Now that Betchen (Bo and Gretchen) have gotten the Steven Universe happy big gay wedding out of the way, it’s time to jump into the action of “Reunited.” No, we don’t mean Garnet’s honeymoon. Or, maybe this still counts? We feel like Garnet might like a good fight on her honeymoon. Or to roleplay as Lonesome Lasso and Sally Mae. Anyway, we’re getting off topic. On to…
The Return 2: Electric Boogablue
There were many hopes for this episode and the return of Blue and Yellow Diamond to Earth. Would Lapis return? Lars and the Off-Colors? Jasper? Would we see new fusions? Would one of the Diamonds beat Alexandrite down like Thanos does Hulk in Infinity War?
Not all of this happened, but what did happen exceeded our expectations and then some. “Reunited” was the culmination of 5 seasons of this wonderful show. The Crewniverse put so much effort into building up this moment; Steven Universe as a whole is a master class in foreshadowing, and this battle fully showcased the team’s skill in that regard. With all the hard work out of the way leading up to it, they could give us a rip-roaring final fight stuffed to the gills with surprises and badass moments. With all the foundation laid down, the Crewniverse was able to deliver triumph after triumph and it was amazing. The fusion known as Betchen is pretty damn satisfied with everything that went down.
Like any good fight scene, the fight against the Diamonds gave each of our cast of characters from the Crystal Gems (both A and B team) an epic closing moment on the arcs built since their first appearances. Garnet stood up to Blue Diamond, who she first formed in front of. Peridot stood up to Yellow Diamond again and tossed soda cans with reckless abandon. Lapis returned to throw a barn and declare herself a Crystal Gem (so much more about this later). Connie launched herself right into the action. Bismuth got to fight alongside her friends, who all used the modifications she used to her weapons. Bismuth also got to throw Peridot at Blue’s face. #goals, amirite?
As little as single sentences closed entire books on the incredible character arcs they’ve all been through in satisfying ways. How amazing was Pearl’s, “I do it for me!” after all this time? That’s right, Pearl, you Diamond-seducing boss. Even Lion and Greg got in on the action. Well, Greg tried anyway. To be honest, they should have just let Greg at Blue. This all could have been solved quicker with the signature Universe charm.
And Lapis. LAPIS. (Yeah, you know Lapis is going to get her due with Gretchen involved in this discussion.) She’s going to save most of it for an in-depth essay about her continued healing arc, but there’s still plenty to say. Starting with: damn does she know how to make an entrance!
Before the “deus ex Lazuli” comments start, can we take a moment to appreciate how well foreshadowed Lapis’ return was? We know she was watching the Crystal Gems (and Peridot in particular); it’s entirely possible that the red and blue flowers that wash up on the beach after Garnet re-forms are a gift from her to let them know she’s watching (Gretchen likes to think so). We also know that she’s considered returning but didn’t know how to control her fear. So really, her arrival shouldn’t have come as a surprise nor is it really a ‘deus ex machina’—which implies that that the heroes literally could not do anything to save themselves without outside intervention, which we know wasn’t true.
Lapis helped turn the tide, but Steven delivered the final blow (more on that in a second). More than that, this was culmination of her seasons’ long journey through healing from her trauma and fear. She willingly destroyed the home she had taken all the way to the moon in order to help save her friends. You know what that is? That’s growth.
More than any show we know of, adult programming included, Steven Universe has hammered home again and again that one choice never ultimately defines someone. Rather, it’s the sum of and directionality of one’s choices that make people who they are. Mistakes happen along the way. Healing isn’t linear. Continued upward progress matters more than tiny steps backward or the occasional plateau. Choices and behavior always have a context, and turning a complex issue into a black and white matter of 100% good or evil when the reality is gray only hurts people. That applies equally to Rose, to Steven, to Bismuth, and to Lapis.
Lapis’ final choice doesn’t magically transform her into a good person that she wasn’t before she came back. She’s been on this trajectory since the end of season one. Proudly declaring herself to be a Crystal Gem is the culmination of several seasons’ worth of unpacking and processing her trauma, not a single defining moment disconnected from everything that went before. This choices was as much a product of her previous choices as it was a different one.
