This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 5
“Never let anyone tell you that you don’t belong.”
Riverdale is a series where the various plots rarely reflect each other, so this episode is a welcome change of pace. Family is the underlying theme here, be it the revelation of long-lost half-sisters, half-brothers who might be serial killers, alcoholic grandfathers with a knack for gift-giving, or providing those without anywhere else to be a place they can call home. All of our characters have the ties that bind on their minds in this installment, with some of these storylines working better than others.
The most impactful in terms of where the show will go next involve the unexpected arrival of Hermosa Lodge (Mishel Prada). A private investigator from Miami, she arrives to help blow up Veronica’s plans and gets Hiram free using duplicituous methods that are, frankly, on-brand for the Lodges. There’s little doubt that she is Hiram’s daughter, a bit older than Veronica but just as willing to do anything for him as Ronnie once was. We get a glimpse at what can best be described as her chill ruthlessless tonight, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch how Hermosa and Veronica’s relationship will evolve over the course of this season. (My prediction, they’ll be mortal enemies until they decide to band together to deal with Hiram once and for all). As for Hermione, it seems like her problems are just beginning. Yet don’t shed any tears for her, as this episode reminds us, she is a cold-blooded killer who deserves some comeuppance.
While not as much of a jaw-dropper as the Lodge happenings, Betty’s experiences in this episode will stick around in my psyche for a while due to how disturbing they were. Already on edge because she possesses genes that pre-dispose her to serial killer tendencies, Betty’s Junior FBI Training reveals that she possesses a sixth sense to recognize murderers on sight. This is a suitably ridiculous plot development with no scientific basis whatsoever, duh, but it triggers Betty to think about her dark side more. Determined not to follow in her dad’s murderous footsteps, she decides to quit the program after learning that most serial killers have a history of animal abuse. This leads to a creepy flashback sequence in which we see Betty snuff the life out of her beloved cat, Caramel.
Even though she is urged to smash the cat’s head in with a rock by her dad, this killing — atrocious though it may be — is an act of mercy. Betty is not ending Caramel’s life due to her father’s bloodlust, but because her much-loved pet was suffering after being hit by a car. Still, this scene was easily the most unsettling thing the show has ever done, and remember, people die on Riverdale on a semi-regular basis.
Later Betty learns that Charles himself has the same serial killer gene that she has (and Hal had), and immediately jumps to the conclusion that he is running around killing people — despite his telling her that he joined the FBI to understand and quell his urges. I mean, she’s probably right, but it’s still a mighty leap in logic. Betty is ultimately too good at heart to be a serial killer, but using her genetic disadvantage to assist catching real maniacs? That’s something that is very plausible, and Charles has set her down this path, regardless of what his true intentions are.
The Jughead portion of the episode, or Dread Poets Society as I like to call it, continues its slog of half-baked commentary on class warfare. Everyone at Stonewall Prep is awful. What are Jughead’s other classes like? Is anyone there even remotely cool? Isn’t it a conflict of interest for Mr. Chipping to make his students read a book he wrote? If the curriculum there is so sophisticated, why are these kids reading elementary school mysteries? How great was Forsythe the First’s writing that a colleague from at least 40 years ago is still swooning over it enough to want to meet the man’s son? Will Bret ever get the punch in the face he deserves? Each time the action switches to Stonewall Prep, more questions are posed. As viewers we have yet to get one solid reason why Jughead would want to turn his back on his friends, family and the Serpents to go there, and until this is addressed (spoiler alert – it probably never will be), it’s hard to invest in this storyline. Especially since Jughead is marked for death.
Wrapping things up is Archie’s continued determination to make his father proud by giving the youth of Riverdale a safe space to hang out. This is a very noble effort, one that can be achieved with determination, money, and the help of the community. Archie has two of these things, but Dodger is pitting local businesses against him. (Also, is Dodger like 40? What the hell is this guy’s deal). Never one to run from a fight or directly towards a bad impulse, Archie is using his vigilante persona to antagonize Dodger with hopes that he will flee town. Archie never learns. We love Archie, but yo, this kid is super dumb. Sigh.
– Betty’s diary has been a plot point on Riverdale before, but never in such disturbing fashion as in this episode. Yikes. It’s worth noting that while Betty had a cat named Caramel in the comics, it never suffered the fate presented here. Then again, the kitty, who was frequently a part of Bob Bolling’s Little Archie comic, did unceremoniously vanish, so anything is possible. More than anything though, you should seek out the Betty’s Diary 1980s run by Kathleen Webb for a title that gave invaluable insight into Ms. Cooper.
– I was surprised to see that Charles’ Junior FBI Program seems to be legitimate. But I still have no idea what he is actually up to…
– It’s beyond disappointing that Kevin’s defining characteristic on this show continues to be his horniness, especially seeing how his comic book counterpart is a well-rounded inspiration to LGBTQ+ readers.
– That said, Kevin did get the best line of the night when he told Betty “you’re like A Beautiful Mind, but for serial killers!”
– I want to punch Bret right in his snotty, preppie face. Which is the entire point of the character, so well done.
– The Baxter Boys (and their female counterpart, Tracy True) are a very obvious reference to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew — now on the CW! — mystery titles. These books have also been ghostwritten for decades, although not through the boarding school old boys club atmosphere presented here.
– I’m so glad that Pop Tate didn’t have to testify, he’s the only pure character on this show and if anything bad ever happens to him I will riot.
– With the community center being open constantly seven days a week, who is there when Archie is at school?
– Last week’s episode ntroduced us to Julian, who, along with Cheryl and Toni, was completely absent from this episode. Boo. We need more Julian, and we need it now!
– Archie reaching out to local businesses for their support and then immediately low-key threatening them is a very Archie thing to do.
– Yeah, Archie being a vigilante again is stupid, but at least this time around it seems like his battles with the ridiculously named Dodger are going to be entertaining. Plus, K.J. Apa’s Batman-inspired vigilante voice is a thing of beauty.
– Was anyone else getting serious Night Monkey vibes from Archie’s crimefighting costume?
– Jughead briefly mentions to Donna how the Stonewall Four is real. There’s really no doubt that they are, and that Stonewall Prep students and faculty will prove to be involved in this scandal. The real question is how will this mystery tie into Jughead’s apparent murder, and whether or not Moose is actually in the Army. I’m thinking things aren’t looking to good for old Marmaduke.
– The latest fake Riverdale brand is Tucci, an expensive line of bags that rich criminals like to hide their stolen cash in.
– We learn that Governor Dooley’s first name is Donald, furthering Riverdale‘s love for alliteration. Fred Henderson plays the oft-blackmailed politician in this episode.
– Forsythe Jones the First was a “bit of a brawler,” a violent drunk, and a terrible father. Sounds like he’ll fit right in on Riverdale when he appears in a few weeks.
– Yeah, Hiram will definitely become mayor. Even on TV shows I watch to escape reality, politics are deeply fucked.
– I still am undecided about these flash forwards, but the use of Eels’ “Fresh Blood” as Archie, Betty, and Veronica were arrested for Jughead’s murder was a left-field, inspired choice.