This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 3 Episode 8
“May God have mercy on our souls.”
“Not God, Governor, the King.”
And so we arrive at Riverdale‘s mid-season finale, and I for one am still catching my breath. And holding my sides from laughing at how absolutely silly this series has gotten — in the best possible way. I am genuinely not sure of exactly how I am feeling about this game-changing installment at this point, but let’s work through it together, shall we? What I can say with some definitive clarity is that this was one hugely entertaining episode that gave viewers some big answers while setting up the second half of the season.
Let’s start things off with Jughead and Archie. Arriving at Gladys Jones’ garage/chop shop/orphange/whatever, the pals get another harsh lesson in how far Hiram’s reach extends when Penny Peabody arrives to collect the bounty on Archie’s head. Fortunately, Jug’s kick-ass little sister Jellybean — she prefers J.B., thank you very much — won’t have anyone threatening her crush, so she knocks Penny out with the aid of her trusty slingshot. (Because this is Riverdale, and kids in this show’s anarchronistic universe clearly still use slingshots, duh).
Gladys learns that the bounty Lodge has put on Archie extends to anyone who helps him as well. Although we don’t know hardly anything about her character yet, it seems a safe bet that she cares about her boy as she calls F.P. to get him when Jug insists on returning to Riverdale to bring down Hiram once and for all. It would be interesting to know what Jughead’s plan here is exactly, as everytime he has confronted Mr. Lodge in the past it has resulted in nothing but grandstanding on his part.
Mrs. Jones made another call too, to Fred Andrews. The ever-honorable Fred shows up to take Archie to the Canadian border, where he can start his new life, hopefully out of Hiram’s reach.
At this point, can we all just take a second to contemplate Archie’s career prospects North of the Border? Given his experiences working for Fred, construction would be his best bet. But Archie being Archie, deep down I know he’d either give his music another go or, most likely, find work as a chisled but not so bright escort.
That said, the scene between Archie and Fred is touching. And when Fred gives Vegas to Archie to keep him company on the road? I was crying more than watching one of those Sarah McLachlan SPCA ads. Where will Archie go next? And how many episodes until he his path leads him back home? With Archie heading to Canada, F.P., Jughead, and Fred all head back home. Although they have no idea what awaits them upon their return…
Back in Riverdale, Betty is still captive at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. I have been vocal about not being a fan of how the show imprisoned yet another character here, but at least tonight’s ep shook things up a bit by taking the unexpected route of having Betty and Ethel work together to escape. Shannon Purser hasn’t been properly utilized on the series to date, with the characterization of Ethel being all over the place. Now off Fizzle Rocks and seemingly well-adjusted, she and Betty put their heads together to set in motion a cheer-worthy plan — all hail the Gryphon Queen! — to get the brainwashed patients to freedom. I genuinely hope that now this friendship between the pair has been established, that it gets further developed in the backend of this season.
Their plan is a huge success, albeit one a bit too late. Which brings us back to the main narrative thrust of this episode: Hiram’s plan for Riverdale.
Essentially, he wants to turn the town into Hill Valley from the dark alternate timeline from Back to the Future, Part II. In his brave new order, Riverdale will be full of Fizzle Rocks and Penelope Blossom prostituting herself and costumed gang members and generally all sorts of ridiculousness that will make life there like The Purge, minus the wanton killing.
Do I even have to mention that this plan makes not one iota of sense? How exactly does Hiram plan on keeping the townsfolk from rising up against him? Why would he and Hermione want to be stuck in the hellscape that a town quarantined from the outside world surely will become? Will this series of events turn Veronica’s hellscape into the sort of bizarre cabaret glimpsed at in Escape from New York‘s “Everyone’s Coming to New York” song and dance sequence?
As the episode ends, the show has everything turned upside down. It is a daring move in a season whose waters have already been muddied with several potential shark-jumping moments. But this raises a bigger question: How much is too much for Riverdale? Are we at the breaking point for what the show’s largely tween-driven viewership will put up with? These are all rhetorical questions, because from this writer’s perspective what the series does best is over-the-top storytelling.