She needed space (*snort* gotta love the literal pun there) to think about and solidify her feelings about Earth and the Gems. She needed to face her fears on her own, to learn how to cope with them and control how she engaged with them.Like Ruby, she needed to find herself and what her story meant alone before coming back and joining the team for herself. If she hadn’t done that, she wouldn’t have been so strong and fierce as her own individual person. And damn was our girl, fierce.
Only someone who has learned healthy ways of coping with her own depression can stand up to an onslaught of manipulative grief. Blue weaponized her pain and Lapis said, “Not our pain to bear, back off.” And that’s an equally important message as Steven’s compassion. Empathy has limits, especially when the other person seeks to burden you with their own pain in an unhealthy way. Yes, Blue was in pain. Her grief was valid. And, it wasn’t her place to make everyone else suffer because of her hurt. Extending compassion to someone in pain isn’t the same thing as them trying to make you suffer the way they are. Lapis showed us that.
At the same time, and best of all, this final fight completely validated and rewarded the choices Steven has made in the name of love, sympathy, and compassion. Even if we take the boundaries into account. Every mistake, every low point, and every moment of self-doubt this poor kid has persevered through was proven to be worth it. He learned, listened, and loved his way to this confrontation, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.
Because “Reunited” was also the culmination of Steven’s arc. All his friends came together, driven by his faith and love for them, to stop the greatest threat they’ve ever faced. Who expected the Cluster to return at all here, let alone fully in control and on Steven’s side? Everyone jumped to his defense without a second thought. They did so because Steven has earned their love and trust. How? By first extending love, trust, and compassion to others. Steven Universe as a show and him as a character have always promoted the importance and benefits of kindness, compassion, understanding, and healing, and now we saw how those choices and themes rewarded Steven.
The segment in the mind-ghost space (sure, go with it) was the perfect way to ultimately end the fight while also giving Steven arguably his biggest moment of peace over violence. How fitting that he ends the fight not by beating the Diamonds physically, but by literally breaking through the layers of grief Yellow and Blue built up over thousands of years? Even against the most dangerous threat he has ever faced, he went with his first instinct of healing and reconciliation. Damn if it didn’t work. Of course it did. Steven’s a miracle worker.
This was also his shining, climactic moment with his friends. Here’s where “For Just One Day Let’s Only Think About Love” continues to be a perfect tone setter for the entire episode. We talked in the first half of our review about Steven’s role as emotional support for the Crystal Gems, and he took this role to its greatest level yet within the mind-ghost space. He lifted everyone’s flagging spirits when they most needed him to. He bolstered them against the fear and doubts beginning to creep in.
Speaking of,“For Just One Day Let’s Only Think About Love” also framed the battle between the Crystal Gems and the Diamonds as one between love and hate, joy and pain, happiness and sorrow, fear and hope. Their conflict was not decided because one side or the other was physically stronger. It was decided because one side was stronger in the real way. After 5 seasons of minor conflicts in the battle between hope and doubt, hope won out.
We’ve seen fans try to attribute Steven’s power to Pink Diamond. We won’t pretend there’s no validity to it, or at least to aspects of it. Awareness of the mind space seemed to be a Diamond-only power. Blue and Yellow did stop fighting only after recognizing Pink Diamond’s aura. But we still hold firm that Steven has unlocked and developed these powers not because of her, but because of himself and the influences in his life. He deserves the majority of the credit. The rest goes to Greg. Greg was the one who raised Steven to be this way.
Rose/Pink had a lot of curiosity about Earth, but she wasn’t exactly empathetic. Knowing exactly how to encourage others to be their best selves and keep fighting isn’t a gem power. Intuiting exactly what people need to hear, and then saying it, isn’t either. Rose may have been excited about diversity and uniqueness, but she didn’t really set out to help anyone be their best selves. Or go out of her way to love and show compassion to them when they weren’t or challenge them to be better than their worst instincts. That’s all human, which just makes Steven that much more powerful as a character because some of his greatest ‘weapons’ are ones we can access, too. We can all be like Steven, and some of the greatest battles we’ll ever fight in our personal and political lives could do with some Steven-ing up.
Pink/Rose chose their way, and it was a way of war and violence. We’re not saying the Crystal Gems were in the wrong. Sometimes you have to choose the hard, violent way in the face of the most extreme subjugation. Rose ultimately fought for the right reasons and had good intentions. Those were still her choices and her instincts, and they almost always oppose the choices Steven makes. We wonder how many times we have to see Steven choose the opposite of his mother before we stop attributing the good in him to her.
