This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 3
Well, that escalated quickly.
The third, and most eventful, episode of Riverdale to date was full of competing storylines that ran the gamut from compelling (the solidifaction of Betty and Veronica’s friendship) to yawn-inducing (Archie’s quest to become a musician — which apparently was set in motion solely because he slept with his musical teacher, huh? — remains the most tiresome portion of the show so far). A lot went down in the show tonight, but far and away the most important thing to have occurred is the solidification of the Betty and Veronica friendship. It’s clear that the series is far more interested in pairing up these two instead of having them constantly vying for Archie’s attention.
While that is blasphemy to those who treat the comics as gospel, it makes for riveting television. Besides, as a long-time Archie fanatic myself I’ll be quick to point out that the Betty/Veronica friendship is arguably more important to the success and endurance of these characters than any love triangle. As Jughead somewhat offers up in this installment, “good and evil, light and dark, Betty and Veronica. Two sides of the same Janus coin” — indicating that Betty standing up for her friend’s honor has cemented the B&V relationship for good and one really gets the sense that from here on in we won’t see them let any man, even Archie, come between them. It’s to the credit of the writing staff that these characters aren’t going to be taking their expected journey. Then again, if there’s one thing Riverdale has shown us definitively so far it is that having preconceived notions about this show is futile.
And let’s talk about the revenge scenario that Betty and Veronica cook up. This episode takes its subtitle from the 1984 Brian De Palma erotic thriller Body Double, fitting since Betty transforms herself into a new personality to get vengeance against the wrongs committed by Chuck Clayton and the Riverdale Bulldogs. But who is she pretending to be? Her yet-unseen sister Polly seems to be the answer here, given how she makes Chuck, whom she briefly thinks is Jason, apologize for ruining her.
Although her scantily clad appearance and choice of black wig could also just be Betty’s way to rebel against the good girl her schoolmates think she is and the ideal her mother holds her to. It is clear though from the hot tub vengeance scene that Betty is working through some major issues here involving her own identity. Ones that will surely become better explored in episodes to come.
At this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Betty’s brief breakdown here only adds fuel to fans’ long-flamed fire of belief that the character is, in fact, insane.
There are hundreds of examples of Betty’s, uh, intensity in the comics. Riverdale has demonstrated her more extreme personality traits either explicitly like her threatening of Cheryl Blossom’s life last week or more subtlely — i.e. Archie relating a story to Veronica about how Betty was so determined that he not fail second grade and be left behind that she dedicated all of her time to making sure he studied and passed.
Betty Cooper is a woman who is fiercely protective of her loved ones, and clearly someone who is not to be trifled with. No matter how gentle she may seem on the outside. Lili Reinhart has embedded her portrayal of the character with strength and just a touch of malice that is rapidly making her the breakout star of the show.
Equally interesting is the revelation that Cheryl helped plan Jason’s disappearance, and that his exit had something to do with problems at home. The elder Blossoms seem especially kooky in a town full of unstable characters, so who knows exactly what they do behind closed doors. I said it last week and I’ll predict it again, if and when it is revealed, the home life of the Blossoms will be darker than anything else happening on the show. And I’m still not ruling out them being involved in some sort of supernatural shenanigans that could also ease Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s entrance into the series towards the end of the season.
With each week, Jughead is getting more to do, and time around he gets to play journalist/detective. Not only does he get to utter instant classic lines like “I’d love to stay, I’ve got to shake down an evil Adventure Scout” but we actually, finally, get to see him eat:
There’s a ton of great Jughead stuff coming up in next week’s episode, which is good news for fans of the character (most of whom are relieved that so far his trademark humor, weirdness and complexity is being respectfully translated to the screen).
As for the closing revelation that Dilton saw Ms. Grundy’s car at the waterfront, I can confirm that this will be dealt with in a major way next week…unlike the copout that was Cheryl’s declaration of guilt that marred this episode. True, her “confession” did add an interesting additional wrinkle to the already complicated story of Jason’s death, but it felt like a cheap and easy route for the writers to take in a series that has so far proven itself to be better than this.
– Shannon Purser (Barb of Stranger Things fame) makes her anticipated debut as Ethel Muggs in this episode. In the comics, the character is called Big Ethel and is a gangly, bucktoothed thorn in the side of Jughead, whom she is constantly trying to romance to no avail. During his time at Archie Comics, writer/illustrator Al Hartley — whom notoriously created the religious Archie comics that would bum you out when you were kids — regularly focused on Ethel as a character whose increasingly garish looks were offset by her endlessly kind soul. Clearly they are taking a much better path on Riverdale, instead choosing to focus on Ethel as a smart and courageous woman whose actions directly help take down the football team’s disgusting practice of scoring the girls at Riverdale High.
