Super Recaps: Riverdale Chapter 9 (La Grande Illusion)

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

Episode directed by Lee Rose

We’re back with another episode of THE MOST CONVOLUTED ADAPTATION OF A COMIC EVER!  Seriously, this show is so unbelievably dense with plot (both in the hyperbolic and literal sense) that it makes Batman v Superman look damn near intelligible by comparison.  What this show has over that movie however is decent acting from most of the actors, genuinely funny moments (as well as plenty of unintentional ones) and even though everything just kind of jumbles together into one impenetrable mass of manufactured intrigue, at least some of the stories here are interesting enough to hold your attention whenever the show bothers to bring them back up (*cough* Skeet Ulrich *cough*).  So to catch everyone up, the big revelation at the end of the last episode is that Polly Cooper is now living with The Blossoms because… reasons I guess, and it’s basically throwing everyone relevant to this story for a loop.  On top of that, we get a scene of Hermione and Veronica Lodge discussing THEIR overly convoluted plot and it makes we question why I’m bothering with this if it has to take five minutes out every episode just to catch everyone back up on all the convoluted bullshit that happened in the last episode before getting into THIS episode’s convoluted bullshit.  OH RIGHT!  I REMEMBER!  There are a handful of characters that are always fun to watch on screen and we’re reminded of that as Cheryl spends the next few minutes trying to seduce Archie into going with her to some sort of Blossom family event!  For some reason I keep forgetting that!

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“Why hello there, Archie Doll!”     “Miss Blossom, you’re trying to seduce me!!”

Now obviously Archie rolls over and does whatever she says (it only takes a LITTLE bit of dramatic flourish to push him over the edge), but at the very least this leads up to a rather straightforward subplot.  Whatever we end up finding at the Blossom household, at least we’ll have Archie as a grounding element for the audience who’s basically going in as blind as we are to the machinations of the Blossom parents, Polly, and even Cheryl herself.  Case in point, Lady McBlossom sensed a disturbance in the force and heads down to the school to confront Archie about Cheryl’s invitation which seems a bit… dramatic, but then look who we’re dealing with.  Oddly enough, this doesn’t seem to be an adversarial visit (are they ACTUALLY still on speaking terms for over an episode!?) but rather an opportunity to sweeten the pot for Archie who’s still a bit hesitant about going.  Apparently one of Cheryl’s rich uncles is the head of some super-duper prestige summer music class and she’s basically giving him a spot if he’ll go to the event which is a tree tapping or something (The Blossoms are HUGE maple syrup barons) that’s also being attended by the Blossom’s extended family who might be trying to push Cheryl’s dad out of the company.  Now if this was in any other show or movie, I’d say that they’re planning to ritualistically sacrifice him to some sort of pagan god a la The Wicker Man (though in this case I’d guess it’d be The Maple Man), and while I’m not taking that off the table JUST yet, this whole scheme is probably gonna be something much more banal.

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At least the other cult had bees!  What do these losers have?  Sap!?

While that’s going on, our other big subplot involves Ethel Muggs who seems to be having a hard time of it recently as her parents have started to fight all the time.  Veronica, looking to wash away some of her past Bad Girl sins, has taken pity on her and invited her over to dinner in hopes of making her feel better and scoring some brownie points in the process.  It’s about as awkward as you’d imagine (nothing spells GOOD TIMES like a girl overwhelmed by family issues) and it only gets worse when we find out that IT WAS THE LODGE FAMILY’S FAULT THAT ETHEL’S PARENTS LOST ALL THEIR MONEY!  RIVERDALE SHOCK!!  Okay, not THAT much of a shock as we’ve basically pinned every finical problem in this show on the mysterious and enigmatic Hiram, but now Veronica’s plan to save the sad girl has been seriously compromised once her mother tells her what’s up.  I mean… what’s Hermione’s motivation here?  We know she’s not above LYING to people, so how does it help anyone, ESPECIALLY Veronica, to not only tell her that her family is directly responsible for Ethel’s ruined family, but to not even wait until ETHEL WENT HOME to do so!?

