Riverdale: Season 3, Episode 1 “Labor Day”

Previously on Riverdale: Jughead asked Betty to be the queen of the Serpents, Veronica bought Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Betty’s dad was evil, Betty’s sister offered to help her mom at “the farm,” and Hiram framed Archie for Andre’s murdering Cassidy.

When we open, Voiceover Jughead has decided to get mildly pretentious. He asks how “you” spend your last summer of high school, while describing various possibilities, some of which seem not to have actually happened (like him watching Betty and Veronica swim in a pool where it later seems they’ve never been). I don’t really get it TBH, which is embarrassing to admit about the voiceover of a teen soap on the CW, but whatever.

Next, we’re at the closing arguments of Archie’s trial, where the show does its level best to convince us that Archie, the affable and milquetoast blank screen onto which the personalities of everyone else on the show project their desires and anxieties, is Complicated. The prosecutor points out his history of violent behavior, including the fact that he started “not one but two masked vigilante groups,” which was actually pretty funny, though I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was supposed to be. (Probably?) Then his mother, who’s apparently his lawyer (great idea, Andrews family) gets up to defend Archie by saying he’s put other people’s needs above his own and saved a bunch of people’s lives and whatever. (But in a town where everyone almost gets murdered every week, hasn’t everyone saved a few lives?) All of this should make Archie sound complicated, but to me it rings false, because Archie — unlike Veronica, Betty, and Jughead — has always struck me as essentially a cardboard cutout who moves around as the plot demands. And this episode continues that trend.

Out in the hall, Betty pops a few pills while everyone else debriefs on the case. Meanwhile, Archie is sitting alone on the steps, having a weird waking dream about swimming in a pool while his friends leave him behind. Veronica finds him there, with Betty and Jughead (and Jughead’s box of animal crackers, aww) close behind. Veronica is desperately optimistic, but Archie just wants to reminisce about Sweetwater Swimming Hole, where Veronica’s never been.

It’s at this point that Kevin gets one of his only few lines of the season, telling the kids to get back in there because the jury’s ready. Except wait, just kidding! The jury isn’t ready, but the judge has decided to sequester them five minutes into their deliberations, and they will reconvene after Labor Day. Is… that how trials work? Now I admit most of my legal knowledge is gleaned merely from slightly-more-realistic TV shows, but I don’t think that’s how being sequestered works.

Outside in the hall, a smarmy Hiram wishes Archie a happy holiday weekend, and Fred immediately socks him in the face. Gee, I wonder where Archie learned his violent toxic masculinity from!

Over at Pop’s, the Fierce Foursome plot to prove that he’s innocent, but Archie’s not having it. He wants to have a “great, normal Labor Day weekend.” Everyone agrees readily, which somehow doesn’t tip Archie off that they’re lying to him, because again, he is basically a cardboard cutout person.

Their plans are solidified during the greatest thirty seconds of this episode: Cheryl Blossom, accompanied by her very own theme song, saunters in wearing a bikini and hotpants to invite them all to a pool party. Oh, and she and Toni are still together, and she’s in the mood for some hell-raising. Toodles!

I love Cheryl.

Betty’s off for her “normal” weekend when Polly and Alice try to stop her to feed her some detoxifying teas, thanks to Edgar From The Farm. Betty declines, because detoxifying teas are so 2017.

Archie, Betty, and Fred have finished fixing up the old car that is presumably a reference to the comics. As soon as Fred steps away, Archie begs Betty to take care of Fred if he “goes away.” Yeah, we get it, Archie’s a hero.

Meanwhile, Veronica confronts her dad to tell him that framing Archie for murder won’t drive her and Archie apart. She’s patently hoping to convince Hiram to back off, but he insists–with his face the picture of blank innocence–that “that boy is a criminal” and he knows nothing about framing Archie. Veronica begs, while Hermione looks on in tearful silence.

Oh, great, Jughead is going on another Serpent Mission that’s clearly going to get him almost killed. (Sometimes I wonder why I even like this show, since I find Archie so painfully boring and Jughead’s Serpent plotlines even more so. But the rest of the time these kids are just so darn charming!) He sends a couple of his minions on a recon mission to figure out what Hiram’s up to. As for Archie, Jughead has hooked him up with a Serpents tattoo from FP, so he’ll have protection in the clink. See? Everyone just literally writes their own identity on the blank canvas that is Archie.

At home, Betty finds her mother poring over her diaries. Apparently Edgar from The Farm feels that Betty should burn her diaries. Betty takes this about as seriously as it deserves to be taken. But Polly pops up after Betty leaves to tell their mother, “There’s something else you should know about Betty.” Ruh roh.

