Riverdale and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros Television Distribution and The CW
Episode directed by Allison Anders
We’re back with another episode of The Incredible Jughead! Just like Bruce Banner, our nominal hero of this show (Archie certainly isn’t the star of this) can’t stay in one place for too long as trouble follows wherever he goes. That, and his last house got torn down, so we should probably get that resolved before too long as well as the whole POLLY WENT MISSING thing from last week. Does this episode manage to tie up some of the loose ends that have been left dangling as we enter the second half of the season, or will this show double down on making things as needlessly complicated as possible (*cough* Lodge Industries *cough*)? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with… honestly, what looks to be a better show but I guess I’m supposed to find this hilariously dated instead. It’s a dream that Jughead is having where he looks a bit closer to his comic counterparts and they’re playing Lambs in Clover by Jack Strachey; a song that you probably don’t know by name but you’ll recognize immediately when you look it up. First, Ren and Stimpy were doing this kind of twisted domesticity set to Lambs in Clover over two decades ago and were doing it WAY better, so I’d hardly call this edgy or even that subversive. Second, while I will grant them that Jughead has basically looked the same since the 1940s, it’s not like the series was hermetically sealed in the golden age of Boomer Americana! The series grew over the decades and kept up with the times, and while there were places where it took longer than it should to catch up to society, taking a shot like this feels like mocking Batman for wearing purple gloves which he hasn’t worn since before World War 2. Granted, I know more about the comics than most people, but then I always thought the public perception of the series was late sixties youth culture; not mid-fifties suburban paradise!!
The dream starts to deteriorate rather quickly, especially when Archie shows up with a knife in his back (SYMBOLISM!!), and Jughead wakes up where we learn that he’s been living at the school since the drive-in closed down which was… presumably over a week ago? I guess? Anyway, he somehow found a closet that APPARENTLY NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT that’s hidden under the staircase like he’s Harry Potter or something, and he uses the boy’s locker room to clean up in the morning before everyone else arrives. Unfortunately, he’s not alone this morning as none other than Archie is showering this early as well, and the show looks like it’s about to take quite an… interest turn.
Unfortunately, that’s NOT what happened and Jughead tells Archie about his new living situation as well as the reason behind it. Okay, so FLASHBACK TO EPISODE FOUR! Jughead’s father (Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr) is the head of the Southside Serpents which are Riverdale’s very own Greaser Gang which I assume also means they’re very good singers with three years of tap training. It’s not clear exactly how long Jughead’s been out of the house, but there came a point where Jughead’s mother couldn’t deal with her husband’s life any longer and left the house along with his sister Jellybean. Why Jughead wasn’t invited to leave along with them isn’t very clear, but he split at the same time; leaving Forsythe to his own devices. A few questions that aren’t quite clear though. Jughead says that his dad “fell off the wagon” after Archie’s dad fired him from the construction company which is when the bad times started. Now presumably that means drugs or alcohol (or both) but even if he was sober for all the years prior, wouldn’t he have still been a criminal? Did he become EXTRA criminal-y after losing his job or something? Well we’re probably not gonna get an answer to that just yet, but what we DO get an answer to is how Veronica is reacting to her mother forging her name in the last episode which we cut to after Jughead catches Archie up on his recent life changes. To recap, Hermione Lodge got a job working with Fred at his construction company and they were ALSO beginning to hook up in the biblical sense which ruffled Veronica’s feathers quite a bit. Now as I’m SURE WE ALL KNOW, Hermione (working in the interest of Lodge Industries) has secretly purchased the land where the drive in was, and in the interest of saving Fred’s company which was on the brink of financial ruin, planned to give the contract to construct on the land to him. Seems a bit convoluted, but it gets even worse. For very convoluted reasons, Veronica needed to sign off (along with Hermione) for the contact to go to Fred. She refused and so Hermione forged her name. We good? Alright. Veronica’s vengeance for this (it didn’t take her long to find out what happened) is to go back into Bad Girl mode by buying a whole bunch of frivolous shit and going out to party. Wait, how does this dinky little town have a dance club? They don’t seem to be the middle of thriving community with an influx of twenty somethings. Hell, they seem to only have ONE restaurant in town, so how is a business like that sustainable!? Ugh, whatever. We’ll get back to that subplot later as there are more important things to worry about. For instance, WHERE THE HELL IS POLLY COOPER!? Yeah, she broke out of the girl’s home last episode and no one has seen her since which is DOUBLY troubling considering she’s pregnant and in no condition to weather the elements! Thankfully a search party has been formed to look for her (I’m still a bit confused about how far the Girl’s Home was from Riverdale), but uh oh! Look who got wind of this! Oh shit! Is there gonna be an ACTUAL rumble!?
