Grade: C+/B- (Because it’s getting better)
This episode was titled, “In a Lonely Place”, but it could’ve easily been an homage to The Searchers. Everyone is drifting restlessly—the Cooper & Co search brigade looking for Polly, Jughead going from the drive-in to the high school to his home to Archie’s, Veronica torn between dueling familial loyalties, and Polly, hiding in the Cooper attic because no one thought to look right under their noses. Even The Blossom family, who show up to the Find Preggo Polly Forest Walk with Ramsay Bolton’s hunting hounds (chic), are somersaulting between cartoonishly evil and mournful.
For the past few episodes, I’ve been sorely disappointed in Riverdale. All the drama and progressiveness that they promised (and delivered) in the beginning have dusted over and I’ve been lagging in enthusiasm for the last few weeks. But this episode I realized the overall structure. The first episodes were the first foot dropping—the loud clang of Jason Blossom’s murder, the salacious affair of Archie and Ms. Grundy. But these last few weeks have been dredging up an undeniable dread as we wait for the other foot to drop. If that first foot jolts you out of hazy slumber, then this is the heavy pause as we wait to find out if it’s just the creaking of the wooden floorboards, or if someone unwanted is just on the other side of the door.
And judging from the person watching from the bushes, there is.
In a welcome change of pace, we’re shifting our focus this week from tyrannical moms—your Mayor McCoys, your Alice Coopers—to hot, deadbeat dads. We were introduced to Fred Andrews a while back—“you gotta choose between music and football!”—and now we’re getting acquainted with Juggie’s adorable, alcoholic father, FP Jones.
As Jughead intones in his voiceover about the concept of home—he’s currently sleeping Harry Potter-style in a Riverdale High closet, we are treated to a 1950s dark-thriller version of Riverdale. The characters are in their classic comic couture, except Archie has a massive steak-knife in his back. And given what’s later revealed, that knife might’ve landed in the wrong person. Jughead’s secret was apparently well-hidden until Archie, sweaty but NOT shirtless, found Jughead brushing his teeth in the boys’ locker room. That catapults the main drama of the episode—getting FP a second chance at Andrews Construction and letting us know the scraggly, sexy Southside Serpent a little better.
I feel like we’re losing touch with Archie, and that makes me sad. The writers have a hard time balancing characters, because the people I was most interested in, Archie and Kevin, have faded to the background (Kevin completely) when other characters are brought forward and fleshed out. Archie is stagnant in character development—he’s largely reactionary—while we’re getting deeper into Veronica’s vulnerabilities and loyalty to her father, and Jughead’s family life, and Betty’s steel core about her sister. Kevin has disappeared completely—possibly he has been stabbed to death by the Southside Serpent he made out with—when it’s easily possible for him to be tagging along with the gang solving this murder. Has he been busy with Calculus?
But the Prodigal Gay returns in the only way Riverdale seems aware of how to deal with him—as a prop. In retaliation for Hermione forging Veronica’s signature on the paperwork to give the drive-in lot to Andrews Construction, Veronica goes full Cady Heron-house party. She gets her best black friend, the TRAGICALLY UNDERUTILIZED Josie McCoy, and a hot meathead, Reggie Butler, and the town gay, Kevin, to go out with her to—I’m assuming—a teen club to make her mom jealous. Using minorities for plot progression obviously works, because in the end, the Lodge household is hunky-dory.
But that’s (maybe?) the B-plot. Honestly, there are so many different threads it’s impossible to keep track. But in dueling lowercase a-plots, the boyz are trying to get their fathers back together, while Betty and Cheryl figure out what to do with Preggo Polly and J.J.’s baby. Just kid stuff. After Preggo Polly Hulk-Smashed her way out of a two-story asylum room, her family was understandably concerned. Did she land on her feet, the ground beneath her cracked at the impact? Did she rise up, flipping her gossamer blonde hair out of her face, readjust her headband, and waddle away like the Marvel superhero she is? Because that’s the only way Polly wouldn’t have had her legs shattered from the impact of being a heavily-pregnant teenager dropping twenty feet in the air.
Cheryl is down to help with the baby because she’s Cersei-obsessed with Jason, but realizes too late that her parents have more sinister machinations at hand with the Coopers. So the girls decide that Polly can’t be out in the open, so they ship her to the Pembrooke with the Lodges.
Archie and Jughead get their fathers together where it comes to light that Andrews Construction was co-founded by both men until Fred bought FP out of the business while the latter was in jail. The action was taken to protect the business and the Andrews family but, as Archie points out, unhooking yourself from a drowning man doesn’t mean that all the innocent (i.e. Jughead) get saved.
And as The Tragedy of Jughead continues, Chief Keller unfairly and stereotypically attempts to pin the murder on Jughead. He and Betty both had prints at the car, but since Jughead is a latchkey kid, Keller pulled his file to find out that, AS A TEN-YEAR-OLD, Juggie was playing with matches and almost burned the school down. That, alongside Jughead’s bad grades, record of being bullied and unfortunate first name, means that he is the only one to be able to commit Jason’s murder. Because when in doubt, blame a victim.
This is ludicrous, of course, but this is coming from a man who had a laissez-faire attitude towards his son cruising for dick in the woods and let himself be bullied around by Penelope Blossom. It goes without saying that Chief Keller, like all the adults in Riverdale, is incompetent and just plain bad at his job. Without siding too much with a child rapist, it almost makes sense why Ms. Grundy dated a kid—all the adults are committing fraud, or adultery, or just plain bad decisions.
And in the last few scenes, we’re treated to concrete reasons as to why the dads on this show are as bad as the moms. While Chief Keller is busy victim-blaming innocent teenagers, Fred Andrews is manipulating timecards to provide Jughead with a false alibi and FP, that sexy serpent, is drunkenly lumbering around his (I’m assuming) trailer.
He stumbles, beer in hand, across a room littered with old bottles and unwashed plates piled high in the sink. The camera slowly pans over broken sofas and clothes strewn across the floor to an open wardrobe. And there, nestled between old Ed Hardy t-shirts and ragged flannel, is a pristine, royal-blue letterman jacket. It smells faintly of gasoline, smoke and sweat. And embroidered cleanly on the breast in golden-yellow thread is a name.
So we might’ve found the person watching from the bushes. And with one question answered, a host of new ones crop up. How? When? And Why?
Next week: “The Outsiders”
- Did anyone else notice the weirdly-inappropriate background music?
- “My mom sat me down on the edge of my canopy bed…”
- ARCHIE: “Hey Mr. Southside Serpent, what did you mean when you said my dad owed you? You have a rage problem and got fired for stealing, but can I ask you this inflammatory question?”
- Fred Andrews looks like a sad, sexy turtle
- This interaction: CHIEF KELLER: You’ve been bullied a lot. JUGHEAD: Yeah, my name is Jughead.