Riverdale season 5, episode 1 recap – “Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: January 21, 2021
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Riverdale season 5, episode 1 recap - "Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax"
Riverdale -- "Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax" -- Image Number: RVD501b_0217r -- Pictured (L-R): Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


“Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” can’t help but feel like a bit of a mess, but it makes the best of an unavoidable issue by throwing cold water on hot relationships and venturing into a snuff film underworld.

This recap of Riverdale season 5, episode 1, “Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax”, contains spoilers.

Riverdale, after having its usual premiere pushed from October to January, is back. And right on time, really, since the painfully serious real world is in urgent need of the kind of soapy, silly escapism that this show so reliably provides. Even though a good chunk of “Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” is spent on lingering plot threads and throwing a bucket of cold water over a couple of central hot-people relationships – the only kind, of course, that Riverdale ever bothers with – there’s still plenty of lurid nonsense to get lost in, including, perhaps most importantly, snuff films.

Yes, the Auteur is still on the loose, and Betty and Jughead – not as happy as one of them thinks, relationship-wise – are still on the trail. The gaudy productions of said antagonist lead them to the kind of local connoisseur that Frank Castle would off in a heartbeat, and then to a really indulgently silly prom sequence in which the whole event is taken over with strobe lights and homemade murder footage – not that anyone, least of all Archie and Veronica, was having that good of a time anyway.

A lot of the pleasure of Riverdale season 5, episode 1 is to be found in Betty and Jughead’s increasingly risqué pursuit of the Auteur, which plays for both comedy and drama and leads “Chapter Seventy-Seven: Climax” into seedier territory. Luckily, Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz are on-hand to be declared co-queens of the prom in a big moment of open-minded, ceiling-shattering acceptance, which at least proves Riverdale still has its representational bonafides in order. This is also, by design as much as coincidence, the healthiest relationship in the episode.

Yes, Betty and Archie locking lips last season has put a bit of a downer on the romance, to be honest, especially when Archie – at prom! – confesses to the dalliance. It might be just as well since both of them have enough going on in their own lives, even if Archie, in particular, doesn’t have a particularly good outing. He tries to distract himself by boxing his way into the naval academy against K.O. Kelly, an import from the now-canceled spin-off Katy Keene, but despite a deeply homoerotic build-up and a Rocky-style split decision against him, Archie still ends up seeming like a bit of a petulant little nitwit. But at least Veronica’s vigilante father Hiram is on the mend, it seems.

Of course, Riverdale season 5, episode 1 is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster thanks to the dreaded influence of Covid-19, and in light of that the whole affair, dedicated as it is to tying up old narrative threads, hangs together pretty well. There’s no denying that this is just the right time for heaps of the kind of unfettered escapism that Riverdale reliably provides so that obviously helps, but everyone seems to be having a good time regardless. Why not join them?

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