Riverdale and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros Television Distribution and The CW
Episode directed by Mark Piznarski
We’re back with another episode of Riverdale 90210! So things are still pretty rocky for this series, what with its severe mishandling of dark and weighty subject matter, but even with that we at least get some awesome Betty and Veronica moments here and there as well as a Jughead who’s starting to come into his own for this series. Still, as long as the Miss Grundy subplot is around, I’m not convinced this show will manage to pull itself out of the mess it put itself in by having that serious miscalculation. Are we in for another uncomfortable slog through boneheaded choices and obnoxious self-seriousness, or can the series put itself back on track before it’s too late to salvage any of this? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Jughead reminding us that Jason Blossom is dead and that everyone is apparently a suspect as he ACTUALLY died a full week after he disappeared on the Forth of July; meaning that everyone had the opportunity to do the deed. Motive is still a bit murky though as I doubt most people would want to kill a teenager, even if he is kind of a creep (at least that’s what the flashbacks seem to imply), but I’m sure whoever’s responsible will have convoluted and completely out of left field reason for the murder that we just can’t see yet. For now though, we have much more important fish to fry than the death of Cheryl’s brother; namely that the local drive in theater is closing down (NOOOOOOOOOOO!!) and that Betty now knows that Archie and Grundy were at the river together on the Fourth of July which honestly isn’t all that relevant anymore since we’ve pretty much solved every relevant mystery about what happened that morning. Archie and Grundy heard a gunshot from Dilton Doiley while Cheryl and Jason bid a tearful farewell to one another as the guy ran off into the woods to who knows where. Oh, and because the show makes damn sure you notice this, Betty apparently has a diary where she’s writing about what she knows. Considering who her mother is I’m guessing that THAT little book is going to come into play sooner rather than later, but for now it’s just a plant for a future payoff. What’s relevant now is the sort of love triangle forming between Archie, Miss Grundy, and his dad who thinks she’s REALLY hot! Hell, I would too if I didn’t already know she was a total monster!
The oblivious Luke Perry invites her to join him and Archie for dinner which she begrudgingly accepts, and they head to the ONLY restaurant in town which is Pop’s. Oh look! Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Gay Stereotype (who for some reason is supposed to be the AWESOME Kevin Keller) are there to talking about how the Twilight Drive-In where Jughead apparently works is being shut down by the city and is going to be demolished. Okay, THIS!? This is what I want to see Archie and the gang tackling! Not complex issues that this show is SO not equipped to deal with like cyber bullying, male entitlement, and statutory rape. Keep it simple for now AND THEN try to tackle the heavy stuff once you’ve proven you can at least handle a Save the Rec Center story. Jughead is making his case to his friends about why it’s important to save the drive-in, but the pleas fall mostly on deaf ears. Apparently the town owns the drive-in which seems odd (a for profit local business owned by the government? Aren’t SOEs usually financial institutions?) and some ANONYMOUS BUYER just gave the mayor a bunch of money for the land. Okay wait. So not only does City Hall own the drive-in, they can ALSO just sell it to someone without disclosing who it is!? I’m… not an expert on these things so I’m not gonna start railing about this, but that DOES seem a bit fishy to me! Anyway, while Jughead and the gang are trying to figure out what movies to play on the last night, good ol’ Cheryl is with two of her nameless cronies at a booth not far away where… I guess Cheryl is partaking in this peasant food to keep herself humble and relatable to all the serfs who she has to deal with on a daily basis. You know, at least with Betty’s mom (who I refer to as Lemon Mom due to her unpleasant attitude reminding me of The Earl of Lemongrab) we have a CONSISTENTLY awful characterization. With Cheryl though, the writers can’t seem to decide if they want the audience to have any sympathy for her, so they keep going back on forth. She’s in total jerk wad mode right now as she’s found out that Veronica’s mom is working at a waitress at Pop’s and berates her in front of everyone else. Okay, so… the show DOESN’T want us to ever sympathize with Cheryl again? At least I don’t know how they would expect us to like this character again after she treats servers like they’re lesser people; an act that is on the same irredeemable level as kicking a dog.
