A few months ago, Riverdale fans panicked when they found out the beloved, but sadly underused, Ross Butler would be leaving the role of Reggie Mantle to film season 2 of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, where he’s a much more central character. Then everyone calmed down when they found out model-actor Charles Melton would be the new Reggie, keeping the character both Asian-American and ridiculously good-looking. Fans expected to see more of the typical rivalry we came to expect in season 1 from Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and Reggie — you know, general heckling and competitions over the next Riverdale High football captain. Yet, now that Wednesday night’s “Nighthawks” gave us our first good look at Reggie 2.0, we know that wouldn’t be further from the truth. The new Reggie is dark.
We get our first hint something is, er, different about Reggie when we see him hiding out in the darkest corner of RHS. Last season, the football captain was never without one of his many letterman-jacketed goons. Now he’s standing by the most secretive, shrouded lockers in all of Riverdale High. Plus, he ditched his all-American style for a leather jacket and slicked-to-the-side hair. What happened here? Was he unceremoniously cut from the football team over the summer?
Whatever went down off-camera, Reggie is now the high school’s resident drug dealer, so much so, it’s not even like he has to advertise his services. No, the customers come to him. Both recently introduced character Midge Klump (Emilija Baranac) and Archie himself know to hit up Reggie for their “jingle-jangle” needs. While Regge was simply an eye-roll-worthy horndog in season 1 — in one deleted scene telling a newly baby-bumped Polly Cooper (Tiera Skovbye), “As if I didn't already have mummy issues” — he’s now an honest-to-Pop's bad boy.
“You look like my nuts after football practice,” he tells Archie, whose father was nearly shot to death, before rattling off all the drugs he has access to. “Amphetamines, Baclofen, Modafinil, jingle jangle.” For everyone at home who’s never heard of Riverdale’s latest drug scourge, Reggie is happy to explain, saying with a sly smile, “That’ll keep you up for days, in more ways than one.” Considering Reggie’s subsequent hand gesture, the upper will apparently also give a guy a major erection, explaining why Midge wanted to score some for her boyfriend Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley).
If we couldn’t already tell this Reggie is depths darker than the one who used to wear letterman jackets everywhere, Riverdale drives this point home by the middle of “Nighthawks.” As usual, Archie is in his kitchen hoping The Hood, who shot and almost killed his dad Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), won’t show up again. Unfortunately, Archie looks out the window and sees a man in a hood staring at him. In the least advisable move ever, Archie dashes out of his house to tackle the possible assailant. But it’s just Reggie playing the darkest joke ever before handing over the drugs Archie asked for. “It’s called a prank. I didn’t think you would attack me,” Reggie explains. So now Reggie’s idea of a prank is dressing up as the man who nearly killed Archie’s dad, standing in front of Archie’s window until he notices, and then vanishing. The only people who would find that kind of warped “humour” funny are the imprisoned subjects of Mindhunter.
At least all of this character revision means Reggie 2.0 will likely be a much bigger part of the story than Ross Butler’s version of the character ever could be. Towards the end of “Nighthawks” local busybody and persecutor-in-chief Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) captures a few photos of Reggie delivering some jingle jangle to Midge and Moose in the Pop’s parking lot. At the close of the episode, the mysterious Hood killer murders them both in their car, moments after they take a swig of the drugs. Alice now has evidence to connect Reggie to the apparent season-long murder mystery, so he’s definitely getting dragged into the sheriff's station soon. Even if Reggie wasn’t unexpectedly involved in Riverdale’s recent serial killer spree, there is no way Alice wouldn’t make sure the football player-slash-drug dealer didn’t get his much-speechified comeuppance.
Although Reggie’s season 2 evolution seems extreme, it’s actually in line with the smaller, more understandable updates to Riverdale’s more central characters. In the premiere, “Kiss Before Dying,” Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) explains to her emotionally abusive mother Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt), “If you breathe, it is because I give you air. If you drink, it is because I poured your cup myself.” While intimidating the burn victim, Cheryl crushes her mum’s breathing tube, cutting off her access to oxygen. Then, in this week’s “Nighthawks,” Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) threatens to release the video she tracked down of Cheryl’s father Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope) shooting his son, and Cheryl’s twin, Jason (Trevor Stines). That is, unless, the Blossoms want to testify on behalf of Betty’s boyfriend’s dad, F.P. Jones (Skeet Ulrich), who is looking at 20 years in prison.
“One click, and the darkest chapter of your family’s twisted psychodrama becomes a viral sensation,” she tells Cheryl. But is Betty threatening her fellow River Vixen? No, of course not, “This is fun girl talk.”
At the end of Riverdale season 1, the closing voiceover from Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) foretells the death of the titular town’s innocence. Now, the series is fulfilling its promise.
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