This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Episode 8
So much family tension in one episode!
The ties that bind were front and center in tonight’s installment, with each of Riverdale‘s main families in crisis. Consider: Archie discovered just how bad his dad’s business was, Polly chose the Blossoms over her parents, Alice gave Hal the boot for encouraging Polly to get an abortion (although there were some Cirque du Soleil-worthy acrobatics manuevering around the actual use of that word), Jughead asked his pop if he had something to do with Jason’s murder, and Veronica potentially ratted out her mom’s affair to her imprisoned father.
Phew, everybody got that?
This week’s episode was something of a placeholder that existed mainly to establish just how screwed up these characters are as we approach the back end of the season. It resulted in some juicy moments to be sure, but there’s a sense that “The Outsiders” main purpose was to set up the dominos we will see knocked down in the weeks to come. And you know what? I am 100% fine with that. Why, at this point in the season, I could spend an entire episode watching Mädchen Amick chew scenery.
So what I wasn’t expecting was the humanity and, yes, gravitas that her character was given tonight. Up until this point she has been little more than a scene-stealing cartoon. But here she shows that deep beneath her seemingly unhinged exterior is a woman who deeply cares for her family…and is willing to cast her husband out in order to protect her daughters. This development makes Polly’s choice to live with the Blossoms all the more heartbreaking, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how this impacts the Alice character from here. Will she double down on her efforts to keep Polly safe, or will this blow push her further into madness?
Minus the whole using Joaquin to manipulate Kevin and hiding Jason-related evidence thing, tonight also gave us a glimpse at an F.P. Jones who was almost honorable. The character has been the weakest written one on the show so far, but tonight helped give him some complicated, human wrinkles. Lousy father or not, he did Archie a solid by calling Fred as soon as our ginger hero entered the Serpents’ home base where things could have gone wrong and fast. Like Alice, F.P. was given some much needed dimension tonight. The episode did some much-needed course correcting by helping make both characters more likable. A smart move to endear them to the audience, especially if they do wind up having some direct involvement in Jason’s death. Redemption. Such a complicated thing.
Besides, it’s just a nice change of pace to see both Alice and F.P. acting downright reasonable at times.
As to what didn’t work tonight, the tension between Jughead and Archie was far too easily resolved. Seeing how both of these characters have been on shaky ground friendship wise since the season began, the big reveal of F.P. being a Serpent (if not King of the Serpents, it’s still not clear who, if anyone, he answers to) should have shaken Archie a little bit. Archie gave his dad a ration of shit about not giving F.P. a break a few weeks back, and now here he is learning that, yeah, Jughead’s dad is a bit of a scumbag. This should have resulted in more of a discussion between Jughead and Archie about their friendship and the complicated relationship between their fathers. The series is trying to establish paralells between the older and younger Andrews and Jones men. Too bad that it doesn’t entirely gel quite yet. As it stands now, Jughead and Fred and solid dudes, F.P. is still largely a jerk, and Archie, well, we still don’t really know anything about what motivates him. The main character. So yeah, that’s still a gigantic problem.
Next week: Archie gets seduced by the red side. Plus, Ethel returns!
– Just an observation: Back in the third episode Jughead’s narration indicated that the ousting of Chuck Clayton from Riverdale High would have grave repercussions in the days to come. We’re still waiting for this to pass.
– “No Archie, Hell is other people.” – Jughead, auditioning for his job interview at Hot Topic.
– Will Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) ever have lines in this show?
– At the start of the episode, the Coopers are referred to as “the Stepfords of Riverdale.” Sounds about right.
– SoDale is the exact kind of faux-hip branding that gentrification-seeking developers would implement.
– Kevin Keller’s sheer admiration of the Lodge family continues, i.e. his being in awe of Veronica’s story about being invited to two high-profile Oscar parties on the same night (did she say “Vanity Flair?”) and his appreciation of Hermione’s shoes at the construction site.
– It’s always an absolute delight when Riverdale veers into absolute melodrama territory, and tonight offered plenty of that. Starting with Jughead’s ridiculous assessment of the Polly/Jason relationship as an “epic forbidden romance” to the baby shower theatrics, there was plenty of pearl-clutching antics to be found in this installment.
– After Moose is attacked, Sheriff Keller comes out to investigate, furthering my beliefs that Riverdale has one law-enforcement official…and he is clearly terrible at his job.
– Although he has never indicated any kind of interest in movies, Archie has posters for The Wild Bunch and Dog Day Afternoon in his bedroom. Oh Archie, what a cipher you are.
– Tonight gave us our first glimpse at the terribly named Whyte Wyrm, the South Side Serpents’ hangout. As pop culture depictions of biker bars go, it was only moderately ridiculous. (The snake was a nice touch). This seems about as good a time as any to mention that the Blue Oyster — the biker/leather bar from the Police Academy films — features a sign emblazoned with the Archie Comics logo. This is but one of many Archie references featured in the franchise, which is pretty amazing if you ask me.
– Cheryl Blossom always knows how to make an entrance.
– Best line of the episode? Tie between “Nana has dementia and gypsy blood” and “this is occultism at its most ridiculous, but I’m happy to be here.” That baby shower was the gift that keeps on giving.
– While we are on the topic of Nana Rose, this week’s big Riverdale development production wise was the revelation that next season will have a significant supernatural bent to it. I hope that Nana Rose will somehow play into this. We’ve only seen her twice, but she is weird and captivating all at once.
– And yes, I absolutely believe her prediction that Polly is pregnant with twins.
– “I think you know by now what I’m capable of.” And with those words Alice Cooper becomes a prime suspect in Jason’s murder.
– It seems like heartbreak is coming Kevin’s way. Poor kid. At least Joaquin seems really crestfallen about potentially having to betray Kevin.
– Finally, a point to ponder. Does the music supervisor get a cut rate on dreamy covers of classic pop songs? Remakes of “Our House” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” were both prominently featured tonight.