This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 7
Despite the one-two punch of big revelations that closed this week’s installment — Cheryl’s ominous warning of “it’s not safe” in regards to Polly seeking help from the Blossoms and F.P. Jones having Jason’s letterman jacket in his possession — this was probably the weakest installment of Riverdale to date. Not bad by any stretch, but there seemed to be an awful lot of wheel-spinning this time around.
Although beautifully helmed by Allison Anders, a director whose background in indie fare like Gas Food Lodgingand Mi Vida Loca make her an ideal choice to handle the emotional sensibilities of this week’s story, there was an uneasy sense that viewers really only needed to catch the last ten minutes of the episode to be brought up to speed. We’re halfway through the season at this point (there are 13 episodes, not 10 as I initially reported a few weeks back) and the momentum that the show has been gaining each subsequent week was paused this time around so that we could witness Veronica indulging in some “retail therapy” and bratty club antics in her far-too quickly resolved squabble with Hermione, as well as the tiresome F.P. plotline.
As much as the inclusion of the Southside Serpents, characters lifted directly from the pages of Bob Bolling’s Little Archie comic, thrill me, the gang as depicted so far are pretty much just generic toughs who would seem more at home having a run in with the Fonz in a Ted McGinley-era Happy Days episode than in the elaborate world Riverdale is building up. The biggest problem with the Serpents thus far is that their apparent leader, one F.P. Jones, is a man who has no apparent leadership skills at all. He’s a world class fuck up whose inability to get his life together has sent his wife and daughter fleeing back to her parents while is son is forced to sleep in a forgotten bloom closet at Riverdale High. (So school janitor Mr. Svenson must not exist in this TV universe, my apologies to Chip Zdarsky). The point here being that F.P. is so one-dimensional that even Skeet Ulrich’s endless puppy dog eye-making can’t elevate the character to more to than a laughable menace. Will this change now that it seems that F.P., if not the killer himself, is far more involved in Jason’s murder than we realized? I would be willing to bet that wad of cash that Veronica paid the put out nightclub employee with on it.
There’s a lot of time spent this week establishing that Fred and F.P. used to be as close as Jughead and Archie (well, before Archie started sleeping with Ms. Grundy anyway). We learn that Fred Andrews stuck his neck out time and again to help his pal out, only to be burnt by doing so. The fact that he continues to try to help cements Fred as the nicest guy in Riverdale — especially when he breaks the law to protect Jughead from Sheriff Keller’s desperate attempt to name him as Jason’s killer — and if years of watching TV drama are any indication, his kindness will come at a price. Especially once Mr. Lodge finds out about him and Hermione.
Back at the Cooper house, Polly has, in another slight nod to V.C. Andrews from the series, been hiding in the attic. Polly seems way more reasonable this week, which is understandable as the heightened drama of being in a 21st century remake of The Snake Pit would grate anyone’s nerves. Additionally, Cheryl’s journey from stereotypical rich bitch to complicated, probably tragic figure takes on some more miles this week. It’s easy to believe that her complex relationship with her parents, possible twincest (Polly remarks that Jason “always talked about how much he loved you” to Cheryl) and straight up hatred for the Cooper family would be automatically thrown aside for her instinctual love for her unborn niece or nephew. If there’s one thing we know about Cheryl is that she lives her life by her own rules of conduct. As important to her as her family is, she knows that Polly and the baby would be in trouble with the elder Blossoms hanging over them, so she found the inner strength to turn against her parents and do what was best for the Coopers. It’s a big moment that illustrates Cheryl’s ever-broadening rebellious streak but also reinforces the notion that Mr. and Mrs. Blossom are most likely the true big bads of Riverdale’s first season.
