Riverdale and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros Television Distribution and The CW
Episode directed by Lee Toland Krieger
We’re back with another episode of Riverdale: The Next Generation! Now the first episode didn’t give me a WHOLE lot of hope that this is gonna resemble the original comics in the least, and adding some questionable subplots and story decision on top of that only lessened my enthusiasm. Still, Betty and Veronica are great and Cheryl is fun if completely over the top and goofy, so there are definitely some things to like about it and room to grow as the series goes along. Does this episode build off of what was good in the first one, or are we already getting the best that this series can offer? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Jughead Marlowe as he narrates to us the events of the last episode with that same pulpy film noir style that continues unabated from the last episode. Raymond Chandler, this guy is not, BUT it at least adds SOMETHING to the standard PREVIOUSLY ON recap that you see in front of shows like this and we also get a few details on what has happened since last time. What DID happen last time anyway? Well it turns out that the body of Cheryl Blossom’s brother Jason finally washed up on shore but it has a bullet hole right between the eyes which points to MURDER instead of merely an accident which is what Cheryl has been telling the police this whole time (the boat tipped over and he drowned) so I’m sure they’ll be wanting another chat with her sometime soon. Of course, there’ still one piece of the puzzle that the cops aren’t aware of yet and that’s the secret Archie is hiding from everyone. On The Fourth of July which is the day that Jason went missing, he was at the river where Cheryl and Jason were, and while he didn’t SEE anything, he definitely heard a gunshot. However, he hasn’t told anyone yet because he was with his WAY older music teacher Miss Grundy (you can read my recap of episode one if you want my thoughts on THAT situation) and she’s convinced him that he can’t go the police. Of course, finding out that Jason bid farewell to this cruel world with the help of Smith & Wesson isn’t making it any easier to keep this secret from eating away at his hunky insides.
He first tries to reach out to Betty to comfort his troubled mind, but she’s stonewalling his ass because of what he did with Veronica last episode, so instead he makes a shirtless beeline to Grundy’s house in the middle of the night to try and convince her to go to the cops. Once again she tries to assuage his fears by reminding him that they don’t know anything that the police don’t already know (I’m actually inclined to agree with this) and that it would be DISASTROUS for the both of them if that affair they had (also known as STATUTORY RAPE) were to be made public; telling him that she could lose her job, he could be expelled, and they could BOTH go to jail. Okay, I agree with HALF of that; namely where YOU would get fired and YOU would go to jail. You think Archie’s gonna get kicked out of school for being seduced by a teacher, or that he would ACTUALLY go to jail for not coming forward sooner? ESPECIALLY considering that he’s a minor? No, actually she doesn’t. At least… I don’t THINK so. To me she comes off as a vicious and VERY talented manipulator and it seems like she’s feeding him a line of bullshit to keep him under her thumb and to save her own ass. Now that’s the impression I get, but in all honesty the show really hasn’t shown her TRUE self yet as it were. We haven’t been explicitly shown that all this concern or any of these lousy justifications are not in fact her sincere feelings even though she’s pulling a lot manipulation tactics. I WANT to believe that the show is smart enough not to paint a rapist as sympathetic, but I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop with her. I mean, everything ELSE in this show is so over the top melodramatic, so why not make it just a BIT clearer that Grundy is full of shit and not someone who got “swept up in the moment” or whatever crap that people like this spew when they get caught? For now, the discussion of coming forward is put on the back burner and Archie goes back home not feeling any better about all this. We cut to the next morning where Betty is getting another one of her mother’s UPLIFTING lectures about how the world wants to destroy her and the only one she can trust I her, and now I’m changing her name to Lemon Mom.
How unpalatable is this little pep talk? Betty is still pissed at Archie, but walks to school with him out of spite for her mother. Archie couldn’t be more thrilled, but then he’s also not really picking up on her fragile state at the moment which means that he’s PROBABLY gonna fuck this up sooner or later by demanding more from her than she can give right now. He wants things to go back to exactly what it as before (being BFFs) but the whole “shoving your tongue down Veronica’s throat and then telling me you don’t love me” thing is still a fresh wound that’s practically begging to be salted. Once at school, we go through the usual rigmarole with the supporting cast (Jughead’s the emo detective, Reggie’s a prick, Kevin Keller’s a stereotype, you know the drill) and Cheryl proves ONCE again that she has ABSOLUTELY nothing to hide! HONEST!
Oh but wait! It wouldn’t be a school day at Riverdale High if there weren’t a few DRAMA BOMBS, now would it!? Veronica is working her stylish ass off to try and appease Betty after what happened with her and Archie and even manages to point out how STUPID of a plot point it was for them to even go into that closet at Cheryl’s behest in the first place (Veronica is so good in this that she’s making my job easier!) and Betty tentatively accepts the truce as she doesn’t want to rock the boat at this point. We also get a scene with Lemon Mom at the Coroner’s office which doesn’t really go anywhere (apparently the head shot proved to be fatal) but I just want to point this because this is the most FANTASTIC Coroner imaginable who seems to enjoy his work a LITTLE too much and also because Lemon Mom is apparently a reporter who can hand out GIGANTIC BRIBES for stupid reasons. She’s just looking at the body! WHAT FUCKING INSIGHT ARE YOU GONNA GET FROM IT!?
