2018, Politics


“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

A few weeks ago, I read a profile of David Hogg on The Outline. Hogg is seventeen and, along with Emma González, one of the loudest voices for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead.

I found the article after a lot of conservative outlets had been circulating a rumor that Hogg and González were “crisis actors,” people paid to pretend that they have been in the shooting. In the profile, Hogg comes across as brittle, scathing, running on anger and entirely exhausted. And as I was reading the profile and watching the attached video, I found myself wondering what happens when to Hogg, or González, or anyone who survived the Parkland shooting or any other gun shooting, when the cameras go off and the lights shut down and the anger diminishes for a moment.

They’re all subsisting on anger and rage – rightfully – and I thought about how desperately sad it is that after this trauma, they’re not allowed to just sit and cry and recover. Because of the situation they’re in, the situation we put them in, these kids are not, and cannot, be kids. They have to be advocates; they have to be warriors. In stripping them of their safety and their friends and their lives, we’ve also stripped them of their right to grieve.

When David said the above line, about the phone, it made sense to me. Gun massacres are becoming increasingly common in America, and the news cycle is always the same. It happens, we react, the news churns for a while and then, inevitably, everyone moves on. These kids are fighting so hard to stop that from happening, because as soon as we move on, we are signing the death warrants for someone else. The fact that it’s a month on, and we’re still seeing action from the students is not just impressive, it’s unprecedented.

They’ve witnessed the adults in their lives, the adults in government, refuse to protect them, choose guns and money over them. And so they have to protect themselves, advocate for themselves. It’s beautiful in its own way, but it’s disgusting that we’re asking children to take up the fight for gun control. And it’s disgusting how people have vilified them for asking for life; how people have gone after Hogg and claimed it’s fair game, how someone called Emma González a “skinhead.” How people derided the school walkouts today as an “excuse” to skip school. That people cannot have the empathy or the willingness to understand is astounding but not surprising.

These kids shouldn’t have to do all this, but they are because the adults refuse to do anything. Give them the fucking phone.



In high school, I was worried about a lot. I was worried about getting good grades, getting into college, finding new and inventive ways to make myself known to my crushes. I was worried about track meets and my performance in them; I was worried about an upcoming test. I was worried that my shirt was too wrinkled and that I had forgotten to do my homework. I was worried about the ending of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012.

I was not worried about getting shot.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 took place during my senior year of high school. It was the first time I realized danger could be breathing down your neck, completely unbeknownst to you. But, like a lot of people I think, we believed – prayed, hoped against hope – that this was an anomaly. That what happened in Sandy Hook could not – would not – happen again. I remember President Barack Obama reading out the names of the victims, his voice steadily breaking down but remaining holy and baritone.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, what happened in Sandy Hook was not an anomaly. It was one chapter in a book of alarming trends – lone gunmen with semiautomatic assault rifles wreaking havoc, death and terror upon unsuspecting communities. I remember the massacre in Pulse Nightclub in Orlando – the then-largest massacre in modern United States history with 49 people, many queer and of Latinx descent, dead. That number was surpassed on October 1, 2017 with the Las Vegas massacre, leaving 59 dead.

Every time, it followed the same pattern. Horror as the event and aftermath unfolded. Offerings of “thoughts and prayers” sent out by legislators. Calls from civilians and Democrats alike to change gun control laws, met by claims of “politicizing tragedy.” If I go to my grave never hearing “politicizing the tragedy” again, it will be too soon. And eventually, we move on – whether at the hands of another tragedy or another political scandal or time and space from the blast.

“Thoughts and prayers” sticks nauseatingly in my ears as it becomes more and more clear that lawmakers will do nothing to change gun control laws. They will twist the request, claiming that it is an affront and an attack on law-abiding citizens. They will cite the Second Amendment, they will say that the answer is more guns, more weaponizing. The lines in the sand will become deeper and deeper, carving up innocent people along the way.

Even as I’m writing this, the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are being attacked and derided on social media for calling for gun control. Commentators like Tomi Lahren and politicians like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio falsely claim that the survivors do not want gun control, only to be flatly disproved by the actual survivors.

