This review contains spoilers.
“Leaving is my best option, it’s my only option”
In the press lead up to this season, it was let slip in cast interviews that Archie wouldn’t stay in prison too long. That’s no surprise given how much more interesting the Gryphons & Gargoyles storyline and the promise of Farm mayhem to come are. What is something of a headscratcher however is the rapid nature of how swiftly Archie was exonerated for his crimes and Sheriff Minetta was put away (off screen, natch) for his general pain in the assery/witness coercion. For a town whose hospital has old-timey ambulances and anachronistic hangouts, justice sure moves quickly in Riverdale. The dubious nature of how Archie’s get out of jail free card was dealt – and that’s not even getting into how quickly Minetta would turn on Lodge to shorten his sentence, I’ve seen a lot of Law & Order, so I know – taints an otherwise gripping episode of Riverdale.
So the question to be asked here is am I willing to overlook the legal and storytelling contrivances on display to have Archie’s murder rap put behind him once and for all?
Yes, yes, a million times yes.
It was my initial fear that having Archie imprisoned would swing back around to the season one problem of having the character the entire show is supposed to revolve around separated from the main storylines. But in its third year, Riverdale has largely learned from its past mistakes, with Archie’s brief lock-up largely serving to illustrate how deep G&G has infilitrated the town and the minds of its residents.
Now that Archie is free and he and Jughead are riding the rails (until they inevitably return home, most likely in an episode or two), they are free to have a rare solo adventure together, which is something the show has yet to really do. In the comics, the pair are inseperable, but their relationship is much more complicated on screen. Jughead’s inability to cast aside his role-playing last week to help his friend was the only annoying aspect of an otherwise perfect episode. Here though he sees dead Joaquin, sacrificed to the Gargoyle King to send a message and he finally gets it: Archie isn’t safe in Riverdale. And Jughead realises that nothing, not the Serpents, not the game, not even Betty (weirdly), are more important than helping his best friend. It’s a great character moment that shows some real growth for the impulsive ride-or-die Jughead that we’ve seen so far this season.
But with Archie gaining his freedom Betty loses hers, sent by Alice to live with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy for her own protection from the Gargoyle King. Too bad this plan was a huge failure, as all of Betty’s cohorts at the diabolical nunnery seem obsessed with the big GK. Or is Betty just hallucinating this because of the drugs the Sisters doubtlessly have her hopped up on? Either way, I really wish Riverdale would stop with the plotlines in which one of its characters has to be busted out of somewhere, because oh man is it tired at this point.
Earlier in the episode, we see Riverdale’s resident Miss Marple interrogating the members of the Midnight Club to try to figure out just what in the hell is going on. While it’s plausible that Daryl Doiley did poison the chalices so that he could ascend with Penelope Blossom, she is hardly a reliable narrator here. More believable are the cover-ups carried out by Tom Keller and Alice Cooper to protect the other members of the group. That said, I do totally believe Penelope when she mentions if she wanted to poison Daryl, she would have used a method that doesn’t leave a trace. The Blossoms have a lot of problems, but thoroughness is not one of them.
This confrontation-heavy episode also saw Jughead playing voice of the audience and saying the obvious by accusing Hiram of being the Gargoyle King. Because Riverdale loves its bait-and-switches and red herrings, I think this scene is definitive proof that Hiram isn’t actually the Gargoyle King after all. So who is? My money is on either the yet-unseen leader of The Farm, Edgar Evernever, Hermione Lodge, or Fred Andrews. (With the latter being in the running just because this is not a show where characters get to remain pure and upstanding for very long).
Finally, while yes, it is sad that Veronica’s party was a bust and all those macaroons will go uneaten, we know that she and Archie and “endgame,” and he’ll be back before too long. Until then, maybe she can work on bringing herself up to date on the other shit going down in town, because she needs to get up to speed.