Super Recaps: Riverdale Chapter 5 (Heart of Darkness)

Riverdale and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros Television Distribution and The CW

Episode directed by Jesse Warn

We’re back with another episode of Everybody Hates Cheryl!  The last episode thankfully finished off that abysmal Grundy subplot which means we can FINALLY get to what this show SHOULD be!  Archie solving weird mysteries throughout town!  What is that not good enough!?  I want this show to become the next American Horror Story, damn it!!  AND WHEN DOES SABRINA SHOW UP!?  Well for NOW at least, we still have to find Jason Blossom’s killer which… I GUESS is a kind of horror story even if it’s not supernatural… OR IS IT!?  Can this show manage to stay afloat now that its worst subplot has been jettisoned from this sinking ship?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with yet another Jughead monologue as he tells us all about the Blossom home which looks like the unholy lovechild of Roger Corman and Tim Burton that was delivered by Vincent Price in the Westin Hills Insane Asylum from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.  What I’m saying is that it’s gothic as fuck, and I ABSOLUTELY love it!  Hell, I can’t even tell if it has electricity, though you’d think it would HAVE to considering how many fog machines they’d need to keep that place constantly engulfed in THAT much foreboding atmosphere!

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I don’t know what’s more amazing; that this show now has the Gothic sensibilities of a Guillermo del Toro joint, or that it all makes perfect sense for Cheryl.

Okay, so this scene of the lonely maiden in red carrying a giant fire hazard DIDN’T actually happen as Cheryl is having a dream about her brother’s upcoming memorial.  That said, her REAL life house looks EXACTLY the same and her family is right out of the Heathcliff School of shitty parenting.  Now I will give Mama Blossom (first name Penelope a LITTLE bit of leeway here as her behavior is very similar to that of Betty’s mother (AKA Lemon Mom), but to me it makes a bit more sense here.  For one thing, Cheryl is still sleeping in Jason’s bed which raises some obvious questions, and… well we’ve SEEN what Cheryl is like and I can’t imagine that her vindictive nature (probably taught to her by her mother) makes for a particularly happy home life.  Lemon Mom on the other hand is just making shit up considering that Betty never actually DOES anything worthy of scorn, so the malicious attitude feels like it comes out of nowhere; ESPECIALLY when Betty turned out just fine.  All I’m saying is you’d think that Betty would at least be a BIT more like her mother if this is how she acts ALL the damn time which is basically what we are seeing with the Blossoms!  Speaking of Lemon Mom, you are all fortunate enough to get a reprieve from my Adventure Time references as she’s conveniently absent from this episode; off at some sort of Women in Journalism conference.  Seems like bad timing considering Jason’s memorial is happening in just a few days and I’d imagine she’d want to be all up in there asking inappropriate questions and coming up with slanderous headlines again.  Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be PLENTY of drama bombs even without here what with the icy relationship that Cheryl and her mother have and the fact that the latter is forbidding the former from speaking at it.  Now that IS a shitty thing to do… but again, this is Cheryl we’re talking about.

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“Welp.  I’ve got to say that your first draft needs work.  A lot of shitty remarks about Veronica and you use the word ‘throbbing’ seven times when talking about Jason.”     “Is that too many times?”     “You know, I’m pretty sure that even ONCE is too many times for a eulogy.”

Now we’ll get back to that situation soon enough, but for now we’ve got to catch up on Archie who’s in his room with no shirt naturally and taking his frustrations out on a punching bag.  All I can say about this scene is… GOD DAMN!  Someone put a fork in this beefcake, because he is DONE!  He’s also supposed to be a sixteen year old but hey, at least he’s probably gonna start dating women in his freaking age group now that YOU KNOW WHO has left the picture which is going to call much less attention to his age (or fetishize it).  As much as I was pissed about the Grundy/Archie love affair in the first four episodes which seemed to relish in the unhealthiness of that relationship, I’m fine with cutting it a bit of slack in sexualizing its main cast like this; all of whom REALLY do look much older than the age of the characters they’re playing.  Still, they can pull it back a LITTLE bit.  At least until they actually give Archie a personality that’s more than just a walking slab of meat with red hair dye.  So why is he pounding the bag so hard right now other than to make all of Riverdale swoon that much harder for him?  Well, it seems that he’s lost his taste for music, at least for the moment, and is putting all his efforts into football instead.  Fortunately for him, they need a new captain now that Chuck Clayton has been kicked off for being a total monster (ugh…) and Archie’s ready to take the throne!  At least he would be if he wasn’t still INCREDIBLY distracted despite his attempts to focus on nothing but training and it leads to some poor performance on the field.