At Cheryl’s pool party, all the gang are having their little dramas. Josie and Sweet Pea are at the tail end of a summer fling, and Kevin casually propositions Moose that they should lose their virginities by Halloween. Moose’s face is sort of like the face of a guy who’s been offered a platter of his favorite flavor of cake. And OMG you guys, Kevin is reading one of my favorite books ever — At Swim, Two Boys, a gorgeous Joyce-ian queer love story set in Ireland. IN FACT, I wrote about it on this very blog. Meanwhile, Archie plays football with some other dude (I believe one of the fellow members of one of his multiple masked vigilante groups?). Cheryl and Toni look on from a throne-like red velvet couch that has been placed by the side of the pool, like any normal pool party hosts.

Veronica and Betty are off to the side. Veronica mourns that she offered to go on the stand but it was too late. But Josie tips them off as to where the jury is sequestered. Yeah, that sounds legal! Veronica and Betty, who apparently have not watched as many legal TV shows as I have, think this is a fabulous idea–they’ll tamper with one juror, get a hung jury, and have all the time they want to prove Archie’s innocence. Well, this should turn out great.

Jughead is wearing a white tank top, his hat, and what I assume to be a bathing suit but looks more like boxer shorts, by the side of the pool when a friend comes up and tells him that the Ghoulies have Hot Dog. I’ve honestly forgotten who all these people are since last season. (Why am I recapping this then? Well, because I get to transcribe deliciously absurd lines like the one Jughead comes out with when he outlines his plan: “We’d be going behind enemy lines, outnumbered, open to attack from all directions, and risking another gang-war… we’re gonna deploy after dark.” Hee.) The kids decide to go after Hot Dog, and both Cheryl and Betty insist on coming with. “The Serpent Queen is a warrior queen,” Betty says. Um… sure. I want to laugh, but Jughead’s enchanted smile melts me. And that’s the magic of this show: it manages to be genuinely delightful while also being completely off the rails.

Disappointingly, the pool party seems to have ended without any hell-raising, which is not what I expect of a season-premiere pool party that was teased in such a spectacularly promising fashion. Archie arrives home to find his parents consulting about him, and tells them that whatever happens is what he deserves, because he supported Hiram instead of his dad. His parents tearfully declare that they’ll always love him. For my part, I tearfully declare that the next pool party should at least have one dead body. You know?

At the hotel, Veronica shows up pretending to be housekeeping, only to be immediately caught by Sheriff Minetta. Hee! Hermione confronts Veronica, who accuses her of being complicit in Hiram’s crimes. Hermione spells it out: Hiram would never harm Veronica, but he might harm Hermione. Then she totally ruins it by saying that she “won’t leave you alone in the world with him.” Um, not that I JUDGE or anything, but I’m pretty sure an unselfish desire for Veronica not to be alone in the world is not even in the top three reasons that you don’t want to risk getting murdered by your husband.

Meanwhile, Jughead has embarked on his weekly Dangerous Mission, this time to rescue Hot Dog. Of course, his mortal enemy Penny Peabody pops out as soon as he shows his face. You know who Penny reminds me of? Skylar. They’re sort of annoying villains because it’s like, they’re SO heavily advantaged that as soon as they show up, all the fun is drained out of the scene. Anyway, Cheryl finally gets a little hell-raising in: she shoots one of the Ghoulies with her trusty arrow, and then (at Jughead’s direction) aims right between Penny’s eyes. This somehow intimidates Penny, but she does declare the Northside fair game. Whatever. I really wish that there could be a Riverdale that was just sexy teens solving local mysteries, instead of the weird gang-wars subplots. …And now that I’ve typed that sentence I feel that I have not been sufficiently grateful to the universe for providing me with this amazingly campy show.

Speaking of amazing campiness, Archie has a dream where he’s both chasing the murderer and is the murderer. When he wakes up, he’s topless, with the sheet pulled back to expose his six-pack, and he’s covered in sweat. I kind of love how shamelessly they pander to the female gaze on this show.

The next morning in the trailer, FP tells Jughead someone named “Dilton” (I also forget who this is) came by to see him. Jughead is clearly preoccupied. “Uneasy sits the crown?” says FP. Jughead responds with one of his patented Melodramatic Summations Of the Episode Thus Far: “Well, Penny’s got the Northside in her sights, Cheryl’s a loose cannon, Betty’s a target and uh, we’re not even Southside Serpents anymore.” FP just declares, as he also does about once an episode, that they’re Serpents by blood, like yes, we get it.

Although it occurs to me now, writing that out, that this is probably about the right time for the show to decide to give Jughead a my-Daddy’s-not-really-my-daddy storyline. Who wants to bet me fifty bucks that happens?

Over at the Cooper residence, Polly and Alice confront Betty with their discovery that Dr. Glass, the psychiatrist she’s been leaning on this whole episode, is fake and she’s been forging her Adderall prescriptions. I mean, that’s shocking and everything, but since the other two have literally JOINED a CULT, I’m not sure they have standing to tell Betty she’s gone off the deep end. And Betty also makes a good point when she says,”Oh, really? Oolong milk and wanting to burn my diaries is helping you get over the fact that Dad murdered four people and tried to kill us?” Heh. Polly insists that The Farm can heal Betty. Betty doesn’t find this all that convincing.

