Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP.9, “La Grande Illusion”

Sins of the Father 

Grade: A

Honey never goes bad. And because it never spoils, it can be used to preserve things indefinitely. There was a myth once of a Greek king whose queen died tragically. To cope with the pain, he entombed her body in honey—thus preserving her forever. It seems like the Blossoms are trying the same—preserving Jason’s memory by suffocating Archie in sweet maple syrup. But the problem with preservation is that that thing you’re trying to keep will still be dead when you uncover it.

In fact, this entire episode centers around preservations of things gone spoilt. Betty struggles to hold together her family, Veronica is trying to reconcile her father as the parent she loves with the monstrous businessman in the shadows. The beginning of the series delved into the dysfunctional mothers of Riverdale, and now we’ve moved onto the fathers. Fred Andrews, Cliff Blossom, Hal Cooper. Speaking of the last one, Hal Cooper is totally a concussed football troll gone to seed.

In the A-plot, Archie is being roped into the Blossom family drama. The members of the Blossom Maple Farm board are descending upon Thorn Hill for the annual first tapping of the maple tree. With the scandal of Jason’s murder, and his role as the heir presumptive of the family business, the board members are trying to edge the Blossoms out of the company. The entire first half of the episode is dredged in layers of sexism as Cliff Blossom tries to coil his meaty, rosacea hands around Archie’s broad, sculpted shoulders. Cliff wants Archie to temper out Cheryl’s irrationalness and erraticism. She is, apparently, not even remotely being considered to run the company. Let’s not forget that Jason was a drug-mule and knocked up his high school girlfriend, and he—as a boy—was still considered more stable than Cheryl. Sexism.

This was the first episode that I got a slightly lower register on the Cersei scale from Cheryl. Yes, her obsession with her brother verges on pornographic, but something was illuminated for me. Jason was the golden child—in the eyes of his parents, the school, in sports. And he was always the biggest champion of Cheryl. She was always tolerated because Jason marketed them as a package deal. Without him by her side, she’s back to being the pariah.

Like Jughead analogizes in his last voiceover, Cheryl is a hurricane about to bear down on Riverdale. But as much as that works for her potential destructiveness, it also serves to elucidate her role as the center of Riverdale. Everyone this episode operates in her orbit. The Blossom family board underestimate her. Archie uses her for her parents’ connection to some top-tier music program. Polly is using her to find out if the Blossom parents had something to do with Jason’s death. Only Jason never asked anything of Cheryl—never wanted her beauty, or her crazy, or her connections. Only Jason wanted just her. And unmoored, without Jason, Cheryl is cracking in the most interior parts of her soul.

In the accompanying B-plots, Veronica tries to balance the karma scales by being especially nice to Ethel Muggs. Ethel’s father, Manfred Muggs, tried to commit suicide because he invested money with Hiram Lodge and lost everything. Subsequently, the Muggs are going to testify against Hiram in court. Something that wasn’t said, but could be possible given Hiram’s far reach from prison, is that Manfred’s “suicide” attempt might have been a little…induced by Hiram’s machinations.

Betty and Alice try to bring Polly back, unaware that Polly is at Thorn Hill as a spy. Their plan is to write a scorched-earth exposé of the Blossoms—how Cliff Blossom is the one who put Hiram in jail, their treatment of Cheryl, the circling vulture movements of the family board. It comes to a halt when Hal, a human erectile dysfunction commercial, cuts Alice off from the Riverdale Register. Alice then throws a brick through the front door of the newspaper office—go Alice—and later, Jughead suggests Alice write for the high school newspaper. Madchen Amick, who plays Alice, is a great actress so her scenes are electric, but I was mostly bored with the Cooper subplot. Sorry babe.

The episode’s cliffhanger is the addition of a new suspect. We learned from Archie’s overhearing that Clifford Blossom put Hiram Lodge in jail, thus “shattering” his family. We’ve seen Hiram’s ability to enact his will from jail, so is it possible that he made his own revenge—shattering the Blossom family with the murder of their most prized possession?

