So I’m really sad for Luke Perry and his family, and the cast and crew of the show. I think he did a great job playing Fred Andrews and seemed like a really good guy in general. Just wanted to start with that!
Previously on Riverdale: Archie participated in a prison fight club and also kissed Josie; Jughead kicked Toni out of the Serpents, so Cheryl made her a new gang; Veronica figured out that her mom had sold her dad’s drug trade so she burned the drugs, so Hermione decided that Veronica owed Gladys (the buyer) for the drugs and Veronica just went along with it.
Jughead narrates. Of course. He tells us that Riverdale is a “veritable jungle of mythological creatures.” He’s sleeping on a cot in the middle of his kitchen, and Gladys has chosen to cook toast and eggs as part of her process of sucking up. Jughead remarks that this is better than the normal breakfast. I find this vaguely annoying, like, why would FP not have figured out how to cook breakfast by now? (Says the woman who would laugh in your face if you asked her to scramble eggs.)
Speaking of breakfast, Betty is eating cereal in the kitchen (probably to show us that her mom is too busy joining cults to cook) when Alice happily announces that she’s getting baptized this weekend.
Veronica is reading the newspaper — on PAPER, you guys; how un-Gen-Z is that?! — when her father calls her into his office to ask about the stolen equipment. Veronica repeats whatever lie Hermione told him. But Hiram doesn’t really go for it; he lists all his enemies who are in town and flourishing and surmises that if the Joneses got the better of him, they’d have to have the help of someone who knows him well. Veronica withstands this with perfect chill. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is like BOOOOOOONG.
Archie and Josie, still going strong, go to Pop’s, where Josie tells him she’s meeting with a college counselor that day and Archie tells her that he’s boxing. Apparently her idea has helped him, keeping him in a good headspace. Josie tells him, “Don’t go messing up that pretty face.” That sounds like it’s foreshadowing Archie getting hurt and going all emo again, but what ends up happening is (because it’s Archie) SO MUCH MORE ANNOYING than that.
At school, Betty and Jughead are on their way to a Serpents meeting. Betty tells him she tried to find pictures of Edgar Ever-Never on the internet and couldn’t, so now she’s convinced Edgar is sketchy. Which is hardly the sketchiest thing about Edgar Ever-Never. I mean, his name is Edgar Ever-Never, for one thing.
Once they get to the meeting they find out that the Serpents have had a bunch of girls defect to Cheryl and Toni’s stupid new girl gang. Jughead says it’s his fault for banishing them, and he needs to remind them what it means to be a Serpent. Yeah. You know you have too many gangs in your show when you start having subplots about the comparative attrition rates between gangs.
After approximately one week of boxing, Archie is demanding Keller to set him up with a real match. Keller tells him he doesn’t have the technique, and Archie goes, “How are we meant to know that unless we get me in the ring?” Uhh… maybe his decades of experience? Archie says he’ll never know if boxing is a “viable option” for him unless he has a real fight. God, shut UP, Archie. You are seventeen years old and you started learning this sport approximately yesterday.
Over at La Bonne Nuit, Veronica is having a meeting right out in the open with Gladys, discussing how Hiram is suspicious of her. Gladys tries to make Veronica spy on Hiram in order to get her debt reduced. Veronica acts like she would never ever do this, until Gladys asks her who she wants to be in charge of the drug trade. “You,” Veronica says readily (because she doesn’t want her family involved in drugs anymore). “We both want the same thing. What’s the problem?” Gladys says. Veronica realizes she has a point. Duh!
Elio’s in the boxing gym trying to arrange a fight with someone named Randy. Archie overhears it and offers to be an opponent. Elio’s like, sure, but by the way, you have to lose. Archie says no. Elio tells him it’s the first step to building a rep and he just has to pay his dues–and he’ll get paid five thousand dollars. Archie, who is so incredibly stupid that I can’t even believe he’s still alive, agrees as long as he gets paid. But the ENTIRE POINT of looking for a fight was to know if he’s any good! So… like… what? Why would he agree to this?
