This review contains spoilers.
“Bad things happen, but you can’t get rid of your past because then you lose the good parts too.”
Brevity is underrated. That could very well be the ultimate lesson from Riverdale as a whole. Much like Netflix Glut, overlong network television seasons tend to do more harm than good to a series. Last year this particular program had a Black Hood problem, and now viewers are impatiently watching everything from the ongoing Gargoyle King whathaveyou to, ridiculously, Archie’s boxing career play out with very little payoff.
In my previous reviews of this season, I’ve held steadfast that yes, this is all heading somewhere great, words written with the fervent devotion of a Farmie — based on good faith. The past two season finales of Riverdale have stuck the landing skillfully, and I still very much want to believe that all of what we are witnessing right now will tie together.
But friends, I am weary.
We are four episodes away from the season finale and only now are we getting clued in to what The Farm is truly up to….and it’s, kinda chill? In his conversations with Betty tonight, Edgar speaks of his organization as a “safe place where wounded people can heal and become the best versions of themselves” with a goal of welcoming “lost souls wandering in darkness.” Sure, it’s a bit culty, but no more so than The Secret. You know, minus the whole enticing followers to give up their deepest secrets and money thing, but even with those factors taken into consideration, this is hardly Jonestown. (Yet?)
Still, Betty remains in full Leah Remini-trying-to-tackle-Scientology mode, and it’s incredibly noble and almost impossible to not be on her side. But then she allows herself to get Farmed by Edgar, his asking her why she won’t allow her mother to find happiness with the group to heal breaks through her tough exterior. In a sudden about face, she turns her mother over to Evelyn, the creepy classmate whose life she threatened mere hours before.
The scenes between Lili Reinhart (who remains the most gifted actor on the series) and Mädchen Amick are soulful and real. There’s heartbreak here on both sides, so we as the audience ultimately come to understand why Betty lets her mother rejoin The Farm. She realizes now that she, for the time being, can’t save Alice from the group’s clutches. Perhaps though she can ultilize them to give her want Alice needs to move forward right now. Besides, she still has an ace up her sleeve — Toni.
“You’re a daughter who wants her mother back, just as I want my girlfriend back,” Toni tells Betty. There’s no reason to believe that these two can’t unite their powers to figure out The Farm’s secrets and weaknesses. The danger here for Betty though is to not let Edgar get inside her head again. She is grappling with believing that she is a monster, this negative self image paired with her Dark Betty past could put her on a road to ruin…that could possibly come in the form of her embracing The Farm as her new belief system. I’m kind of hoping that the series doesn’t take this route, as it would be a detriment to the Betty character, but we will see soon enough.
Elsewhere, this episode was concerned with a new batch of Fizzle Rocks that is making its users behave like rabid zombies. (Note to showrunners: Please just let the series turn into Afterlife with Archie already). Since F.P. is a hoodlum with no law enforcement background, he has no idea how to deal with things like the murder of Baby Teeth and bad drugs sweeping through town. This being the show that it is, he decides the best course of action is to enlist the help of his teenaged son, because the boy is a writer and amateur detective and therefore just as qualified for police work as much as a former corpse abuser is. Together, the Jonses discover that Kurtz is still in town, playing a long game designed just for them. And, more specifically, for Jellybean, who is in the clutches of the Gargoyle King as the end credits roll.
This would have been the perfect opportunity for Jughead to mention that Gladys is currently in charge of the drug operation in Riverdale, but this isn’t even addressed, the focus of the investigation instead centered on Kurtz’s actions. It’s almost a certainty that this reveal and its dramatic blowback is being held back for closer to the finale. Not that that makes this any less of a contrivance.
Finally, there’s Archie’s boxing match. As someone who is increasingly of the opinion that this show really should have killed the character off when he was attacked by a bear, it’s now officially comical how little connection Archie has with the main plots. At this point, I think the writers should lean into the absurdity of this, and have him decide that he wants to be an astronaut, or a 15th century armor smith and just cut to him whenever they need to fill some space. It would essentially give him the same involvement with everything else happening here.
Anyway, he knocked out Randy Ronson, and if he gets put on trial for murder again because of this I will never stop laughing. (Fortunately Mad Dog left him with a sample of the tainted G that Randy took, so hopefully a quick toxicology test from Dr. Curdle Jr. will clear the Red Paladin’s name should the storyline take this route).
To circle back to the start of this review, it’s worth repeating that Riverdale — and most shows for that matter — would benefit from shorter seasons. The superfluous stories being told here could be done away with, instead replaced with a tighter 13-episode run that would remove so much of the bloat that unfortunately bogs this series down.
Read Chris’ review of the previous episode, The Master, here.