Next thing you know, the Fierce Foursome is packed into Archie’s newly refurbished car (why isn’t Kevin invited on any of these outings? I guess he’s just there to show the show is Woke and Has Gay Characters, but it doesn’t actually count unless the gay characters get plots now does it.) Anyway, they all jump into the swimming hole, and the couples promptly start making out ten feet apart from each other while we’re treated to a big old CAUTION sign right nearby. Surprisingly, this doesn’t lead to someone drowning.

That evening, by the campfire, Archie is surprisingly calm while the others are freaking out. Jughead suggests he make a run for Canada. Serpents north of the border could help him. So I guess the Serpents are an international organization! Archie insists that it’s his fault for leaving Cassidy alone that night, and that with all his nutty behavior last year he could have killed someone. I’m all for someone taking responsibility for their violent interpretation of masculinity, but… I feel like Archie’s speeches just make it sound like he doesn’t understand exaclty how bad it is to commit murder.

Naturally, as it gets darker the couples split off. Betty confesses to Jughead that she should probably cut the Adderall habit and that she wants to have control over everything (ooh ya think?). Jughead puts his hat on her and promises her that they’re partners and they’ll get through it, and, of course, they start making out.

Meanwhile, Archie and Veronica are two steps ahead of them, as always. They appear to have built a new, separate campfire, where they are in the process of taking off Veronica’s bra. After a convenient fade-to-black, they post-coitally discuss Veronica’s future as a prison widow. Archie heroically says he doesn’t want her to wait for him, but she’s not having it.

In the morning, Fred, Archie, and Mrs. Archie get all dressed up to go to court. For his part, Jughead is hanging out in the trailer, but Dilton shows up to tell him wide-eyed, “He’s real. The Gargoyle King.” Finally we get to figure out the Big Baddie for this season! Jughead doesn’t quite get the momentousness though, and he leaves Dilton there, telling him they’ll talk when he gets back.

In court, the jury declares themselves deadlocked. Then the prosecutor stands up to say that she’ll offer a deal for a lesser sentence of time served plus two years. In the middle of court. Um… again, I don’t have a law degree, but I’ve watched a lot of Ally McBeal, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how plea bargains are struck? But Archie, of course, stands up to accept the deal. Because he is going to insist on doing the most irrational possible thing at every turn. He’s sent off to juvie by the judge (who also, hilariously, says, “The court accepts your plea of guilt”). Is it wrong if I feel like this would potentially be a more interesting show if Archie really did spend the next two years in jail? If he just became this idea to people instead of taking up actual screen time? Anyway, Betty and Veronica embrace tearfully while Hiram looks on. Kevin is also there, but once again has zero lines.

Side note, I really enjoy that Archie wears bowties to court. What a dapper fake criminal he makes!

Dear CW: If someone accidentally rewinds to 5 seconds before the commercial break, don’t make us sit through more shitty commercials! RUDE. This super awkward one for the colored contact lenses, for example, is breaking my heart. Those models look so uncomfortable on camera I actually want to give them a hug. And they also look like they’re blinking frantically to deal with the discomfort caused by said colored contact lenses.

At home, Fred and Mary promise each other that they’ll get Archie home and make Hiram pay. FP and (I think) Sheriff Keller agree to this plan. I don’t think I like when the grownups plot on their own.

Meanwhile, at her home, Veronica accuses her father of punishing Archie for threatening him. But Hiram finally corrects her that this is her punishment for choosing Archie over her own family. Gee, I bet Veronica wishes she were illegally recording this conversation right now!

Jughead returnst to he trailer to find Dilton gone. He left an illustration of what is apparently the Gargoyle King on graph paper, along with a map that somehow matches something on Jughead’s Carrie Mathison Wall.

For his part, Archie is chained up and on a prison bus headed for juvie. BAM BAM SCARY MUSIC.

Then things really start happening. Jughead finds a couple of his friends tied up in the woods, with weird hieroglyphs carved into their backs and an admittedly low-effort sculpture of a gargoyle presiding over the scene. It is pretty creepy. The fact that one of them is vomiting green goo is … an interesting twist.

And Betty, for her part, wanders out to her backyard to find a circle of Edgarites, including her mother and sister, around a bonfire. She seems to see them dropping the twins into the fire, but then the babies float into the air (…huh) and then Betty falls to the ground with one of the more unrealistic-looking seizures I’ve ever seen on TV.

Well, at least it got exciting at the end! I’m not sure how I feel about sitting through a Very Special Episode on the dangers of Adderall abuse, but I am definitely intrigued by those floating babies…

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