Intrigue.

Veronica learns that trying to preserve her family legacy doesn’t always work. Betty realizes that in times of strife, people either come together or fall apart. And dear, dear Cheryl. As she sobs, scrawling over Archie and Polly’s faces in a photograph with a red Sharpie, Polly knocks at the door. Cheryl hastily wipes up her tears and spreads a smile across her full, syrupy-red lips. In a hurricane, the center is often the only part that is not seized by wild winds. But that calm center belies the most dangerous part of the storm. Beware of Cheryl. And beware, Cheryl. As she preserves her rage behind layers of clear gold maple syrup, she could be entombing herself in the process.

Next week: “The Lost Weekend”

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • Everyone in this episode was wearing Ralph Lauren Polo
  • “Mrs. Lodge, this Quiche Lorraine is to die for!” –Kevin Kevin, setting back gays for decades to come
  • Kevin truly just exists at Veronica’s beck-and-call.
  • “Mr. Andrews, nice haircut—looking extremely DILFy today,” Cheryl Blossom, bringing the gays back from the setback Kevin caused
  • “That was a joke, you hobo,” Cheryl is SLAYING QUOTES this episode
  • I love how Archie needs to have a serious conversation with Cliff at the tailor, but can’t be bothered to put on pants to do it. No, seriously—I love it.
  • Val and Archie break up because…when were they ever together?
  • Fred showed his dark side this episode, strong-arming Hermione into twenty percent of the profit in return for his continued support. Also, they’re done. #AndrewsBoysBreakUp
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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 4, “The Last Picture Show”

Grade: B (good, but filler)

The town of Riverdale unfolds with every episode, the corners of the map stretching farther and farther, wider and wider. This is the first week where the drama took place almost entirely outside of the high school, and just that shifted the entire tone. In a lot of ways, the episode was just like the drive-in movie, the last one before the theater shuts down. You’re watching the drama, and even when the tension gets racheted up, you feel largely cossetted and safe. You know that what you’re watching won’t leave the screen, but you can’t shake the feeling of melancholy with the knowledge that as every second slips by, the movie is getting closer and closer to the end.

Side bar: The tone of each episode oscillates wildly. So while I enjoyed this episode, it was a total filler episode after last week’s LITERAL INSANITY. #StickyMaple

Rewatching last week’s promo for this episode, the CW definitely fucks with your head. They made it seem like Grundy was a psycho-killer, who killed the real Geraldine Grundy and took on her life like a snake slithering back into a dry, papery shedded husk. But tonight the drama was minimal—especially compared to episode three, the fourth episode was decidedly placid. The tension was eerie and achey. Within the span of hours, multiple main characters found out about the relationship between Archie and Ms. Grundy.

At the end of last episode, Dilton Doiley told Jughead and Betty that he had spotted Ms. Grundy’s car on the banks of Sweetwater River the day Jason Blossom was supposedly killed (we know now that Jason died almost a week later). Betty knows that Archie was also at the river’s edge that day, and quickly puts together the obvious. I mean, she didn’t witness the two idiots making out in band room like Jughead did, but she’s not dim.

But once Betty knows, the entire cast of characters glossed over the whole “statutory rape” aspect of Ms. Grundy and Archie’s relationship real quick, if you ask me. Like, I don’t mean to cause drama, but if it had been Mr. Grundy and Archina, I’m betting Grundy would be hogtied in someone’s car trunk by this point. But that’s just my opinion.

Because Archie is actually maybe an idiot, Betty takes it upon herself to dig into Ms. Grundy’s past. She finds that there is no trace of her from beyond a year ago—the only Geraldine Grundy she found was an elderly woman who had died previously. SpOoKy. And using journalism as a cover for a probing investigation—jorunalism is really given a bad rep in this show, no thanks to the fucking Cooper family—Betty discovers something quite…interesting.

