This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 6 Episode 11
“Pop’s has endured for a reason, it’s Riverdale’s anchor.”
Every now and again a moment of television comes along that is so transcendent that it immediately embeds itself into the fabric of our pop culture consciousness: Walter White running around in his tighty whities in the Breaking Bad pilot, Six Feet Under‘s “Breathe Me” death montage, and now, Tabitha Tate drinking a milkshake from the Holy Grail in the latest episode of Riverdale.
Yes friends, this is a thing that actually occurred.
Why? The why is not important at this point. As I’ve said before in my breakdowns of the show the reasoning behind Riverdale in inconsequential as the show is an island unto itself. (In case you really need to know what was up, the series’ current villain Percival Pickens runs a curiosity shop a la Dickens and Friday the 13th: The Series — one that just so happens to have such priceless religious relics lying around). Whee!
The appearance of the Grail was a throwaway moment in the episode, which shows you the level of confidence that the writing staff current has. After all, who needs Indiana Jones macguffins when time travel is suddenly on the table? With the exception of Jughead Jones briefly becoming unstuck in time a few seasons back, sending characters back and forth through decades was not a bow in this series’ creative quiver until right now. But thanks to a near death experience that triggered Tabitha’s latent “chronokinetic” abilities, she is sent to the town’s past where she has to deal with variants of Pickens in the 1940s, ’60s and ’90s — all of whom are determined to destroy Riverdale.
Due to the time periods involved, the show gets an opportunity to attempt some social commentary here. Given Riverdale’s what the fuck? vibe, this could have gone very wrong very quick, but instead we learn about Pop’s past and how the restaurant has been a safe haven for the unjustly marginalized across the decades.
Whether it is being featured in the Green Book or used as a gathering place to heal following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Pop’s Chok’lit Shoppe is not just a diner, but the beating heart of Riverdale itself. And possibly even it’s salvation, but more to come on that front later this season.
Once she realizes that Pop’s is her personal anchor that keeps her grounded during her time jumps, Tabitha is able to glimpse the future of Riverdale and it is a post-apocalyptic wasteland a la The Stand. As she learned in her Curiosity Shop battle with Percival, he is the “personification of evil.” As such, the powers that various Riverdale residents have suddenly been manifesting are going to be used in a war at which the fate of the town, and also humanity, are on the line. Sounds great. And also ridiculous. I’m in.
This is an episode that had to cover a lot of ground, not limited to just giving Pop’s a detailed history or establishing a new normal. Along the way, it also attempted to comment on real life events in a way that — although somewhat awkward at times — was mostly graceful. (Especially the gathering in Pop’s following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.)
Despite Riverdale’s flaws it remains as ambitious and unpredictable as ever. I have no idea where the Percival saga is headed, and this not knowing is exhilarating.
• Erinn Westbrook delivers a remarkable performance in this episode, delivering some absurd material in a believable fashion. Her chemistry with the other main cast members remains electrifying and it will be interesting to see how her time-jumping is utilized in future episodes.
• This episode borrowed liberally from other sci-fi properties, including Doctor Who (the fixed points in history stuff), Somewhere in Time (the talisman to keep you grounded) and Quantum Leap (traveling through time to right wrongs).
• Throughout the decades Kevin Keller is portrayed as a mindless drone assisting Pickens’ law enforcement characters. He deserves better.
• The Holy Grail milkshake thing isn’t even the most confounding event in this episode. That honor goes to Tabitha Tate’s blackmailing of J. Edgar Hoover.
• In case you were wondering, sundown towns were sadly all too real.
• K.J. Apa wasn’t featured much in this episode, but his brief performance as Artie Andrews (Archie’s grandpop) was a standout moment.
• Apparently the only journalist in town, Alice Cooper now hosts the Riverdale Today morning show.
• I wish that Percival’s plan was to bring a monorail to Riverdale instead of a train, but perhaps that’s a bit much?
• The baseball card that Percival gives to Ryan Talbot features Ambrose “Rocket” Pipps. Ambrose Pipps. Ambrose was a character from the Little Archie comics who was pestered by Archie and company (see above). In the Life with Archie: The Married Life magazine, a grown up Archie and Ambrose reconciled and went into business together.
• When Percival’s true form is revealed he is reminiscent of the pale white demon from The Exorcist.
• Next week, Riverdale pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog. This should be interesting if nothing else…