If this were a bombing, the response would be different. It’s gruesome to say, but it’s true. If the shooter were Muslim, or a person of color, the response would be different. But there is something about this particular combination – white, young, male; semiautomatic weapon – that does not elicit the appropriate response. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that there will never be the appropriate response.

And why is that? Why is it that when teens started eating Tide Pods, there was a response within the month? That we have to take off our shoes at airports because of one man tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes? Why is it that the party that holds such strong beliefs, often on marriage rights, freedom of speech, abortion and personal property, has such a lax response?

It is because, in part, the National Rifle Association has a chokehold on the Republican politicians in power. It’s easy enough to look up which politicians have accepted funds and donation from the NRA, and to see how they respond and react to these tragedies.

Those donations, however great or small, are worth more, we’ve seen, than people’s lives. Because Sandy Hook was not enough. Orlando was not enough. Las Vegas was not enough. It has not been enough to incite action.

Despite it all, I have to hope against hope that this time will be different. It will be different, in part, because of the #MeToo movement. Because we are in a period of change, where the voices of the disenfranchised and oppressed are forceful enough to make change. Because the mighty totems of power that once held the status quo in check have begun to topple. Because we are getting tired of the cloying sympathies that evaporate within seconds.

This goes beyond party lines; this goes beyond those grooves drawn in the sand. There are ways to limit and curtail the purchase and possession of semiautomatic weapons without infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.

It cannot, and should not, be up to citizens to prevent these tragedies. It is not, as President Trump said, the fault of bystanders to proactively recognize and stop shooters – something even the FBI failed to do. This conversation should not be about the red herring of mental health, as it so often becomes. It should not be about fear-mongering or the blame game. It should be, and must be, about active reform.

Kids should not be worried about getting shot during class. They should not, as the Washington Post reported, have to bring bullet-proof vests “just in case.” They should be allowed to be kids; they should not have to die, should not have to bury peers, should not have to leave parents and friends and goals behind.

This will not get better; this will not diminish. This trend will continue. This does not end until we change how we react.

For everyone affected in Parkland, Florida, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I am so sorry that we did not do enough. But we will. Because we have to.

2018, pop culture, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.26, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

The devil you know.

Grade: B+

A “capo,” or caporegime, we learned tonight, is someone that does the killing – the dirty work of the boss. It widens the web of guilt, attaching other people to the sins of someone else.

Betty assists her mother get rid of the body of the man who came to the Cooper house, a crime that Jughead and FP will eventually get drawn into. Veronica negotiates with Mayor McCoy on behalf of her father. Archie gets pressured by Agent Adams. All of these tangential people are being drawn into the actions of others, almost against their will.

The energy of the episode catapults off last week’s, where, interestingly, Tall Boy was, in a sense, the capo of Mayor McCoy and Hiram Lodge. Now that Juggie knows that Tall Boy was working at the behest of Hiram, he sends back the head of General Pickens to the Lodges and uncovers the nefarious actions of Mayor McCoy – that the Lodges donated hush money to McCoy while she looked the other way on their business dealings.

What I love is that Jughead is, at his core, trying to do a good thing: stop his friends and family from being evicted. It’s getting overshadowed by, you know, covering up a murder but it’s still super nice! Veronica stops Mayor McCoy from going public of her crimes by threatening to release the information of her affair with Sheriff Keller, which would decimate them, their families and their social standings.

Archie is being pressured more and more by Agent Adams, who wants to get Hiram on tape. Archie uses the newspaper coverage of Papa Poutine’s murder to bring it up to Hiram, but Lodge isn’t budging. And when Archie doesn’t deliver the goods (and purposefully misleads the FBI), Adams goes after Fred with some made-up illegal immigrant worker business.

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.58.50 PM

Source: The CW // Cheryl was criminally underused this episode.

Upon a second visit to the dead body – wrapped in a rug and deposited in an old pipe – Betty discovers his phone, which show that he has a jealous girlfriend and a thriving drug-dealing career. This disproves my theory that he came to the house as a result of Betty or Chic’s cam-habits, but begs the question: is Chic doing drugs? Or is he involved in the dealing?

Betty cracks and involves Jughead in the cover-up. He, then, involves FP who utilizes his “getting rid of bodies” expertise to dissolve the body. He’s learned from his mistakes covering up Jason’s murder and he won’t be getting caught this time. Is it just me, or did we all gloss over the fact that FP got rid of Jason’s body?