This midseason finale furthered the gleeful absurdity that has been the season’s calling card. While I’m personally tired of seeing Hiram’s constant success as I watch this show to escape from the real-life facepalm that is an unqualified businessman holding a position of power, I can at least appreciate how Riverdale has turned him into a Machivellian villian. Watching tonight I found myself utterly charmed by how unafraid the series is with bear-hugging ridiculous plot points. With the town now cut off from the outside world, we are at peak Riverdale. And it’s a beautiful thing.
– Tonight’s episode saw the debut of Gina Gershon as Gladys Jones and Trinity Likins as Jellybean Jones. From what we learned tonight, Gladys didn’t want Jughead to join the Serpents, J.B. still has some issues with F.P., and the pair run a chop shop in Toledo. Expect much more from them when the show returns in the new year.
– We see Gladys washing blood from her hands and telling F.P. that they don’t have to “worry much about Penny anymore.” So, what exactly did Gladys do to her? My gut feeling is that we will see Penny again at some point, as the writers seem enamored with the character’s one-note evil.
– One disturbing aspect of her storyline that Riverdale seems to be rewriting history on — and never really has addressed properly at this point — is that Jughead only has his scar because he mutilated Penny first when he was all ride or die about the Serpents. This remains the most fucked up thing to have happened on Riverdale, and it’s really distubring that Jughead’s sadistic, sociopathic behavior towards Penny has been swept under the narrative carpet. To be clear, Penny is no saint, but she hardly deserved to have her arm carved up by the CW’s resident rebel without a clue.
– “Can I can a hug?”
“Can I get a dad?”
F.P. Jones, father of the year!
– I’d like to learn more about what Gladys’ life in Toledo is like. Tonight’s episode sets her up as a modern day Fagin, having troubled teens steal car parts in return for food and a safe place to stay.
– I appreciate how Gladys thinking that Jughead and Archie were a couple wasn’t done as a gay panic joke but rather as a touching tribute to their closeness.
– Gladys’ jacket bears the Toledo Serpents logo, further indication that the gang exists throughout North America.
– Point to ponder: Is the fact that the Blossom family physician is named Dr. Caligari the most groan-worthy pop culture reference that this shown has thrown at is?
– This show featured waterboarding with maple syrup tonight. Why is it not on more 2018 Best Of lists?
– Choni lovers had their patience in the couple’s backburnered relationship rewarded tonight when Cheryl asked Choni to move into Thistlehouse with her. Josie and the Pussycats fans are still shit out of luck though. Not that musical performances fit into the path the show has taken this season.
– We learn tonight that troubled kids created Gryphons & Gargoyles, and the staff at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy discovered how they utilized the game to their advantage. But what we still don’t know is how it was leaked to the outside world, and by whom.
– Speaking of unanswered questions, exactly how did Hiram arrange for the Vixens to all have seizures? Earlier this season it looked like Evelyn Evernever was responsible for them. The seizures were the excuse he used to get the town quarantined, but we know Veronica wasn’t using Fizzle Rocks, so if they are spread through them how was she affected?
– The Gargoyle King is both a hallucination caused by Fizzle Rocks and a flesh-and-blood creature. We see the King in Hiram’s office at the end of tonight’s episode, so go ahead and theorize that he is the man (or whatever) behind the curtain. So who is the Gargoyle King? It’s not a huge leap to assume that he is somehow involved with The Farm, which will take the focus of the remainder of the season now that the mythology of G&G has been explained as being a “game born of madness.”
– The scene where Veronica, Cheryl and the stoned members of the Riverdale High ROTC arrive in Mayor Lodge’s office to thwart her, already completed, plan was very Watchmen.
– “Jingle Jangle is so last year.” Oh Veronica, you are so right.
– I give Archie a lot of shit for making dumb decisions, but at least he dyed his hair to alter his look somewhat to keep bounty hunters off his trail.
– If you rewatch this episode, please pay special attention to Casey Cott’s performance as Kevin Keller Hopped Up on Fizzle Rocks. It is something truly wonderful.
– Finally, Betty as the Gryphon Queen is a mood. We’ll be back in the new year with more Riverdale insanity. Join us, won’t you?