As much as I like Cheryl in this series for her over the top theatrics, I am getting tired of her switching sides every other week as she’s definitely in villain mode now when just as recently as episode five she was in sympathetic mode as we saw more of her home life. Most of the consequences from that episode are now gone as her mother’s oath to destroy her daughter for daring to speak at Jason’s funeral has effectively been put on the back burner, and she’s even letting Cheryl back onto the school’s cheerleading squad after some minor cajoling and well placed gossip. Things nearly come to blows between the two teams of searchers with the Blossoms already assuming Polly is the killer, but we cut to the next scene before a fight can break out. The next scene by the way is the Cooper Family (Lemon Mom flanked on both sides by her traumatized daughter and gutless husband) as she tries to take control of the public narrative; framing Polly’s imprisonment as something less sinister and confirming she’s pregnant with Jason’s child. So at this point, both parties in this little Romeo and Juliet story are pretty much caught up, and now EVERYONE is after Polly for reasons that aren’t exactly in her best interest; the Coopers wanting to control her pregnancy, and the Blossoms wanting Jason’s undoubtedly demonic (and ginger) spawn. The only ones who seem interested in her wellbeing are Betty and her friends, including Jughead who’s still totes hetero for her! In fact, a romantic-ish walk they have ends up giving Betty an idea of where Polly might be, which is right under their noses! More specifically, since everyone is looking for Polly around town, she’s probably taken up residence in the family attic! You know! Like Hugo in that one Simpsons episode!
Well that solves at least ONE mystery, but it also leads to several more questions. To start off with, what is Polly’s plan going forward? Well she tells Betty (this may or may not be true) that she and Jason were gonna run away to some farm upstate and she still wants to go there; with or without Jason. It’s still not clear what exactly this “farm” is, but what IS made clear is that she can’t return to her parents (or let her know she’s in the attic) no matter what as they made it crystal clear that they want Polly to give the baby up for adoption. I’m… not sure what the laws are regarding this and if her parents could ACTUALLY force her to give up the baby, but then this is the show where she was dragged kicking and screaming out of her home to be locked up with nuns and shit, so I wouldn’t put it past them to have some plan up their sleeve. It’s not a whole lot of information for Betty (or the audience for that matter), but it’s enough for her to know what her next move is which is to find Polly a place to stay for the time being so she can get the proper care she needs and doesn’t have to survive off of what she can sneak out of the kitchen cabinets when everyone is out of the house. Now this search for a new place plays out through the rest of the episode, but we’ll go ahead and wrap it up here as there isn’t much left of this subplot to really discuss. Cheryl, being the clever person she is (that, and she confronts Betty in what is essentially an interrogation), manages to deduce that Betty knows where Polly is and NOW wants to help Polly since she has Jason’s child. Betty doesn’t trust her as far as she can throw her, but she could use some money at the very least; something that Cheryl would absolutely have plenty of. Well… more specifically, Cheryl’s PARENTS have a lot of money, so she goes to them to see if they’ll pitch in a few bucks for the Polly GoFundMe… which leads to the most awesomely awkward scene in the entire episode. The three Blossoms meet up with Betty at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe (THERE IS LITERALLY NO OTHER PLACE TO GO IN THIS TOWN!) and try to walk back the fact that they were literally calling for Polly’s head not a day earlier.
Of course, this is all just a front by the Blossom parents as Cheryl finds out that their end game is to throw lawyers at Polly once she pops her head out to declare her an unfit mother and take custody of the baby. Again, not sure how that would work with the law, but I’d certainly believe it is something they would at least try. Cheryl is oddly conflicted about this though considering how much she STILL seems to hate Polly (she only cares about her as long as she’s carrying the baby), and ends up warning Betty and Polly of her parents plot which means they need a new plan to protect her. Ultimately, they decide to let Polly stay with Veronica and her mom as they definitely have the resources to help and Hermione could use a few more brownie points with Veronica. And that’s it for the Jason/Polly subplot for this episode! It was fine I guess, but it felt like a lot of milling about rather than forward progression as we really don’t learn anything new in this episode to instead focus on a conflict that REALLY shouldn’t have taken this long to resolve (i.e. where Polly is going to sleep). Then again, they didn’t waste time with the whole WHERE IS POLLY plot point, so I’ll be a Glass is Half Full guy for just a moment and say that it all evens out to being a generally solid part of this episode. Since we’re on the topic already, we can also go through the Veronica/Hermione subplot which isn’t very long and then we can finally get around to the meat of the episode which is all about Jughead and his father. So throughout the episode, Veronica keeps needling her mother with various rebellious acts; including a trip to the town’s presumably ONLY night club where she drinks with Kevin Keller, Josie McCoy, and Reggie Mantle. How these three managed to get drinks when they are supposed to be sixteen is beyond me, and I know the actors look older but this is a small town so SOMEONE should have recognized them. I mean, one is the daughter of a famous rich guy, another is the son of the town sheriff, and Josie is the daughter of the freaking mayor!
