This Riverdale review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 5 Episode 11
“What the hell just happened?”
Following a lengthy hiatus, Riverdale has finally returned with its final batch of episodes from the series’ fifth season. As you may or may not recall, when credits rolled on the previous episode Riverdale High was being destroyed by convicts freed by Mr. Lodge from his prison, Veronica had retreated to New York City, and, most excitingly, Jughead was apparently abducted by aliens (which, in this show’s universe, would be a pretty ordinary development).
Unfortunately, this latest installment quickly undoes these game-changing developments in the lamest television backpedal since Millennium transformed the supposedly world-ending Marburg Virus into a regional outbreak. (Oh how one yearns for an era when global pandemics were the stuff of pop culture fodder). Thusly, Riverdale High can be back up and running in three weeks, Veronica is back in Riverdale, and Jughead’s abduction was explained as a bad Maple Mushroom trip. It is this last development that is most disappointing as this season has been hinting at otherworldly activity such as aliens and Mothmen constantly. So now are these paranormal plotlines gone, or is this episode merely a red herring until the weird shit returns? Hopefully the latter, otherwise Riverdale has once again succeeded in spinning its wheels with a mystery that never fully satisfied. (The Farm, I’m talking about you).
Speaking of The Farm, Riverdale is going back to the crazy religion well again with the Blossoms’ new Jason-themed cult. Cool though it may be to dream of, as Penelope puts it, “a realm beyond this mortal coil where maple syrup flows in rivers,” we have already seen this exact storyline before. So unless the writers are planning on making up for the Farm’s petering out by harnessing the unhinged power of the Blossoms’ insanity, this plot may just be another exercise in futility.
Arguably the biggest reveal of this episode is that we learn that the real estate Mr. Lodge bought up in the town formerly known as Riverdale is rich with palladium, and his goal to destroy the community so that it can bleed its natural resources dry comes sharply into focus. Well, at least somewhat into focus. Lodge has been playing the long game here, and while this particular installment doesn’t make too huge of a deal about his scheming, it is nice to know there’s some actual motive behind his actions other than inconsistent characterization.
This leads us to Archie and company’s rescue of Governor Dooley and their most recent defeat of the Dickinson clan. There was little doubt that our heroes would save the day, so what could have been some rote storytelling was leveled up with the best fight choreography seen on Riverdale to date. More of this please.
The best part of this episode? Establishing the friendship between Tabitha Tate and Betty. Erinn Westbrook and Lili Reinhart shine in their scenes together, and their trip sequence was a comedic highlight. I’ve stated many times before that the true pleasure of Riverdale is how ridiculous it is, so it is a challenge to deliver ridiculous dialogue and sell the insane plots in a believable fashion without winking at the audience. Westbrook and Reinhart’s performances here show that as dumb as things get, they still are handled skillfully in a way that heightens the entertainment.
As the episode ends, Jughead finds himself getting into the truck of what appears to be this season’s Big Bad while one his way to resolve his mystery NYC trauma. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m still holding out hope that somehow, some way Mothmen are involved…
- Yes, we live in an era of corporate synergy, but it is still weird seeing Jughead, an Archie Comics character, wearing a Superman T-shirt.
- If Cheryl is still keeping Jason’s skeleton around, who did she give the Viking funeral to?
- Having the psychedelic “Walking in Space” from the Hair soundtrack Betty and Tabitha’s trip/the hostage rescue/Penelope and Cheryl’s current descent into madness was some inspired musical direction.
- In this episode, Betty — an FBI agent — is effortlessly drugged by an NYC burnout. Even for Riverdale this is an absolute contrivance.
- What does Vanessa really want with Jughead’s manuscript? Is there more to her alleged motive that to see if Jug wrote about their volatile time in NYC together?
- Veronica mentions her outfit is from Lacy’s new fall line, in this show’s latest nod to the gone-too-soon Katy Keene.
- For those of you who, like I was, wondering what the hell Palladium is, Wikipedia comes to the assist.
- K.J. Apa’s hair dye was working overtime in this episode.
- In an episode sprinkled with tidbits filling in backstory that happened during the time gap, the most interesting revelation is that Reggie began working for Mr. Lodge after his father borrowed money from him.
- As far as Veronica knew, Tom Keller was bleeding out on the floor of the El Royale. Not that she even thought to mention that to Kevin or Archie or anyone really.
- Alice quips “back to remote learning” after discovering that Riverdale High will be out of commission for three weeks. Did the pandemic happen in the show’s world?
- “Although this may be potentially cringey, I think we should read Jughead’s manuscript,” says Betty, in the episode’s most truthful line.
- Has this series ever had a less compelling B-plot than Jughead’s Sketch Alley walkabout? No. No it has not.