Riverdale season 3 episode 3 review: As Above, So Below

Josie sings, evil grows, and Archie makes some new pals in a weirdly uneven instalment of Riverdale. Spoilers...

This review contains spoilers.

3.3 As Above, So Below

First things first: This week’s episode of Riverdale might have been the most disjointed instalment of the show to date.

Balancing an unreasonable amount of plot points like they were plates of food being delivered to patrons at Pop’s is usually a feat that this series is able to handle with skill. But then again, things have never been as weird on the show as they are all right now – what with both a cult and a suicide-inducing RPG taking over the town and all.

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It’s a bit jarring to go from the high stakes of characters drinking cyanide to a storyline about a nightclub opening. (“Of course we’re calling it a speakeasy,” muses Jughead, echoing the sentiments of viewers everywhere).

It’s not that we aren’t jazzed about the arrival of La Bonne Nuit – okay, we kinda aren’t – it’s just that seeing the goings-on there take us away from the truly interesting things on the show right now… like teenagers who can apparently inflict seizures and rustic monster creatures that would look great at Halloween parties next week if everyone weren’t going to be dressed up as Gritty.

As they say, “how you gonna keep ’em down on the farm once you’ve seen Karl Hungus?” (Or indeed, The Farm).

But let’s not entirely dampen Veronica’s victory here: She opened her business her way, turning the tables on her father and extorting $10,000 a week out of him in the process. We know this will all come crashing down soon enough, as Hiram surely won’t take this disrepect from Ronnie for long, but as opening nights go? Well it sure was much better than Riverdale High’s production of Carrie, no?

At least the La Bonne Nuit soiree gave Josie something to do, finally. And, sure, we will agree that her performance of Anything Goes was indeed iconic. Intercut with Archie’s Fight Club meets The Shawshank Redemption-antics, this sequence was a break from all of the narrative busyness to let some grace shine through and give the viewers a second to catch their breath.

It’s hard to say exactly why the writers are insisting on keeping Josie broken up from her bandmates, as it has served none of the characters well. But with Josie now headlining the club, at least she’ll get to do a song every week. But really, the actress and the character deserve so much better.

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At this point, it would be best for Josie and the Pussycats to be spun off to their own show… something that we fully suspect will happen at some point.

Meanwhile, in the only part of Riverdale that isn’t incrediblyfuckingexciting right now, Archie is still in prison. Yes it’s only been two full episodes but it already feels like an eternity. Tonight, Warden Norton, he of the Easter Egg name and strange doppelganger for the comic book version of Mr Weatherbee, convinces Archie to join his underground fighting tournament by threatening the life of Kevin’s ex/Southside Serpent Joaquin. Now Archie has no real connection to Joaquin, but a scene between him and Imaginary Fred reminds viewers that Archie has long stood up for the defenseless.

Although really, this bit of remindery exposition wasn’t really necessary, as it could just be chalked up to yet another bad decision on Archie’s part. Anyway, after dazzling the warden with an especially theatrical fight performance, Archie returns to his cell – lit like it is a set ripped from Michael Mann film – and discovers that he has now been gifted with some of Mad Dog’s prized possessions. (Including a television and, this being Riverdale, a hollowed-out book with a weapon inside that the guards completely failed to notice). It seems like he may actually be getting complacent with his new lot in life into Warden Norton inadvertently turns the screw by gifting him a bottle of Lodge Label Rum. And now, that fire in Archie’s belly has turned into an inferno to GTFO of the Leopold & Loeb Juvenile Detention Facility. The sooner the better, hopefully.

Alternately: What worked tonight?

Transparent though they might have been, Betty’s attempt to infilitrate The Farm and her subsequent discovery that the cult knows all of her family’s secrets was fascinating to watch. As was Shannon Purser’s downright unsettling performance as Ethel, now completely under the spell of the Gargoyle King. Whatever is happening with these storylines, let’s keep our fingers crossed that they become the undivided focus of this season, as this stuff is storytelling gold.

Not a terrible episode by any stretch, but we want more of the killer, less of the filler. Which means once more, Archie’s storyline is the dullest on this show. Sigh.

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