Veronica gets all introspective and shit during their bender about her mother’s actions making her feel like she doesn’t matter and whatnot, but honestly all I can say is… grow the fuck up. I’m sorry, but I can’t summon up much sympathy for the fact that the authority SHE SHOULDN’T EVEN HAVE AND WASN’T EVEN AWARE OF was undercut by her mother to save a local business from going bankrupt and costing all those workers their jobs. It may be a sign of disrespect, but she really lost the moral high ground when she was willing to hurt others through no fault of their own. Either way, this little temper tantrum gets her EXACTLY what she wants which is for her mom to tell her dad about forging her signature. Okay… I guess that’s… important for some reason. You know, I don’t think Hiram has much of a leg to stand on even IF he was offended by them choosing one construction company over the other considering HE’S BEHIND BARS!! Whatever. There’s a nominal peace between the two of them once Hermione makes the call (we aren’t privy to that conversation though which MIGHT have been interesting), and the fact that Hermione is doing Veronica a solid by letting Polly stay at their house will hopefully smooth things out even more. More importantly, I hope that we never have to deal with this stupid subplot again as it has zero stakes, it makes Veronica come off as rather unpleasant, and it raises so many questions about how Lodge Industries work that ultimately are completely irrelevant to the overall story. Unless it turns out that Hiram killed Jason, I’d be perfectly fine if they don’t bring his ass up again for the rest of the season. Now that we have all that out of the way, where did we leave off with Jughead and his story? Okay, so ALL the way back at the beginning, Jughead told Archie that his dad getting fired was what sent him down this self-destructive path and led to him being homeless. Archie brings this up to Fred, and in a move that is as likely to turn out just fine as when Frodo took pity on Gollum, he gives Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr (though Fred refers to him as FP Jones) his job back. Now while this story line isn’t exactly what I would call original, it is at least somewhat interesting to watch PF try to play the nice guy dad role which he obviously isn’t all that good at. Hell, considering his recent business dealings I’m not even sure if he NEEDS the money, but he’s still willing to play along to get back into his son’s good graces which will also hopefully lead to his wife and daughter coming back home as well. Credit certainly goes to Skeet Ulrich who puts a lot into his performance here who’s certainly over the top (especially whenever he’s paired up with the ultra-straight-laced Fred Jones played by Luke Perry), but there’s layers to his performance where he seems genuinely conflicted and to a certain extend weak willed.
Now in between these scenes of PF trying to reintegrate himself into his son’s life, as well as Fred and Archie’s by proxy, there is one awkward scene in here of plot maintenance where FP and Hermione run into each other while at work. It’s basically there to close the book on the whole HERMIONE OWES MONEY TO THE SERPENTS story, but it does end up raising two questions. Number one, FP says that Hiram took care of what was still owed which means that he and Hermione are all square-zies… but if that was always an option, then why was Hermione needed in the first place!? The whole point of Hermione doing ANY of this bullshit for Lodge Industries is that Hiram is STUCK IN JAIL AND CAN’T DO IT HIMSELF!! Ugh, whatever. The other thing that’s odd is that FP says that Fred doesn’t know he’s a Southside Serpent which is pretty hard to believe. I mean, the dude wears his fucking jacket in public (even if he isn’t wearing it at work), and as far as I can tell he’s the head of the gang, so you’d think that SOMEONE in town would have seen him and spread the word! Did Fred just hire this mother fucker on the spot, or is he REALLY bad at background checks!? Aside from that, pretty much every scene of FP trying to NOT be a scumbag works pretty well; especially when he starts to air his grievances to Archie and Jughead about how life has mistreated him. In particular, we find out that FP and Fred started the construction company together but he was pushed out when he got pinched doing some less than legal work on the side to pay for medical bills or some shit. Now obviously this is bullshit wrapped up in half-truths, but it does go a long way to humanizing this character that’s clearly ashamed of his failings as a husband and father but can’t really bring himself to put in the hard work to overcome those issues. He’s certainly trying now, but how long is that REALLY gonna last?