Oh, and let’s not forget our FAVORITE subplot which is Archie’s sexual and emotional abuse by Miss Grundy! Who DOESN’T love seeing more of that!? Archie has another crisis of conscious when the principal Mr. Weatherbee played by Peter James Bryant (oh hey! He’s finally in this!) wants to know if anything is upsetting him and the first thing he does after halfheartedly denying it is to beg Miss Grundy once again to let him go to the cops. Of course, what’s holding him back is how well she’s dangling the carrot of more sex and a real relationship in front of him if he keeps his mouth shut. It’s not a BAD portrayal of a toxic manipulator, but they’re still holding back on whether they want us to (rightfully) feel Miss Grundy is a terrible person. Thankfully they manage to throw in ONE new detail here to justify yet another scene of Miss Grundy toying with Arche, and that’s that Jughead JUST SO HAPPENED to be passing by when he sees the two of them together!
The show continues down this road of utter destruction when Betty finally has enough of this EVERYTHING IS AWESOME shtick, and blows up on Archie at lunch as well as Veronica at Cheer leading practice. Now all of this makes sense as Betty is clearly still hurting after what happened over the weekend and it’s not helped by these two INSISTING that things go back to normal. What’s NOT so easy to understand is what Betty does next which is to invite Cheryl to a Girl’s Night Out as a direct spite to Veronica. Yes, THAT Cheryl. The same one who berated her at cheer leading tryouts last week and orchestrated the closet scheme. Out of ALL the girls at this school and in the Archie universe, WHY HER!? Well for DRAMA purposes obviously, but it’s just so blunt and makes it harder to buy these characters as ACTUAL people, not to mention the easy lay-up you could have had there by introducing Ethel, Midge, or even Sabrina for some easy fans service!
So Veronica and Archie are back on the outs with Betty (well THAT certainly didn’t take long), and they even have a scene to discuss how bad this makes them feel which is backed by some REALLY noticeably bad music for some reason. Hey, at least THEY didn’t end up spending an evening with the Evilest Redhead who SHOCKINGLY turns out to hate Betty! IMAGINE THAT!! She just completely loses it after she starts to ask questions about Betty’s sister Polly (who was dating Jason but still hasn’t shown up in the show yet); proving ONCE AGAIN that she’s not very GOOD at being evil no matter how well she’s perfected the scowl. She can’t hold it together for an HOUR before going Mommie Dearest on Betty’s ass and accusing her sister of killing Jason… because reasons I guess. I mean, the two of them WERE dating, but as far as we’ve been told, Polly is off in some halfway home recovering from… something (drugs I assume) and if it WAS possible for her to be the killer, well she’d have been dragged in by the authorities by now, wouldn’t she!? Thankfully Betty manages to buck up to her and scares her out of the house with nothing but harsh words and a seriously mean mug!
Well that’s ONE uncomfortable confrontation down. Why not go for TWO? When Archie gets back home he finds that Jughead is sitting on his porch and has quite a few questions about what’s going on between him and Grundy. Okay, so the big thing that’s been holding me back about the Archie/Grundy subplot is that the show still hasn’t really committed to how it wants to frame the relationship; whether the terrible things I’m picking up on from Grundy were intended by the creators or if they actually wanted this to come off as romantic in some way. Jughead, who’s only been portrayed in a positive light (as well as somewhat objective compared to everyone else which is why he gets narrator duties) tells Archie in no uncertain terms that GRUNDY IS USING HIM AND ONLY LOOKING OUT FOR HERSELF! THANK YOU!! Someone FINALLY said it and it’s the person who’s guiding the story for the audience. I still don’t particularly like Jughead’s characterization in this as a wannabe Private Eye with an attitude problem, but his unambiguous concern for Archie is something that FINALLY ties him back to the character from the comics; even more so than the silly hat.