After Archie comes clean to Hiram, that an FBI agent approached him but Archie hasn’t squealed, Hiram’s minion Andre – Hot Andre – comes to collect him for a visit with the boss. As the limo descends into darkness, conveniently scraping spookily against finger-like branches, Archie becomes more and more nervous.

And perched on the edge of a cliff, the river frothing below, is not Hiram Lodge. Instead, framed by liquid sheets of dark hair, Hermione Lodge is “the boss.” It turns out that, as we suspected, Agent Adams was not, in fact, an FBI agent. Instead, he was a test for Archie – to prove his loyalty. And the phrase, “capo,” comes back from the beginning of the episode. Agent Adams was the capo of Hermione. But more interestingly is the role, the active role, Hermione appears to be taking. She is not, perhaps, the capo of her husband. She might be an agent of chaos in her own right.

Archie is confused, and betrayed. However, the test worked: Archie didn’t snitch. But with the steely blackness of Hermione’s eyes, it doesn’t feel like a victory. It feels like a warning: that Archie is not safe, not because of Veronica, not ever.

This is the first time that the Riverdale ragtags didn’t involve the police in something that’s happened, and it marks an unholy shift in the narrative for me. Before, they circumvented the (relatively) hapless law enforcement when they had to, but they still were operating on the side of good. Now, with so many people moving to cover up a murder, and some getting deeper into the pull of mafia, our heroes of Riverdale are taking a distinctly antihero approach.

2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.25, “The Wicked and the Divine”

Are we going to ignore that it seems literally impossible to “decapitate” a bronze statue?

Grade: B-

In things I never thought I would say: I’m completely intrigued by Jughead’s storyline so far. He’s gone from annoying emo Dan Humphrey to annoying Serpent to now intrepid journalist and activist-ish. He’s fighting against the corrupt powers-that-be: Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy. But while he’s also fighting the good fight, he’s being tripped up by his old, dumb decisions: namely Miss Penny Peabody.

It’s Veronica’s confirmation, as we can discern from her couture fitting of a white satin dress. When I was confirmed, I wore a one-size-fits all robe and sweated it out with two hundred other 12-year-olds. But to each his own. Veronica’s whole family is coming into town…her crime family. According to Agent Adams, this provides a perfect opportunity, ostensibly, for Archie to dig up some good dirt on the Lodges. However, Archie, newly apprenticed to the Dark Lord, is having trouble balancing his two boyfriends (a problem I’ve never had). He’s been invited to work Hiram’s poker game with other industry kingpins.

Veronica is afraid of bringing Archie into the fold, into the family. Outsiders aren’t usually allowed in, but Hiram sees something in Archie that’s different. And either Veronica breaks up with him to protect him, or she forever keeps him at an arm’s distance. Veronica is grappling with her future in the family: both as a moll and as a scion. But I’m wary of Hiram’s sudden acquiescence about Archie’s role in the family: is he really okay with Archie taking a greater part?

And when Veronica eventually decides that she does not want Archie involved, it may be too late. At the poker game, he overheard two of the kingpins plotting to get rid of Hiram, whom they felt had become too weak. So when he suspects them of attacking, Archie warns Hiram. Veronica attempts to warn Archie off, but he already knows that Hiram is a monster. But then something happens that makes me unclear about Archie’s motives. This entire episode, I was operating under the assumption that Archie, in spite of himself, was actually enjoying being Hiram’s disciple and when Veronica tries to warn his about Hiram’s future plans – of which SoDale is “just the beginning” – Archie stops her from incriminating herself. Is he still loyal to Boyf Numero Uno, Agent Adams?

On the Southside, Serpents are being targeted as the suspects of defacing the General Pickens statue. Sheriff Keller regularly harasses Jughead and his friends with no evidence; Mayor McCoy allowed for the eviction of the entire trailer park. But the call is coming from inside the house. Those evictions spur Tallboy, who hates Jughead, to bring Penny Peabody, angry and irritated and tattoo-less, back into the fold for legal retribution. She, however, wants an eye for an eye: an end to Jughead at her own hands. FP, upon learning that Jughead skinned Penny’s tattoo and broke Serpent rules for attacking one of their own, says that Jughead will be the downfall of the Serpents. Okay, sis.

