This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 6
“This is what happens in Riverdale.”
Six episodes in to this season of Riverdale and the brakes are fully off. Finally.
It has long been my complaint that the series needs to fully ramp up the crazy without hesistation and this has come to pass. Yes, Jingle Jangle, the Gargoyle King, the Black Hood, The Farm, etc were all insane, but now, in its fourth season, a murderous doll named Julian is front and center. Oh hell yeah.
It is the kind of televisual insanity I live for. Not since the glory days of Melrose Place has a series had so many stupefying plot developments, and really, it’s a thing of beauty. This episode’s most interesting storyline involves Cheryl further descending into madness as she becomes convinced that the spirit of Julian, a triplet who she absorbed in the womb, is haunting Thistlehouse. Logic dictates that the seemingly nimble refuge from Trilogy of Terror is just a device being used by her remaining relatives to drive her insane and then be able to sell the family’s struggling maple syrup business out from under her. Then again, this is Riverdale, so maybe the doll actually is alive a la The Boy. Fingers crossed!
Regardless, something is going on with Julian, and it is causing Cheryl to miss school. When Toni finally convinces her to leave Thistlehouse and return to Riverdale High, Dagwood mysteriously chokes on a ping pong ball in Cheryl’s absence. Seeing how Julian has escaped the containment circle she created, Cheryl decides to take matters into her own hands and drowns the doll — hoping to kill its malevolent spirit. That’s how she rolls.
Further complicating her already-packed week is the arrival of her relatives, who want Cheryl to agree to sell her stake in the family’s maple syrup business. Cheryl seems amenable to this until Uncle Bedford mentions wanting to visit the Chapel, the same place Corpse Jason is currently enjoying the afterlife in. Before you can say “institutionalize,” Uncle Bedford breaks in to the Chapel, discovers the grotesque tableau on display there and attacks Cheryl. A fight ensues in which Bedford is mortally wounded by Toni. The couple that kills together chills together!
What is so much fun about this whole storyline, more than its inherent ridiculous, is that it plays off of the American Gothic nightmare that is everything about the Blossom family. Glued together by incest and maple syrup, this is the most dysfunctional of families whose reality is severely heightened on a show where things already have a baseline off-kilterness. Meanwhile, Toni is a levelheaded character who increasingly is becoming poisoned/enhanced (your call) by Cheryl’s bizarre drama. Now the pair have blood on their hands, and this plus the yet-to-be-resolved Julian saga should result in some captivatingly goofy TV in the coming weeks.
As Choni contends with actual murder, Betty resumes her investigation into whether or not that Charles is a serial killer. The verdict is still out on that one, but in this installment we learn that he is in cahoots with his lover, Chic (a returning Hart Denton). Chic and Charles have launched an ambitious plan involving the exhumation of the Shady Man’s body to gain the Cooper family’s trust. Sure, why not? The plan works, Betty welcomes Charles fully into her life. Oh Betty, you are so much smarter than this. Sigh.
Family matters are also the focus of Veronica’s storyline, as she welcomes her mom home from prison and into a new hostess job at La Bonne Nuit. Much like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, Hermione isn’t prepared to live an ordinary life like a schnook, so she soon falls back into the arms of Hiram. (“I already regret this,” she sighs, echoing the sentiments of viewers who have had enough of these two already). Veronica’s new normal also involves having her dad an Hermosa embark on a new rum business, which apparently has been Hiram’s passion…even though he’s never mentioned it before. Contrivance Rum, drink it and let thoughts of contemptous writing drift away.
Hermosa has now firmly taken her place in her father’s heart, so much so that a picture of her hangs where Veronica’s once did. At least that’s what she thinks. Hiram however tells Veronica that she remains his favorite daughter. Reminder: Parents shouldn’t have favorites. This declaration aside, Veronica doesn’t want him back in her life, let alone the Pembrooke. She’s standing her ground, renewed vowels or not, and setting out on her own without her parents’ help. We’ve heard all this before though, haven’t we?
