This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 4 Episode 7
“Conspiracy theories and a murder mystery to solve? Sounds like a romantic weekend to me.”
Taking its name from Rick Moody’s novel (and its subsequent 1997 film adaptation) The Ice Storm, this Thanksgiving-themed episode of Riverdale was in and of itself a look at complicated family dynamics. There’s a lot of bizarre shit that went down in this episode, and we will get to that in a moment. But first, let’s examine the scenes that provide the heart of this installment — those involving Archie and Mary remembering Fred.
I mentioned in my review of the season premiere how difficult it is for TV shows to handle the death of a lead actor as gracefully as Riverdale has done. What has been an unexpected surprise though is how the series’ writers continue to honor the humanity of Luke Perry/Fred Andrews as the season progresses. We see Archie and Mary mourning at his graveside as the episode begins, and this sadness is an undercurrent of the entire episode. (Mary’s kitchen breakdown here allows Molly Ringwald a chance to really show off her dramatic acting chops). Fred’s loss hasn’t been addressed then forgotten, it continues to drive the future of the Andrews family, and, by extension, other members of their community.
Admittedly, with the exception of Fred, every main character on the show is in his or her own way, an absolute mess. Fred was their moral compass, and the lessons that he left behind are still providing guidance. Archie, ever rudderless, suddenly has narrative purpose in his absence. His determination to make the El Royale a place that honors his dad is literally realized as this episode ends. Riverdale is a show that loves its flashy endings, most recently with the flash-forwards about Jughead’s approaching death. Tonight though we are given just an image of a smiling Fred Andrews, followed by the series’ logo presented in silence. This is really affecting, thoughtful stuff. Who knew?
Archie has always been the most problematic character on the show, but now he is the most likable he has ever been. As viewers, we want the El Royale to succeed because that is Archie’s way of honoring his father, who was portrayed by a true Hollywood good guy who left us far too soon. We know that eventually our red paladin will triumph over Dodger and his equally hateworthy clan, for Fred means too much to him and the writer’s for Archie to fail here. For this episode at least, there is victory for Archie. It will be short-lived, but it’s there. And he has made his father proud.
At the opposite spectrum in terms of lovable TV dads is Hiram Lodge. His latest scheme to win back Veronica’s heart is to shut down the El Royale’s Thanksgiving party for the less fortunate (a plan that backfires spectacularly but does allow for some great F.P./Hiram tension at La Bonne Nuit). Hiram remains the show’s most frustrating character in that we never remotely believe that he is the criminal mastermind/great father that it wants us to. For seasons now I kept expecting the writers to turn the tables on him, showing us a Hiram who is utterly broken. Yet the emperor still has clothes, and his villainy is neither impressive nor threatening. Did he arrange for Dodger to be beaten? Of course. Does it matter? Not one bit. There’s no changing Hiram, he is on a plot-driven hamster wheel.
If the show were more clever it would use Hiram to make a statement about our times, and how the rich and powerful get away with pretty much anything. But it’s super annoying in real-life and even moreso on a TV show that regularly features flashier subject matter. And with that said, let’s talk about Cheryl and her plotline in this episode.
Here’s the thing about the Blossoms. They are so cartoonish at this point that they make everything else that happens on this demented funhouse of a show seem realistic by comparison. Whether casually mentioning that the family has been known to eat human flesh or plotting to bury a relative’s corpse during an ice storm, nothing is beyond the pale for this clan. I fully expected Cheryl to rip away the tablecloth to reveal the remnants of Uncle Bedford’s cannibalized corpse a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I suppose that two dinners hitting the floor per episode is too much, even for this series.
I am downright shocked that Cheryl and Toni didn’t just go right ahead and feed Aunt Cricket and the hilariously named Cousin Fester their loved one, but I suppose there are some things that even this show can’t come back from.
