Is Riverdale the Worst Town in America?

Quality of life in "the town with pep!" comes to the forefront in a wacky new episode.

Photo: The CW

This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 6 Episode 8

“Thus began the battle for Riverdale’s soul…”

With Hiram Lodge well and truly dead (for now at least), Riverdale‘s search for a new Big Bad has yielded the arrival of Percival Pickens (Chris O’Shea), a mysterious stranger who has family ties to one of the town’s darkest periods. After initially showing up two weeks ago looking to buy the Andrews house — an offer which Archie refused with a stern “no way, bro” — Percival has been sniffing around town, trying to figure out the interpersonal relationships of the townspeople and pretty much figuring out right away all the shady shit that goes on in this supposedly ideal community.

He pens an anonymous essay for the Riverdale Choice in which he accurately calls the town out on its rampant gang and violence problem, intolerance, lack of culture and general Riverdaleness. This in turn ruffles the feathers of ride or die Riverdalians such as Archie and Jughead, not to mention Veronica and Reggie, who are trying to get their Babylonium casino to become successful. There’s just one little problem: Percival is right about Riverdale being an absolute shithole of a town.

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Which leads us to the crucial problem about this current plotline, namely that Percival, slimy and crammed with psuedo-charm though he may be, makes some good points. (Mind you not about his treatment of the homeless in Sketch Alley, an issue on which he dismisses the wisdom of Gandhi in a conversation with Jughead over). But the gangs and crimes and drugs and general mayhem? Yeah, he’s kinda right.

This would have been a great opportunity for episode writer Brian E. Paterson to have Archie embark on one of his rar-rah speeches about how although Riverdale is an awful place to life, it’s his awful place to life. Instead, he immediately goes on the defensive, forgetting about the past five seasons of general nightmare living that he and his friends have experienced. One has to wonder what other than his idealism is Archie trying to preserve here?

Initially, Archie and Jughead don’t know that Percival is up to no good, and their apprehension towards this outsider further validate his statements in the Riverdale Choice. As viewers, we understand from Percival’s grandstanding and scenery chewing that he is up to good, but frankly Archie isn’t that smart. So basically Archie is in the wrong here, at first anyhow.

Percival’s vibe shifts for good into villainy during his one-on-one with Jughead. It is revealed that Jug is having a hard time reading Percival’s thoughts, attempts that the latter shuts down with a loudly thought “get out of my head, you piece of garbage.” Subsequently, we learn that Percival possesses a magical ability to utilize what he calls the “power of persuasion” to talk people into doing things that will further his own mustache-twirling agenda. (Including having a Babylonium patron kill himself to bring bad press to the casino, convincing Doc to attack Kevin, and talking the Kellers into letting him on the police force).

In a rare moment of total awareness, Archie realizes that Percival is “like a supervillain.” One that it will be up to him, Betty, Jughead and Bingo the superdog to help defeat. This not-so-Fantastic Four will have their work cut out for them, as the episode closes with Percival staring at his nefarious vision board, plotting what his next move will be. To be fair, he may be sinister, but he isn’t entirely wrong about how Riverdale needs to make some serious changes.

Riverdale Rundown

• Tonight’s episode of Riverdale was brought to you by Chime and Benjamin Moore paints. In case you missed the blatant product placement that felt straight out of the Josie and the Pussycats movie.

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• Arguably the most inept cops in television history, The Kellers are manipulated into deputizing Percival (unaware he talked Doc into hitting Kevin with a hammer). Columbo, these two aren’t.

• Three episodes into this season and I desperately miss the goofy musical moments. Hopefully these will return sooner rather than later.

• This episode’s B-plot involved Britta infiltrating Abigail’s dreams to reach Cheryl. She is assisted in this quest by Nana Rose, which makes absolutely zero sense as Nana was the one who wanted to Abigail to possess Cheryl’s body in the first place.

• It’s just a matter of time before Abigail teams up with Percival to become Riverdale’s evil power couple.

• I was hoping the show would take the opportunity to turn Penelope into a giant snake creature a la the one who appeared in the 1984 Dennis Quaid film Dreamscape.

• That said, Penelope Blossom going full Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest — complete with wire hanger reference — was an absolute campy delight.

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• It’s super disquieting when Jason Blossom talks on this show, even if he only says a word or two. And does Trevor Steins age?

• Vacation destination “Marcia’s Vineyard” gets a shoutout here.

• Percival conveniently doesn’t mention the biased and easily manipulated nature of Riverdale’s town council in his essay.

• My mind briefly became a “Sure Jan” gif when Archie declared that “Riverdale takes care of its own.”

• Good for Veronica for realizing that no one in her podunk town would ever forget the sins of her father, so she’s better off leaning into her criminal legacy.

• Betty’s escape from Riverdale to lure TBK away lasted not even an entire episode, with her mentioning that she lost him somewhere in Maine. Rest assured, he’ll be back.

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• The most self-aware line is this episode? “Riverdale has a lot of broken people.”

• What do we think Percival is really up to here? Is he a warlock? The devil? How long until his brand of charisma-packed evil gets tired on a Hiram scale? Wait and wonder.

• K.J. Apa’s hair seems to be rejecting the red dye with each subsequent scene.

• Betty doesn’t blink at eye at the discovery that Jughead can read minds. Maybe Riverdale is the best town in America after all…