Veronica starts out by trying to persuade her dad to go clean now that his drug equipment is all gone. Hiram seems intrigued. Veronica suggests he get the prison back on track and profit by imprisoning criminals. Honestly running a private prison and profiting off mass incarceration is almost as disgusting and definitely as destructive to society as dealing drugs. I guess maybe in the silly Riverdale world where mass incarceration affects black and white people alike it’s a little different, but… even without racism, locking human beings up for profit is still pretty icky. Hiram is like, “OR I could take over the Ghoulies and get control of the drug trade again.” Veronica is thwarted again!
Jughead meets Toni at Pop’s and asks her to come back to the Serpents. She demands to be Queen, and he says he can’t because of Betty. Um… no offense to Betty, but what has she done to earn this post? Toni tells him that she likes the Pretty Poisons because “I rule,” and immediately follows up with “We’re a sisterhood.” Hee! I love how she’s like I LOVE POWER, oh and ummmm, sisterhood! Jughead, in what is not his finest moment, calls this “Cheryl’s vanity project.” Oh, and what, your gang is curing cancer?
Betty sits angrily on the couch while Polly and Evelyn help her try on an awkwardly bridal dress for her baptism. And by “bridal” I definitely mean “eighties bridal”; there’s a LOT of satin and puffed sleeves here. Wow. (On the bright side, Evelyn is wearing corduroy overalls that I actually think are adorable.) Then Betty finds a release form and starts freaking out that Alice signed a release of liability in the case of injury during this procedure. Polly and Evelyn exchange priceless eyerolls at all of this, like, “Oh Betty, you’re always so UPTIGHT when we LEVITATE BABIES OVER FIRES.” They call her a “detractor” (Scientology hasn’t trademarked that word yet?!) and Betty storms off.
Veronica reports back to Gladys that her dad is going after the Ghoulies, and Gladys tells her to keep up the good work. Not much to say about this scene, except that Gladys’s bosom-emphasizing necklace is definitely co-starring with the two actresses. (This sounds judgy, but to be clear, she looks fab.)
Keller finds out about Archie’s fight and is SUPER MAD, for obvious reasons. Archie says he has to prove himself, except HEY ARCHIE, YOU LITERALLY JUST AGREED TO LOSE ON PURPOSE, PROVING NOTHING EXCEPT THAT YOU ACTUALLY DO BELONG IN JAIL. Sorry for shouting, but Archie really gives me a twitch in the caps lock finger. Keller tells him that if he does this he has to find himself a new coach. Well, at least this is a win-win for Keller: he gets Archie to back down, or if he doesn’t, at least he doesn’t have to deal with his whining anymore!
Cheryl runs archery practice with the Pretty Poisons. Toni, who’s not shooting or running practice, comes up and acts a little off. She repeats to Cheryl what Jughead says about this being a vanity project, and that she needs to put Jughead in his place. I mean, those girls are damn good shots. But it is kind of sad that Toni thinks she’s in charge when it’s CLEARLY Cheryl.
Cheryl finds a few of the boys (the ubiquitous Sweet Pea and Fangs) outside of Pop’s and tries to start a rumble right there in the parking lot. She tells them she wants to send a message to their leader that the Pretty Poisons aren’t to be trifled with –and then the girls totally jump the boys and pummel them. Seems like an unfair fight, but I guess we’re supposed to be happy about it because the boys are such douchebags about sneering at the girls beforehand. Whatever. There are way too many gangs on this show.
The boys go straight to the Jones trailer to get not-so-TLC from Gladys. “You guys are a joke,” she says. She tells Jughead he needs to get his house in order. Jughead asks if she has any suggestions, and she says the Ghoulies are up for grabs. Jughead protests, “The Ghoulies tried to burn down Pop’s on riot night.” Gladys’s retort: “So tame them.”
