Welcome to The Riverdale Review, a continuing series on the ever-popular television drama, Riverdale. After a couple of weeks of hiatus, we were treated this Easter with the eighteenth episode.
This week, our story focuses on the depressed, angsty couple we all know and love. Betty and Jughead each face an investigation, both with eerie ties to the heart of their town.
We find Betty at the start of the episode digging her heels into Edgar Evernever. She declares that Edgar must be hiding something since she can’t find a trace of him online. Edgar spins a tantalizing tale of his life, describing a broken and tattered man leaving his painful existence to be reborn. All the poetic prose Edgar can find cannot distract Betty. She cuts sharply to the chase – how can he allow Alice to see her dead son? But Edgar is a brick wall. Since she hasn’t been able to coax more information out of Edgar, Jughead offers a new plan. Perhaps Alice just needs a reminder of her son’s death. He suggests that Betty try and find solid evidence that Charles, Alice’s son, is dead, in order to break her out of her delusions.
Meanwhile, at Riverdale High, new Farmie queen, Cheryl Blossom, parades around the school in white, proclaiming her new status without having to utter a word. In the background, Toni grows discontent. She releases her frustration on Betty, but hearing that Cheryl thinks she is seeing Jason stops her in her tracks. Betty begs Toni to show Cheryl the footage of Clifford Blossom shooting Jason, in the attempt to snap her out of it. Unfortunately, Cheryl only denies the video is real.
Betty doesn’t have much more luck with her mother. At her father’s suggestion, Betty constructs a fake headstone for Charles and has it put up in a local cemetery. She coaxes her mother away from the farm to see it; Betty does everything she can to talk her mother out of the foggy delusion. Nothing she says can sway Alice though, and finally, Betty’s last resort is revealed. Alice wakes from a chloroform-induced sleep in the group’s secret bunker, handcuffed to the bed.
Over the course of a couple of days, Betty works with old family pictures and desperate pleas to change Alice’s mind. Though she discovers that Alice and Edgar are in a relationship, there isn’t any other success. Finally, Betty returns to the farm on a warpath. She busts into Edgar’s office and demands to know why he is turning Alice against her. What did she ever do!? Edgar notes that Alice’s words were her own. When he manages to talk Betty down, he asks her one pivotal question. Whether Alice is talking to a real or a fake Charles, it helps her heal. Why, to Betty, is that a bad thing?
There is an air of acceptance about Betty – acceptance of her circumstances, of her mother selling her home and giving away her college money – as she returns to the bunker. Quiet and subdued, she releases her mother. They drive to Pop’s, and Alice’s blindfold comes off to reveal Evelyn waiting with open arms. Betty declares that Evelyn will make sure Alice gets home, to the farm, safely.
When we return to the other pair tangled up in the farm, Cheryl is approaching Toni in tears. She reveals that Evelyn says Cheryl must choose Jason or Toni. Despite Toni’s pleas, Cheryl seems stuck on her choice. Never one to give up without a fight, Toni insists there has to be a way for Cheryl to have them both. Cheryl admits that there is one – and we watch Toni join Cheryl side by side, both clad in Farmie white. Toni quietly breaks off from the group to interrupt Betty, listening to her mother’s tapes. As Toni describes her success at fooling everyone, we realize that we haven’t lost Toni to the Farm quite yet. Just the opposite. The girls build an alliance out of their common motive – someone they can’t afford to lose.
This story concludes with Betty visiting her father in prison once again. With her mother’s divorce papers in hand, Betty admits she feels she must let her mother go. Alice needs to heal and grow in whatever way she chooses. Hal signs them in thought, then asks Betty if she would grant him a similar favour. Nothing much, he insists. He just wants to come home.
We only have one break (if it can even be called that) from this week’s main tensions. Archie and the other fighters mourn Baby Teeth’s loss heavily. The businessman that gave Mad Dog a position is hosting a boxing tournament called the Gilded Gloves, and Archie is desperate to give his guys a win. He asks Veronica to use her pull with the businessman to secure them a place in his tournament. Of course, Veronica is happy to. Archie’s crew is thrilled until Mad Dog shows up at their gym. He warns Archie that his opponent is using a drug circling Riverdale to enhance his abilities. Though Mad Dog offers some, Archie insists on performing on his skill alone.
