Veronica Ex Machina
Finding Polly has been the buildup of the last few episodes. First we learn that she went “crazy.” Then we learn that she’s been locked away. Then we learn that she and Jason were engaged. She seems, at least to the Sleuthsters, to be the key to this puzzle surrounding Jason’s murder.
Everything about this episode felt just a little bit wonky. The acting was wrong, the buildups were wrong, the climaxes were anti. And I understand, this is a new show and this was a major moment, but I left this episode feeling more disappointed than satisfied, and that’s even with someone burning up a crime-scene car. How lit.
Jughead’s voiceover plays with “fear.” The fear from your past, the fear in your head, the fear coiling itself tightly around your “guts.” Archie’s fear is performing his music. Other people’s fear is that there is a murderer on the loose, but Archie is afraid his voice will crack.
It’s Variety Show time at Riverdale High and guess who’s the emcee! Everyone’s favorite gay plaything—Kevin Keller! For someone who seemed like a big character in the first episode, Kevin has been shoved quickly into the far reaches of the broom closet.
Archie is struggling because he’s just so good at football but music, music means more to him. So he decides to Yoko Ono Josie and the Pussycats and steal Val away to form a duo. Val does it because she has no agency and because this is Archie’s world and we’re all just living in it.
In her role as simultaneously awesome and a pushover, Veronica had offered to sing with Archie because she’s a good person and can sing. He accepted but as soon as Val quit the Pussycats, he Tonya Harding-ed him and Veronica and stuck with Val. Nice, you asshole. In “retribution,” Veronica fills Val’s spot in the Pussycats, fulfilling the guidelines Mayor McCoy laid out for her daughter: “skinny, pretty—but not as skinny or pretty as you. And a woman of color.” So, yay (?) for female empowerment?
Speaking of which—I’M TIRED OF THE MOTHERS OF RIVERDALE GIVING THEIR DAUGHTERS COMPLEXES. Hermione is doing shady dealings with the Southside Serpents and making out with Fred Andrews (oh yeah, that happens this episode). Archie’s mom bailed. Mayor McCoy is doing backdoor deals. And ALICE COOPER LOCKED HER DAUGHTER AWAY. Please, you guys need to watch Bravo’s There Goes the Motherhood. It’ll be very educational for you.
So while everyone in Riverdale is being terrible, Juggie and Betty head to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy—basically that lobotomy asylum from Sucker Punch—to visit Polly. She’s in the garden.
SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER AHEAD.
Polly is pregnant. I mean, if you didn’t guess that that’s what was happening, you’re not paying attention. She’s pregnant with Jason’s baby, doesn’t realize he’s dead, and is just a lil bit crazy. But, hunny, aren’t we all?
Polly thinks that she and Jason—two sixteen-year-olds—could run away from their parents, have a baby and start a new life together. She is literally bonkers. Hun. Hang with the nuns, hun.
Of course, Alice Cooper finds her daughters together and (albeit crying) lets them drag Polly away back to the loony bin. Back at the Coop, Betty accuses her dad of murdering Jason (#maplemurdermotive) and Alice startS. CACKLING. She says that her husband doesn’t have the guts to kill anyone (which, in any other world, would be a compliment) and she wishes that they had killed Jason. So scratch those freaks off the list.
Archie and Val decide that Val needs to go back to the Pussycats—Archie sings alone, it’s a passable 8/10 but he’s hot so it’s a 9/10.
And now for the real thing that grinds my gears. Back in the pre-season, Cole Sprouse said that he wanted Jughead to be asexual, which I was like, “Wow, how woke.” I don’t know if there’s been an asexual main character on TV before. This was also before I realized that Kevin Keller/Casey Cott was problematic and I was so on board with the queerness of Riverdale. EXCEPT JUGGIE AND BETTY MAKE OUT. So much for asexuality, you asshole.
Following a tip from Preggo Polly (sister of Petty Betty), the Sleuthsters travel deep into the woods to find Jason’s getaway car—packed with drugs. What was she planning, amiright? They leave to get Chief Keller, but not before the camera pans to someone watching them from the bushes. THE ONLY GOOD PART. And when they return with the chief, the car is engulfed in flames. Kind of a great metaphor for this episode.
In the beginning of the episode, Veronica calls herself “Veronica Ex Machina.” The phrase comes from deus ex machina, a plot device used in plays that neatly resolves seemingly unresolvable conflicts right at the end. Veronica indeed operated as such: she was the connection between all the various plots going on this episode, and she “saved” the day with the Pussycats. But ironically this episode was completely deus ex machina-ed. Nothing felt resolved and yet, superficially, it was. And at the last, literally last, moments, you get drama to hook you into the next episode.
Someone is watching. The burning car. And Preggo Polly hulk-smashed her way out of a two-story window somehow. What the fuck—this girl needs to be locked up.
Overall, I was left wanting more. The juicy, salacious thriller of the first few episode has dulled into bit of a plodding mess, but I love the show and I want the best for it. Hon! Give me what I need!
NEXT WEEK: “In A Lonely Place”
- NO SHIRTLESS ARCHIE.
- Kevin is the Variety Show Host, because let’s just give the gay any drama work, right?
- GIVE KEVIN A ROLE
- Wait, hold up—is the third pussycat named Mal
- Archie is boring when he’s not fucking a teacher—is that so dark that I just said that?
- The song that Archie and Val were singing when Veronica walked in on them was…bad
- Ginger Judas is my new fragrance
- Are we gonna gloss over the fact that Polly Cooper is maybe 17 at best?
- Josie’s a little heavy on the autotune.
- Can I just say? It was a little anticlimactic to meet Polly
- WHAT DID YOU THINK JOSIE STOOD FOR, ARCHIE?
- Small note; if you locked your daughter in an asylum I feel like you wouldn’t call her “crazy.” You would use the actual terms, hunny.
- OH so now Fred Andrews is chill about Archie’s music? Cuz the first few episodes you wanted to lock Archie Polly-style in a locker room
- Veronica’s eyebrows are slightly wonky and it bugs me out
- “I was born alone, I’ll die alone, I’ll sing alone” I need you to take a step back
- Josie sad-voguing is me always
- I CAN’T with Reggie and the football players catcalling Archie
- A) The wolf masks
- B) Hunny, you’re at the variety show auditions and the variety show—maybe you should stick to football, or go watch some VH1
- So weird that Archie, played by a Kiwi, sang his song The SAME DAY that another Kiwi, Lorde, released hers.
- So the football players stop heckling Archie because his song was beautiful? How gay is that?