Steven has now done what Rose would have thought impossible: he ended fighting with the Diamonds through peaceful means.
So what happens now? You mean other than Lapis and Peridot getting their Crystal Gem Stars?
Great question. A lot of fans have talked like it’s all over. Steven added two more giant women to the mom collection and now it’s on to a White Diamond conflict. We have to disagree. Oh, we have no doubt Blue and Yellow will eventually come to love Steven just like everyone else. Right now, though, that’s not at all what happened. Right now they are happy to have “Pink” back, and it’s a matter of how they deal both with learning Steven isn’t truly Pink and that he isn’t leaving Earth.
There is also a lot of emotional navigation ahead to truly overcome the mistakes of the Rebellion and the grief that followed. We still have thousands of bubbled gems who were corrupted by the Diamonds’ attack on Earth. And what about all the other Cluster experiments, or even the Cluster itself? Don’t you think it’s worth dealing with the horrors the Diamonds were willing to accept as part of their ‘grieving process’? Plus, we have a whole ship full of Off-Colors and Lars headed toward Earth, Gems who were oppressed and marginalized on Homeworld. The caste system that kept Gems like them in hiding still hasn’t been abolished. It’s safe to say there’s plenty to dig into even if the Diamonds no longer wish to destroy Earth.
There are critics who dislike the entire idea of Diamond redemption, regardless of how it happens. We understand. You have to be careful when navigating redemption arcs regarding vicious, oppressive tyrants. Lean one way and you excuse and justify their actions. Lean the other and you don’t actually give a good reason for them to switch sides. It’s definitely a delicate balance. Can the Diamonds actually come to Steven’s side without it feeling forced or insensitive to their crimes?
Can we at least see how it plays out before we denounce the entire thing, though?
The promo for the next episode already gives us reason to rethink what we know about the Diamonds. If they didn’t know their attack corrupted gem life on Earth, it raises questions about a lot of other things. Why did the attack corrupt the gems then? Did White Diamond do it? Was Rose’s shield responsible? How will Blue and Yellow feel about what they did to those gems? Combined with “Pink’s” survival, this may be just the catalyst for them to truly reflect on gem culture as a whole and perhaps seek to change it.
Now that it’s clear corruption will be the focus of Steven Universe’s immediate future (three cheers for Centipeedle returning!), undoing that damage may be the first step towards Blue and Yellow atoning as best they can for their actions so far. We’ve seen the show handle unintentional damage to others from good intentions in the past. Why not take on unintended casualties and damage when the intent truly was to hurt, just not in this way? And why not, as part of that process, dig into the ways that those who have done that damage can participate in reconciliation and healing?
We have an idea of how that might go, if Steven Universe chooses to go in that direction. The Diamonds were the only ones aware of the mind space, and we think it likely will use this space to heal the corrupted gems, or at least to help with the healing if they have any idea how. There’s obviously a limit to how much the Crystal Gems or the audience can forgive the Diamonds. They have thousands of years of ruling a fascist empire under their belts. They’ve committed war crimes and atrocities they can never really be forgiven for.
But does that eliminate any possibility of them turning their lives around? We hope not. Steven Universe prides itself on trying to reach everyone. It’s trying to teach lessons of love and peace to kids. Fiction is full of stories where bad people find a better way. Shouldn’t we at least keep our minds open to the Diamonds being able to do the same? If they can’t be reached, the show will deal with that later.
Or maybe the Crewniverse will settle them into some middle ground between ally and foe. Full ‘redemption’ and unrepentant villain aren’t the options. It’s not unreasonable to think, at least in the short term, that Blue and Yellow can both continue life as they have while also agreeing to leave Earth alone out of love for Pink. This dynamic could even open up more complicated stories around the idea of family you love yet have complicated relationships with because of bad things about them. We can all sympathize with that these days.
Whatever the case, the Crewniverse deserves a chance to try. Considering how well they handle everything else they’ve done, we’re both very optimistic.
- The visual styling of the Cluster with its ‘muscles’ made it looked like a skinned human arm, which sounds gross, but was actually quite beautiful.
- Yellow and the Cluster arm wrestled. The Crewniverse did that. Before you wonder, it was absolutely foreshadowed. Remember the arm wrestling arcade game?
- Peridot throwing cans at Blue and screaming “fight me” was the epitome of angry smol.