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WHOA!  That’s some straight up NFL Blitz take downs right there!

Now I’d give him points for hanging some major air time (is he THAT much lighter than everyone else that he can be thrown around like that!?) but that’s now how the sport is played and so Coach Clayton has to give him a locker room chat.  To motivate the kid (or just to find the best person to be captain), he brings Reggie Mantle over and tells the two of them that one of them is gonna be captain of this team and that they’re gonna have to fight over it.  Now I doubt that the coach ACTUALLY wants a knucklehead like Reggie to lead the team, but hopefully this ploy will do its job and get Archie’s head in the game.  It’s still a bit of a toss-up for him though as he’s CLEARLY still dealing with the fallout from Grundy; not to mention that Valerie ( one of the Pussycats in Josie’s band) is taking a liking to the red headed stud and even give him the number of a music teacher in town.  Probably bad news for the team if he still plans on splitting his time between sports and music, but this DOES at least indicate that things are going to get interesting as Archie and Valerie were an item in the comics, though I’m pretty sure it’s AU stuff considering they end up having a rock star baby.  Hopefully that will get explored in more detail as it’d be SOMETHING interesting that involves Archie in this show.  Look, JK Apa is doing what he can, but there’s just not a lot that they’ve given Archie to do outside of schedule maintenance and a shitty romance.  Maybe a DECENT relationship will get him out of his shell, but for now he’s just kinda… there because he needs to be for this to be a Riverdale show.  Speaking of characters much more interesting than Mr. Andrews, what are Betty and Veronica up to?  Well Betty is still working on solving Jason murder with Jughead for the school newspaper and they also have Kevin Keller giving them a bit of help considering SOMEONE broke into his house at the end of the last episode and ruined his dad’s “murder wall” as he calls.  That alone is reason enough to want as many people as possible to find the perpetrator before they do something a bit more drastic, and to his credit Kevin does a pretty good job of recreating the wall for Betty and Jughead.  She’s also going on a not-date date with Trevor to see if he can give any insight on Jason’s behavior right before he disappeared and was subsequently murdered.  Who is Trevor you may ask?  Well back in Chapter 3, he was the guy on the football team who tipped the school newspaper off to Chuck’s gross score book where the guys on the team ranked the chicks they’ve dated.  I didn’t mention him in that recap as I thought he was just a plot device who wouldn’t be coming back, but low and behold he’s here again!  Not only that, but a bit of research has confirmed that he’s the younger brother of Valerie, so I guess he’s gonna be popping up here and there for the time being.  Then again, even if he DOES stick around, he may be limited to an expository device as once again he’s only on hand to give breadcrumbs for Betty to follow.  On their not-date date, he reveals that Jason started acting very strange right before he disappeared and that he was selling everything he could get his hands on; possibly even drugs.  Why hasn’t Trevor said anything to the cops or to Sheriff Keller until now?  No idea, but the scene does serve two purposes.  Number one, it corroborates Cheryl’s story that Jason was running away from home as selling shit for cash is probably what you want to do if you can’t use your parents’ credit cards while on the run.  Number two, the implication that drugs were involved means that there’s more than likely a connection between Jason and the Southside Serpents which is the biker gang head up by Jughead’s dad because this show has to get as fucking complicated as possible.  Now I think this is more than likely a Red Herring as the OBVIOUS bad guys killing the kid wouldn’t be enough of a juicy plot twist for this kind of show, but at least the writers are doing a decent job of keeping the mystery engaging each episode.

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Yolanda E Lawrence?  What are THEY hiding!?

So While Betty’s off doing her Nancy Drew thing, Veronica is playing peace keeper by trying to patch things up with Cheryl… for some reason.  I mean sure, it’d be NICE if they could get along, but has Cheryl done a single thing to indicate that she’s amenable to that idea?  Oh right.  She cried that one time in episode two and Veronica was there to comfort her.  Well that certainly didn’t keep Cheryl from talking shit for the next three episodes!  For THIS episode at least, she’s mellowed out somewhat and invites Veronica to a sleepover at her house… the night before Jason’s memorial.  NO! RED FLAG!!  SUPER RED FLAG!! DON’T DO IT!!  There’s only two ways this is gonna end; a slumber party massacre or a catastrophic prank war, and neither one is gonna be a pretty sight!  Then again, it might just be SUPREMELY awkward considering how Cheryl’s parents have the social skills of a tapeworm.

