This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 11
Well, it took 11 episodes but someone was finally arrested for the murder of Jason Blossom. Specifically, that slipperiest of all South Side Serpents, F.P. Jones himself. Yet seeing how utterly inept Sheriff Keller has been at his job to date, I’m convinced that FP’s guilt is a herring that is as red as the wigs Clifford Blossom wears.
Early on in tonight’s installment, Jughead is grappling with the question of whether “Riverdale is a place of good or a place of darkness and evil.” The answer is obviously both, with the deeper truth being that it is the community equivalent of a strawberry sedative milkshake — beautiful on the surface but potentially deadly if you ingest too much of it. If the death of Jason Blossom is a harbinger of deadlier things to come (and CW execs willing, it will be, as one could very easily view Penelope Blossom’s remark that “nothing’s lost forever, everything comes back” as a foreshadow that Riverdale Season 2 will be based on Afterlife with Archie) then a move for Archie to Chicago with his mom and Jughead with his splintered family to Toledo would be logically sound. But who needs logic when your show is populated with maple syrup blood feuds and secret wig rooms?
Once again the series examines the sins of the father, with Veronica wanting some sort of clarity into exactly how evil her dad is, Jughead desperately wanting to believe FP is turning his act around, and Betty learning that her less than perfect parents apparently had some major blowup at their own Homecoming Dance…one that F.P. seems to know all about. (Theory: Hal Cooper is Jason Blossom’s father. Probably Cheryl’s as well, but it feels more than just a little within the realm of possibility that it may turn out the could-be twincestous pair aren’t even siblings at all. Plus, what did Clifford Blossom mean when he said to Cheryl that she “was a Blossom through and through? Hmm). As usual, Archie is left out of the loop, having wrapped up his own daddy issues a few weeks back thanks to the magic of a sound-proofed garage. The rest of the group though are left with massive questions about the parental figures in their life as the closing credits roll.
All that said, does anyone doubt that Hiram Lodge is going to be a massive bastard when he arrives?
Handling writing duties this time out is showrunner and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. His episodes have always been the best in this strong debut season, and the trend continued this evening. There’s a lot to cherish here, including the further scenery chewing of Alice Cooper and Mary Andrews’ shutting her down in the Riverdale High bathroom, Betty and company ragging on Archie’s downbeat music, to the superb drama of Jughead confronting Archie, Veronica and Betty about their involvement in the clandestine investigation of his father. Previously in my wrap ups, I’ve commented on how neither Jughead nor Betty at all times feel fully committed to their burgeoning relationship. But Aguirre-Sacasa expertly solved that problem tonight with some great dialogue between the pair that shows their true depth of feelings for each other. (Seriously, Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart were on fire performance wise tonight, buoyed by a script that was perhaps the series best to date).
As solid as everything was here, there were a few problems. Mary Andrews was unwritten, which came as a surprise given how high-profile a guest star Molly Ringwald is for the series. I’m assuming she’ll get more to do as the season winds down, or at least I’m hoping so as her few scenes hit at a character rich with complexity.
Poor Polly, just as she was finding some good dirt on the Blossoms she, like so many of her generation, is undone by a milkshake. Tragic really.
Furthermore, the whole Homecoming Dance performance by Archie and Veronica didn’t make any narrative sense. Is it really dramatic to cross-cut Jughead’s dad getting arrested with a performance of an upbeat new wave staple. Nitpick alert: You’re telling me that Josie and the Pussycats wouldn’t play a high-profile school event in which movers and shakers from the community and beyond would be in attendance? I mean they played a pissant food festival, so they’d be all over this one.
Next week: The penultimate episode of the season arrives, and it looks like there’s footage of Jason’s murder that will be revealed.
– Tonight’s episode takes its title from the ill-fated TV movie To Riverdale and Back Again. Originally airing on NBC in 1990, it chronicled what happened when a now-adult Archie (played with goofy glee by Christopher Rich of The Charmings and Murphy Brown fame) returned to his hometown to discover that being a grown-up is considerably more complicated than the endless malt shop visits and polyamory of his youth. Unavailable on home video except for a long out-of-print VHS release, the movie has been rescued from obscurity by YouTube, where you can watch the entire thing below.
You’re welcome? As dull as this affair is, it did have some long-lasting ramifications on the Archieverse. You see, for years the most memorable things about this rather lifeless telefilm were its casting of one-time Jim Carrey girlfriend Lauren Holly and an incredibly misguided rap version of “Sugar Sugar” performed by Jughead.
Then something strange and completely unexpected (well, at least to this longtime Archie fan) happened — elements from the film resurfaced in Archie canon. The Life with Archie: The Married Life comic drew influence from the film by not only chronicling the adventures of adult versions of Archie and the gang but also by featuring Mr. Lodge as a villainous businessman who will attempt to destroy anyone who gets in his path. (A concept that Riverdale is also clearly running with). So this largely forgotten project has a real impact on all things Archie nearly 30 years later. Not even a genius like Dilton Doiley could have predicted that.
– Do Josie and the Pussycats sing over the Riverdale High PA every day? Or is that just a homecoming thing?
– Line of the episode? Probably Alice’s incredibly offensive dismissal of Joaquin as “that gay greaser accomplice.” Ouch, girl.
– Does Clifford Blossom’s wig room have its own Twitter account yet?
If dude isn’t a legitimate redhead, then what else is he lying about? Is every Blossom contractually obligated to be a ginger?
– For anyone out there who thinks that Riverdale’s maple syrup blood feud stretches the show’s plausability, allow me to point you in the direction of this Vice article from earlier this week detailing how intense of a business the syrup game can be.
– “This color totally pops on you” – Cheryl’s compliments in tonight’s episode of Riverdale are brought to you by Cover Girl.
– More lines for Pop Tate please. A character from Archie lore who is that iconic, and whose place of business is one of the series’ key locations, should be given a lot more to do.
– Speaking of Pop’s, can we just stare in admiration at this set? It’s a thing of beauty.
– Between Hermione referring to herself as a “Mean Girl” in high school and the showdown between Mary and Alice tonight, a flashback to Riverdale High’s previous generation is much needed.
– There’s two episodes left this season. Jughead still hasn’t eaten a burger yet. I mean, c’mon.
– The Baxter High Ravens are referred to as the Riverdale Bulldogs’ biggest rival. As far as I know, this isn’t from the comic, as the kids from Central High usually serve this purpose in Archie books.
– We learned earlier this week that Mark Consuelos has been cast as Hiram Lodge. But what will his character look like? We have some idea thanks to this image from the Riverdale one-shot comic. (Currently in stores). Take a look:
I still think it would have been AMAZING to have Luke Perry squaring off against one of his old Beverly Hills 90210 co-stars, but I suppose there’s only so much meta-subtext any show can possess.
– Musical upside to this episode: “Blue Monday” by New Order was featured at the Homecoming Dance. The downside? Those dead on arrival covers of “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Dance Hall Days” (which I referred to as “Dirge Hall Days” on Twitter). In the past, Riverdale has made ’80s remakes a vital part of the series’ sonic landscape. Tonight though, whoo, these were stinkers.
– Since it’s fair to say that tonight’s episode introduced “Kids in America” to a sizable chunk of the viewing audience, here’s Kim Wilde’s original version from 1981.
That song is, and shall forever be, an absolute jam.