Agents of Chaos And the Plot Thickens
The trap that CW shows fall into sometimes is “adulterizing” their shows. “Teenagers” (aka twentysomethings with young faces and six-packs) deal with very adult situations in very adult ways, in very adult clothes. It’s the trap that Riverdale has fallen into, mostly because the actual adults in the town of Riverdale are absentee at their very best, and downright maniacal at their very worst. But this episode, framed similarly to a “bottle episode,” brought out a much more teenager-y vibe. And as someone who is definitely no longer a teenager but still acts like a child, I really appreciated that.
When you mix a bunch of people whose brains haven’t finished forming with alcohol and cake, you get essentially what last night’s episode was—secrets spilled like the syrupy margarita mix spreading across the table like a bloodstain, emotions running high, and no one eating the cake. Tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
It’s Jughead’s birthday and for semi-unspecified reasons, he hates his birthday and no one knows about it. He says it’s because his family dynamic was so messed-up but for one “arbitrary” day, they would click together in artificial happiness—ostensibly to make him feel better when it actually just made him feel worse. I can totally sympathize with the notion of holidays getting you down—Instagram is the fucking worst.
Archie lets it slip to Betty that it’s Juggie’s birthday and wanting to be a Good Girlfriend, she arranges a small party of the Inner Circle. The “Inner Circle”—a phrase that gets annoyingly tossed around, like, eight times this episode—consists of Jughead, Archie, Betty, Veronica, Kevin, Kevin’s boyfriend Joaquin, and Ethel Muggs. What a fucking rager. Jughead said it best later in the show when, in a rage at Betty, he says that he would’ve actively avoided people like Veronica and Kevin before they became friends with Betty. Kevin barely appears in the show, so the fact that he’s Inner Circle means that, quite literally, Jughead has no friends.
This episode also was really rude to its Hot Redheads, and for a show that started out with the bullet-to-the-face murder of a Hot Redhead, that’s saying a lot. Cheryl is challenged by Veronica for control of the Vixens (operating essentially as surrogates for their respective fathers), and Drunk Archie has a beer thrown on him when he bugs Val to talk. As a Hot Redhead, this episode—obviously—made me uncomfortable.
The party was supposed to be small but the resident Agents of Chaos—Cheryl and Chuck, who’s back from his suspension—crash the Inner Circle with two kegs and bad intentions. Cheryl ropes everybody into a game of Secrets & Sins—like Truth or Dare but sluttier and more dangerous—where multiple different episodic threads come undone in one moment. Chuck reveals that Betty roofied him and went Zero Dark Betty. Dilton Doiley reveals that he saw Ms. Grundy’s car at Sweetwater River the day Jason died and that Archie was there too. Veronica basically reveals what we all thought—that Cheryl was twincestingly in love with Jason and killed him. It’s fucking twisted and gnarly and perfect.
All these concentric circles have been spinning around each other, inches apart. And now—thanks to Cheryl—they’re beginning to bump into each other and cause ripples of chaos. And though this operated largely as a bottle episode contained inside the party, I think the effects of this night will play out over the last three episodes.
The end of the show sets up too parallelisms, two sets of couples both preening in their own destructiveness. Jughead accepts Betty back into his arms only after realizing her dark side (which is problematic, but I can’t deal with that right now) and Veronica and Archie bond over their parents’ messed up relationships. Sadly, I thought this episode would have more Shirtless Archie (we only got a brief glimpse at the beginning and at the end) and Cheryl, but the Cheryl that we did get (Evil Fur Cheryl) was spectacular.
This episode very strongly brought back Zero Dark Betty, which I’m hoping they delve more deeply into. It’s the only interesting facet of Betty, and semi-mirrors the outwardly dark-sided Cheryl. Really, they’re the only two characters that display some sort of nuance other than a base drive. Jughead (a hot, cis white guy) is the Weirdo. Archie is the Artist-Jock. Veronica’s the Reformed Bad Girl. Kevin is the Gay. Cheryl and Betty—tied together by the death of Jason and the life of Polly—are the only ones that teeter between multiple depths at all times. And if Riverdale was smart, they would capitalize on that.
All in all, this episode brought me everything a CW show should—teen drama, salacious scandal, alcohol, hot guys (not shirtless enough, but still hot) and murder. In an ever-mutating world, it’s nice to have at least one thing to count on.
Next Week: “To Riverdale and Back Again” (Only three episodes left!
- The return of Psycho Betty
- The return of Shirtless Archie
- UGH THAT TOO-TIGHT HENLEY
- Is that true about the Three Musketeers? That there were four?
- Veronica wears GLASSES
- Cheryl wearing a shirt that says HBIC on the back
- CHERYL IN A FUR IS MY GOD
- Spooky threatening note by Hiram
- Drunk Archie makes me feel…things
- “Oh, it’s Kevin…”—Juggie
- BETTY IS A FUCKING CREEP WHEN SHE’S SINGING
- “Now we’re here…in the middle of a Seth Rogen movie.”
- Archie wears…a lot of cardigans. A lot of tight, tight cardigans
- Kevin wants to fuck on the banks of Sweetwater River, like really bad
- Alice Cooper=full Rear Window
- I HATE when hot, cis white guys are like “I’m a weirdo; I don’t fit in” I wear beanies and write weird stories on my laptop
- “Have you ever seen me without this stupid hat on? That’s weird!”
- Alice is from the south side, potentially was a Serpent
- Veronica & Archie kiss—no sex—Veronica wears NYLONS
- I want to meet Hiram
- MOLLY RINGWALD