This review contains spoilers.
And just like that, Riverdale‘s mid-season finale wraps up with the jaw-dropping reveal that Dark Betty killed Jughead.
Say it ain’t so Bughead Nation!
Admittedly, I have no idea where this plot is going. Up until tonight I was convinced that Bret and the jerks over at Stonewall Prep were responsible for Jughead’s apparent death. (For the record, I’m still convinced that any information presented here suggesting otherwise are merely red herrings). But let’s take what we see as the episode closes at face value: Betty, finally fully giving into the darkness inside of her/those serial killer genes, murders Jughead.
This completely blows up the show… which is something I am all for. But also there’s no way that a teen drama on the CW has the guts to kill off their A-list leads, especially in such a grim manner. So what the hell is happening here? Who knows? And that’s a great thing.
From both a critical and fan point of view, the uncertainity of where this is all going is exhilarating. Yes, Jughead will ultimately be safe. Then again, he sure as hell looked pretty dead there. We are only getting brief glimpses of these flash-forwards, and the pieces will fit together one way or another. (Hopefully in an organic way instead of being steamrolled together like a puzzle done by an angry child). The truth will only reveal itself when we watch this storyline play to its conclusion, for now though, Dead Jughead is a fascinating storyline. Which is something that is in short supply right now on Riverdale.
Edgar Evernever’s fun death aside, The Farm storyline was never properly wrapped up. By bringing Evelyn back into the story by having her still seething at Betty and wanting to hurt the Cooper family feels natural. She is a continuing menace and by re-introducing her to the show, the writers have a chance to (eventually) wrap up the cult storyline in a much more satisfying way.
On the journey to that point hopefully we won’t have to endure any more of Betty’s internal visions. The scene where Betty tried to eliminate the dark part of her personality was laughable, and had all the mystical sensibilities of a Shen Yun ad. This was some real new age nonsense here, which is why the final scene with her in her bedroom was fulfilling. By shattering the mirror Betty has literally fractured herself, and the evil part of her persona in now clearly in charge. (And is four weeks away from killing the love of her life).
Elsewhere, we are promised the end of vigilante Archie tonight, which will remain to be seen. Archie’s ongoing battles with Dodger never really had any emotional heft. The arcade-based foe and his hick family seemed like no threat for a man who took on a bear and survived, so they will not be missed. What this plot did enable though was F.P. finally coming to terms with the fact that there’s a Serpent inside of him that needs to get out. He’s been a lawman for too long now, and I fully expect we will see him become an amalgam of these two conflicting sides in the future episodes.
I have a lot of opinions on Jughead’s scenes tonight. Everyone at Stonewall Prep seems so morally corrupt at every level that it’s a huge disservice to Jug – supposedly a master detective – for him to be snowed by any of their bullshit. This episode introduced F.P. the First, and I’m eager to see the dynamic of three generation of Jones men, and if anyone calls Jughead on his inconsistent behaviour.
The Veronica/Hiram wheelspinning continues to be exhausting, but at least we got a fun musical number out of it. Veronica still living in the Pembroke while feigning independence is beyond exhuasting. Maybe Katy Keene will point this out to here when she stops by for her cameo on February 3rd? (One night before her spin-off premieres, none-too-coincidentally).
Finally, Cheryl is fully back in charge of her life in this episode – one week of being stripped of her Vixens due to her emotionally instability. As much fun as the Julian storyline and Cheryl palling around with Jason’s corpse was, it is time to put these matters to rest. Cheryl did just that, with a typically weird-yet-beautiful Viking funeral for her beloved J.J. His freaky corpse will be missed.
Ambition is great, but this episode attempted to do way too much and too fast. In turn it wound up stepping all over dramatic beats and was largely ineffective. If the entire show was impactful as the cliffhanger here, this would have been an all-timer instead of a misfire with some great moments.
Read Chris’ review of the previous episode, In Treatment, here.