This episode, as always, leaned in to the camp factor with toothy delight. And it also… maybe… got rid of my least favorite character, or at least freed Jughead from his clutches. All in all, rather fun if also bewildering.
This episode takes place in several chapters, somewhat improving the viewing experience, which in recent weeks sometimes resembles an episode of TV less than it resembles a really intense Scrambler ride. I’m not sure how I feel about it overall, because Veronica and Archie are both still driving me crazy, but at least there are some genuinely scary moments in here.
Previously on Riverdale: The warden told Archie how Hiram framed him, by paying off the witnesses, and suggested that the witnesses were hiding by Shadow Lake in the mines; Joaquin stabbed Archie at the warden’s command and was possibly-probably-definitely playing G&G with him; Veronica helped Archie escape, leading to the warden chewing some MAJOR scenery; Veronica retroactively declared that everyone in the room was in a pact not to tell about Archie; and Jughead went out to find the Gargoyle King.
Um, good title. Spoilers much?
This episode is pretty much automatically a winner in my book: it’s a flashback episode, a nineties episode, and a Breakfast Club ripoff all in one. What more could a girl ask for? It’s just made more amazing by the fact that, since each teen actor plays their own parent, it also includes Cole Sprouse playing a young womanizer FP and Lili Reinhart in bad-girl gear, a fun change for both of them.
Previously on Riverdale: The grownups met to discuss a Pact they had regarding the Gargoyle King and a mysterious Night on which something bad happened; Ethel had a seizure after mentioning the Gargoyle King to Betty and Jughead; Ben killed himself to be with the Gargoyle King; Edgar’s creepy daughter Evelyn introduced herself to Betty; and Archie had a fight in the prison yard and was “tapped” by the warden to be the “new Mad Dog.”
The lights come up on Archie, who’s in some kind of isolation torture cell. The sadistic Warden comes to check on him and, when he’s still intransigent, leaves him there for another week.
Meanwhile, FP and Alice are totally post-coitally snuggling in bed! Whoa. Actually I kind of like it. FP says he’s happy that the farm convinced Alice to make out with him. Alice, in return, softly says that it’s been three weeks with no mysterious blue-lip murder. Not so good at the pillow talk is she?
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.