Essentially, Riverdale is a show about the power of journalism – that and bizarrely hot high schoolers. The Riverdale Register and the Blue-and-Gold play crucial roles in exposing the seedy underbelly of Riverdale.
Things are reaching a boiling point; Archie is trying to balance sports with being an undercover FBI mole; Cheryl’s mother is running a brothel from their cottage; Veronica is training to be the scion of the Lodge family criminality; Betty is grappling with her newfound brother; and Kevin is running track, wrestling and writing a gossip column! Shockingly, minus the wrestling and the cruising for dick in dark woods, Kevin is me in high school.
The entire episode is framed around Pickens Day: a day to honor General Augustus Pickens. He, bankrolled by Cheryl’s ancestor, settled the land that would one day be Riverdale.
While Cheryl is petitioning to get it renamed to Barnabas B. Blossom Day, the Adults are using it to their advantage. Spurred by the bad press of closing Southside High, the Lodges and Fred Andrews want to sponsor Pickens Day to restore goodwill amongst the So-Dale project. Mayor McCoy, who is getting sudden nosebleeds from the high horse she’s decided to clamber onto (despite banging the sheriff and taking Lodge hush-money), is strongly against it. Also her name is Sierra?
It turns out that General Pickins operates as Riverdale’s Christopher Columbus: honored in the present because of efforts to whitewash his bloody past. It turns out that Toni and other Serpents are the descendents of the Uktena people, who were the original inhabitants of the land that would be Riverdale. But Great-Great-Great-Grandpappy Barnabas B. Blossom (a real Hiram Lodge) wanted the land for development (the maple industry, brothels, saloons and railroads), and hired General Pickins to slaughter the Uktena, 400 people.
Veronica, at the end of the table, casts her vote for bolstering Pickens Day, when Archie comes home. Drama! When he reports this development to Agent Adams – gay love affair – the FBI agent urges him to cozy up to Hiram Lodge by any means necessary. Archie, after learning that Hiram loves wrestling, decides to go out for the wrestling team. Basically, this episode is largely stagnant and dull, but gives us ample shots of Archie being hot. It’s a win, people, except that Archie kind of sucks at wrestling (even Kevin can pin him down, albeit later calling Archie a “1970s’ pornstar”). By the way, Kevin is a straight-up freak and I love it, because it leads us into Betty’s B-plot.
She learns, via Kevin, that Chic is a cam-boy, a digital gigolo, a virtual hooker. This is where I get a little preachy. Chic was put up for adoption, aged out of the foster care system and received no handouts from anybody. What he does to make money is of no business to anyone, least of all the rich, well-to-do famiy that decides to drop into his life unannounced. Although I’m not here for him introducing Betty, who is…16? 15?…to cam-life, or as Jughead refers to it, “The Dark Education of Betty Cooper.”
Betty and Chic bond over their weird rage-flashes and tendency to dig their fingernails into their palms hard enough to draw blood. She’s especially protective of him against Hal, who is, by the way, definitely not the father of Chic. That divide in the family deepens enough that, after a full-out fight on Pickens Day, Hal falls into the treacly company of Penelope Blossom.
The rest of the episode plays out like this: Jughead uses the plight of the Uktena to write an article (journalism!) lambasting Pickens Day as the celebration of slaughter (in the process angering Toni for “using” her grandfather) before all the Serpents protest the festival and, allegedly, desecrate the statue of Pickens.
Archie trains privately (gay) with Hiram Lodge, sinking deeper into treacherous Lodge waters as he defeats Chuck Clayton (remember him?) and earns the respect of Hiram. Oh and Mayor McCoy’s high horse gets in the way of a Josie-Veronica friendship, culminating in the band, “Veronica and the Pussycats.” Oh, and Cheryl realizes her ancestor was a bloodthirsty monster (are you really surprised, Cheryl? Look at who everyone else in your family is!), thus opening up the potential for her to approach Toni.
In the end, Archie denies a call from Agent Adams in favor of chatting with Hiram Lodge, leading us to wonder, “Is Archie getting too deep into the Lodges?” Is he infiltrating or converting? Upon a second watch, I noticed a squid lapel pin on Hiram’s suit. Could Archie be caught in the clutches without him even realizing?
I didn’t love this episode because, despite the ~drama~, it really operated to set up other shoes to drop later on.