This review contains spoilers.
4.5 Witness For The Prosecution
“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 instalment, 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 recognise 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 programme 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 antagonise Dodger with hopes that he will flee town. Archie never learns. We love Archie, but yo, this kid is super dumb. Sigh.