Fortunately, Hermione Lodge takes mere moments to cut down this sixteen year old shade throwing amateur, but unfortunately Cheryl doesn’t take defeat lightly and JUST SO HAPPENS to see her later that night conversing with someone from a local gang called the Southside Serpents (DAMN that’s going deep into the Archie lore!) and takes a picture of said conversation for what I can only assume are nefarious reasons. The person in question by the way is… Skeet Ulrich? First Luke Perry, and now Billy fucking Loomis!? Hey, Fingers crossed that Matthew Lillard gets casted as Ambrose Pipps! While Cheryl is further cementing her bad girl status (I guess her brother’s murder is taking a backseat this episode), Betty notices that Archie and his dad are with Miss Predator and drags his sorry ass out to the parking lot to find out once and for all if he’s truly hitting that. He admits it to her but also inadvertently to Veronica who couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation, and he pulls out the BEST FRIEND card on Betty to keep her quiet about all this and to drop the issue. He doesn’t have such a card to play on Veronica, but it looks like she doesn’t want to get involved with his business, so she’s not too keen to tell anyone else. Betty on the other hand isn’t too keen about keeping this a secret, and before Archie can get an ironclad oath of silence, Lemon Mom shows up out of the blue and demands that Betty get in the car which she ACTUALLY does so she can get away from this situation.
Since Betty managed to finagle her way out of the promise, she goes full steam ahead on busting Grundy for whatever the hell she’s up to (other than getting in Archie’s pants) and starts with a faux interview for the newspaper. She doesn’t manage to bait her into confessing she’s riding his jock, but she DOES find out that last year she had an independent study course with Jason Blossom. Remember him? The dead kid? Well he seems to have had the same arrangement that Archie has now with Miss Grundy. Her investigation goes a bit deeper, by which I mean she does a google search, and she comes back to Archie with a bit more information. Maybe not confirmation that she was sleeping with Jason as well, but something else that is QUITE damning. And infuriating. Like… REALLY infuriating.
So then. Let’s unravel THIS, shall we? Miss Grundy, which is NOT her real name, has no publicly available records before she moved to Riverdale a year ago; including her LinkedIn profile; something I imagine the SCHOOL would have caught before hiring her, but whatever. Not only that, but Betty can only seem to find the name Geraldine Grundy in association with a different school teacher. She’s dead by the way, and not a Riverdale native (I can’t confirm if the comic’s version was BORN there, but I know she graduated from Riverdale High). Hey there all you people out there pissed off that Miss Grundy is now a young sexual predator instead of the stern yet compassionate educator from the comics! Now you don’t have to worry about that! Because we killed her! Aren’t you happy now!? Fuck this. They couldn’t make this shit work with Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman (Lex Jr my ass), and you sure as shit aren’t gonna get away with dragging Grundy through the dirt here! A better question than whether or not the hot young music teacher here is REALLY Geraldine Grundy is why the show felt the need to axe her from the show ENTIRELY. What about Grundy was incompatible with this hip and edgy remake of the series? Was she too sincere? Was she not hot enough? Did a teacher doing their fucking job right not fit well with your shitty portrayal of Riverdale as a scandal infested hell hole? We’ll… put all that aside for now and get back to the episode at hand. Archie tells Betty that he doesn’t believe any of this or that Grundy is up to no good, but when we see him with Grundy later it’s clearly eating away at him. Now I wasn’t really sure if the ending of the last episode which had them making out in the music room implied that they were back together, but this episode seems to confirm it as they’re have a very cozy movie night which seems to contradict everything that Grundy has said up to this point (it was always a mistake, we can’t be together, etc), but I guess she’s at the point where she’s decided to Break Bad.
