Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18 Review: Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal

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As Broadway reopens in New York City, so have the musical chapters returned to the town of Riverdale.

Carrie, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Heathers were the three musicals that have lighted the stage. In this case, on Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18, "Next to Normal" took their turn in the spotlight.

Was it a smashing success? Or did it bring on the cringeworthy moments?

Next To Normal - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

Riverdale loves its musicals and performances, albeit to a fault in many cases.

The series will find any opportunity to live their Glee fantasy. And ever since Riverdale Season 2 Episode 18, the spotlight attraction has been the all-musical episode. Though, there are hits (like the Carrie musical) or misses, like the Hedwig musical on Riverdale Season 4 Episode 17.

Betty: Mom, stop. You’re freaking me out! Tell me honestly, is your plan honestly to never leave the house?
Alice: Why would I? I have everything I need right now. All of my children.
Betty: Mom, you know Charles and Polly aren’t really here, right?
[Betty puts an urn on the table]
Alice: What’s that?
Betty: Polly’s ashes. I thought having might bring you some comfort or closure.
Dream Polly: That can’t be right. I’m sitting right here. Tell Betty to stop being a brat.

In the case of "Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal," the chapter was a pleasant surprise. The musical felt grounded and relatable to the events of the characters in the series.

That could be due to the source material pulled from the musical, but the songs didn't try to make Riverdale feel like a Broadway show. Serious issues were going on between the characters, and even when paired with a big song number, they stayed grounded in reality.

Even Alice's hallucinations with Polly and Charles seemed more grounded than in previous musicals. (I'll never forget Kevin and everyone storming the school in full Hedwig wigs.)

Jughead Sings - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

The strongest numbers came from Betty and Alice's interactions in their home. The balance between the fake '50s Archie Comics-style scenes with the realistic grey reality paired really well to show Alice's depression.

I loved that Riverdale didn't shy away from Alice and Betty dealing with their trauma. It would've been a shame if they had moved on as if nothing had happened; there needed to be a grieving time for a big loss.

Alice: Betty, what are you doing here?
Betty: I took the record player out of the house. You won’t need it anymore. Years ago, I made you a promise that I would come back to Riverdale … which I broke. But right now, I’m making you a new one. I’m not leaving you alone, ever.

The musical episode also didn't need everyone else singing.

Don't get me wrong, Cheryl's musical number with Penelope, Veronica's powerhouse song when Archie left, and the sweet numbers between Tabitha and Jughead were all highlights that made my favorites list. However, "Chapter Ninety-Four: Next To Normal" had set its story up as Alice stuck in her fictional perfect world, set to the hit songs from the musical.

The songs were a part of her depression and loss. For everyone else to sing, too, it took away from the seriousness of her plotline. The chapter would've been more powerful had the songs stayed within Alice's storyline and then stopped once she came to terms with Polly's death.

Missing Polly - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

Speaking of Alice, she truly has gone through a lot during her time in Riverdale. Polly dying might've been the final straw from everything that has happened to her.

The fake perfect world seemed like something Alice from Riverdale Season 1 would've wanted (and something her character most likely wished for now). Alice strived to be the perfect family before all the deaths, darkness, and serial killers ruined it.

Dream Polly and Charles appearing was a nice touch that toed the line between dream and reality. We, as the viewers, got to see them singing around, but Betty wouldn't have seen anyone there.

The ghostly style was an interesting move that played with our senses and brought us into Alice's mindset instead of Betty's. Just imagine being in Betty's shoes whenever Alice looked to the dream children that were never there!

One of the highlights of "Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal" came from how strong Betty and Alice became after the grieving process.

Alice and Betty have been a roller coaster in their mother/daughter journey, and Betty leaving town affected their progress more than she could've realized. I loved that the pair were able to work out their issues and grow together for the future.

Their plot here was a great callback to Alice's heartbreak during the Carrie musical. Alice feared Betty would abandon her, which ultimately did happen when Betty left for the FBI.