Toni storms in to find Cheryl painting her toenails Vigilante Violet and confronts her about what she did to Sweet Pea and Fangs. She says, “I said I was going to handle it!” Then she adds, completely contradictorily, “The purpose of our gang is not to air out your petty grievances.” So… it’s to air out Toni’s petty grievances? Then she gets down to it: “Is this gang mine or yours?” Cheryl says it’s Toni’s, but like, come on. Cheryl’s the boss.
Josie slinks up to Archie at his locker and invites him to see her sing at La Bonne Nuit, but he can’t because he has his stupid fight. He even admits to her that he agreed to lose for money. Josie says, “That sounds shady.” Understatement much? Although I can understand why she’s confused–it’s not every day that your high school boyfriend matter-of-factly drops into a conversation that he’s about to accept a bribe and take part in a criminal conspiracy. Archie says that it’s the only way (uh, unless you had just waited longer than a week and a half, like Keller wanted you to?) because he’s an “ex-con.” Oh, cry me a river. Josie, who’s kinder than I am, agrees that he’s “been dealt some truly rotten hands” (yeah, he PLED GUILTY ON PURPOSE TO GO TO JAIL, JOSIE — wow there I go with the caps lock again!) but that he has to have dignity. He says it’s a lot of money. Um, yeah, bribes usually are. “Five grand, that’s what you think you’re worth,” Josie says. I almost feel like Josie is also off-track here. It’s not that he’s worth more than five grand. It’s that he’s about to commit an actual crime because he wasn’t willing to put in the time to actually learn his sport. Oh god this makes me so angry.
Hey, remember Kevin? The supposed main character who gets about one storyline per year? Yeah, Betty deigns to talk to him about what she found out about Edgar, which is inexplicable (wouldn’t she just get help from Jughead?) except that it gives us the chance to find out that Kevin can’t help her. He’s joined the cult too since Evelyn pounced on him when he was lonely after Moose left. Those cult recruiters can smell vulnerability a mile away! He tells Betty she’s too ready to see the worst in people. Ooh, he’s got creepy cult voice already!
Jughead visits his dad in the sheriff’s office to ask him for a “carrot” to help him get the Ghoulies: to promise them that Serpents have immunity from the law now that he’s sheriff. FP correctly guesses that this is Gladys’s move, but Jughead adorably thinks that this was his own idea. FP, in a hilariously exact imitation of Jughead during his more scenery-nibbling moments, leans forward and growls with the most intense expression I’ve ever seen on his face, “As long as I don’t have to sign anything, yeah. You can tell ‘em Sheriff Jones hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from.” Hee! This show is so, like, daytime soap opera meets mid-quality nineties Western.
Chez Lodge, Hermione is lighting the candles on the dinner table (don’t they have staff for that?) when Hiram asks if she’s talked to Governor Dooley lately. Hermione does a terrible job of lying about this. Meanwhile, Hiram reveals that Gladys is coming over for drinks.
Veronica, reading on a chair with her adorable nerd glasses, looks on with concern from the sidelines. Next thing you know she’s storming into Gladys’s trailer demanding why she’s not staying away from Veronica’s family as per their deal. She threatens to tell Jughead about Gladys’s attempt to take over the drug trade if Gladys tells her dad about the whole thing where Hermione sold Gladys all his drug trade stuff. Gladys, who is sucking a lollipop for some unknown reason, thinks this is adorable: “Wow. You are trying to shake me down. That. Is. Awesome.” She points out that Jughead’s not going to kill her, but Hiram might very well kill Hermione. And, she has a point there. “If my meeting with your father doesn’t go my way, you better say an Ave Maria for Mommy.” Hee.
Archie, demonstrating once again that he has so little integrity he can’t even stick to a crime once he’s committed to it, seeks out Elio and tries to return the money. Elio explains to Archie what anyone who’s seen even one gangster movie ever, would already know: that it’s kind of too late since he already took a bunch of bets based on Archie agreeing to throw the match. Since Archie has the intellectual capacity of a box of Kleenex, this comes as a shock to him. You mean you can’t just back out of a shady gambling deal?! Gee whiz! Elio says that if he deviates from the agreement in any way, he’ll be toast.
