Where Is Riverdale Going With Their Weird Satanic Panic/D&D Knockoff Plotline?
**Some loose spoilers for season 3, episode 5 of Riverdale ahead.**
For a show that has never shied away from the absurd—in fact, it’s pretty much what the show is built on—Riverdale keeps managing to crack new depths of bonkers-ness. When framing children for murder and forcing them to participate in an underground underage fight club for the town’s elite isn’t the most bananas storyline in a season, you know they’re really pushing their own limits.
Much of this season has been dedicated to the game Gryphons & Gargoyles, a Riverdale-specific homage to Dungeons & Dragons with an off-board LARPing component that also sometimes leads to murder/suicides.
Now, G&G has given us some fantastic moments.
Last week’s episode, especially, was a level of raucous fun we haven’t seen since the Carrie musical. Taking place almost entirely in flashback, as Mrs. Cooper explained to Betty her own history with the game, and giving backstory to many of the parental relationships, the episode was mostly just an excuse to lay heavily into ’80s tropes and ’90s fashion.
The idea to have the Riverdale gang play their own parents was brilliant. The fact that many of the actors who play those present-day parents were, themselves, ’90s icons, was just the extra-meta icing in an extra-wacky episode.
But then the second half of the episode came around, and even though I knew it was coming—G&G was the point of the flashback, after all—it was so disappointing when it did, because despite the fun fluff around it, G&G might be the worst storyline in all of Riverdale history.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing gaming represented onscreen, and watching Jughead GM an adventure this week was exhilarating, but G&G isn’t about the game; it’s about the mystery behind it. G&G is a dangerous game. Its origins are unknown, and those who choose to play it are putting their lives in the hands of some sort of mysterious entity. Basically, G&G isn’t D&D; it’s the game parents in the ’80s and ’90s thought D&D was.
In the 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons was at the center of the rising tide of Satanic Panic, the widespread belief that Satanism was infiltrating American communities and putting families, and especially children, at risk. A whole lot of people and organizations thought that D&D was tied to Satanism, with links to suicide, witchcraft, demon worship, and even human sacrifice. It was, of course, completely unfounded … unlike Riverdale’s version of the game.
With G&G, we still don’t know who (or what) is pulling the strings, but the cult of the game is widespread, spanning generations, and if Jughead is right, encompassing far more about their lives than anyone has ever realized. And it is dangerous. Multiple people have died because of the game, but without acknowledging the real-life counterpart to this story, it all feels a bit too silly.
And I don’t mean silly like Veronica opening up a dry speakeasy underneath the town diner. I’m talking season six Buffy the Vampire Slayer witchcraft-as-a-metaphor-for-addiction levels of silly.
Even in its most out-there storylines, Riverdale has always respected its characters and its audience, treating both as always being at least as intelligent as the stories being told. This feels different. It feels totally without context. Maybe if the show would lean into how ludicrous the actual phenomenon of Satanic Panic is, it could up the stakes for the effects of the game.
As is, it’s hard not to laugh at everything from Skeet Ulrich dramatically yelling things like “I can still see the blue on your lips!” to even Archie being branded with a symbol from the game.
Not even Betty, ever the Nancy Drew pragmatist, gives any context to how ludicrous it is to have a game with pseudo-mystical, possibly cultish power over an entire town, from teenagers up to a prison warden. No one in-world seems to find that even the tiniest bit out-of-place, leaving those of us watching to pick up the skeptical slack.
What do you all think of G&G? And with two weeks until the next episode, are you at all eager to get back to unravelling more of this mystery?
(image: Dean Buscher/The CW)
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