This time, Betty's push to save her mother seemed genuine and heartfelt, like her decision to stay in Riverdale with Alice was what she truly wanted instead of an obligation. It's those small steps that will reassure Alice and will also heal Betty from the walls she's built up during her time away from Riverdale.

The Tate Future - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

Did anyone else predict that Tabitha and Jughead were going to get together?

The sparks had been flying for weeks now! It was only a matter of time before they finally kissed and made their romance official.

On the other hand, Tabitha's parents didn't need to be so pretentious and snobby about her dreams or Jughead.

Didn't her dad understand how much the diner meant to his daughter and his father, Pop Tate? And didn't he grow up in Riverdale too?!

Tabitha's parents felt like diet versions of Hiram and Hermione, who had no reason to look down on the diner. At least Josie's stern parents came around to her dreams and warmed up as caring parents.

Blooming Romance - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

The biggest romance surprise came in the form of Fangs and Toni getting together. I didn't see this development coming at all; it seemed like it came out of the blue.

Some sparks formed during Riverdale Season 5 Episode 17 after the Mothmen attack, but their chat felt like two parents/friends coming together as a unit to protect each other.

Cheryl: Poor cherub. But, I must admit I’m surprised you’d trust me with such precious cargo.
Toni: I loved you, and I felt your love. And I know the huge capacity for love your heart has, and that’s exactly what Brita needs right now.
Cheryl: Well, then I’d be honored.

Their endgame status is yet to be defined. I'm not putting any stock on the couple since they're coming out of two significant relationships.

Kevin came to terms with Fangs dating Moose, but will he be just as happy once he hears about Toni? And will this be the end of any "Choni" reconciliation?

School Days - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

Veronica continued her rise like a phoenix in a move that deserved all the applause. Seriously, walking away from your partner after coming to terms that you want different things is a tough move to make.

Her heart-to-heart with Archie about their futures was the most adult conversation they've ever had. (And this chat involved characters who were vigilantes and owned bars as teenagers!)

Veronica: Archie, I think we should take a beat until we figure out what we’re doing. We shouldn’t rush this.
Archie: Maybe we go back to dating and having fun like we used to?
Veronica: That’s a sweet idea, but we’re not in high school anymore.

Veronica's response to Archie that they weren't in high school anymore was deliciously spot-on.

They've grown since graduation and have different 5-year goals. Simply dating to pass the time wouldn't change anything; Veronica and Archie would only be wasting each other's time.

We've discussed in past reviews that Archie and Veronica shouldn't be together anymore due to their past baggage. However, Veronica's chat here made it clear why. Veronica is right to want what she wants, and Archie is right to want what he wants; they're just not aligned in their paths.

Witchy Powers - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

Last Thoughts From Sweetwater River:

  • Tabitha's dad, not knowing who Hiram Lodge was, came across as the funniest subtle shade that wasn't intended as a dig.
     
  • Jughead leaving the room to eat and give Veronica space was an absolute mood.
     
  • The random dance whipping sounds were one thing, but the sizzling sounds when Cheryl threw holy water at Penelope was a whole new level of Riverdale camp.
     
  • Brita could become Cheryl's next little protege.
Safety Dance - Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18

What did you think of "Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal"?

Will Toni and Fangs survive as a couple? Which performance was your favorite? Does this breakup between Archie and Veronica mark the true end?

If you missed the latest episode of Riverdale, you can watch Riverdale online via TV Fanatic. Come back here and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal Review

Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (11 Votes)

Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18 Quotes

Cheryl: Poor cherub. But, I must admit I’m surprised you’d trust me with such precious cargo.
Toni: I loved you, and I felt your love. And I know the huge capacity for love your heart has, and that’s exactly what Brita needs right now.
Cheryl: Well, then I’d be honored.

Veronica: Archie, I think we should take a beat until we figure out what we’re doing. We shouldn’t rush this.
Archie: Maybe we go back to dating and having fun like we used to?
Veronica: That’s a sweet idea, but we’re not in high school anymore.