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“I’mma let you finish, but your dad took a huge dump on her family.”     “Thanks mom!  You really know how break things to me gently!”

Now this subplot is gonna go to some PRETTY uncomfortable places, but before that we have a few more subplots to clean up; namely Hermione breaking it to Luke Perry that she’s the one who bought the land and it was Hiram who was screwing things up last episode.  So… that’s a thing now.  I mean I’m glad that’s ONE less convoluted detail to try and keep straight in my head, but I’m still not sure how the hell some COMPLETELY unknown entity would have been able to buy up a chunk of land like that anyway; nor why a supposedly legitimate business man like Archie’s dad would have agreed to work on it not knowing who his true employer is.  Let’s face it; his girlfriend being the one behind all that is the BEST possible outcome he could have hoped for!  Back at the Blossom Soiree, things are going about as well as you’d expect with the entire Blossom clan being snarky towards Cheryl and Archie white knighting his way through the entire red headed family reunion before him.  I actually like a lot of these scenes, particularly the stark color pallet of saturated reds against a white snowy backdrop, but it’s also entirely predictable because we’ve NEVER been given a single indication that we should trust anyone here; ESPECIALLY Cheryl who follows up Archie’s powerful defense of her with a plot to tear him away from his current girlfriend Valerie (if you don’t recall, she’s on of Josie’s Pussycats).  Even the brief moment he has with Polly ends up being rather unsatisfying as she basically stonewalls him and is eventually called away; leaving Archie with nothing to report to Betty once the damn thing is over.  Oh wait, it’s NOT over because Papa Blossom invites him to a SECOND Soiree that’s happening later that week.  All of sudden, my Maple Man idea is becoming more and more likely…

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“This was fun, Mr. Blossom!”     “Clifford.  Please.”     “Clifford Blossom…  Can I call you Cliffy B?”     “No.”

Speaking of Betty, now that we have a little bit of time until Archie’s next run in with The Blossoms, it’s time to catch up on the Cooper parents who are still bickering like an old married couple with the current argument being a story that Miss Cooper is writing (who I will continue to refer to as Lemon Mom) about the infighting at the Blossom estate.  It honestly doesn’t matter all that much, but we DO get to see Lemon Mom throw a brick through a window!  That’s something at least!

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“FUCK THE PO-LICE!”     “That’s a newspaper, mom!  You’re attacking free speech!”     “ATTICA!  ATTICA!!”

I supposed we might as well get back to the Ethel storyline before we wrap up things up on Archie’s dinner date.  Okay, so Veronica tries to placate her sense of guilt by giving Ethel a whole bunch of clothes and jewelry which doesn’t really work because Ethel doesn’t want material possessions; she just wants to be Veronica’s friend!  Well hold on there, Ethel!  You might be singing a different tune after YOUR DAD TRIES TO KILL HIMSELF!  Yeah, there’s an off-screen suicide attempt by Ethel’s father over the money that he lost, and the show handles it about as well as you’d expect it to; namely not very well at all.  I get that Veronica is much more of a MAIN CHARACTER than Ethel is, but it’s a little bit gauche to give the rich girl a moment to express her inner anguish over someone’s attempted suicide than the dude’s actual family.  It only further cements my theory that the showrunners didn’t know what the ACTUAL point of this storyline was (Veronica trying to make someone else’s problems all about he) and instead are using dark subject matter haphazardly to MAXIMIZE THE DRAMA!!  Ethel, who’s the one TRULY suffering right now, is just a MacGuffin for Veronica; a vessel through which plot spouts forth that the TRUE star will then react to.  Even when we get to the scene of Veronica visiting Ethel and her mother at the hospital to reveal that she’s related to Hiram Lodge (how… how did Ethel not know this already?), it ends up being ALL about Veronica and how badly SHE feels instead of focusing on HER VICTIMS!  Okay, HER victims might be too strong of an indictment, but she feels guilty like she’s directly responsible and yet doesn’t seem to understand the right way to handle the situation; nor does the show itself present her actions as anything less than the best she can do in this situation.

