This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 3
“There is so single way to tell a story.”
Indeed. The most consistent thing over the first 60 episodes of Riverdale is just how inconsistent of a show it is. At times, it’s a wildly subversive guilty pleasure. Other times, such as in the case of last week’s series low, it frustratingly unravels everything that has been established about these characters to date in order to set up a mystery that may or may not pay off down the line (i.e. Jughead abandoning his friends, family, and principles to attend a prep school where he can follow his artistic muse… a decision that we are being told will apparently spell his doom).
We know that Jughead will ultimately survive the challenges that lie ahead, so as viewers we collectively hope that the journey that he and the show’s other characters take this season will be worthwhile regardless. Now that the death of Fred Andrews has been dealt with and the new status quo for the show’s senior year has been established, this third episode allows us to finally get new storylines in motion.
Well, as soon as The Farm is dealt with anyway. You all remember The Farm, right? The cult that the series had been teasing for its first two seasons before finally bringing them front and center last year, to reveal them to be money-grabbing, organ-selling con artists? Well, tonight introduces us to The Farm 2.0. Now on the run from the FBI, Edgar and his cohorts are now holed up in an abandoned hotel and they are getting desperate. With the FBI’s investigation yielding no results, Betty must take action to rescue her mom and save the day, which is done in the sort of shithouse crazy/logic defying way that is exactly what I love most about Riverdale.
After the FBI is unable to defuse a bomb that has been strapped to Polly by a now fully psychotic Edgar, Betty manages to do so with a hairpin. Clever girl, that Betty. Further illustrating her usefulness, she takes matters into her own hands when Governor Dooley is unwilling to give in to The Farm’s demands. (At least until he has a perfectly timed change of heart, after Betty and Alice have already done the dirty work themselves, natch). But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Thanks to Hermione’s Glamorege egg collection, Toni’s passport-forging associates, and some grand theft auto, Betty gains admittance to The Farm HQ.
Alas, it’s a trap. Betty turns the tables though, and she and Alice then embark on a cheer-worthy mission to free the brainwashed Farmies before Edgar sends them to their doom. With the unexpected help of Mr. Weatherbee, Betty is able to get them to freedom while Alice goes after Edgar. It is at this precise moment that Riverdale goes off the rails again in a delightful way. Edgar, in full Evel Knievel mode, had made his own rocket that he plans on using to fly to freedom. Or something. His plan isn’t exactly clear, nor will it become so anytime soon as Alice shoots him dead.
Farewell Edgar, we hardly knew ye. Seriously. Think about it. All this time spent on The Farm and we still have no idea exactly what their goals were and why. I’ll withhold judgment on this for now, hoping that subsequent episodes will shed more light on The Farm and its aftermath. But if we aren’t given proper closure or explanation here, then the group will be another of the show’s ultimately pointless wheel-spinning exercises. (So again, you understand my apprehension about the current Jughead storyline).
Speaking of Mr. Jones, his Dead Poets Society dreams aren’t coming true. He has a new nemesis in the form of the groan-worthy named Bret Weston Wallis (Sean Depner), a “diplobrat” who engages Jug in psychological warfare after they each (accurately) criticize the other’s writing. We can extrapolate their battle of wills will ultimately be the reason that Jughead goes missing, but for now their mutual hatred is at a slowburn.
While Jughead is away and Betty is doing the FBI’s job for them, Archie, Veronica and Cheryl also have their problems. Cheryl doesn’t want anyone to discover that she’s been hanging with Jason’s corpse. Then Toni does. What’s that they say about the best laid plans?
Elsewhere, desperate to raise the money needed to bring the community center up to code — thereby honoring his late father AND giving the kids of Riverdale a safe place to hang out — Archie goes into vigilante mode once more and beats up Dodger (Juan Riedinger), a drug-dealing pain with a Dickensian name. Count on him reappearing soon. Ehh.
At this point I’d like amend the declaration I made at the start of this review: The most consistent thing about Archie is how profoundly stupid he is. Monroe suggests that maybe Veronica can help Archie with his newly stolen dirty money. She wisely works as the voice of reason here, telling Archie to burn the ill-gotten cash. But soon it is a moot point anyway, as Mary has discovered just how passionate Archie is about making his dream a reality. With the help of the $40,000 that Veronica secretly gave him and his mother’s pro bono work, Archie is now on his way to finally opening the community center. Can’t wait to see what illegal and stupid ways he’ll screw it up!
– While prepping his plan to rocket himself to freedom, Edgar Evernever wore a jumpsuit clearly influenced by legendary 1970s daredevil Evel Knievel. A ridiculous touch for sure, but one that is purely and completely Riverdale. I loved it.
– Nana Rose mentions thinking she saw “triplets burning” in the fireplace at Thistlehouse. Perhaps she isn’t suffering from age-related dementia, but is instead referencing a third Blossom child. (After all, someone must be moving Jason’s body). Expect this topic to be revisited in weeks ahead.
– Apropos of nothing, but F.P. promised to buy Jellybean a pack of “Triple Bubble” gum. Is this a red herring, the latest in the show’s long line of goofy fake product names, or playing with numerology that will have serious significance as this season progresses? We will wait and see.
– In a great slap in the face to Hiram, Veronica uses the story he tells her against him and legally changes her last name to Luna, in honor of her grandfather.
– It’s worth noting that the teacher who responds to Betty’s incessant bell-ringing at Riverdale High is named Ms. Bell. Nice.
– Bret may be an asshole, but he was right on the money when he told Jughead that “your prose reads more like a pre-teen journaling about his abandonment issues than a coherent narrative.” Furthermore, he criticizes Jug’s story on the Gargoyle King as “a tawdry waste of time,” echoing the voices of some reviewers who grew tired of that third season plotline. Self-aware Riverdale is the best Riverdale.
– So what exactly is the point of Charles? He’s a shitty half-brother and an even worse FBI agent. These dangling threads make me think the story of The Farm isn’t over just yet.
– Alice and Betty walking in slow motion on their way to end Edgar is the most badass shot this show has done in ages.
– It was great to see Mr. Weatherbee snapped out of his Farm-brainwashing tonight. Missing a finger or not, I’m interested to see if he will square off with Mr. Honey to get his old job back.
– Jughead tells Bret that his dad “had the strength to turn his life around and become sheriff,” uh, yeah, with the help of a corrupt mayor and no law enforcement training whatsoever…
– Shout out to Evelyn Evernever for her shameless cribbing of Patty Heart’s SLA style.
– This episode gives us some much-needed background on Mary Andrews: Unable to find paying work as a lawyer in Riverdale, she was forced to move to Chicago. Yet something doesn’t add up here, seeing how much crime there is in the town that necessitates the need for attorneys…
– The tagline for the fourth season is “sex, lies and videotape.” Now that the mystery of what exactly is on that VHS tape is before us, expect the intrigue to ramp up in next week’s Halloween-themed installment.
– The anarchronistic wonders of the titular town continue, as Riverdale is a place where arcades are not only still a thing, but successful enough of a business model that they can operate at all hours.
– The rat jumping out of Jason’s corpse made me jump.
– Veronica suggests doing Magic Mike or The Full Monty nights at La Bonne Nuit, completely ignoring the fact that Archie and company are still underage.
– During his brief appearance tonight, Moose, er, Marmaduke (the character’s full name from the comics) seemed genuinely at peace with himself. He fully identifies as bisexual now, and has settled in well to his new school environment — making it especially tragic to have his past come back to haunt him. Maybe now he will return to Riverdale…and to Kevin? With Fangs also heading back home, the stage is set for Kevin to have something to do storywise. Fingers crossed!