Riverdale and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros Television Distribution and The CW
Episode directed by Steven A. Adelson
We’re back with another episode of CSI: Riverdale! When we last left our intrepid sleuths Betty and Jughead, they were getting one step closer to solving the mystery of Jason’s death, but now the evidence is point to Betty’s parents which makes things a lot more difficult to say the least! Oh, and Archie was doing stuff too I guess, but JUGHEAD AND BETTY! They’re next plan is to find out where Polly was sent and see if she has any clues that can lead them to the killer! Will the dynamic duo manage to save Polly and find the truth that has been eluding them for so long? What will Betty’s parents do once they find out what she’s been up to with that Jughead boy!? And uh… is Archie gonna do something of mild interest? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Betty and Jughead who are about to initiate their master plan to find out where Polly’s been locked up. Step one, have breakfast with Betty’s mom! Okay, that doesn’t SOUND too hard, but this is Lemon Mom we’re dealing with who has just gotten back from her Women in Journalism retreat and is ready to tear everyone at the kitchen table a new asshole for the indecency and bad taste of merely existing in her presence.
Before this lovely meal can get TOO awkward (so only about three minutes into the meal) Jughead asks where the bathroom is and Betty offers to lead the way. Sensing treachery however, Lemon Mom takes Jughead instead to make sure he’s not led astray. Ah HA! That was a trap! While Jughead is being carefully monitored, Betty is free to start rummaging through Lemon Mom’s purse for anything that can lead to Polly’s location. Fortunately she finds pay dirt IMMEDIATELY through some very odd looking checks and she makes sure to put everything back in its place before Jughead’s bladder is fully emptied. While this is going on, Archie has recommitted himself to his music, but must face a challenge that all protagonists in high school dramas must face at some point in their lives. STAGE FRIGHT! No seriously. While Betty and Jughead are trying to find someone who for all intents and purposes appears to have been kidnapped, we’re watching Archie overcome his fear of getting on stage for the Talent Show. Honestly though? This is pretty much EXACTLY what I wanted from Riverdale. I never needed a live action Archie show to be DARK or even all that SUBVERSIVE to find it enjoyable, and while I’m glad that the worst subplot is officially gone and that the other storyline is still rather interesting, it’s nice that we’re taking things down a notch this episode by focusing on something much more down to earth. Then again, maybe down to earth isn’t the BEST way to describe it as the show’s manifestation of Archie’s fear is that a bunch of the jocks in the crowd are wearing cheap Halloween masks. Geez, getting heckled by werewolves? That has to be rough.
Also, I have to question why Talent Show auditions are permitted to have a studio audience. Wouldn’t it be discouraged so as to prevent targeted intimidation from douche bag dude bros in letterman jackets, or frankly anyone else for that matter? In any case, Archie bolts from the audition after seeing the Werewolves of London fan club and has to find a way to overcome his fear before this chance to finally perform in front of an audience is lost for good. So that’s basically the two plots we have running through the episode. As much as I genuinely like the back to basics approach with Archie’s story this week, we’ll start with the more interesting of the two which is the Jason Blossom Murder Investigation. The information that Betty was able to collect from Lemon Mom point to some organization called The Sisters of Quiet Mercy which sounds one step above a Crisis Pregnancy Center mixed with a Conversion Therapy Camp. At this prestigious housing center for girls, they are to be taught virtues such as Discipline and Respect which to ME translates as self-loathing, and stunted development in the hopes of keeping emotionally abusive parents from having to actually BE parents. Why raise a kid who can make their own choices when you can berate the free will right out of them!? Jughead and Betty know EXACTLY what’s up and plan a trip there as soon as possible. Well… they still have to finish up the school day; lest their sudden absence from class might tip off Lemon Mom or someone else. The two are discussing their plans over lunch during which Archie asks if he can help, and the two politely reject his offer. It’s actually kind of funny how even the show seems to realize that Archie is pretty much useless to the main storyline now that everything he was keeping secret about that fateful Fourth of July morning was ultimately irrelevant. Oh don’t worry! He’s got PLENTY to do in his own subplot once we get around to it, but for now it’s time to FINALLY meet Polly and find out just what happened to her. The duo arrives at the HOME FOR TROUBLED YOUTHS (or more accurately the home for youths of trouble parents) which is an institution complete with angelic statues and nuns in full Penguin garb. Despite the mean look from the receptions, Betty signs in at the front desk to see Polly and is allowed to see her sister who’s just as excited to see Betty as she is to see her and they both share a big hug! Of course, something feels a bit off about it. Like there’s something in between them… oh. OOOOHHHHHHH… RIVERDALE SHOCK!!
