This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 1
“The thing that keeps me up most nights isn’t that I might get shivved, it’s that I won’t be able to graduate with you guys.”
If last year was all about Archie making bad decisions, this season has him looking to redeem himself for the sins of the past…by making brand new bad decisions. Instead of doing the reasonable thing of going through the process of another trial, he accepts a plea bargain that will put him in a juvenile detention facility for two yearss. (He’ll likely be freed by the mid-season finale, but still).
His Archie-esque thought process being that getting locked up saves his loved ones having to go through the grief of another drawn out legal battle. It’s a real throwing the baby out with the bathwater move, but one that is totally in line with what we have learned about the character over the past three years. Mainly that he is well-meaning but very, very dumb.
Narratively, Archie going to jail makes the most amount of sense. We are dying to see how ridiculous a Riverdale juvie center is, and our fingers are crossed that there will be a prison variety show in which Arch will once again bust out “I’ll Try” in our immediate future. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Archie is clearly racked with guilt — about betraying his father, about not doing enough to prevent Cassidy’s murder, about hurting the ones he loves the most. With these factors taken into account, his decision to take the deal is almost understandable from the kid’s mindset. But Archie’s view is myopic as ever, and this choice will clearly have a domino effect upon everyone in his life for weeks to come.
If there’s some good to come from this, it is how it will also strengthen the characters he leaves behind. Most notably Veronica, who has cut her father out of her life by episode’s end. Or at least, for now. She learns that Hermione stays in the marriage for fear of recieving the wrath of Hiram. But when she states “I’m a prisoner Veronica, but I am not his puppet” it sets the stage for Hiram’s inevitable downfall. When Hiram does get what’s coming to him, it will probably be from those whom he loves the most. Poetic justice, Wednesdays at 8 on the CW.
Now that the reasonable storylines are out of the way, let’s discuss the truly interesting aspects of tonight’s episode: The Farm and the Gargoyle King. In my interview with the show’s cast, I mentioned how the success of the series has liberated the show’s writers to take chances and really go for it in terms of strangeness. And the third act of tonight’s show is very strange indeed.
Jughead is dealing with Dilton, who frantically told him that his roleplaying game involving someone called “The Gargoyle King” is all too real. Following a map that Dilton left behind, Jug ventures out into the forest only to stumble upon a horrific tableau. Both Ben and Dilton are located with mysterious symbols carved into their back, lying nearly lifeless in front of a shrine to the Gargoyle King. Ben seems to be spewing some green liquid from his mouth. Dilton’s fate is unknown, but it doesn’t look good. But even more sinister things are happening nearby at the Cooper house.
The Farm have been mentioned since the start of the series, first seeming to be a literal farm where Polly and Jason planned on raising their twins. But then it morphed into a cult, one we are finally getting a glimpse into the inner workings of. We know that it is run by a charismatic (and yet unseen) guru named Edgar Evernever, and that Polly’s twins participate in some sort of bizarre baptism by fire that results in their mid-air levitation. Witnessing this, Betty appears to suffer a seizure and drops to the ground. Or it could it be that Polly or another Farm operative has poisoned her Adderall.
Whatever is going on here is absolutely shithouse bonkers, and we can’t wait until the next episode. This is how you do a season premiere. All hail the Gargoyle King, whatever the hell you are all about.
– There is no other character currently on television who can make a better entrance than Cheryl Blossom. Slay queen.
– Apparently there’s not a single air conditioner in Riverdale’s city limits.
– Wait, so Kevin’s a virgin now? Wasn’t the majority of what little screentime the character got last year dedicated to how he was having casual hookups in the woods?
– Betty’s non-existent psychiatrist being named Dr. Glass is a very wonderful reference to Jan’s imaginary boyrfriend, George Glass, on The Brady Bunch.
– Josie and Sweet Pea were having a summer fling, one that she wants to be done with in order to focus on her music. Like Kevin, the Josie character was one who fell by the wayside last season, a problem that will hopefully be fixed this season. Although really, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Josie and the Pussycats spin-off where the group leaves Riverdale in order to find fame in NYC. Just think of the fun that could result from a series that was a Fame/Empire mash-up.
– Sad Vegas is all of us, just somehow trying to get through this hellscape we call life in 2018.
– Speaking of dogs, I am beyond thrilled that Hot Dog has made his triumphant return to Riverdale…and even been the focal point of his own subplot tonight. Hopefully we will be seeing more of the frizzly little guy this season. (Regular readers of my reviews of the series are more than familiar with the pooch’s absence long being a thorn in my side).
– For those of you who wondering if a mother can in fact represent her son in court, the answer is yeah, but it’s probably not a good idea.
– A nice touch was how the entire Riverdale community turned up for Archie’s hearing. From Sweetpea to Pop Tate, everyone was there. Aww.
– Now that Archie has a Serpents tattoo, Veronica is the only member of the “core four” who isn’t a Serpent. Leading us to question if the Serpents aren’t in their own way, a cult in Riverdale. Plus there are Canadian Serpents? For a gang whose numbers are supposed to be depleted they certainly still have a far reach.
– The best line of the night perhaps unsurprisingly goes to Betty’s blistering takedown of The Farm as a “Heaven’s Gate commune for pregnant runaways and wives of serial killers.” Ouch.
– Speaking of The Farm, it’s unclear exactly what type of outfit the group is yet. On one hand, their eschewing of medicines and mental health professionals seems to be directly pointed at Scientology, but the occult antics at the end suggest a Rosemary’s Baby-type cult?
– As someone who lived through the Dungeons and Dragons “satanic panic” madness of the 1980s, I am overjoyed that Riverdale seems to be incorporating elements of this into the Gargoyle King storyline that kicked off tonight. What was the roleplaying game Dilton and Ben were playing, and who is behind transforming the RPG from a fun fantasy pasttime into a deadly reality? Also, what’s the over/under on Dilton and/or Ben actually being dead.
– For those of you who may have been confused as to why Dilton would turn to Jughead for help in the first place, let me turn your attention to issue 7 of the official Riverdale comic. The book, which is considered canon, establishes how the pair are friendly, with Jughead almost serving as a protective big brother for Dilton, who comes from an unstable family enviornment and believes that the end of the world is just around the corner.
– It looks like Fred is teaming up with fellow “Riverdale Hot Dads” F.P. Jones and Tom Keller to bring down Hiram Lodge once and for all. Can’t happen quick enough as far as I’m concerned.
– Is anyone else getting a real Class of 1984 vibe from The Ghoulies in this episode?
– Another great cinematic reference was Betty’s asking if Jughead and Archie getting covered in leeches really happened, or was just something they saw in a movie — a clear shoutout to 1986’s Stand By Me, a film that, none-too-coincidentally, also took place over Labor Day weekend.
– Later this season, Gina Gershon will be joining the cast as Gladys Jones. Expect her arrival to shake things up for Bughead and the town in general.
– The mysterious symbols that cover the Riverdale sign match those on the roleplaying map that led Jughead to Dilton, Ben and the Gargoyle King effigy. (And they are similiar to what is carved into Dilton and Ben). Since it’s only the season premiere, there’s no point in speculating on whether this storyline has anything to with The Farm. Nevertheless I’m going to do just that and guess that The Farm and the Gargoyle King are connected, with Hiram being the mastermind behind them all…and involved in darkness greater than we ever realized.
– We’ll be here all season long for all of your Riverdale needs. We are excited to have you taking this journey with us again!