Over at Stonewall Prep, Betty’s visit to see Jughead goes as expected — with her getting deeply involved with the mysteries at the school. Bret and Donna’s plan to haze Jughead again fails spectacularly thanks to the arrival of Ms. Cooper. All we really know about why Jug’s classmates were there Thanksgiving weekend is to screw with him…and maybe further cover-up Mr. Dupont’s involvement with Chipping’s death.
The school scenes with Jughead have been a drag so far, mainly because they remove him from the main action. Having Betty in there with him mixing it up with the one-note Bret was a welcome reprieve from this storytelling lull. It will remain to be seen, but I hope there’s something larger at play here involving Jug’s (alleged) demise than just him running afoul of a fellow student and learning who really created a popular series of children’s books.
– The sheer volume of junk food wrappers that comes cascading off of Jughead’s bed towards the end of this episode suggests that he and Betty truly did have their version of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
– Where exactly is Jellybean this episode? Did she go spend the holiday with Gladys? If so, huh?
– We learn tonight that the Baxter Brothers franchise is worth millions, explaining why Dupont is so eager to keep the truth about the books’ origins a secret.
– It is very out of character for Jughead to read the note Bret dropped, especially with Betty there to help him with his sleuthing. Was that letter the real deal suicide note? Or a bizarre Quill and Skill secret society activity?
– I kept hoping for Betty to point out to Jughead how awful Stonewall Prep was and question why he was so committed to staying there, it being a mystery haven or not.
– Bret receiving three stitches for his antics is fantastic, even more so because it was Betty who wallopped him.
– F.P. makes the solid argument that if Hiram can be a crook and a mayor, he can be both sheriff and serpent. It’s always so jarring whenever a character on this show has an epiphany.
– Vegas continues to be nowhere to be seen. And at this point I’ve given up on the series ever showing Hot Dog’s adorably floofy head again.
– I’m not sure what to think about the character of Donna at this point, but I suspect that she is being manipulated by Bret, awful, handsome, dead-eyed Bret.
– Veronica gets the line of the night when she declares “Mrs. Andrews, I’m obsessed” after Mary’s display of heroics.
– F.P.’s frequent pointing out of how inspirational Fred Andrews was continues to make me emotional.
– What exactly was Nana Rose’s reaction to seeing the corpse of her grandson trotted out during dinner?
– I was hoping the game of Never Have I Ever would get more sinister, with Betty and Jug really opening up about the darkness of their pasts in an attempt to manipulate Bret and Donna.
– What were Kevin and Reggie’s Thanksgivings like?
– Dodger and his family are just the worst. Is it too much to ask that we never see them again?
– “We Blossoms have always been highly carnivorous.” OF COURSE there’s cannibalism in Cheryl’s family background. This family’s insanity never disappoints, and I’d read the hell out of a Truman Capote-style bio of the Blossom family. Riverdale marketing people, get on that.
– Although with Hiram for now, Hermione looked very unhappy at his mayoral inauguration. The show has teased their separation many, many times before. It would be interesting to see if the writers made it stick.
– Falice shippers must be losing their damn minds right now. Not only are they experiencing domestic bliss these days, but F.P. is going to return to his Serpent roots, no doubt inspiring Alice to do the same in the coming weeks.
– Veronica will not be pleased that her parents, F.P. and Alice broke into La Bonne Nuit for an evening of drinking and fighting. (I’m assuming Hermione still has a key from when she hosted there, but then again, none of these characters are above some light holiday breaking and entering). This is one of those delightful little contrivances that the series will likely overlook, but in reality, whoa this would piss off the already enraged Veronica.
– Hermosa is heading back to Miami for ill-defined business reasons. I hope she returns soon, as I’d love to see a genuine friendship form between her and Veronica, especially if it involves bringing down Hiram.
– The most realistic thing about Riverdale is how it constantly places unqualified people into positions of power.
– “Welcome to Riverdale mom.” Archie’s response to a shell-shocked Mary was more delicious than any fried turkey ever could be.
– There’s no new episode again until December 4th. Until then, let’s be thankful that the series is as ridiculous as ever.