This review contains spoilers.
4.3 Dog Day Afternoon
“There is no single way to tell a story.”
Indeed. The most consistent thing over the first 60 episodes of Riverdale is just how inconsistent a show it is. At times, it’s a wildly subversive guilty pleasure. Others, 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 centre 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 mother 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) criticise 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 centre 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 centre. Can’t wait to see what illegal and stupid ways he’ll screw it up!