Jason Blossom was a private student of Ms. Grundy’s last year. That Jason Blossom.

The episode strengthened the tacit parallels between Archie and Jason, something I no longer think is coincidence. It happens first when Grundy drops the knowledge that Jason was a past student of hers, the overarching question of, “What kind of relationship was it?” And later, Betty and Mrs. Cooper are at odds in Betty’s bubblegum-fantasy room when Betty makes her mother say her name.

“Elizabeth Cooper,” says Mrs. Cooper, in the only real emotion I’ve seen on her face.

“Not Polly Cooper. And Archie is not Jason.” But the parallelisms are already in place: the world sees these two redheaded boys (one decidedly brawnier and hotter than the other: spoiler, it’s not the one in white kid gloves) as mirrors of each other.

I always begin every episode thinking Betty is so cool and fun, and end every episode thinking she should be committed. This episode was the rare exception, but I’m not holding my breath. Whether she’s breaking into Ms. Grundy’s car and finding her real ID (Jennifer Gibson) AND A GUN or trying to get Archie to see that Grundy is, like, definitely a child predator, Betty was MVP this episode.

An example of this would be this small exchange when Betty is trying to convince Archie to open his eyes. She has found the gun and the real ID.

BETTY: You didn’t ask anything about her name? Where she had been before this? Why not?

ARCHIE (in his head): Um she’s a teacher sleeping with a student; kind of assumed it was obvious she’s a creep.

ARCHIE (out loud): She’s not doing anything wrong.

In the B-plot, essentially every parent in Riverdale is the absolute worst. Veronica, shoved to the backseat this episode, witnesses her mother do some shady dealings with Riverdale’s local gang—the South Side Serpents. Just a comment, but even the gangs in this town sound like something out of West Side Story.

Hermione Lodge tries to convince her daughter that everything is fine, but after a shady dealing with the mayor—Josie’s mom—we learn that from jail, Mr. Lodge has been paying the South Side Serpents to terrorize the drive-in theater, depreciate its value, and then snap it up for real estate development. Remember this—I can’t even do math without a calculator.

Side bar: When someone says “When have I ever lied to you” when assuring someone they’re telling the truth, you can almost be certain that they are lying to you right now, and probably every other moment of your life.

In fact, all the parents are the worst tonight. The Serpent who was threatening Hermione is Jughead’s dad. Josie’s mom is engaged in backdoor deals. Alice Cooper finds Grundy’s gun hidden in Betty’s room and characterizes it as “just for starters” as wrong. JUST FOR STARTERS. And my favorite (sarcasm) gay (only gay) on the show—Kevin Keller—finally gets a storyline (making out with a gang member). And guess what, it’s about dudes. Kevin asks for the truck and his dad, Chief Keller, is like “please no more cruising.” If my dad had found me cruising guys in the woods and later I asked for the truck, he would be like, “What truck” because we don’t own a truck. But then he would break my legs. Who are these parents?!

Finally, Alice Cooper tells Archie’s dad that Grundy is sleeping with his son. They go to the school—WHERE ARCHIE HAS JUST GIVEN GRUNDY A GIFT—and confront her. Alice says the magic words, “Child predator”—the ones that no one has thought to say before this—and is just about to ruin both Grundy and Archie when Betty steps in.

Side bar: What is with the victim-blaming on Riverdale? First Grundy says that if they come clean, Archie will get expelled? And now Mrs. Cooper is blaming Archie for sleeping with a predator? Guys, let’s have some chill.

Betty threatens that she’s pretend she made the whole thing up and confirm everyone’s worst fears—that Betty is crazy like Polly, and Alice drove her to it. thankfully, the small part of Alice Cooper that is still human recognizes her daughter’s resolve, and settles for just driving Grundy out of town.

BETTY ROCKS.

