Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica are back home, but will they — and Riverdale — ever be the same?
This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 5 Episode 5
“Spread the news far and wide that Riverdale and its children will not be at the mercy of Hiram Lodge’s destructive whims.”
Of course, this being Riverdale, the above declaration by Toni was immediately undercut by the fact that, yep, once again the town and its children are at the Mercy of Hiram Lodge’s destructive whims. (It’s somewhat shocking an emo cover of “Once in a Lifetime” didn’t immediately begin playing, because this show’s plotting is same as it ever was when it comes to Hiram). By episode’s end he dissolves the township of Riverdale, effectively meaning that community is deader than Dilton.
At least until Archie and company unite to save the town by…teaching at Riverdale High? The details of the plan to defeat Hiram are sketchy at best, and really they don’t matter very much this early in the season. Attention is best refocused elsewhere, which is what I will do just now in term’s of this episode’s developments from most to least interesting.
Obviously first up his Archie and Betty’s shower tryst. This has been a long time coming, and the Bughead shippers are probably having coronaries all over Twitter as you read this. In the aftermath, Betty seems pretty upfront about letting Archie know that it was just a bit of casual fun between old fans. (In other words, she doesn’t want him writing another song). Archie’s immediate concerns are about Jughead and Veronica’s respective feelings. He clearly isn’t over Veronica, so endgamers have some hope left.
Next up is Veronica’s attempts to break free of Chad’s control. There’s a lot of ambiguity about their relationship, something that will be cleared up when he inevitably comes to Riverdale (or whatever the town will be called now). We know that he is trying his hardest to prove his power over Veronica by having her watched and cutting off her credit cards. But which of them truly is the alpha in the relationship? I’m willing to bet my American Excess card on it being Ronnie. I believe that Chad is terrified to see the “She Wolf of Wall Street” back in action again. And Veronica may not have shown it yet, but she’s pining for Archie as much as he is her. Unless this series is suddenly going to go against its carefully established rules, and Hiram repeating his usual nonsense — more on that shortly — indicates that it isn’t.
This brings us to Toni. Vanessa Morgan continues to shine in her larger role here, developing Toni into a deeply real character. Committed to the Serpents and her community, she will do whatever is necessary to save Riverdale. This episode shows her going so far as to utilize her past with Cheryl to attain her goals in an act that could be considered emotional blackmail. The feelings between Cheryl and Toni run deep. The problem here being is that we don’t know exactly how each currently views the other one, and that isn’t taking into account the matter of Toni’s pregnancy and the mystery swirling around it.
Then there’s Jughead. I said it last week and I’ll say it again: Jughead sucks right now. He’s every shitty struggling writer you’ve ever met. Surrounded by debt and oozing toxic masculinty, Jughead needs to course correct and fast. Redemption will likely come when he begins shaping the literary minds of the next generation. Paying off his weirdly aggressive debt collectors would be a good move too. (As someone who has had considerable credit card bills in the past I can say that their collectors are determined, but not rough you up in the malt shop determined). Really though, just give Jughead his hat back and he’ll be fine. #jughat
Lastly there is the Hiram problem. As always Riverdale doesn’t know what to do with Mr. Lodge. Yes, he’s still driven by money and power and doesn’t care who he takes down in the process to achieve his goals. But after the past four years in which we’ve had in which true villainy in the news cycle 24/7, Hiram’s machinations seem downright quaint. So the series is at a crossroads with the character. Hiram needs to evolve or go. Otherwise he will be as ineffective as a soap opera mob boss, always advancing and retreating, forever spinning his wheels with one dopey plan after another. I want to have faith that the writers have something surprising in store for him this season other than more of the same. But episodes like this are making it difficult.
This was originally intended to be the second episode of the season, so I’m happy to overlook the largely expositionary nature of this outing. Slow burns are one thing, but it’s disappointing how business as usual this installment felt given how the series just underwent a dramatic reboot.
• The mystery of the truck driver hits home when his next victim is shown to be Polly (doing her best imitation of the “Karma Police” video). Now that we know she is in deep with the Ghoulies, could the driver be someone she knows from that gang? Or is this person the Trash Bag Killer that Betty was after, and he is seeking to make things personal with her?
• In regards to what I said earlier about Mr. Lodge, having him be the mystery trucker would be different. Not satisfying either, but different at least!
• I’m no expert, but I don’t think the FBI works how this show think it works.
• Reggie Mantle is apparently the busiest person in The Township Formally Known as Riverdale™, working in his father’s car lot, as Mr. Lodge’s right hand man, and as a de facto police officer.
• What exactly does Tom Keller do all day? Sit at his desk, listen to the police scanner and say “I dunno” is my guess.
• So if Riverdale is no more so that means that Mr. Lodge is no longer Mayor, right? And shouldn’t the school board have blinked out of existence after he dissolved the town? That’s how things work, right? Hello?
• Who is caring for Dagwood and Juniper? Alice has a job and Polly it seems is MIA most of the time.
• Jughead owes $9,846 in credit card debt. That’s a lot of burgers.
• Smithers is back! So is Jingle Jangle! There is no connection between these two things. OR IS THERE?
• Tabitha Tate rules.
• I hope we still see Pop Tate from time to time, he’s the only pure thing in Riverdale.
• Given how easily Jughead immediately gives in to every cliche imaginable in his work (ex. – referring to the Chok’lit Shoppe as a “lighthouse in a storm”), his resistance to write what he knows by making his new book about Pop Tate/the death of Riverdale is baffling.
• Further proof Jughead is a hack, his opening narration states “there’s an old adage – you can’t go home again.” Just think that one up there, Faulkner?
• ICYMI the Riverdale High teachers who abandoned their sinking ship were named Ms. Crouton and Mr. Cedar, delightful.
• We don’t know what the contents of the voicemail that Jughead left Betty on the night of his book launch, but they clearly weren’t great. Will this season include flashbacks to pivotal moments in the characters lives over the past seven years? The show could benefit from a bit of Lost panache, and no, Jughead’s bunker doesn’t count.
• Personally, I’d love to live in that bunker. Although that says more about my state of mind one year into the pandemic than it does about Riverdale.
• Jughead’s tab at Pop Tate’s must be astronomical.
• Going into this season I was wondering how the series would stage its annual musical episode with the gang no longer in high school. It looks like that is no longer a concern, huh.
• It’s always fantastic when Veronica’s alter ego of Monica Posh gets to make an appearance.
• Veronica flirts with the idea of moving to L.A. and going all Jerry Maguire by working for the “Morris-William” agency. This show loves having fun with branding.