Alright then! Things have taken quite an interesting turn now, haven’t they? At this point, Polly gives her side of the story which we should STILL take with a grain of salt but seems to be the closest approximation to the truth we’ve gotten so far. So here it is: Polly and Jason were dating for some time which was driving both sets of parents crazy and eventually the Blossom parents got Jason to break up with Polly. By that point though, the deed was already done (presumably several times) and Polly eventually finds out that she is pregnant. Upon hearing the news and knowing EXACTLY how everyone is gonna take it, Jason decides to elope with Polly and she agrees. So there we have it. We finally know (or at least we POSSIBLY know) why Jason was running away from home on the Fourth of July. Now Polly’s plan was a lot less… dramatic let’s say, as she was just gonna pack a bag and bolt out of the house to meet up with Jason. However, it looks like Lemon Mom knew about all of this and had representatives of The Sisters of Quiet Mercy waiting in the kitchen (including the receptionist, so… maybe she’s the headmaster too?) who proceed to drag Polly off kicking and screaming into a van and straight to the girl’s home. Now I don’t know how the law works on this and if you can drag a wailing teenager out of her home and lock her up in a building with nothing more than the parent’s consent, but for now I’ll just assume that’s the case. Those gay conversion therapy camps have to wrangle their clients in SOMEHOW. Now the big question over this whole story is how much of it is the truth? For now, we can’t be certain as we’ve JUST met Polly, but even if she WAS a bad girl who did drugs and sassed her parents, there’s still no real reason that she should be locked up in this place; especially considering she’s pregnant and would benefit from a less stressful and judgmental environment. Then again, considering who her mother is… I don’t know if that’s all that much better of a place to be. Do they have grandparents or something she can go to? Speaking of stress; guess who still has no idea what happened to Jason? Yeah, unfortunately Betty has to be the one to break it to her which was probably the best decision (Polly REALLY needs someone she can trust) but is no less devastating. By this point, the receptionist gets wise to the fact that Betty is filling Polly’s impressionable mind with “facts” and shit, so she’s taken to room and… I guess she’s forced to wait there? I mean by this point the cops should get involved, but instead Betty waits patiently and is soon face to face with Lemon Mom who was apparently alerted to the fact that someone visited Polly.
Now this scene is REALLY frustrating because no one says anything and we just cut to Lemon Mom and Betty walking out of the place silently with Jughead (oh hey! He’s still here!) bringing up the rear. You’d think Betty would have at least SOMETHING to say about her sister being locked up in this hell hole! Of course, they JUST SO HAPPEN to run into Polly on the way out (you’d think the Sisters would have been locked her ass up after getting a brief and sinful glimpse of the outside world) and she has to be dragged off by two big mother fuckers in white jump suits before she can tear her mother’s face off for not telling her what happened to Jason. There’s a little bit more to this story that happens later, but for now I think we’ve gotten the point. Polly’s seemingly been locked up here so that she and her pregnant child can be kept strictly under her parents control, and the only real question is how necessary is all of this? I mean, it wouldn’t be Riverdale if there wasn’t another layer of deceit under all this, so for all we know Polly has been lying the entire time and actually is a danger to herself and others. It STILL doesn’t explain the fact why she’s in a NIGHTMARE facility rather than one that ACTUALLY gives a shit about its patients, but that’s probably less a clue into the Cooper Parents’ real intent than it is the show indulging HEAVILY in dramatics and painting with a broad brush. So while all this was going on, what was Archie up to what with his stage fright problem? After his freak out on stage, he goes running back to Valerie and pretty much begs her to go onstage with him during the Talent Show (Kevin Keller who’s in charge of the damn thing takes pity on him and gives him a spot in the show after some persuading from Veronica) but she’s not too keen to do that since she’s already got a band to play with during the show, and even if she COULD be ready for two performances back to back, Josie’s kind of the Kevin Rowland of the group which should tell you everything you need to know about how well THAT would go. What? Am I the ONLY Dexy’s fan out there!? Ugh… IT MEANS SHE’S A CONTROL FREAK! I’M NOT OLD!!