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“Guys… I’m having a real hard time dealing with this right now.  Can one of you give me a hug?”

So while that… unpleasantness is going on, Archie is at the Blossom’s dinner where things are starting to take a much more caustic tone.  The false smiles and chipper put-ons from the last Blossom Gathering are starting to fade as Cheryl is becoming increasingly fed up with everything and Papa Blossom is pushing hard for Archie to… I don’t know, marry Cheryl I guess?  Seriously, the way he’s talking to Archie throughout this dinner seems to indicate that he wants him to REPLACE Jason which isn’t the WEIRDEST thing to come from this family, but it still feels a bit impractical.  He also finally has a moment to talk to Polly in earnest and SURPRISE SURPRISE!  She’s ACTUALLY staying with The Blossoms to SPY ON THEM and is staying radio silent to keep her cover.  Okay… THAT has to be one of the dumbest plans this show has come up with.  So Polly, a seven month pregnant high school dropout, plans to sneak around the Blossom estate looking for clues as to how Jason was murdered?  Even if we ignore the silliness of her playing Solid Snake or going all Batman around these rich bastards, why did she think the best way to maintain her cover is to stop speaking to her sister who is worried SICK about her and then just reveal the plan to Archie after the slightest bit of prodding?  You know what WOULD have worked as a much better cover story?  She doesn’t want to stay with her parents BECAUSE SHE LOCKED HER UP IN A MENTAL HOME FOR GETTING PREGNANT!  Yeah, seems like a much more convincing cover story to me, and it would at least get Betty to stop worrying about her and begging people like Archie to find out what the hell is going on!  This was already a dumb idea when they teased it at the end of the LAST episode and it’s clear that the writers don’t have much of a clue on what to DO with this plot point now that they’ve committed to it.

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“The code phrase is ‘Who are the patriots’.  You will know if they’re legit if they say ‘La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo’.”     “La-Li-Lu-Le WHAT!?”     “You’ve ALMOST got it!”

Anyway, after the conversation with Polly, we get ANOTHER revelatory exposition dumb as Archie overhears Mr. and Mrs.  Blossom talking about stealing back Hermione’s land (the one Archie’s dad is working on) as well as them bragging about sending Hiram to jail.  Not sure how you can send someone to jail when they’re as obviously guilty as Hiram is, but I guess it wouldn’t surprise me that these two losers would take credit for something they didn’t really do.  I’m guessing the FBI and the FTC already had a file on Hiram a mile long well before THE BLOSSOMS got “involved”.  After overhearing that (and Cheryl unsubtly making a move on him), Archie has had just about enough of these losers and finally decides to bail.  Cheryl isn’t happy about this though and threatens to take EVERYTHING away from him (including the summer music class) and then without breaking a sweat pivots over to a guilt trip about him only wanting to be around her because he was getting something out of it.  Gee… it’s almost like there’s a REASON so few people want to be around you unless there’s something in it for them.  As far as being a moral authority, Cheryl has absolutely no leg to stand on (but then half the people in this show don’t either), and on top of that… HE HELD UP HIS END OF THE DEAL!  THE ORIGINAL DEAL WAS TO GO TO THE MAPLE TREE TAPPING!  THAT!  WAS!  IT!!  Tonight was just a bonus (MOSTLY FOR CHERYL BY THE WAY) that he was doing because… well okay, he DID want to keep them happy in case they tried to pull some bullshit like this, but Archie has gone to bat for Cheryl way more than her family ever has, and THAT wasn’t part of the deal either!  So she’s gonna welch on her end of the bargain (or at least convince her family to do so as I don’t know how else she plans to take away what her mother was gonna give to Archie) and then turn this around on HIM!?  ON TOP OF TRYING TO KISS HIM WHEN HE MADE CLEAR HE WASN’T INTERESTED IN HER!?  Screw that!  Walk away, bro!  Get the hell out of there before she snaps your neck and sucks out your eyeballs!  Sure, Madelaine Petsch is STILL the best damn thing about this series, but there’s only so much a phenomenally engaging actress like her can do when the only consistent characteristic she has is just how inconsistent she is.

