The second episode of any series typically has a dip. The first episode sets up all the drama, and the second episode catches people up and fills in background. So the third episode of Riverdale, with the background of episode two’s “A Touch of Evil,” is able to forage onto new ground.
Betty resurrects the school newspaper because, when in doubt and your idyllic town has recently had a horrific murder, high school journalism is the answer. But given the fact that Betty’s mother, Alice Cooper, runs the Riverdale Register and printed all the leaked details of Jason’s autopsy and a front-page story with the headline “Cheryl: Guilty as Sin,” maybe some new journalism is healthy.
Like I predicted last week—Cheryl didn’t kill Jason. She’s “guilty” of lying to the police—aren’t we all?—and says that Jason wanted to get out of Riverdale so the twins faked his death. They heard the gunshot together in their summer whites and it wasn’t until Kevin found Jason’s body a week later that Cheryl realized Jason was dead. She tells Chief Keller about the gunshot—a fact which Archie laters corroborates when he comes clean (minus the fact that he’s in a statutory rape situation with Ms. Grundy; so “kinda clean”).
The autopsy proved that Jason died July 11, and his body showed signs of freezer-burn, rope ties and—probably—torture. I mean, he ended up getting shot in the face, so I feel like it’s not out of line to assume that he was at least tortured before his untimely demise. So if Cheryl and Jason heard the gunshot together, then it was unconnected to them—at this point at least.
We are re-introduced to Dilton Doiley, the scout leader who found a soaked—chic—Cheryl on the side of the river. Through the magic of Jughead’s manipulation and sloppy stealing of a sundae, one of Dilton’s scouts reveals that Dilton shot the gun (and I guess he’ll lose his scout-ness if that came to light). So if Dilton shot the gun, and Jason escaped—we lose all sense of the timeline and any leads. Intrigue. Interestingly, the murder, and Archie, are kind of the B-plot this episode, with the juicy meat going to Betty and Veronica tackling slut-shaming. Essentially, Archie is grounded, Ms. Grundy calls off their lessons, and Archie turns to Josie for some music help.
Three episodes in, and Riverdale is slowly unveiling their people of color. The mayor is Josie’s mom; the all-star football guy is black; Dilton is played by an actor of Asian descent. And when Archie stops in on the Pussycats’ practice, Josie gives him a lesson in race relations. He can’t write in their voice because they are “divas of color.” And while things are changing in Riverdale, they’re not changing that fast.
“We have to claw our way into the same rooms that you can just waltz into,” says Josie to Archie, who—to his credit—seems willing to admit that. Yay for some semblance of Riverdale becoming more woke. That, combined with the slut-shaming, makes this the most political and issue-driven episode yet, and I’m here for it. I’m not here for Cheryl kind of slut-shaming the girls, but I think that’s less of Cheryl being a slut-shamer and more of her just being sort of a dick.
Veronica goes on a date with Chuck Clayton, the all-star son of the football coach. Later he spreads a vicious rumor around school about her, and labels her a “Sticky Maple.” What a Sticky Maple is, they never actually get around to. So Riverdale, tho.
After finding out that A) this has happened to multiple girls before and B) there’s some sort of tallying playbook that the football team has, Veronica goes full-scorched earth. This episode reinforces the tropes of the traditional Archie comics—something they’ve been subverting so far. Veronica is the bad-ass, dark-sided one, and Betty is just trying to seek justice for these women.
The gang—Kevin (who started out the season with a bang (almost literally) but has kind of faded into the background for me), Veronica (in the cape), Betty, Barb from Stranger Things, and Cheryl (in thigh-highs)—sneak into school with annoyingly bright flashlights and find the burn book. In a twist, Polly—the insane sister of Betty—is in the book with Jason Blossom. Betty, in an Una Thurman Pulp Fiction black wig, and Veronica lure Chuck the fuck to a second location with the promise of a hot tub, get him liquored up and handcuff him into the hot tub before starting to record. He admits that he made up the rumor, and it seems like “Okay, that’s it.”
But it’s not it for Betty. Ever since she saw Polly’s name in the book, the mad glint has been back in her eyes. She turns up the heat, uses a high-heeled pump on Chuck’s head to waterboard him, and demands justice for Polly. But the thing is—in that moment, she is Polly, and she’s talking to Jason. It is, as Veronica later worriedly points out, very “Dr. Jekyll, Mistress Hyde.” Betty was almost normal the entire episode but this opens up a whole new book of questions. Is she having dissociative breaks? Who is Polly?
I can’t shake the feeling that Betty and Polly are linked to Jason’s disappearance and murder. And even though Betty later brushed off her little incident, the black wig is stashed in her locker—Polly is there, somewhere.
In the end, Dilton begs Betty and Jughead not to reveal that he’s the one to shoot the gun and offers up something in exchange: he saw Ms. Grundy’s car on the banks of the river, the tidbit that Archie purposefully left out. And as the closing scene—Archie and Ms. Grundy making out IN THE BAND ROOM OF THE HIGH SCHOOL—and the promo for next week indicate, we’re soon going to learn a lot more about who Ms. Grundy is.
And more importantly, who Ms. Grundy isn’t.
- Is this the town in fucking Footloose? This town has seen a murder and Archie’s dad is demonizing him for “writing songs”?
- Veronica’s date characterizes her as a “former It-girl from New York”—is the only TV in this town “Gossip Girl?” Why are they all making the same references?
- I love how Kevin Keller exists in a permanent state of surprise:
- “You’re going on a date with the son of the football coach?!”
- “Where did you get those thigh-high boots?!”
- “I will cut the brakes on his souped-up phallic machine”—VERONICA IS GOING SCORCHED EARTH
- CHUCK STOP LICKING YOUR LIPS
- Theory: Cheryl is into Archie because he kinda looks like Jason
- “Frida Shallow”
- There’s the recurring motif of smudged, almost bloody red lipstick on Betty. Am I the only one noticing this?
- MRS. COOPER GETS HIT IN THE FACE BY CHERYL’S MOM