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“The ham is great Mrs. Blossom.”     “Why thank you Veronica!  The glaze is as thick and rich as my hatred for Cheryl who killed my only son and ruined my vagina on her way out.”     “Love you too mom.”     “WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT USING THAT WORD!?”

Woof.  Not only is she forced to spend time with a family that makes the Collins from Dark Shadows look well adjusted, she’s apparently the only one that Cheryl invited to this sleepover.  Not even her two cronies were invited!  I guess it could be worse though considering Cheryl’s in “unhappy rich girl” mode instead of “vindictive jerk face” mode which makes for better company than usual.  Plus, she’s downright pleasant compared to her parents who consider the Lodge family to be total parasites and thieves… or whatever it is the Blossoms hate about them.  I get the feeling that that entire family just hates everyone on principal for not having the good taste to be born a Blossom.  Speaking of the Lodges, how’s Hermione’s night going?  I’m sure it couldn’t be any worse than her daughter’s, right?  Well… she gets a rather elaborate and specific calling card from The Southside Serpents in the form of a snake in a box which is… interesting.  So do the Southside Serpents just have a giant tank of snakes that they keep on hand so they can send one to whoever pisses them off?  Who feeds them!?  Is that the grunt work for the new recruits or something?  Now in case you forgot from the last episode, Hermione Lodge is working as an interim for her husband Hiram who is in jail (and still hasn’t shown up in the show yet) and had recently paid the Southside Serpents for services rendered prior to her moving to Riverdale, but the head of the gang (Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr played by Skeet Ulrich) wants to squeeze her for even more cash and I guess the snake in a box is a warning to pay up.  Now none of this is new information as the gang leader made it clear that he wanted more cash, but the scene does end up serving a purpose as the only person Hermione feels safe enough to call about getting rid of the snake is Fred Andrews; the guy she sort of went on a date with last episode.  Now at first I thought the show was gonna push for a Fred/Grundy/Archie love triangle which would be morbidly interesting to watch play out, but I guess with her gone he’s going to focus on Hermione instead.  He manages to get a little bit out of her as far as why the snake was there (Hiram has beef with the Serpents), but with this scene and the way that she used Fred in the last episode (the date was a cover for her to meet with Forsythe) it seems that her interest in him is mostly platonic and utilitarian rather than romantic.

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“Also, can I borrow your pick-up truck this Friday?”

So now that we’re pretty much caught up on all the subplots (GEEZ there are a lot of them!), we can finally move forward to Jason’s Memorial and the numerous drama bombs that are sure to go off there.  So it seems that EVERYONE in town is invited which includes people that the Blossom’s hate, and it’s not to extend an olive branch as they’ve gained perspective after the loss of their son.  Instead, Mom and Pop Blossom invited all these people as they believe they are suspects in the death of Jason and they want them all in one place.  For what reason you ask?  Well… I’m not quite sure as I doubt the killer is going to announce it at the memorial (and I would have gotten away with it if you didn’t invite me here!), bit maybe they just want an excuse to mean mug everyone in town as that seems to be the only thing that brings them the least bit joy.  So we’ve got THAT going to turn the heat up, and on top of it we have Jughead and Betty who plan to use the opportunity to search Jason’s room for clues as to what happened to him.  You could question the fact of what they could possibly hope to find if the cops already searched the place (or if the cops DIDN’T already search it then why not), but what I’M more curious to find out is how the hell Jughead managed to find a suit considering he’s homeless right now.  Yeah, remember that from the last episode?  I’m sure it’s something we’ll get back to eventually, but I’m still curious where that suit came from.  Oh well.  It’s not THAT important; especially compared to the revelations that they uncover from their search.  They don’t actually find evidence in his room, but they DO find Great Auntie Blossom who’s sort of out of it and reveals some here to unknown secrets.  Also, for some reason she has Dr. Strangelove’s haircut which I find incredibly amusing.

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“Are the President now?  How did those underground colonies work out?”     “Um…”     “Mein Führer!  I CAN’T WALK ANYMORE!!  WHAT HAPPENED!?”