Okay, so if Valerie won’t go up there with Archie, then I guess he needs to find someone else? How about Veronica? Sure! Why not. Honestly, she could use this subplot considering the Betty/Veronica dynamic has been put on hold why the latter is off solving mysteries with Jughead. Oh no wait. Valerie and Josie have a fight like one scene later so I guess Valarie is back in and Veronica is out. Ouch. It’s gonna suck when she discovers THIS change in plans. To make matters worse, Veronica sees her mom making out with Archie’s dad (she went to visit her at work after school) which is not a great idea for several reasons. Number one, she’s still married to Hiram and supposedly Fred is still married to Archie’s mom even though both are split up. Hey, nothing wrong with finding love somewhere else, but they might want to make sure their affairs are in order before they start… well, an affair. Second, the dude JUST hired her last episode to be his accountant and hooking up with an employee is not that great of a look for the boss. Geez, did we just get derailed from the Talent Show subplot to play catch up with the parents? All right, FOR NOW the most pertinent detail, besides Fred and Hermione sucking face and Veronica seeing it, is that Fred’s construction company is DEEP in the red and they need to get a big upcoming job in order to get back in the black without firing any of the employees. What’s this big job? Why the Twilight Drive-In of course! SOMEONE needs to build whatever is gonna replace it! But wait… isn’t Hermione the one who bought the place? I don’t know about you, but the owner of the lot working for one of the companies bidding to do the construction work sounds like some shady business dealings to me! Then again, no one knows about Hermione’s involvement in that piece of land besides the mayor and Veronica (and I think Jughead’s dad who’s the head of the local biker gang), so hopefully they can keep it out of sight from Uncle Sam too! Okay, we got that straightened out? Good, because we’ve got better things to worry about besides fair business practices in the land development business! Let’s catch back up to Josie who’s telling her mom about Valerie leaving the group. So we haven’t really seen much of Mayor McCoy outside of her official capacity which means that this is the first real insight into what she’s really like and especially how she treats her daughter. The verdict? Well… she’s just like EVERY other parent in this show outside of Fred Andrews and Sheriff Keller (and SOMETIMES Hermione) in that she’s cartoonishly mean spirited in how she interacts with her child. She’s just as concerned about Valerie leaving the group as Josie is, but not because Josie may have just lost a friend. Instead she’s worried about the band’s image as she APPARENTLY has a whole lot of emotional investment in her daughter becoming a great musician and simply will not allow failure.
Seriously! What is it with this show and parents!? You’ve got the Blossoms who are waspy and judgmental, you’ve got the Coopers who are control freaks and damn near sociopathic, and now Mrs. McCoy is pushy and demanding to a very unhelpful degree! In what scenario does pushing someone THIS hard and acting THIS cold to them lead to a happy outcome!? Actually… I might be able to come up with a few, but then we’d be getting a bit too dark with this, so let’s just move on. It also irks me that Josie’s love and commitment for music seems to be driven quite a bit by her mother which kind of undercuts her agency as a character, and that’s a real shame as The Pussycats is one of the highlights of the show. From there we jump back to Veronica who confronts her mother about the kiss between her and Fred, and they have the uncomfortable conversation about what Hermione’s plans are once Hiram gets out of jail. A similar conversation occurs between Fred and Archie but it boils down to “we cool?” “Yeah, we cool.” We still don’t know what’s up with Archie’s mom, but I guess the wounds on that aren’t nearly as fresh as the ones with Veronica, so it doesn’t really seem to faze him. of course, this all comes to ahead the next day when Veronica walks in on Archie and Valerie practicing for the Talent Show and realizing that she’s been bumped out the group; not to mention that when she brings up what their parents are doing, Archie’s blasé attitude only makes her feel worse. Seriously, in a single day she’s had the reality of her father’s imprisonment sink in for her by watching her mom kiss another dude, and now she’s been unceremoniously dumped by the son of the guy her mom’s all over and he doesn’t seem to register that MAYBE she’d have some less than stellar feelings on it. CLEARLY she needs to find a way to bury her emotions in a spiteful act. Hm… I wonder if someone ELSE is feeling particularly spiteful about someone leaving them high and dry…