As he prepares for the fight, he and Veronica begin to talk more. Before the fight, Veronica surprises him with a beautiful gift of a new boxing robe and trunks. They share a moment, and Archie almost leans in to kiss her, but Veronica sees him move and stands, announcing she will see him at the fight. In the background, Fred chuckles at Archie’s insistence that the two are “just friends.” We’re starkly reminded that they should be, though, when we join the crowd before the fight and Josie is sitting beside Veronica.
The match is harsh, and despite the evidence that the other fighter has taken something before the game, it goes into a second round. Tom Keller, Archie’s coach, tells him he has to get a knockout or he doesn’t have a chance. We watch in awe as Archie manages it, and the crowd soars- but Archie can only enjoy it for a moment before he figures out – his opponent isn’t recovering. Archie swoops, joined by others, as they realize he won’t wake up.
Finally, we join Jughead and F.P, enjoying their own investigation. Baby Teeth’s gruesome death spurs an urgency to find those responsible, and the possibility that the Gargoyle King might be back at large. The coroner details his findings to the men, but the most intriguing part is the matchbook found lodged in Baby Teeth’s throat. The writing on it is plain; it’s from the Maple Club, the brothel that Cheryl’s mother has been running.
Penelope isn’t shy about his visit. She offers the name of the girl that Baby Teeth saw freely. Jughead and F.P. wonder what else she could know, but before they can ask much more, a crash and woman’s cry comes from another room. They dart in to find a disaster scene. A man stands at the end of the room, and as he turns, we can see foam dripping from his mouth and the wild look in his eyes. He brandishes a knife, and swipes at an approaching F.P. Luckily, he manages to knock him out.
The woman who was with him admits that he usually took Fizzle Rocks before they met to enhance his experience. She says this time was different though. When the drugs kicked in, he started acting wild. Jughead and F.P. bring him back to the station, but while they’re waiting for the effects to wear off, there are more incidents. At school, Jughead and the crew are pulled into a commotion in the hallway. A girl in cheerleader garb is smashing her head off a locker till she’s bloody, and F.P. takes someone in at Pop’s on the same kind of trip. Now boasting a town full of incidents, they can finally start asking questions.
A moment here is devoted to catching up with Jughead’s little sister, Jellybean. We see her in Pop’s, wearing a pointy hat and huge elf ears. It’s almost cute until the shot expands, and we see her playing G&G. She rolls a dice and looks up to her game master – namely, Ricky DeSantos. We haven’t seen much of Jellybean on the show, and JB feels it, expressing to Ricky that her parents are “too busy” to notice she’s gone. As we rejoin Jughead’s investigation, we’re left with an ominous sense of Ricky’s motives.
They learn that the fizzle rocks packages, now bearing a huge G written in marker, have been spread by Kurtz, the gargoyle cook. From multiple accounts, the men piece together that Kurtz is not only selling on top of cooking, but he’s taking over for other dealers and pushing the product on clients. To top it off, he’s still in Riverdale. A call from the ladies at the Maple Club gives them their last bit of information; some teen boys trying to meet a dealer there sped off after getting a call. Their abandoned pamphlet in the trash points to Archie’s boxing match.
The crowd outside the gym is thick, but Jughead and F.P. manage to intercept Kurtz arriving. Even when caught, Kurtz bears a smirk of superiority. Of course, their interrogation of him gives few answers, but he does admit that Baby Teeth was only a warmup. The real quest was for Jughead, who Kurtz calls Hellcaster (Jughead’s in-game alias from when he played), and for his family. Kurtz insists that it was demanded by the King – to save the little princess.
A grin spreads on Kurtz’s face as Jughead and F.P. realize that he means Jellybean. As Jughead processes and F.P. lights up with rage, we cut to the woods. The dark between the trees is brightened by flashlights when Jellybean and Ricky emerge. Jellybean tries to ask Ricky why they’re out in the woods, but he only says that “he” wants to meet her. When JB begins to ask who “he” is, a deep, strained noise emerges from behind her. Ricky begins to smile. Jellybean twists to be greeted by the welcoming face of the Gargoyle King.