He tries to surreptitiously probe for information which doesn’t go too well once Grundy starts occupying his mouth for other things, but luckily Betty (with Veronica in tow) has completely ignored Archie’s pleas and is breaking into Grundy’s car while the make-out session is going on. I mean… you COULD just go to the cops and have them look into it. Hell, if there’s not enough evidence NOW for an arrest, they could at least begin an investigation! Clearly that’s too GOOD of an idea, but what do they end up finding during their carjacking? Well they find an old ID confirming that her name is Jennifer Gibson (I’m not finding a connection to the comics), and oh yeah; A LOADED GUN!!
I think now is a good point to start talking about how Betty and Veronica (Mostly Betty though as Veronica just seems to be along for the ride) have responded to the revelation that Archie is being abused which is ABSOLUTELY the case as a minor cannot give consent. Now this is definitely not an exact science and a case by case approach to any situation like this is obviously required, BUT one of the common threads across ALL advice when it comes to helping someone who is being abused is to COMMUNICATE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT1. With Archie being a minor but not a child, the decision about reporting without the permission of the victim is kind of a gray area, but the idea is that you can’t help someone who isn’t ready for help, and no matter how strongly YOU may feel about a situation someone is in, the most important thing is that they need to have agency and control over their own lives. Using phrases like “need to” or “you really should” or even “you have to open your eyes” can come off as hostile and make it harder for the victim of abuse to get the help they need. Do I expect Betty and Veronica to be experts in helping victims of abuse? Of course not, BUT the show has been treading water on heavy subjects that it’s not capable of handling with the respect and care that they deserve, and the show doesn’t have a grounding element to balance things out when the show DOES falter. For lack of a better role model in this situation, we only have Betty and Veronica to provide insight into the situation for Archie, and so there’s no one in here that can point out where Betty and Veronica are fucking up which is not good when things are THIS serious all the time. Hey, if the show doesn’t want me thinking this deep about this stuff, then they shouldn’t be bringing it up in the first place. I’d gladly have this show be a revival of Archie’s Weird Mysteries or even just have them drop the “not your grandparents’ Archie Andrews” bullshit and they just saved the rec center every week. Speaking of which, we’ve been talking about the Archie/Grundy subplot for a while now. What’s Jughead been up to this whole time? His mission to find the mysterious buyer of the drive-in turns out to be rather fruitless as the mayor is keeping their lips sealed (how is that even legal!?) and he doesn’t fare any better convincing Archie’s dad Fred Andrews who owns the constructions company demolishing the place to push the timetable back a bit so he can try and find the answers. Oh, and is that a plot point they just dropped!? It looks like Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr (aka Jughead’s dad) used to work for Fred but was fired for stealing materials from the work site. That’s… interesting I guess, but do they really need to keep adding plot thread after plot thread to this already overstuffed story? We haven’t even SEEN the guy, and yet he’s already got a bitter backstory that will need to be explored in future episodes! Well even if Jughead’s super sleuthing skills have failed him this time, at least WE the audience get to see who the mysterious buyer is; and it’s… HERMIONE LODGE!! Okay… what the hell does she want with it? Well it’s still not clear (just add it to the pile of storylines we need to resolve) but at least we now know why the mayor is so tight lipped. Apparently she helped speed the deal along, and for her efforts she gets a comically large gym bag of cash. Okay…
