This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 5
“The horror. The horror.” – Joseph Conrad/Jughead
We’re at the midway point for the first season of Riverdale, and, suitably enough, secrets are starting to be unearthed. This installment was the most infodumpy to date, with the revelation of just how far back the bad feelings between the Cooper and Blossom families go. (We learn that Great Grandpa Blossom killed Great Grandpa Cooper over maple syrup — which is apparently Riverdale’s biggest export, go figure — giving new meaning to the term sticky maple). Other dropped bombshells include the fact that Jason and Polly were engaged, Polly tried to kill herself over her relationship with the now-deceased Jason, and Hal Cooper was the one responsible for breaking in to Sheriff Keller’s house last week. And, oh yeah, Jason was selling drugs for reasons that remain unclear.
In non-Cooper/Blossom intrigue, we discover that Hiram Lodge apparently still owes the Southside Serpents enough money that they went through the trouble of intimidating his wife by putting a snake in a box and dropping it off at Pop’s. (Where was Pop anyway? WE WANT MORE POP TATE). And that Fred Andrews still most definitely has feelings for Hermione, so much so that he decides that, embezzlement stink or not, he’s going to let her work on his books. Sure, that will work out just great. Fantastic business acumen, that Fred Andrews.
All of these developments were fantastic, unfortunately none of them involved, you know, the main character. Now making his way through a post-Grundy emotional landscape, Archie spent this episode trying to pull a Depeche Mode and get the balance right by juggling football and his music. His new mentor, Oscar — played by Looking veteran Raúl Castillo, Jr. — gave our ginger, oft-shirtless hero a reality check by telling him that his songs lack maturity.
By episode’s end, Archie had come to a crossroads and decided that he just can’t handle both leading the football team and writing meaningful musical lamentations of 21st century teen life. So he decides to hand the mantle, pun intended, of being team captain over to Reggie. He’ll still play of course, but he won’t have to devote 24/7 of his life to sports. Having not played football since I fell in a ditch in my Pop Warner days — something, I should be noted, that I only participated in because my parents threatened to stop buying me Archie digests if I didn’t, full circle — I must ask: Is being the captain of a high school football team that demanding that Archie couldn’t do sports and music and still function properly? Illuminate your Friday Night Lights and let me know in the comments.
The point I’m making here is that Archie is increasingly saddled with the least interesting plotlines of Riverdale, and he seems almost removed from the main action (i.e. the investigation of Jason’s death). When Grundy was in the picture, his tryst with her was directly connected to the Blossom case as they were both together on the morning he was last seen alive. That has seemingly been resolved, with his only involvement in that storyline was to look doe-eyed and hand off Jason’s football jersey to the ever-creepy Penelope Blossom.
And let’s talk about the Blossom family dynamic for a bit. For as much as Riverdale has sold itself on the “Archie meets Twin Peaks” premise, we haven’t gotten too many moments from the show that could be rightfully described as Lynchian until tonight’s installment. Grandma Blossom was downright unsettling, as was all of the action that took place at their spooky House on Haunted Hill mansion, Thornhill. (More flower imagery). When Cheryl remarks to Veronica that her parents will “kill me,” the growing darkness of the Blossom family continues to envelop her. Jughead’s narration remarks that Jason and Cheryl are “linked in death even as they are in life,” and again the dark, almost incestuous, tone of their relationship is explored. Cheryl comments on how handsome Jason was, Penelope Blossom gives Archie a look of intense love, almost desire, thinking he is her deceased son.
This family is deeply screwed up, and if this show really is going to put its money where its mouth is with the whole Twin Peaks comparison, then sooner or later it will be revealed that one or both of the elder Blossoms tortured and killed Jason for various nefarious reasons. I would be shocked if the season ends without someone with the Blossom surname being arrested for his death.
Next week: We finally meet Polly Cooper!
– How creepy was undead Jason Blossom? Let’s hope this is harbinger for more zombie mayhem on Riverdale. Fingers crossed that this show will just morph into Afterlife with Archie at some point.
– This week’s episode was a veritable smorgasbord of beloved shipping from the comics, with Archie and Valerie growing closer and Betty and Trev going on their non-date date at Pop’s. I’ll say it again, one of the many things to love about Riverdale is how it doesn’t feel beholden to the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle. Obviously no disrepect to that time honored — 75 years and counting — comics tradition, but by exploring different relationships within the Archieverse really gives the writers a chance to experiment with new story dynamics.
– Shout out to Casey Cott for his reactions in this week’s episode. Kevin Keller served as the audience surrogate this week, with his emotive dynamics mirroring those on the faces of viewers.
– As showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa pointed out on Twitter, Veronica even goes to sleep wearing her pearls. On brand.
– It’s nice to see Reggie getting a bit more to do this episode. As readers of the excellent Reggie and Me miniseries will be quick to point out, he can be both a jerk and endearing when he wants to be.
– We again see Betty utilizing her mechanic skills in tonight’s episode, which is more than enough of an excuse for me to share this image of Archie being an absolute jerk.
– For someone with no fixed address, Jughead sure managed to dress up for Jason’s memorial service. I also love that in the show’s heightened reality no one ever gives a second glance to Juggie’s ever-present cap. Additional fashion praise for Jughead: His trademark ‘S’ T-shirt was more visible than ever tonight.
– I don’t buy for a second that Jughead wouldn’t grab some food at the funeral before running off to play detective with Betty. We need more eating from him on this show, and fast.
– Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Muddy Water” closed out this episode. We are through the looking glass here people, and loving every minute of it.
How are you all feeling about tonight’s episode? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!