Is it just me, or did Ethel’s look of satisfaction when Betty was torturing Chuck hint at a complexity to the character we’ll be seeing more of in episodes to come? Either way, it’s fantastic to have Purser on this show, with her naturalistic acting proving to salve the nerves of anyone who felt that all the Barb stuff got way out of hand quick. She is great in her few scenes, here, and hopefully she will get more to do in future episodes.
Finally, Cheryl Blossom’s declaration of “#JusticeforEthel” is a very cheeky and on-brand reference to the #JusticeforBarb Twitter campaign that sprung up from Stranger Things‘ quick dismissal of the character.
– Chuck Clayton, we hardly knew ye. The biggest divergence from the source material to date has Chuck Clayton becoming Riverdale High’s resident jock villain. His comic book counterpart was introduced in 1971 to add diversity to Archie books, and in recent years he’s become a beloved supporting character thanks to his love of the comic book medium — which resulted in meta storylines like Night at the Comic Shop. One can’t help but feel like his behavior this week felt more Reggie Mantle-esque than anything, but that character has been largely absent to date due to accomodating actor Ross Butler’s shooting schedule on 13 Reasons Why. Poor Chuck deserved better, yet we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of him given Jughead’s dire warning of the repercussions that his expulsion would have.
– Related: A “sticky maple” is a real slang term and it is graphic.
-Let’s take a look at those who were commenting on the “sticky maple” Instagram-esque post Chuck made:
In a nice bit of continuity, Debbie Dalton, Angel Angelino, Frankie Valdez, Tony Topaz, and Marie Rodriguez have all been Archie supporting characters over the years. But what really made Archie superfans lose their minds tonight was the inclusion of Cricket O’Dell on this list. Why? Because she is one of the most shithouse bonkers characters ever created by Archie.
You see, Cricket O’Dell can smell money. She can use this completely useless skill to guess how much dough anyone in the Archieverse has on them at any given time. This has resulted in, as one would reasonably assume, lots of madcap antics over the years. In fact, O’Dell has been around for nearly 50 years at this point.
Just to know that she exists in the Riverdale universe makes me giddy with anticipation about how weird this show can possibly get. Go FULL ON WEIRD Riverdale. Do it for me, but more than that, do it for Cricket.
– Elsewhere in screengrab funtime, is the revelation that Moose got points in the slam book for when he “actually found his locker.” See for yourself:
This is a reference to Big Moose’s legendary stupidity. For years in the comic and on the various cartoons, Moose would begin every sentence with “d’uh” to add sharp focus on his lack of intellect:
This practice came to an end in the 1980s when it was discovered that Moose’s trouble in school was as a result of his undiagnosed dyslexia. He was still an angry MF though, which caused plenty of problems with his girlfriend Midge (also referenced in the slam book) in the Life with Archie: The Married Life series.
– In her statement to Mr. Weatherbee and Sheriff Keller, Cheryl mentions how the Sweetwater River separates Greendale (where Jason was last seen alive) from Riverdale. Greendale also happens to be the home of Sabrina the Teenage Witch…furthering my suspicions that somehow the supernatural is at play with his murder.
– Did anyone else see sparks fly between Archie and the Pussycats’ Valerie? Or between Betty and Valerie’s brother, Trev? Rewatch the episode, and you probably did. In the comics, all of these pairings have happened at one point or another, with fans continuing to ship Archie and Valerie.
– Dilton Doiley as a paranoid survivalist?
Given that the Archieverse has already established that he once created a blow-up doll for himself as a girlfriend and he has been shown to be able to traverse parallel universes, yeah, I’m completely fine with this.
– And I touched upon this briefly last week, but let’s hear it for Jughead’s comic accurate beanie!:
– Betty refers to Jughead as “Juggie,” another example of Riverdale using the comic’s established nicknames. Yay respect for the source material!
– Just what the hell is up with the teen lounge. I’d be willing to accept the idea that a school has a lounge like this, but how does such a thing work logistically? And was that a VCR stocked with tapes I saw there? That combined with the fact that the lounge is a place where Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City” begins randomly playing makes me wonder what year Riverdale is supposed to take place in? Are the producers going for an Archer feel where present technology meets the past to create a sense of timelessness?
– In Cold Blood was referenced again. This strikes me as being a very important clue…
– After seeing how quickly Betty blew the lid off of the Chuck Clayton story, I can only imagine that a future at Teen Vogue is a given.
– Lastly, after seeing the fireworks between the adult parents of our leads in the Touch of Riverdale scenes, I’m convinced more than ever that they all had their own complicated romantic past. Delicious.
What did we miss? Are you loving this series as much as we are? Sound off in the comments, and until next week try to remain #RiverdaleStrong!