- We salute the proud tradition (dating all the way back to “Laser Light Canon” 1×02) of yeeting the angry smol at the enemy.
- So many pop culture references we can’t even name them all, but we loved it.
- That moment where everyone helps Steven hold the shield to protect them all from Blue’s attack? That’s what being a Crystal Gem is all about.
- Dewey x Jaime? Who would have seen that ship coming!
- Greg saved Cat Steven!
- Our response after seeing the promo: CENTIPEEDLE. CENTIPEEDLE. CENTIPEEDLE.
- Yet another Diamond appearance without so much as a hint about White Diamond. If they go through an episode discussing the corruption attack without mentioning her, then something very strange is going on. The Crewniverse will have a trick up their sleeve regarding White.
Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network
When Does Hiatus Kill a Fandom?
As I sit down to write this, Steven Universe is on day 111 since the last time a new episode released. That puts it squarely in third place among Steven Universe hiatuses, with a near certainty that it will tack on the couple weeks necessary to move into second place. To make things even more frustrating, the most recent episode, “Legs From Here to Homeworld,” has still yet to air on TV. Tack on another 14 days since “Reunited” aired, and it has been 125 days since Cartoon Network has shown a new episode of Steven Universe.
A look at the various hiatuses quickly reveals a more disheartening trend: the abandonment of anything resembling a regular schedule for the show. Since the massive Steven Nuke airing almost all of season 3 over the course of one month, new episodes have been reduced to irregular, unpredictable spurts of 1-5 episodes that come and go far too soon. They’re usually grouped together in clear story arcs, but not always. In a couple examples, one or two episodes would come and go with no idea when the next was to arrive. We have no idea when these episodes will air and usually receive little warning before they do.
Any fan of this wonderful show can tell you how common these hiatuses have become. We’ve grown used to the frustration of irregular airing schedules. We take our dose of content, watch it wear off quickly, and wait impatiently for more.
I’ve typically handled these hiatuses calmly. I lament the lack of a regular schedule as much as anyone. Steven Universe is one of the best shows currently airing and I always want more of it. Still, I tend to accept the hiatuses because I know they’ll be worth it. When we do get new episodes, I lean more towards gratitude than frustration. The frustration is always there, but SU tends to always be good enough for me to place it on the backburner.
Except now I’m not so sure. I can’t explain why this particular hiatus threatens to finally sever my patience with the show. However, I can’t deny that it is. For the first time, I’m wondering if it’s all worth it. The constant uncertainty has worn me down. I’ll most definitely be there when the next batch of episodes air. After that? I truly cannot say for certain. I don’t know if I want to bother with yet another long wait for another 1-5 episodes followed by yet another long wait.
Long waits are hard enough. Long waits filled with intense uncertainty about the future might just be too much. I don’t know if I can invest any more energy on this show and this fandom if things don’t change.
Uncertainty stands behind the real frustration with Steven Universe and any other property like it that stresses a fandom to the breaking point. After all, every show eventually has long waits between episodes. 8 months or more typically pass between seasons. Years pass between books in a series. A video game sequel will take 5 or more years these days, and you know that going in. So long as the prerequisite updates and trailers let us know the process continues, we accept the wait.
The problem with Steven Universe comes from knowing little to nothing. We don’t know that the new season will start in 8 months. New episodes could release next week and we might only find out three days beforehand. We have no idea where the Crewniverse is in producing these episodes, no idea how many might be ready, and no idea when Cartoon Network will air them or why they currently won’t. Sometimes a voice actor will mention recording for episodes far ahead of the most recent episode, or post a photo on Instagram or Twitter mentioning recording sessions with unexpected cast members. Or maybe a storyboarder will hint at their progress. That’s all the hint we get.
I know it seems petty to talk about how this affects the fans. I mean, if we’re so frustrated, I can’t imagine how it feels for the people actually working on the show. They’re the ones dealing with our constant questions sometimes crossing over into harassment. When’s it going to be done? How far are you? When do we get new episodes? What’s going on? I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel joy in creating a product, only to have the fans badger you and sap the joy from the process. Not to mention that they sometimes have no idea why the scheduling occurs like it does, or will be told one thing only for the higher-ups to do something else.
