come to expect from the show.

As each character – Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) – is called to the hospital to check in on Archie, each of them quickly separates to deal with their own little drama-stuffed side plots. Betty grows worried that Jughead may take his father’s place in the Southside Serpent gang, whereas Veronica wants to comfort Archie but suspects her own mother may have put a hit out on her boyfriend’s dad.

Veronica brings down the episode a bit in a scene where she inexplicably decides that steamy shower sex is the best thing to cheer Archie up after his father was shot. That moment had me laughing in disbelief, but hey, CW has to keep their ratings up somehow.

However, the later confrontation between Veronica and her mother was unbelievably tense and one of the best scenes of the episode. The more Veronica implies her mother is involved in the scandalous dealings of her father’s company, the more chilling and cruel Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) seems to become.

The seeds for this season’s new mysteries are planted as everyone’s favorite (and my least favorite) head cheerleader Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) returns in epic fashion. She remains eerie as ever, lying about how her house burnt down and how her mother really ended up in the hospital.

Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos), having been mentioned all throughout season one, finally appears as well, with a terrifying look of malice across his face. From seeing just how calm and collected he is despite his daughter constantly causing trouble for him, it becomes clear he and Mrs. Lodge may be this season’s big bads that put Veronica and her friends in their places.

Luckily, Fred Andrews survives his ordeal, but both Andrews men are left affected. Fred is haunted by his visions of the gunman going after his son, and Archie remains concerned that the gunman may be after everyone closest to him. We’re barely given time to wonder who the masked assailant could be before the show reveals Miss Grundy, the predatory music teacher, settling down and immediately getting her throat sliced by the gunman.

Riverdale’s season two premiere had everything viewers loved about the first season. The mysteries, drama and aesthetic were all there, refined and dialed up to 11, but the episode was jam-packed with so much story as well. While that has proven all well and good in the previous 13 episode season, let’s hope it slows down to give this new batch of 22 episodes a bit more room to breathe.

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