Oh right! She had a subplot too with Cheryl Blossom. Eh, that didn’t turn out be all that important. Cheryl’s plan was pretty unimpressive as all she did was show Veronica the picture of Hermione arguing with Billy Loomis and when confronted she deflects the question. That basically catches us back up with the Grundy subplot which picks up with Archie FINALLY confronting Grundy about the gun and the fake name. It’s… sigh. It’s not good either. Apparently the reason Miss Grundy changed her name and got a gun is because she’s running away from an abusive boyfriend. Yeah. The show goes there, so… let’s fucking go there. NUMBER ONE! Miss Grundy has shown time and time again that she can be manipulative and will take advantage of Archie’s young age and naiveté whenever she needs to, up and to including gas lighting which we saw in episode one (those were fireworks we heard; not a gunshot). I don’t know if this is where the show is going, but it would not surprise me if it turns out that she’s lying about this which would have the unfortunate side effect of perpetuating the myth that women lie about abuse. Everyone should be believed (men, women, and everyone else) if they’re willing to come forward about abuse, and if this is going down THAT road where people will lie about stuff like this, then it’s a despicable choice to make. Now you could say that it makes SENSE considering what a terrible character she is, right? Well… no. It’s not enough to just say someone is a BAD PERSON to hand wave a show perpetuating harmful myths as SOME people are still gonna take that kind of stuff to heart, or at the very least they’ll be able to look at it to reinforce their already awful views. But I might be getting ahead of myself. Maybe I’ve been too harsh this whole time, and should give her the benefit of the doubt! SHE’S STILL A GOD DAMN RAPIST, AND THE ONLY PURPOSE THIS BACKSTORY SERVES IS TO GIVE US A REASON TO FEEL SYMPATHY FOR HER!! The way the scene is framed is in a way that tries to absolve her of wrongdoing and it’s really fucking gross. Now the show has been so indecisive about her character up to this point that it’s STILL possible they’re gonna do the right thing eventually and pull the rug out from under us. That would be a point where she not only does something unequivocally evil (she’s already done THAT several times in this show), but where the framing of it leaves no doubt as to how you should feel about the situation. If that’s the case, well they’re playing a bit too freaking close to the chest with this, and I’d really prefer them to just get that over with instead of trying to wring as much DRAMA out of this abusive relationship that they can (or at least THINK they can) get away with.
After all that, we’re at the point in the episode where we cover a few bases in the lead up to the Twilight Drive-In’s final night that EVERYONE is attending and we’ll presumably have quite a few drama bombs to drop. Starting things off, we have Kevin Keller… who actually has a really good scene here! It’s the first time he’s interacted with his dad (the sheriff) and I like the dynamic here. His dad seems to accept him, though there’s definitely a hint of reservation there. Maybe it’s more to do with the cop in him than any sort of internalized homophobia, but the conversation they have here about Kevin staying safe (i.e. not cruising for dudes) until this whole murder mystery blows over feels like the latest part of a long going and very uncomfortable conversation and for once Kevin Keller is allowed to be something other than the gay best friend stereotype! IMAGINE THAT!? Speaking of stereotypes, Lemon Mom is her usual DELIGHTFUL self in the next scene when she goes to tell Fred Andrews that his son’s not welcome to hang out with Betty anymore. I… still don’t really get her objection to Archie. Seriously, she’s been riding the kid’s ass since the first episode, and I have NO idea what the hell he did! It’s not even like The Lipstick Incident happened in this continuity! Fred doesn’t have time for this latest bout of nastiness from Lemon Mom and just brushes her off. After all, he’s got to prepare for his date with Hermione Lodge at the Drive-In. Wait, what? WHEN THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN!? WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE SOMETHING LIKE THAT OFF SCREEN!? Oh, whatever. I’m SURE she has ulterior motives anyway. What’s more important right now is that Lemon Mom is now in a crabbier mood than usual, and seems to be blowing off steam by snooping around Betty’s room while putting away her laundry. Well she certainly finds something, but not what I was expecting.
I THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO FIND THE DIARY! WHY DOES BETTY HAVE THE GUN AND WHY DID SHE KEEP IN AN UNLOCKED DRAWER!? Naturally Lemon Mom THEN proceeds to read her diary which reveals everything about Archie and Grundy (who didn’t see THAT coming?) and proceeds to drag Betty off to find Archie’s father. Everyone is already at the Drive-In however (which is odd because Lemon Mom finds the gun in the middle of the day yet it’s night when we cut to the Drive-In) where Kevin and Veronica are enjoying a platonic date as much as they can considering the circumstances; not helped by the least threatening gang imaginable talking through the entire screening of Rebel Without a Cause.