The repeated mistakes don’t end there though! Archie is in a bit of a pickle in that his community center still isn’t a hit with the kids, despite all the free junk food and videogames he throws at them. (Might I suggest an animatronic band at the El Royale?) Dodger is still being a pain in the ass, even more so once he discovers that Archie is the vigilante that has been messing with his burgeoning criminal empire. Following having his house shot up, Archie takes the desperate measure of seeing if Mr. Lodge can handle Dodger for him. This move actually makes some sense, with Fred gone all he has is Mary, and his wanting to protect her at all costs very much charts with what we know about Archie. Hiram says no to Archie’s request for street justice. Nevertheless, Archie and Reggie arrive at the gym to find a nearly dead Dodger wrapped in a carpet and thrown in the trash. And with that, Archie again owes Mr. Lodge big time.
There’s no flash-forward about Jughead’s impending death this week. Instead, we are given some exposition about how Forsythe the First created the Baxter Brothers series and apparently had the characters ripped away from him by Mr. Dupont. Exactly why Dupont was so eager to reconnect with Forsythe is a mystery, other than to perhaps rub salt in an old wound. Jughead goes to Mr. Chipping with his findings, who says he is eager to help before subsequently leaping out a window. Jug has uncovered a truth that could shake Stonewall Prep’s very foundations. And maybe result in his faking his own death? Time will tell…
– As if the Blossom family storyline wasn’t already insane enough, this episode may have just introduced one of the craziest characters from Archie Comics lore ever: Cricket O’Dell. A ginger with the ability to smell money, Cricket would fit in perfectly with the Blossom clan. We don’t know as of yet if this Cricket is the same as the one in the comics (a first season Easter Egg named Ms. O’Dell as a Riverdale High student), but it seems more than a little bit likely. Stay tuned.
– The best line of this episode, if not the series to date, was Cheryl yelling “damn you demon doll!” at Julian. Friends, do you even begin to realize what a golden age of television we are currently living in?
– Penelope Blossom is still missing. My prediction is she is the one pulling Julian’s strings. Although I really, really want Julian to be a sentient being.
– Jughead makes an offhand mention of being “in existential hell,” as if this were a new development for him.
– Speaking of Jug, the writers have really toned down his eating this season so far, boo.
– Is there any doubt that Dodger is working for Hiram?
– The end credits tell us silent member of the Blossom family who arrives with Bedford and Cricket is named Cousin Fester Blossom, an obvious (and appropriate given both clans’ creepiness) refefrence to The Addams Family.
– It’s kind of hilarious that F.P., a former thug-turned-sheriff, has qualms about arresting Dodger without cause but has zero problem helping to assist in the cover up of the Shady Man’s murder for the second time just a few scenes later. Logic has no place on this show, and really, isn’t that part of its charm?
– Let’s add Archie to the list of terrible pet owners on this show. He’s not as bad as Betty (too soon?) or Jughead (Hot Dog, I haven’t forgotten you), but we haven’t seen Vegas since the season premiere.
– Everytime Sketch Alley is mentioned, I can’t stop laughing for at least five minutes.
– I was going to question how Betty knew how to operate and read a polygraph machine, but this is probably part of the standard curriculum at Riverdale High.
– There were no Mr. Honey scenes this week, fortunately.
– Ms. Bell sure had a lot of information about what happened to Dagwood. Guess there aren’t HIPPA Laws in Riverdale.
– More Jingle Jangle references please.
– This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a circle of salt used to keep away evil in the TV Archieverse. The method has also been utilized on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
– Dodger knifing Archie’s vigilante mask to the front door of the Andrews house was a creepy touch, especially given the family’s history with the Black Hood.
– Mr. Chipping’s suicidal swan dive out of the window was a mood, even for this show.
– Mr. Dupont referring to Forsythe the First as a “vagabond” is such an accurate caricature of a prep school authority figure.
– Hermosa mentions that her mother is dead, but we don’t know the exact circumstances…or if Hiram was somehow involved.
– Say what you will about Uncle Bedford and Aunt Cricket, but their assessment that Cheryl is having a psychotic break is far from inaccurate.