Alright, so we had to untangle a few plot threads there, but at least we now have the basic setup. Veronica is pissed at Archie for being an oblivious chump, Josie is channeling her stress about her parents towards hating Valerie, and it’ll probably blow up in their faces; especially when the two most stubborn people in the show (Veronica and Josie) inevitably butt heads. Then again, it’s not all roses and sunshine in Archie land as he and Valerie aren’t syncing together as much as he hoped. PROBABLY because she left The Pussycats on a rather bad note and really didn’t even want to leave in the first place. I’m sure they’ll get that sorted out soon enough, but for now we need to get back to the whole construction subplot as that smashes face first into our Talent Show storyline. Fred Andrews, along with Archie and Hermione, go to meet the McCoys for dinner so that Fred can put his working class charm on the mayor and hopefully win that contract he’s so desperate for. Oh look! We finally get to meet Josie’s dad who’s a working jazz musician and is just as overbearing as her mother, though with a bit more of a pretentious air to him as he seems to think pop music is the gutter swill of the masses or some shit. He’s only in town for a short amount of time so he can see the Talent Show, but it’s not so much to support Josie as it is to I guess intimidate her into giving a great performance… for some reason. Seriously, when has a complete nervous breakdown ever been helpful to an artist!? Other than having to sit through yet ANOTHER uncomfortable meal which is turning into a hallmark for the series, the point here is to confirm that the mayor doesn’t have a say in who wins the contract and that it’s up to the company that purchased the land. I will remind you of course that the company who BOUGHT the land is still a tightly held secret (Jughead was trying to figure it out in episode four but didn’t have any luck) so Fred doesn’t really have any moves here and just ends up sulking a bit. WAIT A MINUTE! Isn’t Hermione the one who’s secretly in control of the land!? Why doesn’t she just give him the contract!? Well, the show TELLS us why, and it’s just as convoluted as everything else they’ve been trying to do with this subplot. So setting aside the fact that I’m not sure how you would award a contract to someone without letting them know WHO YOU ARE (if Fred finds out it was Lodge industries it would kind of give away the fact that Hermione has something to do with it), a decision like this can only be made by a majority vote of the principal owners of the company… and for some reason Hiram made Veronica along with himself and Hermione the three principal owners. Okay, I’m completely confused at this point. I mean it’s obvious where they’re going with this (I’ll get to that in a minute), but… WHY!? WHY DOES A MINOR HAVE A THIRD STAKE IN THIS COMPANY AND WHY DID NO ONE TELL HER UNTIL NOW!? Furthermore, how does the FAMILY of the guy who got arrested for FRAUD end up in control of the company!? Isn’t there a board of directors or something that should be making these decisions instead!? I don’t know, but the WHOLE reason for all of this is so that Veronica has to be put in an awkward position. She’s not a big fan of Fred Andrews right now, but her mother wants her to sign this paper so that his company won’t go under. There’s also the fact that Hermione would lose her job if that happens, but no one bothers to bring it up. Come to think of it, does she even need to work if she’s making these kinds of decisions for such a big company? Is she getting paid to do any of this? Anyway, Veronica gives her mother an ultimatum; stop seeing Fred and she’ll sign the papers. Hermione refuses, Veronica doesn’t sign, and then Hermione just forges her name anyway when her back is turned. IF THIS WAS AN OPTION, WHY DIDN’T SHE DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!?