Juggie and Betty put up flyers to find the head, and get a call from a local scrap company. Someone’s found the head. When questioned, he admits to seeing someone unfamiliar around the scrapyard. In the most obvious twist, it’s Tallboy. He set up the decapitation, possibly with the Lodges, to bring Penny back and get rid of Jughead and FP, allowing him to take control of the Serpents.

Eventually, Papa Poutine, one of the kingpins that tried to get rid of Hiram, has been found dead and the Lodges get a cumbersome confirmation present: the head of General Pickens. Could it be that the Serpents know Tallboy co-operated with Hiram and now they’re taking their revenge?

In all of this drama, Betty’s induction into the world of cam-modeling seems relatively underplayed. If this were anything else, it would be the major storyline, but when I’m watching her and Chic, I can’t even muster up some energy. Betty’s “dark” side is being messily underutilized, and besides the fact that, like, she’s sixteen and that’s totally illegal for her to be a cam-model, I’m just not that interested. I don’t want to explore her darkness in a vacuum. Also Hal, who may or may not have fucked Penelope, refuses to live under the same roof as Chic, is going to a “Share B-n-B.”

Betty is more compelling when she’s putting her Nancy Drew skills to the test, and even more compelling when that puts her morality – and Dark Betty – in question.

And just when Betty and Jughead seem to be rekindling their flame, the lingering omission of her webcam life hangs between them. An omission that might come to light when one of Chic’s, or Betty’s, clients knocks on the Cooper door. A visit that ends with Alice Cooper cleaning his blood off her lacquered wood floor.

2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE Ch.24, “The Wrestler”

Slim Pickens

Grade: B-

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.

2018, feminism

Man to Man: What Men Can Do

In the aftermath of the 2018 Golden Globes, where women (verbally and sartorially) expressed their anger, hope and sadness surrounding the #MeToo campaign and the Time’s Up fund, there was a lot of criticism leveled at the male celebrities who, besides wearing “Time’s Up” pins, were noticeably silent.

Some men offered the explanation that they wanted to give the platform to women; they did not want to overshadow women; they did not want to mansplain. But what men don’t understand is that they, we, can use our various platforms to educate and call out other men to be better friends, allies, lovers and peers. We cannot, and should not, expect women to change an entire culture single-handedly.

So here are some things that I, as a man, think other men can do to express support.

1). If you hear something, say something:

Harassment takes a lot of forms. It can be sexual, workplace, verbal, nonverbal. It doesn’t even have to take place in front of women. If you’re with your male friends, and they’re speaking inappropriately, condescendingly or rudely about a woman or girl, say something. We have access to spaces that women sometimes don’t, and, unfortunately, we can have undue influence over other men simply because of our gender. So if you hear something inappropriate, your silence is a sin of omission. It doesn’t matter if you did not say anything. By saying nothing, you’re cosigning their action.

2). Listen:

Men are born with such levels of privilege that we are often unaware of how much it plays into our everyday life. If a woman, person of color or gender-nonconforming person tells you something, just listen. You don’t have to fully understand why it’s upsetting, but you have to acknowledge that it’s upsetting to them. There are certain things I’ve experienced as a queer person that, when complaining to heterosexual friends, didn’t seem to cross that boundary. Don’t minimize or attempt to explain away. Just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen at all.

3). Seek consent:

This applies in a major way to sex. Seek constant, enthusiastic consent. Consent is not a one-and-done thing; keep asking, keep making sure that your partner is actively consenting to whatever you’re doing.

4). Understand your own language:

This in particular can be applied to gay men, and especially white gay men. We are oftentimes guilty of being misogynistic towards women. It might fall under the radar or be explained away by “cattiness” or “sass.” But being gay does not give you a pass to demean, disrespect or condescend women. Any man calling a woman a “bitch,” “slut,” or “cunt” is being misogynist, regardless of his sexuality.

