Farmies, Ghoulies, Serpents, and Poisons — oh my! The town of Riverdale has a gang problem, and the show Riverdale might have a gang problem? I… don’t know. On the one hand, the warring factions and increasingly The Purge-esque sprawl of crimes and violence are becoming a lot (too much, perhaps) to juggle. It’s caused some of the themes that strengthen this show to fade. On the other hand, the show itself has become like a game of G&G, a thrilling journey with twists and turns and wildly high stakes — like a Game Of Thrones, but about suburban high schoolers and their parents. And that’s a very fun setup.
Once again, Archie is stuck in a boxing movie. This time, he takes in a runaway kid named Ricky and teaches him to fight!!!! The student becomes the master… or something. Even though I am perfectly fine with Archie and Veronica no longer being together, the more detached he becomes from the core four, the even harder it becomes to care about him. He’s almost on a different show entirely!
Archie is also, awkwardly, still marked for death. Ricky’s not just a runaway, but the little brother of Joaquin, and he tricks Archie into thinking he’s also marked as a sacrifice. Really, he has been tasked by the Gargoyles with carrying out the mission his dead brother couldn’t complete and kill the Red Paladin. Archie has a target on his back, and Jughead claims that the only way to deal with it is to play G&G again. Sure!
Jughead, meanwhile, is trying to integrate the Ghoulies and the Serpents and unsurprisingly that’s not going so well. The solution is… to deputize the Serpents? Yes, in order to give everyone a renewed sense of purpose (and school credit?!), Sheriff FP Jones is letting a bunch of misguided and unpredictable teens “help him” with “investigations” and other police business. If Riverdale didn’t already have a vigilante justice issue, it sure will now! Again though, the deeper into chaos this town goes, the more here for it I am? Let’s go ahead and make teens not just the arbiters of justice but also all three branches of government.
After all, two teens are already running the most successful business in town: a secret speakeasy that everyone knows about that is also now a casino! Veronica and Reggie are deep in debt to both Gladys Jones and Daddy Hiram, and V’s latest scheme is to install easily hideable casino games and tables in the bar to rack in that sweet cash. She learned from the best! But she has more than just a money problem when it comes to the town’s two Big Bads. Gladys and Hiram have been hanging around the bar too much, causing scenes. Gladys even wants to SING at the bar and whew, the queer energy Gladys Jones is bringing right now is… a lot. If she doesn’t get a criminal gf soon, I am protesting.
Touching on this ever-expanding gang war are the Sapphic mob matriarchs Toni and Cheryl, who still have some tension between them! The Pretty Poisons, taking cues from Cheryl, once again step outside of Toni’s rules and rough up some Serpents and Ghoulies. The Poisons are basically embodying the philosophy of “Be Gay, Do Crimes” and Cheryl is loving it. Toni is not loving it so much, and she’s pushing back. As we all know, Cheryl is hot headed and impulsive. She also has trust issues for days. The fact that she suddenly seems to be hiding something from Toni and pulling away is very worrisome! But at this point, I welcome Choni drama, because it least it means they’re getting a storyline, which is more than could be said of them for the first half of the season.
The biggest issue with how sprawling Riverdale’s narrative has become is that it allows less room for character development and just generally character-driven moments. The drama doesn’t really matter if we don’t care about the people it’s happening to. Veronica Lodge is a pretty stark example of that; the tension between her and Hiram should be hitting a lot more emotional chords than it currently is! Cheryl Blossom has always been one of the more compelling characters on the show — and not just because she’s gay and gay people are inherently more compelling. She has most dramatically transcended the stocktype that she seemingly fell into in the beginning, and her storylines often hinge on the show’s most potent themes of family, betrayal, abuse, power, and revenge. She encapsulates that “Game Of Thrones But Make It Teen Drama” essence that really represents Riverdale at its finest.
As per usual, of the core four, Betty Cooper commands the episode’s best subplot, mainly because she’s the character making the most sense these days. More people should probably be worried about the Farmies, who are rapidly growing in numbers and going largely unchecked. They might not necessarily be doing crimes like the many teen gangs are, but they are doing weird self-harm rituals in the name of enlightenment, and now poor heartbroken Kevin is wrapped up in all of it. As extra as it is, Betty’s slow-motion wave to a borderline catatonic Kevin is very unnerving.
Betty takes a page out of her dear cousin Cheryl’s book and lights her own home on fire. I’m ready for Alice Cooper to be a real person again, because this post-Farm Alice, while disturbing, is not particularly interesting. Also, did she not notice the TOWER OF FLAMES in the living room before she entered the house?! What is happening with anyone? Is the entire town on fizzle rocks now?
Help us Betty Cooper, you’re our only hope.