Jughead meets with who is apparently the very last Ghoulie, who says that most Ghoulies left for the Gryphon Gang and that the closest thing the Gryphons have to a leader is a “whack-job” named Kurtz.
Next thing you know, Jughead is in some kind of sketchy underground club that looks basically like an opium den where some people are playing G&G. “Are you Kurtz?” he asks the creepiest-looking one. “I’m here to talk. One leader to another. I’m the Serpent King” (he says COMPLETELY STRAIGHT-FACED), “and I’m here to make an offer.” Oh, Jughead. You are priceless. He offers immunity if they join his gang. “Law? Immunity?” Kurtz sneers. He says he’s looked into the eyes of the Gargoyle King and that the only law is “The law of Gargoyles, carved in stone.” Scenery is getting chewed to BITS all over the place here.
Jughead, seeing his deal won’t entice Kurtz, switches tracks and offers to be their Game Master. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t work either. “You think Gryphons and Gargoyles is a GAME?” says Kurtz. He says they’re all actually living in a prophecy, and that the Gargoyle King will choose who to sacrifice. For some reason Jughead, instead of busting out laughing, looks kind of scared.
Archie finds Keller and admits that he was right, and that he’s not ready for this fight. Then he TELLS KELLER that he was paid to throw the fight. Archie, stop confessing to criminal conspiracies to every person you run into! Keller agrees to help him not get killed if he does what he says. Archie says he will, which… if that doesn’t work out, I feel like Keller deserves it for actually believing a word that comes out of Archie’s mouth.
Veronica crashes Gladys’s dinner with Hiram, to his dismay and Gladys’s delight. She watches as Gladys and Hiram fence a little; Gladys offers to stay out of his way if she focuses on the candy trade and he focuses on the prison. Hiram notices that this is exactly what Veronica suggested… but declines. Gladys warms up to letting Hiram know what Hermione did, but Veronica interrupts and offers to finally start helping him out if he agrees to Gladys’s deal. Hiram actually agrees as long as he gets a steady stream of prisoners in order to make a profit (proving once again that Hiram’s prison might actually be more evil than the drug trade anyway). Good thing Gladys’s husband is the Sheriff! Gladys asks about Hermione, but Hiram says ominously that she won’t be an issue.
Betty has started cold-calling people from newspaper articles who she thinks might have been to the Farm. One of them finally calls back. The woman says she can’t talk over the phone, so Betty says she has the perfect spot. Wait, so they think the phone might be bugged, but Betty’s going to reveal the location of the secret Sex and Conspiracy Bunker over the phone? Bad call, Betty!
Elio finds Archie warming up in the gym before the match, but Archie’s still set on not “taking the fall.” He returns the money and tells Elio, “Deal’s off.” As soon as he leaves Elio says to Ronson, “You heard the man. Kill him.” Ronson looks pretty scary but I’m not getting my hopes up that he’ll actually do it–I’m sure Archie is just going to spend a little time shirtless and bloody, as usual.
Jughead comes home and catches up with his parents, telling them he failed to recruit one kid gang to his gang and that he’ll find another way to save his gang. Just some normal all-American dinner conversation, right? He mentions how obsessed they are with G&G, and FP drawls like he’s the emotionally withdrawn dad in a cowboy movie: “Take it easy, boy. Get some food in you.”
Betty meets with someone named Martha in the Sex Bunker and asks her about the Farm. She says that she left six years ago, after joining with her sister Marigold, who died by drowning during her baptism. Apparently the Farm believes that you have to come close to death to ascend, you know, all the stuff we basically knew already. Betty panics and runs away.
Montage time! Josie sings at La Bonne Nuit. She sounds and looks amazing, but of course her boyfriend isn’t there because he’s busy being a total idiot and trying to un-throw a boxing match he wasn’t qualified for to begin with. Keller’s advice is to “keep moving, work the jabs, circle away from his power, and stay off the ropes.” Look, I’m no sports expert, but I don’t think that basic-as-fuck advice is going to keep a novice boxer from being killed by a giant dude.