During this confrontation Archie ends up telling Jughead about the gunshot they heard on The Fourth of July and, to no one’s surprise, he wants the guy to tell the cops. Archie isn’t quite there yet, but Jughead manages to at least rattle him enough that he’s one step closer to ACTUALLY doing the right thing which, for the record, I feel is less telling someone about the gunshot for JASON’S sake and more that he shouldn’t be keeping a secret like this in the first place. I mean, the kid got shot. I know that there’s SOME value in know exactly when the gun was fired, but the autopsy is probably gonna give all the information they need to find the real killer who is OBVIOUSLY Cheryl! Of course, not EVERYONE is convinced of the obvious as we see Reggie the next day in the REALLY well furnished student lounge (WHAT PUBLIC SCHOOL HAS ONE OF THESE AND WHY IS EVERYONE THERE INSTEAD OF IN CLASS!?) talking shit and accusing basically everyone within earshot of murdering Jason. When Jughead has the AUDACITY to fire a barb back at him, the fragile mother fucker jumps a couch and nearly decks the guy four inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. Archie jumps in, they have a six second fight (I counted), and the scene cuts to Archie nursing a black eye at home where he finally SORT of tells his dad what’s going on. He’s still very vague about the details (what if I have a friend who knows a friend who may have sort of did something hypothetically?), but his dad does his best to give advice without interfering too much. With Jughead’s little pep talk the night before and now this conversation with Luke Perry, Archie finally decides to do the right thing… eventually. We cut to the night of the big game ( don’t know if it’s THAT night or later that week) where Archie tells Grundy in no uncertain terms that he’s gonna tell Mr. Weatherbee the next day about what he heard and will try to keep her name out of it. Ugh… I know he still LIKES her, but why even give her this chance to screw you over; especially when you’re not even gonna come clean about the affair? For someone THIS manipulative, this could go REALLY badly and I’m hoping the writers have enough restraint to avoid going for that very enticing drama bomb of Miss Grundy lying about her part in it being consensual that would no doubt cast her in an unambiguously evil light (which is a good thing), but would also feed into the harmful falsehood about women lying about rape (which is a bad thing). I’m not saying they’re GONNA do that, but this scene happening RIGHT at the tail end of the episode (just enough time for one big drama bomb before the credits) is making me a bit nervous; especially considering that Archie also makes up with Jughead right afterwards. THINGS ARE GOING TOO WELL RIGHT NOW!!
It’s still pregame so we have to have the obligatory Josie and the Pussycats concert (still no name for the non-Josie Pussycats, though we DO learn that Josie is the daughter of the mayor) where they sing a cover Sugar Sugar that raises a WHOLE lot of questions about continuity. Sugar Sugar if you don’t know is a song from 1969 that was made by… THE ARCHIES. Okay, it was written by Jeff Bary and Andy Kim because Archie Andrews isn’t a real fucking person, but it’s still an official Archies tune with a music video and everything! Before my brain can start tearing itself apart trying to figure it out, the song ends and the football team comes running out. While this is happening, Cheryl thinks that she sees Jason among them and runs off the field to the girl’s locker room. Veronica follows after her and comforts Cheryl as it finally hits her that her brother is gone… and we also get a clue as to what happen as Cheryl says that he was supposed to come back. Now I would normally take this to mean she has some Frankenstein style plot to reanimate the corpse, but I think the show wants us to think that there’s something more to his disappearance than we originally thought. I mean, I joke about how weird the Blossom twins acted in the few flashbacks we’ve seen of them together, but even with that it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that they went boating alone and only ONE of them drowned. Whether or not Cheryl still did it is up in the air, but this AT LEAST indicates that that wasn’t the desired end goal and that we’ll be finding out more about what happened that day in future episodes. For now though, Veronica manages to be a shoulder for her to cry on which may score some brownie points later on (Cheryl will make sure to kill her last) but ALSO fixes the schism between her and Betty as she JUST SO HAPPENED to be the only other one to follow after the two and watches this scene play out from the doorway. Oh hey! That’s TWO sets of friends that have been mended in a single night! Maybe this show will FINALLY resemble its source material!
We can’t end this on a high note though; not just because the show’s a drama and they need something to keep you invested in coming back the next week, but because Archie still needs to tell Mr. Weatherbee what he heard on The Fourth of July. EXCEPT HE DOESN’T! Right before he enters the Principal’s office, Mr. Weatherbee and the Sheriff storm out and head directly to one of the classrooms to arrest someone. It turns out that the autopsy report came back in and Jason was shot… ONE WEEK LATER! So he was alive for a WHOLE week before getting a bullet in the head, and that means… the gunshot Archie heard was not the one that killed Jason! RIVERDALE SHOCK!! For some reason THIS revelation is the one that finally outs Cheryl in handcuffs, though I’m not exactly sure how (you’d think the fact that there was a GUNSHOT would be enough to contradict Cheryl’s story), but whatever. I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!! And so the episode ends with THE OBVIOUS suspect finally getting taken away which means that Archie doesn’t have a reason to tell anyone what happened and can continue to let this secret destroy him from the inside out! Hooray!
So there were some improvements from the last episode, especially in regards to Jughead who barely bothered to show up in the pilot, but we’re still sort of spinning our wheels here on the subplots that I wish they’d get over as quickly as possible. Betty and Veronica work best when they’re friends, yet we barely got to see any of that before they broke up and we spent the WHOLE episode trying to fix that. Jason’s body was found in the last episode, but it took them until the very end for that to amount to anything, and Cheryl’s story couldn’t really progress until that happened so she kept u the mean girl routine without any real point to it. Worst of all is the Grundy story line which continues to be REALLY uncomfortable and yet no one seems willing to just bite the bullet on the terrible choice that was made for her character and would rather just let it get drawn out which the ending of this episode seems to imply considering Archie’s confession was undercut by the results of the autopsy. We only have thirteen episodes in this season and I really don’t want the mystery of Jason’s dead body (I’m guessing the secret isn’t going to be THAT surprising) to be the only thing this show is about. If it is, then when are they gonna find time for Sabrina or The Marvelous Maureen!?