Thoughts on the Episode
What an ending! There’s a lot to unpack, but first and foremost is Jellybean’s fate. Does “saving” her mean sacrificing her? Threatening murder is one thing, but could Ricky really help kill Jellybean when it came down to it? Or do they intend to groom her to be the real Griffon Queen, to rival Betty? Plot-wise, I think the last would be my pick. I don’t have a deep-seated hatred for Jellybean or anything – quite the opposite! I think she’s an interesting kid and grooming her to be the heir of a cult could create extraordinary character development, like a queen complex. It would also put her on-screen more, which would be welcome.
If she does die, I really hope that Betty is there for Jughead. As invested as I am in learning about the Farm, she and Jughead have had separate stories for much of this season. There’s a reason they’re such a power couple – together, they could do so much more! On a selfish level, it would be nice to have some more Bughead scenes; how long must we go without them?
Speaking of Betty, her development in this episode was out of this world. Shall we start with Hal’s vague request? Whatever it means, and however nice he’s been, I’m very wary. This episode we saw Betty’s dark side more clearly than ever before. Could Hal be taking advantage, and if so, will Betty fall for it? A history of darkness lingers in her bloodline. Of course, it doesn’t mean anything if Betty doesn’t let it, but she’s impressionable right now. Ripe for the manipulation, no?
Betty is a teenager, not even done high school yet, and think about what she has gone through up to now! Her family home was sold, and she is living on friends’ couches with no stability. In the course of a year, she lost every member of her family – her father, a murderer, went to jail, and her mother and sister joined a cultish group that told them to forget their traumatizing past. To add insult to injury, her boyfriend moved into her old family home. We’ve watched Betty deal with this better than most teenagers would – by channeling it into trying to break through to her mother.
Yet this episode, we watched her, in her own words, let Alice go. Though I doubt she will give up on investigating the Farm, there’s some acceptance there about her mother’s choices. Alice treats Betty as an adult (which the show admittedly frames Betty as), but the truth is that just like every other teen, she still needs her parents. When one is gone, like Hal, she must rely on the other that much more. At every stage though, Betty has been dropped and disappointed. I don’t think in high school I would have been so strong as to accept my mother leaving me to join a family that I wasn’t part of.
We don’t see the other half of our main characters too much this episode, but of course, Veronica and Archie are pushed together. Archie seems to be more into it than Veronica though, which is disheartening. For a myriad of reasons, I have got to side with Veronica. Just to start, Archie is still with Josie – not only is she awesome, but at least break up with her first, man! Come on! On Veronica’s side, she and Reggie are still together, as far as we know (Reggie didn’t appear this week, but the pair’s official status changes on the regular).
Veronica and Archie are undeniably adorable together… but there were reasons more than circumstantial that they broke up. The trust and love would be hard to regain. So, unless the writers can come up with a more compelling explanation than “meant to be” or their relationship in the comics, I’m firmly anti-Varchie right now.
All of this got me thinking… Does anyone else remember when Riverdale used to at least try and convince us that their cast was in high school? I was re-watching some of the first season’s episodes recently, and the differences are stark. Cheerleading competitions, memoirs, football teams – despite the maturity of their actors, they were at least writing high school into the script. Now, if they didn’t show the school in this or that scene as a backdrop, you’d never know. This is definitely because of what they do in part; Jughead and Betty could easily be working as a detective and Private Investigator respectively; Veronica is a business mogul in the footsteps of her parents; Archie fills the shoes of an ex-con, trying to rebuild his life with honest work.
It’s also the way they behave, though. I’ll grant you that they’re all emotional, and brash, but that could be said of the casts of a lot of murder mysteries. On the flip side; they all deal with emotions much better than any teens I know or knew; they seem to work more than they study, like the gym, the speakeasy, or at the sheriff’s station; and all of their parents seem to treat them as if they’re college grads living in their basement – no curfew, allowing them in brothels or at speakeasies, the list goes on. I’m not sure if I want them to make school less or more involved, but it is worth noting that the gang is about to hit their senior year. It would be even more unbelievable to keep this up when college applications are coming, and final exams determine your whole future.