This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 14
“I don’t know what to do Jug, I remain marked for death”
As the second half of this season of Riverdale moves forward, most of our characters are now in flux, narratively being pushed ahead into the storylines that will dominate upcoming episodes. Thus we have Betty doing her best Firestarter homage, Veronica scrambling to regain control of her fledging business, Jughead figuring out the Serpents’ future, and Kevin getting in deep with The Farm. It’s a handful.
Annnnnnd then there’s Archie. Who gets played (and then stabbed) by a child in this episode. Sigh. Riverdale’s Archie problem shows no sign of going away anytime soon, but hopefully his decision to play the Gryphons and Gargoyles game he is unwittingly involved in to its bitter end will give some more narrative meat to chew on.
The upside? At least his stupidity here is understandable. Archie feels grateful to have loved ones who helped him through his recent trials, and he wants to pay such kindness forward to Ricky. The argument can be made that the very fact he lives in Riverdale should have been reason enough for him to be apprehensive around the little moppet, but, you know…
So rogue Gargoyles are still out for Archie’s blood. There’s no real explanation as to why this is, but as with all things Riverdale it is always best to just go with it. My gut instinct still says that this eternal game of G&G will connect directly with The Farm, which brings us to Betty.
The shadowy Farm cult, complete with Scientology-esque lingo like “detractor,” has Betty surrounded by all sides. Her mother is selling their house in order to live with the group 24/7, which will not only make her homeless but, er, further fuel her fire of hatred for the hilariously named Farmies. Worse still, Kevin is now totally brainwashed, barking at Betty and generally loving whatever kind of freaky hootenanny thing The Farm has going on.
Betty can’t even write an expose to trash The Farm, because, thanks to Alice, the group knows about the Shady Man cover up. Conveniently forgetting that her boyfriend’s super corrupt dad is the only source of law enforcement in her garbage town, she slams her laptop closed in frustration. Then, after briefly toying with the idea of doing her own trial by fire to see if the Farm is into something, she decides to say screw it, and turn the tables by igniting the house and her memories. Cue “Burning Down the House.” (Which had to be an alternate title for this episode, right?) Dark Betty is back, and oh how I have missed her.
Jughead’s streak of being the single worst gang leader in pop culture history continues undetered, with his big plan to save the Serpents involving joining up with the Riverdale police department? Huh? Now granted we know that the little hamlet is so utterly lawless that its current mayor is a former crook with a penchant for corpse abuse, so it’s not like Jug is getting his pals associated with the Boy Scouts. Yet the optics on this look really bad. How can any gang earn respect among their peers and be taken seriously if they are informing for the cops. This is some Archie-level inanity here folks. Is anyone else getting the suspicion that all of the gangs on this show are not long for this world? (Except maybe for the Pretty Poisons, who are clearly fantastic and deserve to be last gang standing whenever the show goes full The Warriors).
At La Bonne Nuit, Veronica is still dealing with the consequences of destroying the Lodge family drug operation. She not only is losing money constantly by having to pay off her debts to Hiram and Gladys, but now she has the pair (who so deserve each other, I ship it!) causing problems at her business. Her solution is to stop these low-rent gangsters, one of whom constantly has a knife at the ready, by hiring a gang of high schoolers as security. This all makes a great deal of sense, right?
While largely a placeholder episode, “Fire Walk with Me” does a solid job of setting up future plot points and conflicts aplenty. We already see trouble on the horizon for Choni, but there’s also G&G madness to come, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of The Farm yet. All this and an upcoming production of Heathers: The Musical too. Riverdale, you truly can do it all. Not wonderfully all the time, but how I appreciate the effort!
– This episode is dedicated to the memory of Luke Perry, whose portayal of Fred Andrews was the emotional core of Riverdale. His death is still so shocking and unexpected that I still am having problems wrapping my head around it. I had the opportunity to speak with Perry at a press event for the show at New York Comic Con last October, and what struck me was how utterly down to Earth and kind he was. He spoke to everyone as if they were the most important person in the room, and it’s easy to see why his stars on the series as well as other projects like Beverly Hills 90210 loved him so much. His untimely passing obviously creates a massive narrative hole in Riverdale moving forward, but to speculate on how the show will handle it feels ghoulish to me at this point. It’s simply too soon. Even his brief appearance in tonight’s episode was profoundly sad. He left us far too early, and if this review seems a little more serious than usual it’s because it was a difficult experience watching this week. As I imagine it will for the immediate future. Perry was such a large part of not only Riverdale but our pop culture landscape in general. And he’s gone, and it’s awful, and all we can do is be thankful for the great work he leaves behind.
– Does Riverdale High have a counselor? If so, can he or she please talk to Veronica about how utterly unhealthy it is for her to still be living at the Pembrooke with her parents. Maybe she and Betty can get a place now that the Cooper homestead has gone up in smoke.
– This Kurtz character, I do not like the cut of his jib.
– Conveniently, Mr. Weatherbee was nowhere to be found during Kurtz’s little gravity experiment with Fangs. There must have been a great bolo tie sale somewhere.
– Remember teens, running a nightclub/illegal casino is really tough. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE A JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. Jesus.
– Here’s the thing, Ricky is absolutely a psychopath. But you’ve got to admit the kid probably has a solid future in the art world. That drawing of the Gargoyle Gang attacking that he drew in Pop’s looked like a Tim Burton storyboard.
– I feel really bad for Pop Tate that he is forced to put on fancy attire and work in Veronica’s speakeasy, knowing that her business practices are shady as shit and he is super against all of this. I’d love for another Bizarrodale-style episode that focuses on people like Pop, Dr. Curdle Jr., Smithers, etc, that shows how the shitty behavior of our leads screws with their lives.
– If you went into an exclusive nightclub and they just let anybody get up and sing the reviews would be ferocious. Veronica needs to consider this. That said, more Gina Gershon performances please!
– Betty is way too smart to be fooled by the old walking on burning coals scam. Has she never seen Mythbusters?
– Will we see Ricky again? Or has he gone the way of Chic? Best case scenario: Him and Chic come back like some kind of Voltron robot of pain in the assery!
– On the “No Escape” episode of The Incredible Hulk, Jack Kirby cameoed as a police sketch artist. It was a great tribute to one of comics’ greatest legends, and gave Smilin’ Jack the opportunity to be a part of a series that he helped set in motion. Although many of the Archie Comics’ greats are no longer with us, it would have been nice if the sketch artist seen in this latest episode was someone from the company’s present like Robert Hack, Francesco Francavilla, or Dan Parent.
– When Toni goes to work at La Bonne Nuit, Cheryl opts to stay in and catch up on her reading. We see her with a copy of the Claire Morgan (i.e. Patricia Highsmith) novel The Price of Salt, a landmark moment in the history of lesbian literature…and totally in tune with what the character would read.
– Now that the Pretty Poisons are protecting Veronica’s club/casino, if someone doesn’t sing the Pretty Poison dance classic “Catch Me I’m Falling” by the time the season ends I am going to have a conniption.
– Gladys being refered to as the “Joan Jett of Riverdale” charts in a big way.
– While I appreciate her Batcave aesthetic, I still don’t believe that neither Pop, Veronica, or Reggie have the business acument required to run a secret casino.
– Betty’s advice to “Google Alice Cooper” is the funniest gag this show has done in ages.
– I’m especially in love with this episode’s title not only because of the fact that we see a literal fire walk here, but also, and forever, due to any reference to Mädchen Amick’s Twin Peaks past.