Okay, now that we’re a few episodes into it, I think I can say pretty definitively that Riverdale’s seven-year time jump was exactly what this show needed. I think the show is currently at its best self which, yes, means it’s very chaotic and soap operatic, but the character arcs are interesting and the blend of noir, horror, and gothic themes and aesthetics are ON POINT. It’s sexy; it’s campy; it’s reality-bending in the best way. Riverdale‘s having fun again, and it shows.
Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead start their first day as untrained teachers at their former high school, trading out their beloved student lounge for a teachers lounge because they’re all grown up! Archie’s “teaching” RROTC, but his main mission in this episode is reviving the school’s football team. Reggie’s coaching a successful football team over at Stonewall Prep, elevating the players to county hero status which means they can pretty much do whatever they want including but not limited to operating as Hiram’s henchmen and setting Riverdale High on fire! Because according to Hiram, if the high school thrives, Riverdale as a town might grow back around it like weeds, soiling his SoDale plans. He says this to his right hand man Reggie while the two dramatically eat subs and Doritos—my favorite product placement moment on television in a minute. I love the idea of someone trying to seem imposing and conniving with Dorito dust coating their fingers!
Archie finds the players for his team but not the money, because Toni earmarked a sports budget for the Vixens. Miss Bell—the school’s secretary—calls Cheryl to inform her about this Vixens revival, because apparently both Cheryl and Hiram have Miss Bell on some kind of retainer where she’s supposed to keep them apprised of the goings on at the high school. Cheryl’s busy with her new business venture: counterfeit paintings! An appraiser named Minerva Marble—this week’s Miss Crouton in terms of wild Riverdale names—verifies a painting of Jason that’s apparently worth a lot of money and Cheryl intends to swap it out for her fake. Not really sure where they’re going with this artworld heist plot, but I’m into it.
Cheryl’s very sad about the Vixens existing without her though, and she also throws Archie out of her home in this episode when he attempts to appeal to her grief over Jason in order to get her to sponsor the team (yeah, asshole move on his part!). She’s generally not doing great. But she’s also rejuvenated by the Vixen revival, actually leaving her house for once to go to the school and threaten Toni while wearing lingerie under a blazer. Honestly, Cheryl and Toni as rivals might have more fire to it than a resurgence of their romance? In any case, I’m just happy to see Cheryl with some pep in her step, even if it’s the result of her unhealthy attachment to her high school years.
But whomst amongst these characters ISN’T exhibiting an unhealthy nostalgia for the past? Jughead’s deep into his next novel, which is just a lightly fictionalized oral history of Riverdale I guess? Again, I’m very on the record as being into the new iteration of Jughead, especially since the show is having a lot of fun dragging him through the mud. He’s teaching high school English and having trouble getting his students to care at all. They make fun of him for also working at the diner, which yes is very shitty teen behavior, but Jughead’s still coasting on his hotshot one-book-wonder ego.
Which is why I hope Tabitha doesn’t overlook some of his most annoying behaviors…I smell a Riverdale romance in the air, and even though we’ve only just met her, Tabitha is much too smart and independent to fall for Jughead’s moody artist shit! She links him up with a local named Old Man Dreyfus who tells Jughead a story about a bunch of guys working in a mine getting briefly abducted by…mothmen? We’ve had the Black Hood, we’ve had the Gargoyle King, we’ve had evil nuns and a mom who likes to poison people and a gang called the Ghoulies and a drug called Jingle Jangle, so sure, bring on the mothmen!
Back at the high school, Betty’s teaching shop class, tasking her students with taking apart a classic car and putting it back together again. They’re much more interested in the fact that she’s the Black Hood’s spawn though. She’s got a student named Britta who is seen rocking some welding gear and also eagerly joins the football team and NOT TO STEREOTYPE or anything, but I hope we have another queer character here. Betty’s also worried about Polly, who has been missing after we saw her running away from a truck last episode, and Archie’s got that whole football thing going on, so the two decide that they need to provide distractions for each other, which results in them having sex in the shop class car after school hours. I have decided overnight that I am now very pro-Barchie. Betty Cooper deserves a himbo.
Betty’s also still up to some extrajudicial shenanigans. She’s not even an FBI agent yet, but she sure does love to flash her FBI jacket and badge around! This time, she’s investigating Polly’s disappearance, which leads to a shady truck stop where Polly arranged to meet a trucker using NEDSLIST, the Riverdaleification of Craigslist. They find out Polly disappeared somewhere along the Lonely Highway, which is becoming an increasingly more significant location in town, which reminds me that I have zero concept of how big Riverdale is or where exactly things are in relation to each other? Can someone draw me a map?
Speaking of significant locations, we do return to the new and improved Whyte Wyrm (née Le Bonne Nuit) for karaoke night. As a reminder, the last time Whyte Wyrm karaoke happened, Betty Cooper, as a teenager, did a lite strip tease to “Mad World” in front of a packed audience that included her boyfriend’s father. Absolutely one of the top five most deranged Riverdale moments of all time. This karaoke night is a little less disturbing but still absolutely absurd in a different way, because it entails Veronica and her husband Chadwick (more on this demon in a moment) singing a duet of “Shallow” IN ITS ENTIRETY, which makes Kevin Keller, whose go-to karaoke song is the bold choice of “Defying Gravity,” weep. Also, Toni in this scene rocks the Thistle & Spire Medusa bodysuit, which I also own, so I’m basically the Serpent Queen of Miami.
So…let’s talk about Veronica’s worm of a husband Chadwick. He shows up in the middle of her econ class with flowers and insists on sitting in the back while she teaches, and it’s very creepy and controlling! He clearly does not want her out of his sight, and it’s increasingly looking like Veronica’s marriage is very, very bad. Chad plays the role of the supportive husband all episode and then seizes the first opportunity to lord it over her.
When Archie asks them for the money to fund the football team, Chad proposes that Archie work for it, asking him to renovate their apartment. Veronica calls him out for being a dick, and Chad is all HAVEN’T I BEEN NICE TO YOU THIS WHOLE TRIP? Yikes! That’s some textbook emotional manipulation! It’s difficult to decide what the worst part of Chad is: the fact that he hates karaoke, the fact that he says “awesomesauce” unironically, the fact that he hates diner food, the fact that he’s very clearly colluding with Hiram behind Veronica’s back?! Jk, it’s def that last one plus the fact that he is relentlessly possessive of Veronica. Thankfully, she kicks his ass out of Riverdale and asks for a break.
In the end, Betty and Alice don’t find Polly. Tabitha and Jughead are working together to investigate the mothmen. Veronica’s working on opening a jewelry store in town, which kind of just seems like she’s re-gentrifying a town that was already undone by gentrification, but that’s probably an on-brand choice for her character. Archie gets his funding for the Bulldogs from the Gekkos (although Veronica makes a point to reclaim Lodge as her last name after she kicks Chad out…as a reminder, she was Veronica Lodge and then Veronica Luna and then Veronica Lodge again and then Veronica Gekko and now is Veronica Lodge again). And Jughead makes a reference to one of the most hilarious Archie lines of all time, which prompts the question: Now that Supernatural has ended its 50-year run, is Riverdale the most self-referential show on television?
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