This episode was largely a stand-alone—it hardly dealt with the murder. But to keep the thread strong, the last scenes of the episode are the Kellers’ arriving back home from the movie to a door slightly ajar. Papa Keller’s murder collage for Jason Blossom has been ripped down, and the mystery of Jason’s killer continues. Overall this episode was a yaas.

NEXT WEEK: The funeral of Jason Blossom, redhead at large.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS

  • Archie wasn’t shirtless at all. And we had to see him crying. Double boner killer.
  • Presented without comment: Jellybean Jones.
  • Not thinking ahead is kind of what fucks over every statutory rapist in the end—when it comes down to the brass tacks. Also the whole “fucking an underage kid” thing. Who am I to judge? Love is love. Except when it’s, you know, not.
  • This time I’m on Betty’s side. “I’ll prove that crazy runs in the family.” UM HENNY U ALREADY DID THAT LAST WEEK.
  • Kevin makes eye contact with a gay snake, AND a homosexual South Side Serpent (self-five).
  • ARE. A. CHILD. PREDATOR. JENNIFER. And stop wearing those Lolita heart-sunglasses, dick.
  • Mrs Cooper says CHILD PREDATOR: but then she’s a freak about Archie. For one second I was on your side, Alice!!! Fuckk
  • I thought that either the SSS was stabbing Kevin or fucking him, and I can’t decide which I would rather see less. Of course, the serpent’s name is Joaquin, because why not.
  • Jughead is homeless!!!!
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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP. 2, “A Touch of Evil”

Grade: B+ for questions answered but also questions left unanswered.

Did I mention that until I was eight years old, I lived in a town called “Riverdale?” So maybe that’s why this episode of Riverdale struck so true with me. Because when my best friend, who’s just confessed her love for me, won’t answer my texts about a mysterious town murder, I also run shirtless to the house of the teacher I’m having an affair with. So spooky how similar I am to Archie!

The revelation that Jason Blossom’s death was due to him being shot in the face rather than drowning shakes the foundation of misty Riverdale. Seriously, there is some serious dust in the air in Riverdale High and I can’t help but worry for the kids with asthma. Are provisions being made for them?

Archie is racked with guilt over the knowledge he possesses. He knows that whoever shot Jason did it early in the morning on the Fourth of July. But he can’t open up to anybody because he only knows this because he was entwined in the arms of music teacher Ms. Grundy. Let us remember that Archie—despite his oiled, muscled body and jawline that protrudes out of the screen—is supposedly a high school sophomore.

The “living mannequin” twins ask Cheryl during science class (Algebra? Chemistry? Physics?) the very question I was wondering myself: Is Cheryl lying? Cheryl told the police that Jason fell into the water to get the gossamer-cloth white glove she had dropped. Later we find out that Jason was shot.

But more comes out—with a proctologist’s snap of her rubber glove, Cheryl reveals that they both fell into the river. Cheryl made it to shore—alone. But can we believe her? Something seems off with this blossom.

The school organizes a pep rally to honor Jason because why not, and Betty uses Veronica’s “I’m sorry” mani-pedi with Cheryl as a mani-petty.

And more comes out of the falling-out between Jughead and Archie. They were meant to go on a road trip (do either of them possibly have licenses?) on the Fourth of July, but Archie canceled and the entire summer was weird after that. Later, Jughead witnesses Archie and Ms. Grundy canoodling BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT CAREFUL AT ALL and confronts Archie. It seems like Ms. Grundy might be this episode’s titular “touch of evil.”

Archie, torn with guilt and also just shredded, wants to tell the truth about the Fourth of July. Ms. Grundy holds Archie in the palm of her hand and says no, claiming that she has feelings for him and this would ruin what they “have.” What they “have,” Ms. Grundy, is a jailable offense, you freak. Ms. Grundy is officially on my shit list. She’s emotionally manipulating Archie into not telling that creepy Principal Weatherbee about them because she doesn’t want to go to prison for child molestation.

