This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 6
Yeah, so we need to talk about that kiss.
Arriving like a whoopee-hatted Romeo, Jughead climbs a ladder to Betty’s bedroom and after some suitably awkward small talk proceeds to kiss her. While it was a moment that made the Betty/Jughead shippers cheer, for longtime fans it felt like a betrayal of the character. For Jughead’s true love shall always and only be hamburgers. In Riverdale‘s short time on the air, we’ve seen Archie bedding his music teacher, Chuck Clayton reduced to a womanizing jerk, Mr. Lodge thrown in jail for his various crimes, etc. Longtime Archie fanatics — this one included — were more than willing to accept these changes because it added to the dramatic tension and heightened reality the show was trying to build. But Jughead a ladies man? That’s a bit more difficult to swallow.
From the very beginning, the calling card of Riverdale is to say, simply and succinctly, that this is not the Archie world you are used to. Fair enough, so why does the Jughead/Betty embrace, a plot development the series has been telegraphing, feel so absolutely jarring given how acceptable all of the other changes to established Archie lore have been? Because it comes on the heels of Chip Zdarsky establishing the character as asexual in his recent Jughead run. Whereas previously the character has been variously portrayed as misogynistic, or just uninterested in women seeing how crazy they make his best friend, Zdarsky has Jughead matter of factly identify as being asexual — a milestone moment for the Archieverse. Earlier this week, some Twitter users attacked upcoming Jughead writer Mark Waid — whose work on Archie clearly influenced Riverdale — for their perception that he will be rolling back Jughead’s asexuality, something that has not by any stretch of the imagination been confirmed (Waid quite reasonably responded that people should wait to read his debut issue before jumping to conclusions).
Combine this with the fact that Cole Sprouse has been petitioning for his version of Jughead to be asexual as well, and you have to wonder why this creative choice has been made. It’s something I’ve been thinking about too since I first learned of this episode’s big reveal, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that Riverdale is a show that loves toying with expectations. This interview with showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also blatantly states that all of the characters are on a journey of self-discovery this season, so there’s no definitive reason to believe that sooner or later Jughead will not be portrayed as asexual on the show. I’m willing to go along with Jughead and Betty (who, given her pained look in this episode when she realizes she is missing Archie’s performing debut, clearly is still in love with her oft-shirtless neighbor) for the time being and, like most things that don’t involve South Side Serpent silliness, give it the benefit of the doubt with the hopes that representation for the asexual community will eventually be featured here.
Another romantic development that has long been hinted at is a much more joyous one: Archie and Valerie. Recent years, including the excellent Archie: A Rock and Roll Romance storyline, have paired the couple up to great effect, and as I’ve said in previous reviews I absolutely love that the show is taking this route instead of the already well-trodden Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle. Their chemistry sparks in this episode, and I’m more than anxious to see where this goes next.
Speaking of the Pussycats, we get some much-needed character development for Josie this week. It seems that her father Miles is a professional jazz performer who would prefer that Josie follow in the footsteps of namesake Josephine Baker as opposed to a Donna Summers-esque pop star. Her determination to succeed and win his respect drives her, and more than explains her hard edge — something that Valerie finds herself cut by this week before the ‘Cats’ triumphant performance of “I Feel Love.” Let’s check that out once more again, shall we?
Fantastic. There’s so much to love here, from their iconic comic book look (including the use of the beloved Josie and the Pussycats font on the drum head) to Kevin’s offstage dance moves. Miles McCoy may not have been into this, but he’s alone, as this performance fully has you believing in the power of the Pussycats.
The growing relationship between Fred and Hermione and Veronica’s complicated reaction to it is handled really well in tonight’s episode. It’s a tough spot for Veronica to be in, she wants more than anything to believe that her mother and father will reunite and live happily ever after — a dream whose destruction is inevitable. With her father in jail, her mother is her greatest adult ally, and one she can no longer fully trust. Expect a huge confrontation between the Lodges to happen sooner rather than later.
With all of the above happening, the bombshell that Polly Cooper (a delightfully unhinged performance from Tiera Skovbye, making her long-awaited Riverdale debut) is pregnant with Jason’s baby was a bit overshadowed. The word ‘crazy’ is so frequently thrown around in regards to the Cooper women that is almost becoming annoyingly dismissive of the very real complexities of mental illness, not that this is the sort of show any of us should be looking to tackle important issues in an important way over. So, taking the show’s lead on this, yeah, those Cooper gals are cray. And they continue to be among the most fantastic aspect of the series.
Next week: The Coopers and the Blossoms — who, it should be mentioned again, are in a MAPLE SYRUP BLOOD FEUD — throw down in their search for the escaped Polly.
– When we first see Little Betty tonight, she is clutching her teddy bear. This is probably a stretch, but my Archie-ravaged brain immediately went to the above issue of Life with Archie, in which a demonically possessed teddy bear seeks to destroy Archie, his pals and gals. This weirdo story was so popular that the evil ursine returned to torment Josie and the Pussycats a few years back. If Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa or any of the Riverdale writing staff is reading this, please, please, please make an episode out of this.
– It’s no coincidence that Archie has a car that is reminiscent of his infamous jalopy from the comics in his toy box.
-“That was Josie and the Pussycats, long tails and ears for hats!” – Kevin Keller, we love you.
– Is Veronica in the Pussycats for good now? Because we are totally fine with that.
– There’s no doubt my mind that Archie has no idea who Josephine Baker is, a belief that was cemented when he responded with confusion to a Bob Dylan reference his father made later in the episode.
– “I don’t want to be the guy who broke up The Beatles.” Oh Archie, it’s cute that you make it like you know their music. The odds are against you on this point, bae.
– If the posters in Archie’s bedroom are any indication, Archie is a huge DC Rebirth fan.
– What was up with this Archie Darko shit? I think it’s just viral marketing for the upcoming Jughead: The Hunger comic myself.
– Fred Andrews remarks to Hermione, “last time I had to fire someone it was not good.” He is almost certainly referring to Jughead’s dad here, who he had to let go because he was stealing materials from job sites.
– Where is Jughead living now? The shot of him writing early in tonight’s episode gives a very big clue. Can’t wait to see if my theory pans out…
– I think the music supervisor used remarkable restraint by not having a breathy cover of “This Corrosion” during this episode’s Sisters of Quiet Mercy sequences.
– How great is it that the TV town of Riverdale is celebrating its 75th anniversary jubilee? Archie Comics just turned 75 years old itself, making the banner reading “75 More Years of Pep” (the comic Archie Andrews debuted in) all the more poignant.
– I like how every time we see adults eating on Riverdale it is under the most awkward of situations (i.e. Fred, Grundy and Archie at Pop’s, Jughead being judged by Mrs. Cooper — who insists on calling him “Jug Head” here, the Andrews/McCoy pitch dinner, etc).
– This episode of Riverdale, brought to you by Cover Girl.
– We see Jughead eating breakfast at the Coopers and snacking on corn chips during lunch at school, but still no hamburgers. Why does this show refuse to give us what we want? Sigh.