Well things turn around a bit for Kevin once one of the hot boys from the Southside Serpants approaches him and they have a secret make out session. Hey, at least it’s better than the bi-curious Moose who’s pretty much ignored him since the first episode, but then again going for the bad boy when you’re the sheriff’s son is probably gonna end poorly. Oh well. At least SOMEONE’S getting some action in here that doesn’t involve a felony!
Veronica on the other hand is not so lucky considering HER big drama bomb of the night is watching her mom make a secret business deal with Billy Loomis of the Southside Serpents (I’m guessing that’s the only reason she agreed to come with Fred Andrews in the first place as she needed a cover) which kind of puts a damper on the whole evening. She eventually does confront her mother after the show about this and it turns out that her father Hiram hired the Serpents to make the south side of town (as well as the Twilight Drive-In) a more rowdy place so as to drop the property values for Hiram to swoop in and buy up on the cheap. Wait, isn’t that basically the same plot as Blazing Saddles? Now I wish we had seen some of what the Serpents were up to this whole time! It’s unclear what Veronica plans to do, if anything, considering that her mom lays a SUPER thick guilt trip on her about all the stuff they have (which is COMPLETELY unfair by the way considering she hardly had a choice in what her parents would provide to her growing up), so this will end up with the other bajillion plot threads that need to be resolved eventually. Speaking of which, we have one BIG one that’s finally coming to a head, and that’s the Archie/Grundy relationship. See, while Hermione was out there with making a deal with Billy Loomis, Fred got snatched up by Lemon Mom (how did Hermione get home then?) to confront Grundy at the school. Oh look! Someone else is with her as well! Wanna take a guess who!?
How many paragraphs long discussions have I had about this relationship in THIS recap alone? Ugh… well here’s another one, and we’re gonna talk YET AGAIN about framing! When presenting an argument in a visual medium like film and television, it’s often just as important WHO is making an argument as THE SUBSTANCE of the argument itself is. When Lemon Mom, Betty, and Fred crash in on Grundy and Archie, we have a preconceived notion of these characters based on their actions up to this point, and that’s going to color (to a certain degree) the validity of what they say. One character argues that the police should be called and that Miss Grundy needs to go to jail. In my opinion, that is the most reasonable position to take. Whether or not Archie consented (which he can’t because he’s a minor) or if Grundy really is an abuse victim who got “wrapped up in the moment” or whatever bullshit excuse she can come up with, something very wrong happened here and it needs to be dealt with by the authorities in SOME way. Who takes this position? Why Lemon Mom of course who throws in a heaping helping of Victim Blaming on top of it! For some reason the ONE person arguing for Miss Grundy to be stopped is ALSO using it as an excuse to slam Archie as a morally bankrupt hoodlum. See what I mean? This feels like they’re intentionally trying to poison this particular outlook of the situation (she needs to be arrested) by attaching it to this off putting vendetta. Even worse than that is what they do with Fred Andrews who the show is trying to portray as the voice of reason… but he barely says anything other than “it’s complicated”. Uh… the lady took advantage of your son. I figured you’d have SOMETHING more to say than just THAT! Grundy by the way is just sitting in a corner saying nothing leaving Lemon Mom to basically make an ass of herself the ENTIRE scene which frames the whole situation to make HER look less likable than the GOD DAMN RAPIST!!