While Cheryl straddles Petty Betty to do her makeup, she asks a lot of questions about Polly, Betty’s sister who went insane and now lives in a group home. Yikes. Yikes. Things escalate (not sexually) and Cheryl accuses Polly of killing Jason. But in that moment, there’s something cracked in Betty. Something raw. You can see it in her face as she rises up against Cheryl, and something dark blacks out her eyes.

New Theory: Polly, the unseen sister, is the secret half-sibling of Cheryl and Jason. Think about it—without reason, Mrs. Cooper is so against Polly and Jason. And there’s something incestuous about Cheryl and Jason—sipping out of the same milkshake, wearing coordinated outfits. Could it that sibling love runs deep in the river of relatives? Cheryl and Jason, and Jason and Polly?

In a fun little aside, we see Betty’s mom (Mom Cooper) bribing the coroner to get the straight truth-tea of Jason’s autopsy. “Marbling of the veins, signs of scavenger activity, ligature marks on both wrists, and a hint of cryo-necrotic preservation.” I don’t know what any of that means but I’m pretty sure that—plus the whole “bullet to the face” thing—means that Jason didn’t die of natural causes.

At the pep rally, which was always a horrible idea, Cheryl is overcome with memories of Jason. She sprints away and Veronica comforts her, Petty hovering just beyond the doorway.

“Jason, he was supposed to come back,” said Cheryl, sobbing in the locker room. Veronica mouths the words. 

Come back.

And suddenly, Cheryl’s anger at Betty makes more sense. “I think your crazy, tweaked-out sister killed him.” Was Jason going to meet Polly? Was Cheryl covering for him?

And did Jason actually meet Polly in the woods? Or was someone else waiting for him there? Someone with a motive to kill him, maybe someone whose sister was driven insane by a relationship with Jason?

Did Betty kill Jason?

But before we can get an answer to that: we get an answer to last week’s burning question—Who gets arrested?

The answer, kind of surprisingly, is Cheryl. But also not that surprisingly because she was the last person to see him alive and she already fudged the details of what had happened. But her willingness to accept that she’s been arrested (but never came forward) proves that she believes herself to be responsible for Jason’s death. Whether she actually caused it, I don’t believe to be the case. But her twintuition means double the guilt.

OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS FOR NEXT EPISODE:

  • If both Betty and Archie have iPhones, then WHY ARE THEY USING SOME WEIRD SMS SYSTEM? THIS INFURIATES ME.
  • Archie’s sweaty, shirtless body flipping around in bed=peak.
  • What alternate universe is this where a sophomore in high school can leave the house in the dead of night and all his parental guardian says is, “Where’d you sneak off to last night?” If I did that as a sophomore in high school, or NOW, I wouldn’t have legs the next day.
  • Btw, the fact that he calls her “Ms. Grundy” instead of her first name (“Pamela” I’m presuming, or something else terrible) proves that HE SHOULD NOT BE WITH HER.
  • “Watch it, Wednesday Addams,” is my favorite new diss.
  • Only Cheryl Blossom could end her threat that her brother’s killer will end up in the electric chair with a hashtag. #RiverdaleStrong
  • “I am devastatingly handsome in that classic pre-accident Montgomery Clift kind of way,” says Kevin Keller, and so say we all.
  • What is that “Max Where the Wild Things Are” beanie that Jughead is wearing?!
  • “Let’s honor the memory of our murdered classmate, Jason Blossom, with a pep rally and a sexy cover of “Sugar, Honey, Honey” by Josie and the Pussycats!”
  • Also the song “Sugar, Honey, Honey” is by the band, The Archies. Very spooky.
  • “Butt out, closet monster, you have forfeited the right to take the higher road,” Cheryl
  • We also learn that Moose, the sexually fluid guy who wanted to have sex on a riverbank, has an official girlfriend named “Midge.” That is such a “beard” name.
  • Also I would like to say that I used a locker room all throughout high school and was never hit on by a football player named Moose. I would find this more insulting had I not looked like a thumb in high school.
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