This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 11
“You threw a live grenade into my relationship to win a trivia contest?”
If you are a regular reader of my Riverdale reviews, you are more than familiar with my general policy that this show exists in its own logic bubble. (Thus why I often quote Veronica’s now-infamous line of “forget it Jug, it’s Riverdale” whenever anything especially insane/stupid happens).
But everyone has their limits. This episode was packed with so many contrivances and head-boggling decisions that I almost respect its borderline contempt for the audience.
Let’s begin with the biggest storyline of the night: Betty’s ongoing battle with Stonewall Prep’s resident asshole Brett. At this point I’ve just come to accept that the institution is the sort of blue-blooded old boys network that spawns the type of men who have gotten America into the shitty position that it is today. Money and power grease the wheel, plowing down the less fortunate people in its path. That’s just a fact. Frankly, I watch this show to try to escape from this kind of real-world agita, so perhaps I was predisposed to loathe this storyline from the start.
Nevertheless, I’m still baffled by why Jughead, a supposedly non-conformist, would betray everything to fit in with this crowd. (Especially as he doesn’t actually seem to like anyone there). This has been frustrating all season long, but tonight it reached a new level when Jughead kept his Yale acceptance from Betty then, and much worse, decided to mine her biggest personal tragedy for his own gain.
If Jughead has been shown to be drinking the Stonewall Kool Aid regularly, this would be an easier plot point to swallow. Instead, his behavior is all over the place. Betraying his girlfriend one second, then attempting to defend her honor in a duel the next minute. Unfortunately, since we expect more from Jug, he comes off as a bigger asshole than Brett. I’d like to think that this is all misdirection from the show’s writing staff, that Jug and Betty are working on some top secret exposé of Stonewall Prep or something. Instead I fear that the writers are so intent on shoehorning a huge mystery into each season that they figured the biggest bang for their buck would be to seemingly kill Jughead. The trouble is that none of this really gels.
With the show’s fifth season a certainty, this definitely isn’t going to happen. The final scene — which hints at, oof, a post-Jughead relationship for Archie and Betty — suggests that our hamburger-eating hero isn’t so much dead as can never return to his loved ones. I’m not sure how this show is going to keep all its characters in the same dead end murder town post-graduation, but I fully suspect that Jughead’s fate will be deeply tied to it.
This episode establishes what viewers long suspected, that Brett cheats and buys his way into a better life. “You’re just a pathetic rich kid,” Betty sneers at him, in a world where such individuals rule. But then her behavior becomes inconsistent. Always priding herself on her investigational skills, she leaves evidence suggesting she cheated on the quiz show in the trash can — forgetting that Brett will do anything it takes to win. So yeah, sifting through the trash is small potatoes for him.
Again, hopefully Betty and Jughead are involved in a long con aimed at taking down Brett and Stonewall Academy. (Which would go a long way to redeem their character choices this season). But even then, why? I’m of the opinion that somehow Jughead’s granddad will be the key to all of this. However the resolution, I hope we start moving this plotline towards the finish line soon.
Let’s move on to the rest of this installment’s happenings and see if things improve any. Oh wait, shit.
Tom Keller has been struggling to keep Andrews Construction afloat since Fred’s death, only to have to deal with getting his position taken away by neer-do-well Frank. Tom rightfully tells Archie that he is too trusting, a valid point that is swiftly ignored. At least one character on this series is consistent though, as Archie continues to stupidly give Frank the benefit of the doubt despite all evidence to the contrary. Sigh.
Worse still, after weeks of not getting any screentime, Kevin Keller returns. And don’t you wish he hadn’t? With no discernable personality trait other than horniness, Kevin gets immersed in the world of tickling videos. Huh?
Yo I dug the Tickled documentary too, but not so much so that I want its storyline mirrored in the cringeworthy events depicted here. LGBTQ+ characters still have such little representation on television that it is depressing to see Kevin utilized in such a manner. The writers need to do better with this character, and fast.
Lastly, Veronica and Cheryl decide to reopen the Maple Club as a sales venue for their rum, as if the all powerful Hiram Lodge (Mayor of Riverdale) won’t find this out and shut them down there too.
Real talk: As much as I love it, this show can be exhausting.
– If the actor portraying the unnamed Quiz Show host looked familiar, that’s because he was portrayed by Matty Finochio — aka Chilling Adventure of Sabrina‘s evil ice cream man Jimmy Platt.
– Riverdale High’s chemistry professor is named Dr. Beaker, obviously. (Professor Flutesnoot holds the same position in the comics, so yeah…)
– Jughead kicking off the episode by stating that “Winter had come to Riverdale” reminded me of this Game of Thrones parody from a few years back:
– It bears repeating: Kevin Keller’s comic book counterpart is a well-rounded teen who is an inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community, which makes the one-noteness of his TV counterpart especially disappointing.
– Kevin meets the foot video dude on the Grindem app, an obvious Grindr parody that is, admittedly, hilariously named.
– Archie is currently running the El Royale, attending high school, and working for Andrews Construction. What he lacks in character judgment he more than makes up for in terms of work ethic.
– The story about Fred kidnapping a rival school’s mascot is hilarious, and feels straight out of the pages of an Archie comic book.
– Why is there a secret cabal dedicated to writing the Baxter Brothers books?
– Jughead names his proposed serial killer for his rewrite “The Brown Hood,” as if that will soften the blow for Betty.
– Personally, I’d be into hearing Jughead’s Fishmonger serial killer story.
– Even though Jughead convinced the Yale recruiter to see Betty, would it really make a difference given the fact that the school rejected her due to her father’s crimes? Then again, apparently not as Brett seemed to indicate that Betty did, in fact, get into Yale in a flash-forward we’ve already seen.
– Sure, have Penelope Blossom run the Maple Club again. Great thinking! What could possibly go wrong?
– What’s the over/under on how long until tickling brings Kevin and Fangs back together?
– “Is a former cathouse really on-brand for our female empowerment start up?,” asks Veronica in the only self-aware moment of this episode.
– In case you missed it, it was announced that this year’s musical episode will showcase Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Read our thoughts on this development here.