Now unfortunately this subplot takes a turn for the worst as we need to somehow introduce some sort of conflict for FP to go through to prove that he’s still not the person he should be and that Jughead shouldn’t get too excited right now. This is a fine idea, but the specific conflict is… well it’s dumb. Sheriff Keller, who up until this point has been one of the GOOD adults in the show, is waiting for Jughead to get to school just so he can drag his ass to the station for questioning as he’s the latest suspect in Jason’s murder. I’m sorry, WHAT!? To be fair, he’s not under arrest just yet as he’s just there for questioning, but… WHY!? Keller has ZERO evidence that points to Jughead, and all he has is some really weak circumstantial stuff like the fact that Jughead was once put in juvy after he played with matches and nearly burned down the school, and also that he’s apparently been the victim of bullying by the football team which Jason was a part of. Seriously, that’s it. LIONEL HUTZ COULD GET THIS THROWN OUT! How about the fact that Jughead was with BOTH BETTY AND SHERIFF KELLER WHEN THE CAR WAS SET ON FIRE!? Did he just… forget about that!? As far as the bullying, well we had a WHOLE episode devoted to how the team would abuse and mistreat women, so if you want to pin this on Jughead for that alone, I’ve got like a dozen other names to add to the list. To battle off these spurious charges, Jughead needs to provide Sheriff Keller with an alibi for his whereabouts the day that Jason disappeared… even though he didn’t actually DIE that day, but whatever. He’s got nothing as I believe he was on a day trip or something (Archie cancelled at the last minute for reason that are covered in my recaps of episodes 1-4), so Jughead says nothing. Now while Jughead was being taken out of the school and to the police station, Archie and Betty got a glimpse of it and so they both called up Fred and FP to meet them at the station. One of them shows up, but the other doesn’t and I’m sure you can guess who. Yeah, FP is nowhere to be seen which leaves it up to Fred to set everything right. He straight up lies to the sheriff (this will certainly bite him in the ass later) and confirms that Jughead was doing some part time work for him on The Fourth of July; therefore providing the alibi Jughead needs which is enough for the sheriff to let him go. It’s at this point that FP shows up just as everyone is leaving the station and is ready to throw down with the Sheriff inside, but is held back by everyone who knows how dumb of an idea that is. I honestly can’t tell if he’s drunk or high right now which would explain why he is late, but at the very least this incident seems to have made him aware that he’s not fully ready to be a dad right now and needs some time to get his life together.
I know that I already sad this, but it needs reiteration. Skeet Ulrich is REALLY fucking great in this, and this one scene is the acting highlight of the entire series. Seriously, is it too late to not just make this a Southside Serpents show? Sons of Anarchy, but for the crowd that watches The Vampire Diaries? Okay, that’s probably too much to ask for, but I really hope the creators of this realize the value of this character and we’ll be seeing more of him as the series goes along. And so the episode ends with Jughead now staying with the Andrews family (at least it’s better than hiding in the school) while his dad tries to sort things out. As Jughead leaves us with a narration about hope, we get one final shot of FP’s mobile home… where we find out that Jason’s jacket is in his closet. RIVERDALE SHOCK!!
This is the episode where it feels like they’re finally getting it; not just in terms of the story and characters, but in terms of pacing and plotting. For the last few episodes, things just got overly convoluted and there was a real lack of flow and focus for any of the subplots which lead to the stories they were trying to tell having very little overall impact. This seemed to pair things down quite a bit and while not all of the stories here worked (*cough* Veronica *cough*), the stories that were well handled were VERY well handled. Everything with FP was fantastic, even if the inciting incident at the end felt quite a bit forced. The continuation of Polly’s story, while still a bit nonsensical (what the fuck are motivating her parents to act this way!?), kept the momentum going as far as the Jason Murder subplot and it even brought Cheryl back into the mix who was noticeably absent in the last episode. It still has a ways to go as far as believable characters who are motivated by something other than whatever plot contrivance the writers can come up with, but I think it’s starting to find its strengths which are definitely on display here. As far as the final shot, well we’re only on episode seven so it’s OBVIOUSLY a Red Herring, and I’m gonna assume that the reason FP has the jacket is because he torched the car to get the drugs back; not because he killed Jason. Honestly, it’d be nice if we could get a resolution on the murder mystery sooner rather than later as I don’t think holding off on the identity of the killer is something they should do for the WHOLE season, but for now it at least gives us something intriguing to build off of for the next episode. Now if we could only get KJ Apa to be a real part of this series instead of a block of wood on the outskirts of the important stuff. If they can do that, then this might ACTUALLY start to feel like a show about Archie and the Gang!