The match starts, still to the accompaniment of Josie’s gorgeous voice. Meanwhile, Betty runs around calling her mom. More singing. More punching. More running. This song’s chorus is “We don’t need another hero,” which is clearly supposed to refer to Archie, the least heroic person on TV at this moment.
Josie finally arrives at the match to see Archie getting a few punches in. She even cheers for him, which shows how forgiving a woman she is. The round ends, so Keller goes up to Archie and says if he wants to win, he has to go for the knock-out, which Archie promptly does. Um… I’m no sports expert, but doesn’t everyone always try to go for the knockout? Isn’t this kind of like sitting a runner down and being like, “If you want to win you’re going to have to run really fast”? The judges’ results are split, but Ronson is eventually declared the winner, which Keller disagrees with. Keller, don’t model poor sportsmanship for Archie!
For some reason Evelyn is running the baptism ceremony. Do you think she IS Edgar? Alice smiles beatifically while Evelyn describes birth in way too graphic a fashion, and then (as Betty is STILL RUNNING–she has been running the entire time Archie was fighting; girl must be fit as hell!) Polly shoves Alice underwater. FInally Betty gets there and breaks into the ceremony. She pulls Alice out of the water without any protest from anyone and they all sort of stand around awkwardly while she gives her mom CPR until she finally wakes up. Considering how much effort they put into this weird baptism it’s weird that they just let Betty ruin it like that!
Josie meets Archie out by the empty ring after he’s done changing. She tells him it’s a win in her book since he decided not to throw the fight. Again, this woman is way too forgiving. You shouldn’t date someone who’s so easily led astray that he was literally about to throw a boxing match for money! Dump him, Josie! She suggests going out for milkshakes to celebrate… unless he has a better idea. Cut to Archie and Josie getting down to the accompaniment of what my closed captions described as “Seductive music.”
Hiram has sat Veronica and Hermione down to dinner and informed them that he finally talked to the Governor. He discovered that Hermione donated to him after Hiram was shot. Veronica tries to interrupt, but Hiram tells her to stop. Finally she says it was her who burned his equipment, and that her mother was covering for her. “I did it for us,” she says. Hiram tells her she owes him seventy-five thousand dollars. Get in line, Hiram.
Jughead and Jellybean are hanging out and watching TV when Gladys comes in with a few Gargoyles. It’s a rather terrifying entrance. She tells them to take off their “stupid masks” and it turns out one of them is Kurtz. She tells Jughead that they need the Gargoyles to take the town back.
Betty has Alice at home, wrapped in a blanket. She can’t get ahold of Martha. And she tells Alice that Polly held her underwater and basically tried to kill her, but Alice dreamily announces that she saw everything, like her destiny and shit. Betty weeps. Alice continues on to tell her that she can now get rid of the thing that’s holding her back. I totally thought she was going to say “You, Betty.” But she just means the house. She wants Betty, herself, Polly, the twins, to go all live at the Farm with Edgar and Evelyn. Yikes.
So, Archie is the worst, but that’s not new. What I think is new and not-great about the recent spate of episodes is how little connection there is amongst the four main characters. Each of the four — Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Jughead — tends to have a storyline of their own in each episode, not to mention the other kids like Josie and Cheryl and Toni who sometimes get their own. And they barely hang together, so each episode is this hasty hodgepodge of overdramatic, unrelated plots, each of which would be bonkers enough on its own even if it weren’t conducted at breakneck speed. It’s like four shows smashed into one. Like, Jughead is on his weird gang-attrition plot, Veronica is living in a soap opera where she is constantly about to get murdered by her dad, Betty is living in a Lifetime drama about a mom who joins a cult, and Archie is basically living in an extremely middle-brow movie about a boy who’s just misunderstood by the world. I really want to see this show pull back on storytelling-by-quantity and go back to one or two Big Baddies per season so we have more time for the actual characters and their relationships.