Okay, so with all that we’re basically caught back up with the Betty/Jughead subplot as we head towards the night of the Talent Show. Well… sort of. Before we get to THAT, we still need to cover the fallout of Betty’s trip to see Polly. Naturally her parents aren’t too happy with her because… actually, I don’t know why. Seriously, what is their problem with Betty knowing about Polly’s pregnancy? Was this going to be hidden for all time? Were they going to fake Polly’s death at some point? WHAT WAS THE GOD DAMN END GOAL OF ALL THIS!? At least Betty finally confronts her dad about POSSIBLY being a murderer. From the last episode WE THE AUDIENCE learned that Papa Cooper (first name Hal) stole Sheriff Keller’s notes about the Jason Blossom murder and Betty and Jughead were able to deduce that he was the prime suspect for that even though they hadn’t found definitive proof. Now the guy deftly avoids answering this when asked directly about it, but when Betty straight up asks if he killed Jason, Lemon Mom just starts laughing her ass off. She claims that Hal doesn’t have the spine to do something like that and she also lets us know that she didn’t do it either. I’m inclined to take these at face value and cross them off the murder list, though I also think they would have been way too obvious for a show as convoluted as this one. The fight is basically over at that point but is not the end of Betty’s tale as Jughead visits her the next morning to assure her that she isn’t gonna go crazy like everyone else in her family, and… then the show does something it really REALLY should not have done. Something that could have easily been avoided and would have given this show a lot of credit. Jughead kisses Betty in this scene. Riverdale Shock I guess?
So for those of you who don’t know, Jughead was officially declared to be asexual last year in Jughead issue 4 of the newest incarnation of the Archie comics, and honestly it makes a lot of sense. Sure, Jughead has had romantic interests here and there (In Archie: The Married Life which was as recent as 2010, he ends up marrying Midge Klump), but you read enough of his stories and you get the sense that, whether the writers intended it or not, he simply doesn’t have much in terms of romantic interest in people. The fact that they ended up codify his sexuality in the most recent run of the books (which as far as I know are canon) was a pretty big deal in comics which already have a problem with representation. Hell, media in general has a pretty poor track record as far as Asexuality (go ahead and try to name one other positive representation of Asexuality in popular culture), so this really means a lot to that community. Even if you looked at it from a cynical point of view, it would take NOTHING for the showrunners to throw the fans a bone in regards to this, and it’s not like the relationship between these two REALLY needed them to get romantically involved. I was certainly engaged enough in their storyline BEFORE the kiss! Now SUPPOSEDLY, Riverdale’s showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has said that Jughead’s Asexuality, along with other Archie comics staples such as the band The Archies, are things that could come about in future seasons once this origin story of sorts gets wrapped up1. If that’s the case… well it’s still pretty shitty to leave a community THAT deprived of positive representation hanging on the POSSIBILITY of MAYBE getting the character right AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE. It’s really not fair to them or anyone else who wanted an Asexual Jughead to have to support a show that intentionally took something away from them on the off-chance of getting it back. It’s just a bad call all around and while it’s too late for them to fix it THIS season which was completed several months ago, they’ve already been renewed for a second season so they need to jump on that shit as soon as possible. Okay, so with that we’re ACTUALLY caught up and it’s time for the big finale! We’ll switch it up this time and focus the Talent Show subplot before going back to the murder mystery, though both are happening concurrently. It is s mere moments before the show begins and Archie finds Valerie making the final preparations for their act which turn out to be for naught as Archie decides that he has to get on stage by himself to conquer his fears and that Valerie needs to make up with Josie as they both need each other. Also, Josie never got a replacement who could play a keyboard, so it probably wouldn’t take much to convince her to let Valerie back in. Of course the two of them make up and Josie promises to not be so controlling over the group; leading to one hell of a show with the reunited Pussycats! And look! They even let Veronica stay in the band… at least for tonight anyway.
What could POSSIBLY ruin such a beautiful reunion? Well for SOME REASON, Papa McCoy ends up leaving IN THE MIDDLE OF HER DAUGHTER’S PERFORMANCE!! WHAT!? It’s not even like he gets a text about urgent business or something! Mother fucker is staring right at her, stands up, and just GTFOs like a fucking prick! WHY DOES HE DO THAT!? WAS HE ABSOLUTELY ASHAMED THAT HIS DAUGHTER WAS COVERING A DONNA SUMMER’S SONG!? We never see him again by the way so there’s no chance for an explanation! Just… POOF! He’s gone! Well while Josie goes to cry in the bathroom (after the song is finished because she’s STILL a professional) it’s time for Archie to take the stage and face his demons. He still sees the Halloween masks in the audience, (that never got any real explanation, did it?) but he bucks up, stays focused, and plays his White Guy With Acoustic Guitar love song. It’s… fine I guess, but I’m still not seeing this guy as the NEXT BIG THING, especially when he’s having to follow the Pussycats. Still, he managed to conquer his fears and even gets to share a kiss from Valerie for his troubles! It’s canon now! OTP!!