I’m not going to pretend this frustration doesn’t exist, though. Uncertain hiatuses have an inevitable way of sapping the joy from us and leaving only bitterness. When you’ve analyzed everything about a new episode/season, gone back through previous seasons to do the same, created all the new memes you can and rehashed all the classics, what’s left? All that remains is impatience breeding frustration breeding bitterness.
The Steven Universe fandom has a somewhat earned reputation as a crappy fandom. Online bullying incidents leave a sour taste, and the most controversial topics of the story often devolve into personal insults. You quickly learn what topics to avoid among the SU fandom. Every seeming misstep has a portion of fans flocking to dismiss the entire show, whether there was truly a misstep or not. Impatience leaves fans dismissing entire plotlines from the beginning rather than giving the Crewniverse any benefit of the doubt.
While there’s an element of the toxicity that can’t be written off as hiatus-related, there’s no doubt the hiatuses make things worse. My worst experiences within the Steven Universe fandom came during the 164-day hiatus between “Lars’ Head” and “Dewey Wins” that took up much of 2017. Between the length of the wait and debates over season 4, the fandom was at its worst and this carried into season 5’s eventual return at the end of the year.
This hiatus was the closest I ever came to quitting the fandom. The anger and vitriol was unrelenting and made me wonder why I bothered. Why subject myself to interacting with these fans if I get so little pleasure out of it? Why go to online communities excited to talk about this show we love if it never feels like we actually love it?
And now, finally, after only 2 seasons in the past 3 years, an unknown wait for the last episode of season 5 still ongoing, and the very likely possibility that we’ll get yet another hiatus once this last season 5 episode airs, the question finally entered my mind. At what point do these hiatuses ruin my investment in Steven Universe? At what point do fans of all ages just stop caring?
Once again, impatience enters the picture here through my experience with the fandom. When “Dewey Wins” ended that 164-day hiatus in 2017, a lot of SU fans hated it. A lot of SU fans hated the entire Steven Bomb. We enjoyed it here, as we always do. However, these episodes were the long-awaited follow-up to a story arc involving the main antagonists of the series. Fans wanted immediate follow-up after such a long wait. When instead we got a (very effective) focus on Steven’s friends and family in the aftermath of the danger he faced, it upset people.
This happens a lot now with Steven Universe. All these hiatuses break up the story in a way that kills story flow for a lot of people. It creates even more bitterness when you wait so long for new episodes, only to not have those new episodes focus where you wanted them to.
The Crewniverse is faultless here; they don’t order these episodes based on release schedules they can’t predict. They don’t know that 4 months will pass between the penultimate episode of a season and the finale. When you go back and watch these episodes without the breaks, they flow naturally. All the frustration and complaints about the uneven story don’t apply like you thought they did when they first aired. The episode orders make much more sense. It’s no longer a 6-month wait to find out what happened to Lars. It’s one hour of other episodes you enjoy.
Unfortunately, binge-watching doesn’t work in the moment for anything except shows no longer airing and Netflix. When fans only get 3 hours of content a year, have to wait months in between said content, and don’t feel like the wait is worth it, it encourages us to stop caring until we know something big happened. Until then, why bother watching? This isn’t like other shows that air episodes for 3-4 months and then vanish for a year. Those shows give you 5, 10, 15 hours of content at least. And you know when they’ll come back. There is a consistency.
The problem with waiting comes if the network sees failing interest in Steven Universe because we wait for big moments. Right now, SU seems to be in a pretty good place. It has a movie, a guaranteed new season, and a nice PR push coming out of San Diego Comic Con this year. Back when it happened, it felt like the show was at one of its strongest points. The momentum was greater than we’d seen in a long time.
Then it came to a screeching halt.
I suppose most of my complaints might only exist for geeky adults like me, and not the children Steven Universe exists for. Maybe they don’t care about the breaks. However, that might ultimately be a problem. A kid may enjoy Steven Universe, but kids have short attention spans and plenty of other stuff to entertain them on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon or the internet. How many kids are going to pay attention to the increasingly inconsistent schedule and be sure to watch new episodes of SU?
Let’s be honest, it is that audience Cartoon Network ultimately and rightfully cares about, not me. That worries me even more as a geeky adult who thinks Steven Universe is one of the best shows currently airing and a strong contender for best animated show ever. I’m not going to insult kids or act like they can’t follow the story because of the breaks. They are perfectly capable of doing so. Thing is, why would they? They have plenty of other options.
