Welcome to The Riverdale Review, a continuing series on the ever-popular television drama, Riverdale. For our first recurring piece, we are covering the thirteenth episode of the third season, following a three-week episode delay.
After the usual recap of this season’s events – our version of which you can find here – Episode 13 eases its way back into the action. Three families are in equally troubling, but distinctly different situations. Tensions rise in every house. Jughead and F.P. get used to having Gladys and Jellybean back in their lives. Alice tells Betty she is about to be baptized into the Farm. Veronica is confronted by her father about his missing equipment and drugs and he reveals that he believes the Jones family is responsible for his misfortune.
Archie takes up the episode’s side story. Distant from his friends and family, he is seen catching breakfast before school with Josie. They try to find time to meet up that day, but Josie has a meeting with her college advisor. This seems to set Archie off a little. A fan of the show will remember that Archie is an ex-con and walked out of his SATs; college options may be few and far between. When Josie offers to meet up after school, Archie says he’ll be training. Despite boxing bring back bad memories of his time in juvey, Archie claims it puts him in a good headspace and focuses him on a task.
With Tom Keller as his coach, Archie has learned a lot. Though not enough, Keller thinks, to progress to real fights. Archie argues, but his coach insists. Upset, he goes to leave the gym for the day until he overhears some men talking about setting up a real match. When Archie approaches them to put himself forward, he learns that they aren’t looking for an opponent. Rather, the boxing champion and his businessman want someone to lose for publicity.
When Keller finds out that Archie agreed to the match, he demands Archie quit. He says that there’s no way he can beat the champion and that it’s the match or him as a coach. Convinced by Keller’s words, and a good talk with Josie, Archie decides to back out of the deal and attempt to win for real. The champion proves too difficult to defeat, despite Archie’s best efforts, but he earns praise from Keller and Josie for the match.
Meanwhile, Gladys plays Veronica and Jughead as she tries to rebuild the candy-drug trade in Riverdale. Both teens are struggling to keep their families together; Veronica, with her father’s return and aspirations to rebuild crime in town; and Jughead, losing Southside Serpents left and right to Cheryl and Toni’s new gang, the Pretty Poisons.
On the down and dirty end of Gladys’ business, she encourages Jughead to boost Serpent ranks by recruiting from the Gargoyle Gang. Many of them were formerly members of the ghoulies, the Serpents’ rival gang. With their leader gone and nowhere else to turn, the Gargoyle Gang was the only viable option. Jughead attempts to reconcile with Toni and bring her back, but he only aggravates her. He has no other option. Unfortunately, meeting with the Gargoyle Gang leader Kurt doesn’t go much better. Despite Jughead’s promises, he can’t sway them away from their Gargoyle King delusions. Upon hearing of his failure, Gladys recruits the Gargoyles herself, forcing the disturbed teens on Jughead and his Serpents.
With Veronica, Gladys uses her debt to sway her into providing inside information into Hiram’s plans. So when Gladys arrives for drinks with her father, Veronica is prepared. She encourages her father to take Gladys’ deal – that he let her run the streets and the drugs, and he earns profit from his prison, bringing in drug dealers and other criminals. She offers that should do so, she would be happy to help with the prison. Just like he always wanted them to work together. Hiram agrees, saying that Hermione “won’t be a factor.” Later, at dinner, Hiram confronts Hermione about his loss of merchandise (drugs) while he was gone. Veronica covers for her mother at the last moment, saying it was her doing, even though Hermione had set up the buyer for it during Hiram’s absence. He tells Veronica she owes him 75,000$, and she agrees, deciding it’s worth it.
Finally, Betty spends the episode investigating the Farm, as her mother prepares to be baptized into the cult. Her attempts to be on board, for her mother’s sake, go downhill quickly. She begins to search for escapees from the Farm in a desperate attempt to prove to her mother and sister that they are dangerous. Most escaped Farm members shut down her questions, but one agrees to meet up. A woman, by the name of Martha, tells Betty horror stories of when she knew the Farm.
She describes the group’s desire to “ascend,” which starts with baptism. Martha’s sister died during her baptism – which Betty realizes that Alice is about to begin. Leaving Martha in the bunker, where they met, Betty races across town to the Farm facilities. There she finds Alice and Polly mid-ceremony; Polly is holding Alice underwater, surrounded by women of the Farm. Betty pushes Polly away and pulls her mother from the tub. Alice isn’t breathing. Betty performs chest compressions- and there’s a moment frozen in time as we all wonder if Alice will survive.
At long last, Alice chokes out water and a shaky breath. Betty releases a sigh and hugs her mother tight. If only it changed anything. At home, Alice tells Betty that she saw her destiny, her purpose, in the moments before Betty saved her. Because of that, she finally feels comfortable to let go of the last part of her old life – their family home. She dreams of them all together. Polly, Betty, herself, and the Farm.
We are left with Alice’s chilling final thought – that they will all be one, together. Forever.
Thoughts on the Episode
Every part of Riverdale leaves you with a little chill in your bones, but I have found the farm and their cultish grasp on Polly and Alice to be one of the most horrifying plotlines. Perhaps that is because it’s so realistic. People end up prey to cults just like the Farm even today, and the picture they paint of a perfect life, world, and community lures in lost spirits like Alice and Polly. These two women have been through so much and only want a little peace. The Farms offers them that.
When this season began, I found the idea of Polly in a cult a little hard to believe. Polly was the warrior woman who fought Jason’s family and the nuns to survive for her babies. It was difficult to see her as a victim of people just like the nuns, and Jason’s family. The Farm, though, uses positive messages, rather than fear, to trap their prey. Polly must have wanted that more than anything in the world.
Josie and Archie are coming to look like a cute couple. I’m not sure I’m sold yet, after Archie and Victoria’s epic romance. I only hope they’re not using Josie as only a stepping stone to circle back to that epic romance. And even I can admit, Archie’s little smile at Josie in Pop’s at the episode’s start was adorable. I keep an optimistically open mind.
As for Gladys, she has certainly set up Riverdale in her vision already. Manipulating Hiram, Veronica, Jughead, and F.P. at the same time is a juggling act she performs with ease. We’ll have to wait and see if she slips up. Everyone does, and maybe she has and we just don’t know yet. I’m with Jughead – recruiting the Gargoyles seems like a risky move for business.
The theme of the season is all tying together, slowly. As more people join the Gargoyle Gang, and the Farm talks about Ascension, just like players of G n’ G, we march towards the end series together.