Riverdale Season 3 Episode 17 Review – Chapter 52: The Master

The arrival of Edgar Evernever is the highlight of a mediocre Riverdale.

Riverdale Season 3 Episode 17 Chapter 52 The Master

This Riverdale review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 3 Episode 17

“The Farm gave me back my brother.”

After months of teasing his arrival, last week’s episode finally gave us our first look at Edgar Evernever, as the charismatic leader of The Farm led a bizarre standing ovation at Riverdale High’s production of Heathers: The Musical. This week we get more insight into what he’s up to. And it’s suitably weird and kinda great.

Portrayed by One Tree Hill veteran Chad Michael Murray — who is more than familiar with the strange internal logic that most CW shows seem to draw their power from– Edgar is a mysterious figure whose charm and good looks mean that he more than fits the mold of potential cult leader. (In the episode’s most self-aware moment, Cheryl declares “count him among the Hot Dads of Riverdale, because Edgar Evernever is a tasty snack”).

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Betty, however, is having none of it.

Determined to discover what the group that is infiltrating her town is truly up to, she attends a Farm open house. Once there, she encounters Evelyn Evernever, who gives her a sort of personality test asking her seemingly mundane questions like if she bites her nails and feels stressed. After Betty says that she doesn’t consider herself to be a cold person, Evelyn shuts down the interview in a very, it must be noted, frosty manner.  Her plans to inflitrate the cult herself have failed, so Betty turns to Cheryl for help.

Looking like a high school version of Gene Hackman in The Conversation, Betty puts a bug in Cheryl’s “iconic” spider brooch and sends her to Farm HQ to get as much info as possible — all the while listening on comically outdated technology. This plan quickly implodes, as Cheryl is slowly discovering the charm of The Farm. Betty goes to yet another one of the group’s endless open house events and finds the room where the tapes in which her family members have incriminated themselves are being stored and swipes them.

She visits Cheryl to tell her that she no longer has to have anything to do with the Farm. But Betty doesn’t get it. As it turns out, The Farm has allowed Cheryl to visit with her darling (and departed?) twin brother Jason. He is apparently alive and well at The Farm. Betty then asks her mother if she likes The Farm because they let Alice to talk to her maybe not as dead as we thought son, Charles. Alice arranges for Betty to come face-to-face with Edgar, whom, after some not entirely convincing talk about having backups of the recordings she trashed, asks what she wants to know. Betty’s simple response? “Everything.”

While this truly exciting storyline is playing out, three other subplots take up the rest of the episode’s runtime. Frustratingly, enough, they are about as interesting as watching bottles of maple syrup being manufactured.

Let’s review the latest Jones family happenings next. After torching Gladys’ mobile drug lab, Jug’s relationship with his mother is more strained than ever. He also is in conflict with F.P. because the Serpents aren’t quite up to snuff for the Riverdale police department to deputize, which is rich seeing the current sheriff’s own criminal past. Nevertheless, Jughead leads them on missions to pick off the Gargoyle gang leftovers one by one, screwing up one of F.P.’s busts in the process.

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The logic on all of this is cloudy at best, so scream it from the rooftops, “forget it Jug, it’s Riverdale.”

Meanwhile, Archie gets a collect call from Mad Dog. It seems that all the current violators residing at the Leopold and Loeb juvenile detention facility are about to be transferred to Hiram Lodge’s new prison so that the fight clubs can start anew. After Mad Dog risked his life to help free him, Archie isn’t having this. He and Veronica set in motion a plan to blackmail Governor Dooley in order to free Mad Dog, Baby Teeth, and Archie’s other inventively named  — yet not interesting enough to show on screen — prison pals. All is well, right? Umm no. The guys have no place to live, so Archie tells them to move in to his gym. That’s great, but there’s still more problems to be solved because Ellio is sniffing around wanting to recruit the now free fighters, and Mad Dog’s family’s apartment building is overrun by Gargoyles.

further reading: Archie Meets Batman ’66 in Exclusive Preview

Archie and his crew team up with the Serpents, who are risking jailtime by continuing their vigilantism. A pretty impressive (if low-rent) version of Daredevil’s hallway fight scenes ensues. Most of the Gargoyles are defeated, but drug cook Kurtz escapes. And now the Gargoyles are dealing with drugs and guns. This results in another confrontation between Jughead and Gladys, who insists this battle is between them and has nothing to do with F.P. or Jellybean. Jughead makes one of his trademark “aww man” faces and that’s an episode wrap for the Joneses.