Now admittedly this is the EXACT same scene they did in Daredevil with Kingpin’s mother (down to the fact that the two people talking to her are effectively journalists), but it does drop a few breadcrumbs for the mystery surrounding Jason’s death.  So if you recall, Betty’s sister Polly was dating Jason right before he went missing and was eventually killed, but I believe that by THAT point, they had broken up and Polly was already sent off to a psychiatric facility.  What Great Aunt Blossom reveals to them (she thinks Betty is Polly) is that the two were engaged at one point.  Now we still don’t know what happened between Jason and Polly and how that led to her being sent to a psychiatric facility, BUT this ends up raising a whole lot of new and interesting possibilities.  My current theory (which I assume will be debunked by the next episode) is that Jason ran away to find Polly and elope with her.  Whether or not Polly was a consensual party to this is still up in the air, but it gives us a possible motivation for him running away in the first place.  I mean a motivation OTHER than getting away from this acrimonious den of wolves that somehow calls itself a family.  Now the rest of the memorial isn’t all that eventful with the only things to note is that Penelope Blossom REALLY hates Hermione for some reason (safe to say it has something to do with Hiram) and that Archie is a SUPER standup guy by giving her Jason’s football jersey which he was given to wear back in the first episode because… I guess they were running out of jerseys?  It IS a public school after all!  Seriously, why didn’t the school already give that to her!?  All that leaves is Cheryl’s eulogy which she decides to give after some encouragement from Veronica despite her mother expressly forbidding it at the start of the episode.  This scene is AMAZING.  We’ve got Cheryl dressed in white, walking in slow motion up to the podium while her parents are shitting bricks about it, and all this is happening while a mournful cover of Shout by Tears for Fears is playing on the soundtrack.  It’s fucking spectacular.

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I think this deserves a modest slow clap.     *clap*  …   *clap*  …  *clap*

And oddly enough, Cheryl manages to give a decent and heartfelt eulogy about how much she (platonically) loved her brother and how much she’ll miss him.  Right after she finishes her speech, her mother comes up and thanks everyone for coming and that Hors d’oeuvre will be in the dining room or whatever, and this rather small moment raises a few questions for me.  As far as I can tell, no one spoke before Cheryl, and the mother cleared the room after she spoke.  What would have happened if Cheryl DIDN’T defy her parents and sat quietly in the corner?  Was NO ONE planning on speaking, or is her mother so outrageously controlling that she refused to let ANYONE ELSE say a few words in a fit of pique at the audacity of her daughter to… talk?  Well while everyone is off eating delicious foods, Momma Cheryl drags the girl up to her room, tells her that she’s off the school’s cheerleading squad (why?) and generally berates her for no fucking reason.

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“Get out all your toys!  I’m gonna break them in front of you!”    “MMMFFFFHFHHH!!”

Now I’ve been back and forth on Cheryl as a character as they writers seem to tailor her personality on a given episode based on the needs of the plot rather than give her a consistent characterization, but that’s still better than what they’re doing with her mom who’s only been a significant presence in this one episode and has done nothing but sneer and be cruel for what seems to be very flimsy reasons.  Okay, MAYBE that’s a bit unfair as I can probably come up with a few reasons for her behavior (her son is dead and her daughter had something to do with it, presumably some bad blood between the town and the Blossoms have kept them isolated, etc) but… I guess I’m still struggling for what the POINT is of this behavior.  What does Penelope want?  Is she striving towards some tangible goal, or is all this abusive behavior towards her daughter a defensive measure?  Maybe if Cheryl wasn’t so put upon this episode and was more like she was in the first episode or even the last episode, their relationship could feel a bit more mutually antagonistic.  Instead, Penelope is basically going full Mommie Dearest, but unlike in THAT movie we haven’t gotten a chance to know this character in any other way than as a one dimensional Meanie-Pants.  Then again, that MAY end up working in the show’s favor if it actually has a plan for Penelope down the road, but for now she’s just not all that engaging and is simply there for the audience to hate.  Oh, and Veronica was looking in on this whole scene (the door was halfway open and Penelope didn’t notice?) which I’m guessing is going to come back later as she seems to be the only one who actually gives a shit about Cheryl… even though Cheryl’s been a total jerk to her.  See!?  Isn’t Veronica THE BEST!?  At this point, the memorial is pretty much over as everyone is just kind of milling about (surprise surprise; the killer didn’t reveal themselves) and the last thing of any significance is that Fred Andrews offers Hermione Lodge a job as his bookkeeper, so I guess he’s still trying to work that Friend Zone angle.

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“Oh Fred!  You’re such a great-”     “Yes!?”     “Friend.”    “Oh.  Uh… yay!”