To that end, does anyone else find it strange that we learn nothing about Hermione’s phone call to Mr. Lodge? We see her about to make the call, and the next time the episode cuts back to her she is welcoming Polly into her home with open arms. My theory here is that Mr. Lodge, imprisoned though he may be, did not take kindly to Hermione’s role in giving Fred Andrews the development construction job. I also suspect that it will be revealed that Hermione is up to some nefarious dealings involving Polly, such as reporting to the Blossoms — who Mr. Lodge will no doubt be in cahoots with — or some other yet to be revealed reason. The show will continue to test her relationship with Veronica, but I feel that ultimately Hermione will be either a good character or a tragic pawn in the hands of Riverdale‘s dark forces. That cobra/mongoose dance Veronica referred to? Eventually the music will stop and blood will be drawn.
– How fantastic was the dream sequence that opened this episode in which Archie, Jughead, et al are seen wearing their classic comic book outfits? Too bad this installment didn’t pay off Jughead’s nocturnal anxiety that he thinks Archie will feel betrayed by his pal dating Betty, an issue that will hopefully be addressed in future episodes. For now, let us bask in the glow of the glorious fan service that this sequence afforded.
– Jughead hanging his hat on the hook by Riverdale High’s showers was a nice touch. Him and his whoopee cap are inseparable. Aww.
– Speaking of that scene, Archie grills Jughead as to why he is at school so early, but why was he there? Ms. Grundy isn’t around to give him “lessons” anymore and the rest of the football team was nowhere to be found. So why exactly is Archie at school before classes, and covered in sweat no less? Is this just advancing of the plot or evidence that Archie is leading a complex and double life? And Jughead shirtless but not Archie? Way to flip the script.
-“If there’s anyone to keep this secret from it’s the Blossoms,” says Betty Cooper, two feet away from Cheryl Blossom’s best friend, Ginger Lopez. Class valedictorian, everybody!
– This week’s episode of Riverdale, also sponsored by Cover Girl.
– Kevin’s delighted response to being Veronica’s favorite gay friend is the episode’s comedic high point. Casey Cott is this show’s secret weapon.
– Jellybean lives! We feared that Jughead’s kid sister might have met some cruel end but, phew, it turns out that she and her mom and getting their lives back together outside of Riverdale. Jellybean is now 10 and listens to a lot of Pink Floyd on vinyl, so I’m guessing she works for the AV Club?
– Hints or red herrings? Among the books briefly glimpsed in Jughead’s makeshift basement bedroom are Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Mark Twain. Feel free to discuss any potential thematic between Riverdale and these tomes in the comments.
– CHERYL BLOSSOM HASHTAG ROUNDUP: #pollycooperkilledmybrother, #nowheretohide, #sharpenyourpitchforks. Bless her.
– There are three, count ’em, three uncomfortable meals on this week’s episode. And still not a burger for Jughead. I mean, c’mon.
– Sheriff Keller, a man whose home does not have a security system, is increasingly proving himself to be terrible at his job. Tonight’s lowlight? Reminding Jughead that he gets bullied a lot, to which our strangely hamburger-averse hero responds “yeah, my name is JUGHEAD.” Bravo. His attempts to set up Jughead are truly desperate. Just how much of a dead end is his investigation at?
– Did anyone else really feel for the guy working at the club? Dude’s just trying to get through his shift before he returns home to his failed relationship and mouse-filled apartment and he has to deal with these snobby wealthy teens. Bummer.
– Great moments in production design: Fred Andrews’ ancient computer monitor is a subtle reminder that his business isn’t doing so well. So by all means, give your forgerer high school girlfriend whose husband is in jail for various crimes a job. That’s a surefire stairway to success!
– Finally, Riverdale has been renewed for a second season! Congratulations to everyone involved. With word coming that this season will definitely wrap up the Jason Blossom murder mystery, speculation as to what character will drive next season is officially underway. I would say Sabrina, as she is rumored to appear by season’s end, but I think the CW and Archie have spinoff plans for her. So I’m going to go on record and say I think next year’s big bad will be none other than Mr. Lodge, out of jail and returning to Riverdale with a vengeance. The only question is which 1980s/90s actor will portray him…