As if this family dynamic wasn’t frustrating enough to sit through, there is still the eternal domestic dischord of the Lodges to contend with.

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Sigh, this family.

Hermione, a woman who tried to kill her husband twice, is now upset that a divorce would mean the Lodges enemies will come after her. Ever the opportunist, Veronica jumps on this by secretly sending her mom some dead fish, as if to say “you will be sleeping with them soon.” She also mentions that there is precedence for mobsters to be in therapy, cementing my theory that everything this show knows about mafia life comes from The Sopranos. Hiram hears Veronica’s pleas for the Lodges to remain a happy family in the eyes of the public, even though he realizes Veronica sent the spoiled seafood and has had his marriage with Hermione annuled.

Veronica is devastated by this news. She was “fighting for her family” even after Hiram tried to have Archie killed multiple times, and even goes so far as to acknowledge this. She resents her parents for being true to themselves which is odd, because if there’s one thing Veronica understands, it is being on brand.

At this point in the season Riverdale needs to start organically intertwining the Gargoyles and The Farm storylines together. I’m getting concerned that with six episodes remaining this is going to be as unlikely as Hiram going straight. But maybe I should just have faith that “a path to revival” will make itself clear when the show returns from its two-week hiatus

Riverdale Roundup

– Betty’s big complaint with The Farm is that they “prey upon emotionally vulernable people,” so it wasn’t lost on me that she convinces Cheryl to infiltrate the group by bringing up Jason. The fact that The Farm apparently also uses Jason to manipulate Cheryl means that they and Betty may prove to be more alike than either party is comfortable with. I fully expect that these paralells will be explored by season’s end.

– I think this episode would have been much more effective if Cheryl opened a door and there was Jason waiting to see her. Sure, this is very Lost, but it also would open up the fascinating idea of what if The Farm isn’t full of shit? Other than Sound of My Voice and Midnight Special, pop culture is sorely lacking in stories about cults that possess legitimacy. It would be a great character journey to send Betty on, realizing that she was wrong, and also turn our expectations about The Farm inside out.

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– What are your theories on how The Farm makes its members “see” their dead loved ones? My vote is hypnotism and drugs.

– Riverdale’s season/episode numbering appearing on screen continues. This is the 17th episode of the third season, and the audio recordings were kept in room 317 at the group’s compound.

– In the MLJ shop (itself a reference to the original name of the Archie company), Fangs is seen reading a Bucky O’Hare comic.

– Veronica tells Betty that she’ll go to The Farm’s open house with her. Did I blink, or did this not actually happen?

-“Really, you trying to murder my boyfriend is water under the bridge?” This line would have had way more of an impact if Veronica wasn’t constantly romanticizing her toxic family enviornment.

– Jughead’s “this is the best pillow talk ever” line was his best moment in an episode that did his character no favors. Exactly why at this point doesn’t he just come clean with F.P.? Obviously, so the tension between him and Gladys can go on. But man, is this frustrating. Hoping the “nuclear option” of just telling his dad the truth happens soon.

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– Did anyone else completely forget about Hiram’s prison being a thing?

– When did former goofball Kurtz become the Heisenberg of this show?

– There has yet to be a serious Betty/Gladys confrontation and this needs to happen.

– Can we just collectively eyeroll at the idea of the Serpents working as police deputies? It is such a gloriously dumb plot point.

– Will we see Ellio corrupt Mad Dog?

– Among the grafitti scrawled on the walls of the Gargoyles’ apartment building was “not my president,” illustrating that they aren’t entirely bad.

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Chris Cummins is a writer and Archie Comics historian. Follow him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.

Rating:

2 out of 5