Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 11, “To Riverdale and Back Again”

Coming Home

 Grade: B++ (Not quite an A, though hon)

I really enjoy these episodes where the majority of the tension and drama is centered in a single night. Last week it was “The Lost Weekend” and Jughead’s birthday; this week the nexus of the episode is the Homecoming Dance. As someone who went to private school, I don’t know what a “homecoming dance” is, so I Googled it. according to Wikipedia, it’s in many ways essentially a fall prom, taking place in September-October, and the “homecoming” part is welcoming back alumni to the fold. So I guess that makes sense that it was held in the gymnasium, which I previously thought was rude that the chairs of the homecoming committee couldn’t spring for a second location. Hindsight.

This episode is the return of Archie’s mom Mary, played by Molly Ringwald. For some reason, it was this character that really solidified—paired with the homecoming theme—the reason for the Brat Pack casting. I mean, actually I think only Ringwald is part of the Brat Pack. But several of the actors playing the parents were well-known teen actors in the ‘80s: Molly Ringwald—Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles; Luke Perry—90210; Madchen Amick—Twin Peaks; Skeet Ulrich—The Craft (!!). The point of hiring these actors (in my mind) allows for unspoken history to be added to their backstories. You have the faint whispering in the back of your head that you’ve known these people since they were teenagers, so when they return as the parents of a new generation, the overall sense is that of a continuing story.

As Betty plans the homecoming dance and tries to balance her loner boyfriend and her Mommy Dearest mom, Veronica is trying to…prove her father is a murderer? The end result is a little murky, but the driving motivation—to learn the truth about her father—pushes Veronica into uncomfortable and gripping places. Because to discover whether or not her father is a murderer requires her to implicate FP Jones—Jughead’s dad—in the process. It’s a Catch-22: to save her own image of her father, she has to destroy someone else’s.

This more dangerous side of Veronica—she says to Alice Cooper when offering her help, “I don’t feel the same kind of loyalty to the Jones family that Betty does”—peels back the “reformed bad girl” persona that she has crafted upon her arrival at Riverdale. Not saying that this means that she’s a bad girl, but her actions prove that there’s something dark and steely underneath her glossy black curls. She’s not afraid of the consequences. Archie goes along with her because—despite having just left a relationship because he was too inattentive—he wants to be her boyfriend. Ronnie, understandably, is like, “Hon, we might be about to prove that my father murdered the town golden boy—I’m kind of busy right now.”

But since Archie’s storylines are generally direct results of his various relationships—see Ms. Grundy, Val, Betty—he decides to help her break into FP’s trailer (tragic) to find any evidence connecting him to Jason. They come up empty because, remember, FP smuggled Jason’s letterman jacket to Joaquin already. He took the jacket, we can assume, while burning Jason’s car of any evidence of Jason’s drug-smuggling for the Serpents.

Betty discovers that Archie and Veronica are investigating FP because none of them are particularly sneaky, and she’s outraged. Personally, I’ve never found Betty more boring than when she’s dating Jughead (whom she “loves” now). I hope they break up and Betty lets Petty Betty rise again like a phoenix from her ash-blonde roots.

In an adjacent plot, Preggo Polly is blundering around Thorn Hill mansion looking for any evidence that the Blossom Parents murdered their son. While snooping, she stumbles upon Cliff Blossom and his wig (!!?) collection. That prompts a chastising from Mrs. Blossom when she’s delivering Polly’s daily milkshake. They will later use that milkshake to roofie Polly, but who didn’t see that coming? Ever read Hansel and Gretel?

Don’t trust sweet treats from evil people, hon.

But when Polly convinces Cheryl to forage through Mrs. Blossom’s jewelry to find something for the dance—pre-roofie, obvs—Cheryl discovers the ring Jason proposed to Polly with. Now, here’s the intrigue—Jason would’ve supposedly never let go of that ring willingly, and technically it’s rightfully Polly’s. So how did Mother Blossom come by the ring?

Cheryl tells her parents that she flushed it down the toilet after finding it, to erase any trace connecting her parents to her brother’s murder. But in the last frames of her in this episode, we see her staring at the ring resting on her alabaster palm before curling shovel-tipped nails over it. What is Cheryl planning?

Overall, this episode was juicy. As Ronnie and Archie sing, “Kids of America” (kill me, shoot me—oops, too soon—make me deaf), the scene intercuts with the Riverdale police force searching FP’s trailer—guys, this is feeling very Making A Murderer to me—and finding the revolver used to kill Jason. The intercutting did not have quite the impact I think the editors intended, probably because that song is horrible, but I can understand where they were going and, hon, I got in that car.

And while we think that FP is a murderer for a hot two minutes (Jughead has a meltdown) Archie and Veronica track down Betty to tell her something: That revolver was planted there. This is so Making A Murderer I can’t deal! Except FP Jones is way hotter than Steven Avery. WAY HOTTER AND WAY MORE INNOCENT. Actually, I have no opinion on the Avery case. I did have to write a paper about their slightly problematic editing.

Overall, even though this episode forced us to listen to an cover of “Kids in America”, we got several seconds of Shirtless Archie (second week in a row; we’re back people!) so can I really even drag it?

NEXT WEEK: “Anatomy of a Murder”

And one more Shirtless Archie for blessings on your family:


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