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“WHAT!?  Just because I want to rip your heart out and eat it in front of you, I’m suddenly the BAD GUY!?”

And with that, we’re basically done with the plot of this episode which means now it’s time for ten minutes of SUBPLOT WRAP UP!  First, we’ve got to deal with the continued escalation of violence and nastiness from the Cooper parents where Lemon Mom wants to publish a story about The Blossoms and Shitty Dad is stonewalling her; mostly just to be petty about being kicked out of the house.  To molify the situation, Jughead and Betty invite Lemon Mom to work at the school newspaper where they are still investigating Jason’s death.  We’ve also got Archie’s relationship to Valerie which has been strained by his recent foray into being a gigolo, and so she dumps his ass like a ton of bricks.  On the one hand, I don’t really blame Archie for trying to take advantage of some waspy ass rich folks in order to advance his career in one of the most notoriously brutal industries out there, but on the other hand Valerie has BARELY been in this show and because we’re CONSTANTLY dealing with drama and intrigue, there’s really been no place for her in his life.  Maybe she’s just lucky enough to NOT be constantly dealing with the machinations of powerful individuals with huge egos and barely cohesive schemes, but either way he’s not there enough and it’s time for Valerie to look elsewhere.  Fred Andrews on the other hand is  the one doing the dumping as he’s AGREEING to work with Lodge Industries (no duh) and one of the conditions for him to do so is that he breaks things off with Hermione, which… whatever.  I’ll have an opinion on that if it lasts more than a single episode AND it actually impacts the plot in anyway.  A story that MIGHT have a bit of impact though would be Veronica’s where she DOES get forgiven by Ethel who still wants to be friends, but she’s shaken up so much by the even that she could tank her dad’s chances at trial by getting up on the witness stand and calling him an outright bastard.  I DOUBT we have enough time this season what with the ongoing murder mystery and whatever the hell Skeet Ulrich is doing to ALSO watch the trial of Hiram Lodge, but it at least manages to give Veronica a little bit more pathos even if the journey to get there was rather tone-oblivious.  What DOESN’T feel like it’s building to anything is when Archie tells Jughead and Betty about what he heard from The Blossoms and they decide that the NEXT suspect in Jason’s murder is Hiram Lodge, which… no.  Just… no.  There’s no way they’ll pull the curtain back on their season long mystery and have the murderer be someone we’ve NEVER MET BEFORE.  I would guess hunting accident before Hiram Lodge, which means this little development in the case feels completely pointless, but then Betty and Jughead were pretty much useless in this episode anyway so hopefully this will be dismissed right away and they can get back to REAL theories about the case.  Okay, is that everything?  Good.  We’ve just got the final stinger that ends the episode and then we’re done!  Cheryl has the picture that was taken at the tree tapping and is viciously crossing out Archie’s face with a red marker and then does the same to Polly’s face.  Um… okay?  Is she gonna kill Polly and Archie now?  Is this just a sign that she’s mad at them?  If so, why is she mad at Polly as well?  SHE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING THIS EPISODE!!

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“Hey Miss Pregnant lady!  Who’s trying to kill you?  I don’t know, but they better not!”     *STAB*     “AHHH!!  That’s not good!  I’m not happy!  OH NO!!”

Look, we’re getting close to the end of the season and my problems with this series have been made VERY clear on numerous occasions, so I don’t need to sit here and remind you that the plot is overly convoluted, that the writers seems to have a very tenuous grasp on the gravity and weight of the stories they’re trying to tell, and that the series still doesn’t feel like a genuine extension of the original comics or any other piece of Archie media since then; even the TV movie from 1990.  I do enjoy certain parts of this show and there are some solid actors doing their damnedest with the material their given, but we’ve only got three more episodes to wrap this up and I can’t expect it to suddenly become brilliant now that we’re heading into the endgame.  Hopefully things get better in the second season and that things don’t get any worse in this one.

 

 

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