Of course, so do adults. With so many other shows to watch, including animated shows, at what point does the erratic scheduling make both kids and adults stop caring and just move on? When do we walk away and wait for the show to end, and then catch up afterwards? And what happens if we endanger Steven Universe in the process? Has the erratic scheduling already begun this process?
You’re left with a question that leads to the old familiar question about what came first, the chicken or the egg. Why does Cartoon Network not only schedule SU this way, but also show so little in the way of reruns? Do they schedule this way because of falling interest, or did interest decline because of the scheduling? Thing is, while certainly not at a high point, the ratings for Steven Universe haven’t exactly fallen off a cliff. It’s still one of the most-watched and best-selling properties Cartoon Network owns.
So why in the world is it scheduled like this? Why are SU fans left in the dark? How long before a dearth of new content ultimately kills the fandom, as a dearth of content inevitably does for any fandom?
So here I am, for the first time, wondering if it is all worth it. I don’t worry that the story will disappoint; the Crewniverse has never let me down here. What I wonder about is bothering with all the frustration involved in being an active fan of Steven Universe. For the first time, I wonder why I invest so much of my love for fiction in a fandom becoming increasingly unpleasant. I wonder whether I really want to pay so much attention to a show airing 2-3 hours of content a year.
Barring unexpectedly bad decisions with the story or characters, I will always love Steven Universe. It’s likely that upon its return, all my reluctance to engage will vanish quicker than Garnet poofed Peridot. Then, of course, it will end. I’ll be right back where I was, waiting months for, at best, 4 or 5 episodes. Now that the questions have begun, I doubt they’ll go away.
So here I am, wondering at what point my answer to the question, “is it worth it?” will eventually shift from yes to no. Many others have already shifted. And I wonder how many more will, and how quickly others like me will follow, leaving one of the best shows I’ve ever seen alone in the vacuum of space: abandoned, cold, and inevitably doomed.
Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network
Riverdale Throws It Back With The Breakfast Club Homage
The Riverdale parents… We love ’em, we hate ’em, we love to hate ’em. This week, “Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club” gives us an insight into their teen lives and their involvement with the Gryphons and Gargoyles.
After Gryphons and Gargoyles (G&G) manuals popped up at every Riverdale High locker, adults are taking extra
futile steps to prevent the kids from playing. At home, Betty finally confronts Alice about the game with some evidence – the coroner she and Jughead bribed found a file about a similar case (mysterious death, blue lips) around the time Alice was in high school. Alice finally complies and agrees to finally come clean.
Welcome to the flashback! Prepare for lots and lots of 80’s hits!
Gradually we meet our main players, before they became the adults we know now: the rebellious Alice, who just found out she’s pregnant; FP, the star football player, lying about his family’s Southside origins; Hermione, a pristine daughter of an immigrant mother, looking for a way out; Penelope, a mousy overachiever; Sierra, a political activist; and Fred, a musician athlete, with a heart of gold (so no changes here).
After one day all of them, for various reasons, get in Saturday detention, the teens decide to take this time and actually get to know each other, to share their dreams, fears, and struggles. We found out that Sierra McCoy/Tom Keller romance isn’t a new development at all. The couple was madly in love in high school, and they had to hide their relationship from their bigoted parents. Hermione is already dating Hiram Lodge, who she hopes is gonna be her ticket out of Riverdale. Fred Andrews, on contrary, plans to stay here forever, because he loves this town, but also needs to take care of his sick dad. One of the bigger revelations comes from Penelope, who as it turns out, was adopted by the Blossoms from the infamous Sisters of Quiet Mercy orphanage to be groomed to become their son’s wife. Yikes.
A fight breaks out amidst confession time, and the kids get additional three Saturday detentions. Forced to spend more time together, they actually start to get close and become sort of friends. One Saturday, while trying to get her, um, Gamelad out of the teacher’s drawer, Hermione finds a mysterious board game, Gryphons and Gargoyles. Having nothing better to do, the parents gang decide to play it.
They get sucked in pretty fast and agree to continue playing even after completing the detention. They form the Midnight Club, getting together late at night at school, dressing up in silly costumes to fit their chosen characters. Somewhere in the process, Alica and FP start sorta dating, as well as Fred and Hermione. One night the gang bumps into another team of players, that includes Hiram and Tom, and decide to join forces and play all together.
