Riverdale season 3 episode 1 review: Labor Day

Riverdale season three kicks off in compelling fashion. Spoilers ahead in our review of the premiere...

This review contains spoilers.

3.1 Labor Day

“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 years. (He’ll likely be freed by the mid-season finale, but still).

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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 eight 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.

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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.

Read Chris’ review of the season two finale, Brave New World, here.