Not everyone gets the big happy ending though as Veronica finds out what her mother did (i.e. forging her signature to give Fred the contract) and while she was KINDA getting over the whole SOME DUDE KISSING HER MOM thing, this betrayal is not gonna sit too well with her going forward. Speaking of unhappy endings, we can now get back to the guy who got a bullet through the head and see if Betty and Jughead can find a few more clues as to what happened. So ALL the way back to when Betty first found Polly at the Girls’ Home, Polly mentioned something about Jason having a car ready to go for them to drive off to their new life, and since they have a basic idea of where Jason was going (through the woods on the other side of the Riverdale River) they should be able to find something since they know what they are looking for. Sure enough, they end up finding the damn thing which has some packed bags, Jason’s letterman jacket, and A WHOLE BUNCH OF DRUGS!!
Now naturally they run right to the ONE COP IN TOWN (we seriously haven’t met a single one other than Sherriff Keller) but by the time they get back the car is on fire and presumably all the evidence is gone. Clearly someone (THE KILLER PERHAPS!?) was keeping a close eye on those two! While that’s certainly an unfortunate setback, there’s STILL a silver lining to all this which is that it proves Polly wasn’t lying about her and Jason planning to run off together… and for some reason this will get her out of the Girls’ Home. I… don’t understand that exactly, but whatever! Jughead and Betty head straight there (how far away is it? Did they go by bus?) and enter Polly’s room to find… nothing. She’s gone! OH NO!! Wait, the window is broken! She… jumped out? I mean, I can’t be certain but this room doesn’t look like it’s on the first floor, and I’m not seeing a bedsheet rope dangling out that window! And so the episode ends with us getting one step closer to Jason’s murder, but two steps back in bring Polly back home.
The series is certainly on an upswing once Grundy dropped off the face of the Earth, but the problems in the material are starting to crystalize and it looks more and more likely that they won’t be fixed in the future. EVERYTHING involving the Lodge’s business dealings in Riverdale is too underdeveloped and feels like a plot contrivance generator which makes it hard to care about anything that is affected by it. There’s no build up to Veronica being a primary shareholder in her father’s company. It doesn’t seem to imbue her with significant responsibilities and is handled so quickly in the show that there’s no time for it to create any genuine drama. What if she found out about this in episode four when Hermione started to let her in on some of the work she’s secretly doing for Lodge Industries? If they had done THAT, it wouldn’t feel so out of the blue and contrived when they bring it up here for her to make a decision. On top of that, Lodge Industries vested interest in all of this is still uncertain, so we don’t even care if Hermione ends up succeeding or if the new land she just procured goes to waste! There’s no actor credited on IMDB for Hiram Lodge, so he’s probably not going to show up at any point in season one which is a shame as I think that would add a bit of gravitas to this subplot, but for now it just feels like a waste of time. Similarly, I’m starting to get annoyed by the way most of the parents are portrayed here. Now to be fair to THIS episode specifically, it seems to be a running theme as Jughead’s narration at the very end talks about being afraid of those close to you being monsters, but it feels… disingenuous I guess? Most of the parents simply don’t have believable motivations for what they are doing and it just comes off as a cynical ploy to generate drama. I’m STILL trying to figure out what Lemon Mom’s deal is and how ANY parent could lick their freaking kid up like they did to Polly. There are other problems like the mishandling of these characters (*cough* Jughead *cough*) and Archie still being a secondary character in his own series, but hopefully some of this stuff will continue to improve as the series goes along even if my hope that ALL of it will get better is starting to dwindle.
1. Bell, Crystal. “COLE SPROUSE’S JUGHEAD IS STILL FIGURING OUT HIS SEXUALITY, RIVERDALE PRODUCER REVEALS.” MTV News. N.p., 18 Jan. 2017. Web. <http://www.mtv.com/news/2973350/cole-sprouse-jughead-asexual-riverdale-producer/>.