One day, all players get letters from the alleged Gargoyle King in their lockers, inviting them to the Ascension party. Everyone thinks one of the Game Masters set it up, which we later find out isn’t true. To the party, Hiram brings Fizzle Rocks, the 80’s version of Jingle Jangle, and everyone, except secretly pregnant Alice, take them. The drugs-infused shenanigans ensue, and Alice breaks from the others in the process. On her way back to the classroom, she starts seeing very weird things: from creepy writings and Fresh Aid filled chalices in the bathroom to the Gargoyle King himself in the halls. While running away from the creature, she almost runs into principal Featherhead who, she assumes, learned of their trespassing. She manages to get unnoticed and runs home.
The next day, Alice tries to find out what happened to the rest of the Midnight Club, and Hermione tells her Fred’s dad passed away while they were at the Ascension party. In another news, principal Featherhead is missing.
After the funeral, Alice confesses to the rest she saw Featherhead that night. Penelope insists they keep it a secret because being high and trespassing on the night the principal went missing isn’t the best look for them. A week later, the principal is found dead, with blue lips, at the school’s broom closet.
Alice confronts the Midnight Club and demands to know what happened after she left. But the rest turn on her instead, stating she’s the only one who actually saw Featherhead that night, and conveniently left early. Also, everyone denies wearing the Gargoyle King costume, the one Alice saw in the hall. After plenty of arguing, the gang decides to burn the game manual and scatter the rest of the game elements across the town, so it can’t be traced to them.
With the game destroyed, the Midnight Club is officially over. Everyone goes their separate way: Fred gives up on his musical dreams and starts working at his dad’s construction company; Sierra and Tom break up in hopes to reconnect when the timing is better; FP caves to his abusive father and finally joins the Serpents; Penelope clings closer to Blossoms for stability and protection; Hermione returns to Hiram; and Alice herself tones down the bad girl act and catches herself a fella named Hal Cooper…
After her mom finishes the story, Betty still has plenty of questions. Mainly, who poisoned the chalices that got Featherhead killed? Alice doesn’t know the answer but is pretty sure it’s someone from the Midnight Club. When Betty wants to dig deeper, Alice begs her not to get involved. She explains how intoxicating and therefore dangerous G&G is. Betty promises not to play but she won’t stop the investigation.
The next day, Betty arrives at the bunker to tell Jughead about the Midnight Club but instead, she finds him, Cheryl, Toni, Sweet Pea, and Fangs playing the game. Clearly not well, he insists it’s all making sense now and soon he’ll ascend and meet the Gargoyle King.
What an episode! I had high hopes for this one and for the most part, it did not disappoint! Sure, it didn’t really move the plot, and didn’t answer that many questions, but boy oh boy was it fun! This episode is the exact type of quirkiness I need from Riverdale! It may be silly, but unlike the rest of the episodes, this one was silly intentionally, and therefore I don’t get as mad.
First and foremost, I just gotta mention young Alice! Ugh, the stylist’s mind! The styling overall was very cute. The only one I didn’t love was Penelope – this supposedly mousy, goody-two-shoes character didn’t exactly much well with Madelaine Petsch’s stiletto nails and Kylie Jenner lips (yes, I know Madelaine’s are real).
The soundtrack choices for the episode were a little too on the nose, but every single one of those songs is a bop so I’m not complaining. If it ain’t broke and all that.
I enjoyed exploring the parents’ dynamics we didn’t really see before; FP unsuccessfully hitting on Hermione was hilarious. I honestly didn’t expect McKeller feels to hit me this hard, but they sure did. I don’t know why, but for some reason knowing the fact they had such a genuine love in high school and had to wait all these years to get back together was very touching.
On the other hand, I was very disappointed we didn’t see Mary. Where was she?! As much as I enjoyed getting few of my questions answered about the freak show that is the Blossom family, I felt like Mary would’ve been a much better fit for this plot than Penelope. And Madelaine could’ve played the other redhead mom just as well. Maybe even better.
I also felt like the parents falling into their “adult” roles felt a little too contrived. I’m not really mad, cause I understand they had just one episode to put this all in, but still, some decisions felt kinda unearned. I don’t really get why FP decided to join the Serpents after all, and Fred’s decision on completely giving up music seemed a little overdramatic.