Lemon Mom threatens to tell everyone about Miss Grundy (how is that a bad thing!?) but Betty convinces her not to by… I guess threatening to pretend to be crazy? I don’t know, I guess the only thing Lemon Mom fears is that Betty will have a mental breakdown like her sister Polly did, so threatening to at least very publicly FAKE one is enough to keep her in check. Grundy agrees to quit her job and leave town that night; leaving her to run off and commit the same crimes against some other kid in some other town. Definitely not what I would call the right move, but I guess Archie would similarly have a meltdown if she got arrested, so everyone just agrees to have her exiled from Riverdale. Wait, doesn’t she have a house? How does she hope to just abandon her mortgage!? Wait, if she’s only had this identity a year; how the hell did her get a mortgage in the first place!? You know that realtors and banks do ACTUAL background checks, right!? They don’t just check your Facebook page! So I went and looked at the IMDb page for this show and sure enough, Sarah Habel who plays Miss Grundy in this is only credited for four episodes. It’s possible that IMDb has it wrong, but this really does seem to be the end of this wretched storyline once and for all. This also means that she couldn’t have been the killer (the gun was a red herring) and that her morning classes with Jason Blossom last year, whether or not there was hanky-panky, are ultimately irrelevant. I will give this show credit for one thing though. The final shot we see of Miss Grundy as she’s packing up to leave is probably the best way we could have hoped to have ended this story. She’s got her stupid heart sunglasses back on and looks some new piece of jailbait up and down before getting into her car; seemingly already gotten over Archie and ready to move on to whoever her next victim ends up being. It may not be as satisfying as her getting dragged off in handcuffs, but at least it’s a clear sign from the show itself (and not form the obvious interpretation of the situation) that Grundy is not to be sympathized with and really is a predator.
Everything else at the end of the episode is actually pretty good, so maybe Miss Grundy leaving really WILL turn this show around. Kevin and his dad make it back home the next morning (the hell were they doing all night?) and find that their place was broken into and all the sheriff’s notes on the Jason Blossom case have been stolen. I’m not sure how that would help the person who stole the notes (wouldn’t you ASSUME the sheriff remembers most of the stuff that was stolen?) but hey, it’s something to build off of for the next episode. Archie has an ACTUAL emotional moment with his dad that’s nice, as does Betty with her mom even if that one isn’t QUITE as nice (those are serious crocodile tears coming from Lemon Mom) but at least they put SOMETHING here and didn’t let her final scene be where she’s berating a victim of abuse. And of course, there’s Jughead. The poor sap didn’t manage to find out that Hermione was the one who bought the Drive-In for Lodge Industries (isn’t it under investigation? How are they gonna keep this a secret for long?) and so he has to say goodbye to his beloved place of employment. Except… it’s NOT just where he works! HE SLEEPS THERE TOO! RIVERDALE SHOCK!! That’s not all though! Remember Billy Loomis! HE’S JUGHEAD’S FATHER!! Wow! That’s a twist that’s ACTUALLY interesting and doesn’t rely on jabbing at sensitive and weighty issues with all the skill and grace of an incompetent butcher!
This show is so incredibly frustrating with this episode POSSIBLY taking the cake for poor decisions and an irresponsible use of filmmaking (or I guess television-making), but it’s also the first time that I ACTUALLY had a bit of hope for the series. Sure, I can point to stuff I’ve liked in the last few episodes like Betty and Veronica (I’ll even throw in Cheryl who’s SO over the top evil that it’s actually kind of compelling at points) but whenever this episode wasn’t focused on Archie and Grundy, it felt like some of the characters were starting to come into their own like Kevin Keller and that the storylines, while still needlessly convoluted, managed to be engaging without resorting to murder (Jason’s gruesome death) or whatever the hell we’re supposed to be getting from Archie’s abusive relationship. I really do not feel that has been handled well at any point in the series, and the fact that it was so prominent in this episode only highlighted those flaws. Fortunately, it looks like we’ve burned through all of that and we can finally get to something worthwhile in the coming episodes; particularly when it comes to the revelation of Jughead’s living situation. Hopefully it’s all uphill for here which wouldn’t be TOO hard to pull off considering how much I’ve not been enjoying this series so far, but hell; I’ll call it a freaking victory if it manages to do THAT much.
NOTE: I’m clearly no expert on ANYTHING that’s been discussed in this episode as far as abusive relationships and how those situations should be handled; in real life and on film and television. Basically, everything above should be taken with a grain of salt and I apologize if I was WAY off in my analysis.
1) RAINN has some really great information on this topic that you can find here.