Jughead and Betty, outside in the dark with trees behind them, stare up at something looking scared.

Riverdale Season 3, Episode 2: “Fortune And Men’s Eyes”

I’m going to start off by remarking that watching this episode–in which Archie becomes the ringleader of an almost-all-white juvenile detention center with a gang problem and teaches his fellow inmates to reclaim their humanity with football–and then almost immediately going out to watch KJ Apa in The Hate U Give, a sensitive and honest drama about blackness and racism and police brutality–was a surreal experience.

I have to wonder what KJ Apa thought of this episode himself. There is just such a difference between his work in The Hate U Give — playing a white boy with a black girlfriend who is slow to, but willing to, learn about the racism she experiences — and this episode, which creates a fantasy blithely oblivious to the realities of mass incarceration, a world in which it’s all white kids in the jail and the key to their spiritual liberation is for a white boy to tell them not to act like animals. I mean, at least they didn’t cast a bunch of black kids to play the other boys at the center, right? Because that would be an overtly offensive white-savior narrative, whereas what they ended up with is “just” a bizarrely out-of-touch dreamworld–still, I think, a creation of white privilege, but just more subtly so.

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Cheryl stands in a red bikini top, hands on hips, with Veronica and Betty seen to the left, facing away from camera.

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.

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