Also, just an observation, but it’s interesting how at the end the boys – FP and Fred – gave up their dreams of better life and ended up following in their fathers’ footsteps; while the women – Alice, Penelope, and Hermione – all ended up basically attaching themselves to a more powerful/successful men, to achieve that “better” life.
The last thing, I saw some people complaining about how unrealistic it is that all the parents went to school together and dated each other, and now their kids are at the same school, dating each other. Let me tell you, as a person not from a small town, but from a secluded, tight-knit neighborhood that very much much feels like a small town, this is not far fetched at all. You’d be surprised.
So what do you think? Is yet another Riverdale parent a murderer? Who is hiding under the Gargoyle King costume?
Next week, Jughead continues losing himself in the game, and the juvie plot is back! Yay…
Images Courtesy of CW
Manifest-ing Ratings on Broadcast
It’s time to take stock of where fall’s 18 new shows have landed in the ratings landscape. Which is to say few shows rate above their network’s scripted average. Less than half of the new shows rate above the network’s scripted averages with only nine back 9 orders.
No network has yanked a show off the schedule for its poor ratings. Still, a handful of shows are currently succeeding per their network’s standards, and more importantly in publicly available commercial ratings. The question is whether these shows can hold onto their semi-successful ratings alongside the winter and spring premieres to come.
I’ve written before about the importance of C3 and C7 which measures playback of commercials live and within three, or seven days of airing via DVR playback. Within the first two proper weeks of this fall, only five new scripted shows made it on the top 25, alongside 15 other scripted shows. NBC’s Manifest and New Amsterdam were fifth and sixth. FOX’s Last Man Standing revival came in twelfth, and CBS’ FBI and The Neighborhood were nineteenth and twenty-fifth. However, drops in most shows in the last month, only the networks and advertisers know how well C3/C7 ratings fare.
Back 9’s or the Lack Thereof
NBC’s drama ratings net them three and nine more episodes respectively with New Amsterdam getting the back 9. CBS ordered more episodes for four of its shows. The first back 9 of the season went to FBI. Comedy The Neighborhood also has nine more episodes. CBS gave both Magnum P.I. and God Friended Me seven more episodes. I don’t think the latter has the best chances of renewal. Especially because GFM dropped two tenths in its second true time-slot airing without any football overrun. (Similar to Wisdom of the Crowd.)
Elsewhere, ABC ordered four more episodes for A Million Little Things (stuck at 0.8). They also gave one more for The Connors and seven to The Rookie. Comedies Single Parents and The Kids are Alright received back 9s.
Finally, FOX only premiered three comedies this season. The Cool Kids has a full season joining LMS (already had 22). Unfortunately for Lil Rel, FOX revealed last week that his show is not on the spring schedule effectively canceling it.
The CW only finished premiering its three new fall shows two weeks ago. Any back orders should come after this article is published. Charmed is its only new drama above the network average and it’s a CBS Studios show, so it’s not going anywhere. Legacies is doing fine but All American has increased in the ratings, so anything could happen.
So far half of the new shows received the full back 9 including . Others received anywhere from one to seven episodes. Last year, only CBS and CW ordered back 9s and all but one (The Good Doctor) of the shows with shorter orders died. ABC and NBC both fared better this year than last but I doubt more than two of the short order shows are renewed.
I do think shorter episode orders become the norm with back 9 orders going mostly to comedies and less serialized dramas like procedurals. Of note, the shows that received less than nine episodes except for The Connors are averaging less than the network’s scripted average.
As of November 6, only eight newbies are rating at or above their network’s average.
Two months since shows started premiering, very few have held onto ratings that put them ahead of the new show pack. In fact, no network has more than six of their shows rating at or above the network’s average. Yet after years and years of broadcast ratings dropping ten percent each year, the first two weeks of this season were flat compared to the same time last year. Of course, the last few weeks have likely changed that. Come May the numbers may indicate that the yearly fall endures.
Based on the data available, more than half of the fall newbies will likely receive renewals, but most of their final season averages in May won’t excite anyone. Plus with 15 newbies yet to premiere, anything can change.
(Data is from ShowbuzzDaily, SpottedRatings, and TVSeriesFinale.)
Update: A few hours after this article was published, The CW ordered a back 9 for Charmed (season two through four, here we come) and three more episodes for All American and Legacies (uh, spring shows decide fall shows’ fate)? NBC also announced I Feel Bad will not have more episodes, effectively cancelling the first scripted show this fall.