5). Don’t cosign gendered behavior:

It’s easy to fall into gender tropes, and to pass those along to children can be incredibly damaging. It might be as small as complimenting a little girl on her clothing, but saying how “tough” a little boy is. Avoid romanticizing kids (i.e. “Is that your boyfriend/girlfriend?”). They’re kids, dude. Allow boys to be vulnerable; let them express their emotions. If we teach boys to suppress their emotions, say that being emotional is feminizing, or urge them to be “big boys,” what we’re really saying is, “You don’t deserve to have emotions.” That pain, sadness and anger comes out regardless, and can be leveraged against women and girls.

6). Promote women:

Look at your Twitter timeline. Is it all men? Is it all white? Starting small, like following people of different genders, races, socioeconomic statuses and political affiliations, can fundamentally change the way you think by exposing you to different perspectives. Read the work of women; retweet them; highlight them amongst friends.

7). Confront your own thinking:

There was a time when I realized that I was uncomfortable at the sight of my female friend’s nipples poking through her shirt. I ignored it for a while, until it came up in conversation and we talked about it. Even as you actively try to be feminist, you grew up in a society that suppresses female sexuality. It’s okay; we all did. Understanding why things make you uncomfortable does not make you a bad person. It means accepting that we all have been damaged by our upbringings; it means that, once recognized, we can change our thinking. Try to understand why you think something; analyze whether that’s valid or not; adapt accordingly.

Understand that, consciously or not, you have probably participated in harassment of women. Understand that, and work to change it.

I’m ending with the closing paragraph of an article Roxane Gay, a celebrated feminist, author, writer, and social commentator, wrote for the New York Times on October 19, 2017:

“Men can start putting in some of the work women have long done in offering testimony. They can come forward and say “me too” while sharing how they have hurt women in ways great and small…It’s time for men to start answering for themselves because women cannot possibly solve this problem they had no hand in creating.”

Below is a list of women that I follow on Twitter whose work, opinions and writing inspires me, challenges me and calls to me. If there is a woman who you think I should be following, please let me know!

Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for the New York Times

Roxane Gay, professor, writer, author

Patti Harrison, comedian

Janet Mock, writer, producer, activist

Evette Dionne, writer, editor

Parker Molloy, writer

Ashley Nicole Black, comedian, television correspondent

Celeste Yim, comedian

Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor for Washington Post

Ijeoma Oluo, Editor-at-Large of The Establishment

Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator

Erin Gibson, writer, comedian, podcaster

2018, Review, Riverdale CW, television

Review of RIVERDALE Ch.23, “The Blackboard Jungle”

What’s with the backpack situation in Riverdale?

Grade: A

Riverdale is back! And all the dominos set up in the former half of the season are getting knocked down in the latter.

With the Black Hood unmasked (theoretically, I don’t believe it) we can move onto the mysteries of Lodge Industries. I personally would love a refresher on what they’ve done, but from what I can glean: Hiram Lodge, during and after being released from prison, has been using the Southside Serpents to depreciate land value in Riverdale and then swooping in to buy the land for development and gentrification. There also seems to be a drug element that wasn’t resolved before the mid-season finale, so I have to assume that that’s emanating from Casa Lodge.

But with the Black Hood nightmare over, the citizens of Riverdale are finding other ways to occupy their time. Utilizing Archie’s sleuthing, the FBI has sent a former Riverdale resident to recruit him into taking Hiram Lodge down. Despite the fact that Archie did nothing to solve the murder of Jason Blossom or the mystery of the Black Hood and that Betty did everything, the FBI is interested in him, mainly for his connection to Veronica and his own father’s involvement in Lodge Industries.

As an aside, the scene between FBI Guy and Archie could play equally as well as the introduction to a multi-episode gay porn arc. Agent Adams (gay) wants a few simple things from Archie: investigate the Nick St. Clair (Sinclair?) accident, and a deeper understanding of Lodge Industries.

Due to some nefarious dealings between Mayor McCoy and the Lodges (damn, they’re really earning their paycheck this season) Southside High has closed and its students are being move to Riverdale High. Normally, in comparison to teen murders and serial killers, normal storylines like school district consolidations would be a total bummer. But I’m just so glad that these kids are in class – I was worried about their college prospects. Now I’m just worried about the disturbing lack of backpacks amongst the Southside students.