So now that the big event of the episode is over, we’ve only got two more subplots to wrap up before the end of the episode.  First, and definitely more interesting, is Betty trying to find out more about what Polly and Jason were REALLY up to.  She starts by asking her dad, and… oh boy.  This one is a doozy.  It turns out that Betty’s dad knew about the engagement but is still cagey about any further details.  It’s honestly to the point that I’m guessing Polly DIDN’T go insane and that her parents locker her ass up like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest just so she’d stay away from Jason.  So why do the Coopers hate the Blossoms so much?  Okay, so A LONG LONG TIME AGO, The Blossoms and the Coopers were business partners as founders of the town’s Maple Syrup Factory, but that went sour when Great-Grand-Pappy Blossom up and MURDERED Great-Grand-Pappy Cooper.  YES!!  THE CUTTHROAT WORLD OF MAPLE SYRUP MANUFACTURING AND DISTRIBUTION!!  I assume Great-Grand_Pappy Cooper was found chained to a wall with lungs full of molasses and a wad of maple leaves down his throat!  This by the way is completely new information for Betty who you’d think would have been told this story BEFORE now, but whatever.  I just love the fact that on top of everything else this show is trying to do that they’re throwing in a Hatfield and McCoy style feud with a Romeo and Juliet story right in the middle of it.  So hey!  That’s something we now know!  Something tells me Polly’s gonna show up sooner rather than later; especially considering how adamant Mr.  Cooper is that she stay locked up and that Betty stays ignorant of her exact location.  So with that covered, I guess we might as well get to the last major subplot which is all about Archie McBoring-Face… I mean Archie Andrews.  There’s really not much that was accomplished since we last talked about him.  He met the music teacher that Valarie suggested, but the guy wasn’t interested in teaching Archie which makes him all the more conflicted about his music despite the insistence from Valerie that he does have talent.  After a montage or two of him writing down music or playing football that are peppered throughout the episode, we finally come to the point where the coach will decide who will be the team captain.  Surprising no one, he ends up picking Archie.  Not so much for his skill however (though he does seem to have that), rather because of how gracious he was at the wake in giving the jersey back to Jason’s mother.  It was the kind of move that only a true leader can make… I guess.  Well then!  I guess it all worked out in the end, right?  NOPE!  Archie turns down the position!  Say WHAT!?  His reasoning is that the extra effort and time required to be the captain as opposed to a player on the team would require him to give up his music, and he’s decided that he doesn’t’ want to quit just yet.  Fair enough I guess, though I think they could have done a bit more with this subplot; specifically how much of his devotion to music was inexorably tied to his abuser who just fled town.  Well that’s it for this episode… except we can’t leave without a cliffhanger, now can we!?  Remember Sheriff Keller’s murder board that was destroyed in the last episode?  Well… Jughead has a theory as to who may have been responsible, and Betty’s not gonna like it.  One, because he thinks it was her dad, and two because it turns out to be TRUE as we get to see him looking over the evidence that he stole!  RIVERDALE SHOCK!!  And so we end the episode with even more mysteries to uncover, and only one logical place to begin their search.  Jughead and Betty have to find Polly!

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“Shouldn’t we use a pseudonym?  I mean, we’re doing this in the school.  It’s not like we can just lock the door.”     “Oh, you worry too much!”

So now that we’re in a Post-Grundy Riverdale, how have things changed?  I’d say that this episode is a VERY positive step in the right direction, but still a rather awkward step.  Maybe it’s just the fact that I actually have to recap these damn things in a way that makes since which makes me a little bit biased, but I’m starting to get annoyed by the countless plot threads that are running concurrently with no real resolution in sight.  Ideally, I would prefer the model from episode three which had an episode specific plot with all the running threads going on around it.  Sure, I wasn’t a fan of the EXECUTION of that episode’s story, but I like the way it was structured for the most part.  Maybe they needed to cram a whole bunch into this episode in particular to make up for all the time wasted on Grundy, but it’s rather unsatisfying to have a bunch of plot threads only advance a little bit instead of a few decent plot threads getting sizable chunks of development.  Also, it’s becoming painfully obvious that Archie is the least interesting thing about this show which is probably why the show isn’t called Archie and the Gang: The Next Generation, or whatever.  Fortunately, the good elements are starting to show themselves in this series; namely Betty and Veronica who are still the best characters in the series, Jughead who has a decent story to tell if they’ll get around to it, and I’ll even throw a bone to Cheryl who can be pretty inconsistent, is always compelling whenever she’s on screen; no doubt helped by Madelaine Petsch’s strong performance.  The show is getting better now that Grundy is out of the picture and I’m starting to get a bit hopeful about what’s to come.  Still, there’s a lot of work to be done and there are plenty of pitfalls it needs to avoid if it wants to keep up this momentum.

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2 thoughts on “Super Recaps: Riverdale Chapter 5 (Heart of Darkness)

  1. Pingback: The Reviewers Unite!

  2. Pingback: Super Recaps: Riverdale Chapter 7 (In a Lonely Place) | The Reviewers Unite!

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