This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.
Riverdale Season 6 Episode 13
“Those dark secrets that we all carry in our hearts, I am those secrets…”
Riverdale continues to be anything but dull.
With the apocalypse looming, the series’ latest episode focused on…overdue library books. Yes friends, you read that correct. The next step in Percival Pickens’ plan to destroy the town and then the world involved pestering Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Cheryl and Reggie to return books they checked out from the Riverdale Public Library days, sometimes years, ago. Turns out that Percival is planning to close and demolish the town’s only library to make room for a hotel that will be required to, er, lodge all the guests that his new railroad will bring in. (It is unclear whether or not he actually plans on building a railroad before causing the end of life as we know it, but like everything with this show, just go with it).
Before he closes the library, he wants all of its books back. Jughead rightfully surmises that this is because Percival seeks to control the knowledge and thinking of Riverdale’s residents. Books promote imagination and independent thought, things that are enemies to Percival and his evil plans. Since none of our heroes except Reggie have the books handy, Percival takes possessions that have great importance to them. He then uses these totems to create spells that will reignite past traumas, resulting in Betty recovering forgotten memories of her serial killer father, Jughead needing some serious time with a dermatologist, Archie recalling his abuse from Ms. Grundy, Veronica dealing with literal black widows, Cheryl…getting roses, and so forth. It’s all extremely unsubtle, as one would expect. Yet also very effective.
Betty compares Percival’s latest antics to “someone picking through my brain with dirty fingers.” It’s an accurate statement, as he is utilizing items of great importance to mindfuck his enemies. While Jughead is able to find the missing books and get all of their possessions back from Percival, the damage is already done. By the time the credits roll, Archie has recontexualized his experiences with Ms. Grundy, Betty has made discoveries about her father that she can apply to the TBK case, Cheryl has, well, just become every more amazing, Jughead has verbalized one of his greatest fears, Veronica has inadvertently killed (more on that next week), and the not-too-bright Reggie has decided to learn Percival’s dark magic.
Other than reminding viewers that public libraries are necessary and generally awesome, the big accomplishment of this episode was to remind viewers of what an absolute asshole Percival is. One that has a mastering of dark magic too, which makes him even more of a threat. But at this point his antics are already getting tired, and if the season continues to establish him as untouchable then, powers or not, he will just be Hiram 2.0. And nobody wants that.
• Riverdale finally (and fleetingly) addresses how problematic the Ms. Grundy storyline from the first season is here, showing Archie haunted by their relationship and Betty reminding him that the music teacher was grooming him.
• Kevin Keller continues to circle the drain as a character, choosing to ally himself with Percival. (And hooking up with him too, despite having Moose yearning for him). On a series where everyone makes bad decisions always, Kevin might just be the worst of the lot.
• Veronica casually referring to Dr. Curdle Jr. as “Betty’s bestie” is the funniest dialogue of this episode.
• Jughead’s eczema, including a finger nail that was falling off, was a homage to the sequence in 1986’s The Fly where Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) finds his skin ripping apart as he transforms into an insect. As such, Jughead reading Kafka was a nice touch, and more subtle than his overt reference to the Cronenbergian body horror he was experiencing.
• Why would Percival allow anyone to remain in Sketch Alley?
• Oh no, Archie’s totally going to begin singing again, isn’t he?
• I legitimately laughed and loud at the reveal that Archie’s missing library book was “Songwriting from the Heart.”
• Cheryl referring to Percival as a “crumpet-eating buffoon” was delightful.
• Reggie may be dim, yet is he is absolutely right that Veronica can’t stand to be alone.
• It is interesting that a show chock full of fake brands mentioned the very real (and fantastic) book stores The Strand and Powell’s. Both are must visits when in New York City and Portland, OR respectively.
• Alas, there is no Barney’s Book Barn in Allentown, PA. However, there is a Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, PA. Coincidence or homage?
• Little Betty learning about spark plugs and wanting to tell her father about it is very sweet and in character with her comic counterpart.
• It is somewhat of a contrivance that Percival didn’t go after Toni or Fangs, but understandable as the episode is only 48 minutes long.
• Jughead states that Tabitha is in Albany trying to get Pop’s declared a historical landmark. Is the first time that Riverdale has explicitly been established as a town in New York state?
• Reggie’s comic was an issue of The Mighty Crusaders, a superhero publication whose real world counterpart pre-dates the Archie characters from MLJ Comics. Once Archie and his friends became popular in the 1940s, MLJ switched its name to Archie Comics. What are referred to as the MLJ Superheroes have a long and complicated history, with the characters sporadically appearing to this day — case in point, The Fox has a new adventure in stores this week.
• With so much having changed in Veronica’s life, it’s nice to see that Smithers (Tom McBeath) is still around.
• Cheryl being obsessed with Flowers in the Attic is 100% on brand for her.
• Kiss of the Spider Woman inspired a musical that was a plot point on the Archieverse series Katy Keene. Judging from the preview from next week’s episode, it looks like that musical may be getting another shoutout from Veronica.