And so while Veronica (who knew from her parents that Southside was closing), Archie and Betty are welcoming towards the merger – even as it muddies the water of a Bughead break-up (was it a break-up?) – others are not as enthused. Cheryl Blossom, backed by Reggie (hot) and a coterie of cheerleaders (a swarm of cheerleaders? A gaggle? A culture?), is using dog-whistle language to lament the loss of Riverdale’s above-average GPA. This seems oddly out of character for Cheryl (she’s a bitch, not a racist) so here’s my theory.

First, Cheryl is deeply insecure, and hates any change. Second, she’s also self-conscious of her own family’s changing socioeconomic status.

But at the core is the squaring off between Toni Topaz and Cheryl. Before the season started, the powers-that-be suggested that Cheryl would be getting an unexpected love interest. Basically, that’s code for “queer.” Now that we’ve seen Cheryl’s weird love for Josie, the stage has been set for a same-sex Cheryl romance. I’m here for it – Cheryl’s never read as particularly “straight” to me, and her kissing Archie at the end of season one felt much more like a desire for closeness than sexual tension.

So while Cheryl amps up the anti-Southside sentiment (leading to stricter censorship of Southside regalia, Jughead’s suspension and a burgeoning possibility of romance between Kevin Keller and Southside’s Fogarty – could we be getting two queer romances for the low, low price of $9.99 a month?) Betty’s B-plot involves the Mysteriously Pregnant Polly who is no longer Pregnant. Post-natal Polly has given birth to twins (“Juniper and Dagwood”) without telling the rest of her family. To make it up to her mother (?), Betty decides to locate Alice’s long-lost son.

They discover he’s living two towns over and his name is Charles. Against Hal’s express wishes, Alice and Betty visit him in his hollow-cheeked glory. Charles “Chic” Smith is doing some shady work making people’s “fantasies” come true and is appropriately resentful towards his birth family. After a tense first meeting, Betty goes back to the apartment complex only to find her brother being stabbed by a strange, hulking man. God, what isn’t gay porn in this show?

Inevitable creepiness (including some Chic standing over Betty while she’s sleeping – light fare) ensues, and that’s the that on that. Until next episode (!!!).

Archie uses Cheryl as a red herring in order to get close to Nick. I’m really hating how people keep using Cheryl (and her assault) as means to an end. In an attempt to get her mother to stop hustling (literally being a “courtesan”) Cheryl will do anything to get that money, even reliving painful memories and gifting Archie the blazer of her dead, hot brother.

Under the guise of getting Nick to replicate that hush money, Archie somehow scrounges up the money to fly to New York to intimidate Nick. His goal is to get Nick to admit that the Lodges broke his legs for attempting to rape Veronica.

Side note: there are a lot of layers to this, but let it not be forgotten that the Lodges were fine with Nick when they thought he just attempted to rape Cheryl, but broke his legs when they found out what he had done to their daughter. Rape culture, y’all.

Nick taunts Archie; Archie breaks Nick’s nose; and despite getting the hush money, the trip is painted as rather fruitless. Agent Adams admonishes Archie for getting “sloppy” and Archie does not get Veronica to admit that she told her parents about Nick’s assault on her. And when she turns the tables – sensing that he’s lying to her – Archie uses the fact that Cheryl (technically) blackmailed him into helping her under the threat of releasing the secret of Archie kissing Betty. Given the town they live in (with rapists, drug dealers, and serial killers) and the fact that all parties were single, Veronica has an annoyingly overblown reaction. “You kissed?” she asked, in the same diner where, weeks earlier, Archie’s father had been shot point-blank and left for dead.

In the last, lingering moments of an incredible episode, Archie gives a voice to something that we’ve (me’ve) all been thinking. “In your expert opinion, Agent Adams,” he says, his caveman-hot brows drawn close and his voice gravelly, “do you think we got the right Black Hood? Because I’m not so sure.”

Season 2B (is that what we’re calling it) is off to an epic start. I cannot wait to see what else is in store. I really enjoy that the mystery of the Black Hood lingers, but I’m excited to dig deep into the Lodge drama.

Until next time, think about the fact that no Southside Serpents had backpacks and the only one was a Coachella-appropriate red number from Cheryl that would only fit a popper and some Kleenex.