Riverdale Recap and Review – Season 1 – Chapter 13 – The Sweet Hereafter

Oh how I’m going to miss writing reviews for this show, it leaves a chill running up and down my spine, like my entire body was thrust intoice water … I suppose I could just light a fire to warm up? <nudge, nudge, wink, wink> Riverdale ended its thirteen episode first season tonight and it ended with a bang. No, really. Quite literally a bang. A bang that left one of my favourite characters, and who I still believe to be the only truly good person in Riverdale, lying on the floor of Pop’s bleeding to death. And then . . .  credits. But naturally a lot of things happened before that point so let’s jump in and take a look at this first season finale. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead!

The Sweet Hereafter may be one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. Fortunately, while some elements crossed over with tonight’s episode, the show was far from depressing. It tied up a few loose ends, treated us to a few more juicy secrets (something Riverdale does not lack in), and steamed up the windows a little with some inevitable pairings.

Cliff Blossom’s motive for killing Jason was explained away in the first minute of the episode. Jason discovered that maple syrup wasn’t the Blossom’s main commodity so Cliff killed him to keep him quiet. Case closed, all wrapped up in a pretty bow topped with a strange-looking redheaded toupee. Let’s move on to something more interesting.

Chery’s character arc this season has been a series of ups and downs, marked with the occasional moments of bitchy wonder. I’m not going to lie, I love that character and I love Madelaine Petsch’s portrayal. Maybe her story in this final episode was a little too obvious and her final cry for help in the form of a text to Ronnie’s phone was a little too convenient, but to finally tie up her emotional journey was a reason to celebrate. And how better to celebrate than setting a mansion on fire? Cheryl’s failed suicide attempt and subsequent rescue by Archie (by the way, Arch, ever considered using your feet to stomp through the ice rather than punching it? Just a suggestion for next time . . .) gives us that balance I mentioned back in the episode when the Blossoms were courting Archie to join them. Having lost her brother, Cheryl needs a sense of moral balance that she’s unable to reach on her own. Once again, Archie provides the required counterweight, saves her life, and Ronnie’s good heartedness ignites some inspiration in our favourite Blossom and she torches Thornhill in order to start fresh. Here’s hoping Granny Blossom made it out okay.

The town hates FP, though I’m not sure why anymore. He didn’t kill Jason, maybe they just need someone to hate? I’m assuming we won’t be getting Skeet Ulrich back for season 2, which is a shame because he’s been spellbinding this whole time. Upon being offered a plea deal to turn in some serpents, he turns it down, even if it means Jughead has to move to the wrong side of the tracks. There are some nice father and son moments though ultimately we don’t get to a see a final resolution to the Jones’ family issues. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of old FP.

Archie has been hailed numerous times this season as an idiot. While he doesn’t display anything close to genius in this episode, his true colors shine through in the form of his love for his friends. Sure, we’re going to be watching that Betty, Archie, Veronica love triangle play out time and time again, but our fave redhead’s (second fave really, Cheryl is #1) penchant for going above and beyond for his friends despite difficult circumstances is admirable. He tries to keep Jughead from being fostered and switching schools, he saves Cheryl’s life, he cares about Betty’s feelings enough to (finally) be honest with her, he puts his sentiments out there in the form of a song. And if there’s one thing Riverdale needs, it’s a central emotional character for the force of good. He truly is Archie Andrews.

I have a bit more of a hard time buying ‘Bughead’ as a thing. Betty is too girl next door, and Jughead is too awkwardly different. This is clearly displayed when Jug goes to the new school and while we momentarily think he’s in for a rough time, he actually fits in perfectly. This relationship is doomed. When they’re about to get it on, their encounter is interrupted by the serpents who want Jughead to be one of them and he happily agrees. This is who Jughead is in this world, a world that Betty will have a hard time occupying and you can see the distaste on her face at the end when he dons the serpent’s jacket. This all comes after Betty’s rousing speech about choosing to make Riverdale a better place, a point that, for all his insight, Jughead may have completely missed. By the time Jughead realizes he’s not actually that person and it’s not really his world, it’ll be too late for Bughead.

And finally, though early on I really thought I couldn’t, I can actually get behind the Varchie scenario, and I’m glad they didn’t bother dragging the sexual attention out forever. Will Archie always be with Veronica? Hell no. But it was a nice ending for them relationship-wise. However, nothing puts a damper on a fun-filled late night coitus-filled liaison like your dad getting shot.

Which brings us to season 2. Is Fred dead? Probably not, it’d be a weird way for the show to go. Was the shooting intentional? It appears so. Was Hiram Lodge behind it? I’m going to place my bet now and say no. I think it was Hermione and the attack was meant to be a warning to Fred to back down but things got lost in the heat of the moment. Will we see Hiram Lodge in Season 2? Almost certainly! Will he like Archie? Not a chance in hell. Will Jughead remain a serpent? Probably not, and it’ll cause mass conflict. Will we see Betty’s long lost brother? This little factoid was almost buried to the point that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought had Betty not spelled it out to Archie and Ronnie. I’m assuming the eldest Cooper sibling will pop up at some point. Finally, will we get to see a certain teenage witch in season 2? Rumors suggest that it’s a distinct possibility . . .

Many thanks to everyone who has been reading and sharing these reviews. Particular thanks to the writers and producers of Riverdale who brought this show to life and to the actors, KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, and Casey Scott for embodying these characters that I’ve loved since I was a pre-tween.

Roll on season 2 . . .

STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS . . .

– Valerie kept her cool, despite her past with Archie she seemed calm and aloof to her former squeeze and his new girl sharing stage time. Good for her. However, I still think she’s boring.

– Ah the famous old Alice Cooper “I have a secret, I’m not going to tell you, fine I’ll tell you,” trick.

– Yay! The return of zombie Jason!

– Not one hilarious Kevin Keller quip this week! Missed opportunity, Riverdale!

– It may have got him shot, but Fred standing up to Hermione was a boss move.

– Betty’s speech was good, but it lacked a solid conclusion. I think that’s why it took the clapping a while to get started. No one knew she’d finished.

– Congrats Archie! You wrote and played a song that didn’t make people want to staple their genitalia to something solid.

– HOTDOG! Finally!

 

Riverdale Recap and Review – Season 1 – Chapter 12 – Anatomy of a Murder

SPOILER ALERT – Murderers and accomplices were revealed on the latest episode of Riverdale and they’re included in this recap and review. If you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you do so before continuing.

Game of Thrones meets Riverdale on this week’s episode ‘Anatomy of Murder’. Sure it wasn’t golden-haired creepy rich twins incest, but after this week’s revelations, the Coopers and the Blossoms move one step closer to the iron throne. Now if we could only get some dragons having a burger at Pop’s Diner . . . but I digress.

I truly thought we’d be waiting until the season finale before Jason’s murderer was revealed but apparently we didn’t have to wait that long. I’d like to take this opportunity to a do a small ‘told ya so’ dance. Small because I incorrectly predicted that Joaquin was the one who pulled the trigger, but a dance nonetheless because I did state in my last review (find it HERE) that Clifford Blossom was behind the whole thing. And lo and behold, the creepy wigged one was indeed the trigger man. Let’s dive in . . .

We can probably gloss over the more melodramatic points this week. Alice tends to over-react and point fingers in the wrong direction, Jughead is (believably) upset, Archie is determined, Veronica likes to lounge around in silk. I think I’m digressing again. The point is, a lot happened in this episode but what it all boils down to is this: Clifford Blossom killed his own son.

Before we get to that point, FP confesses to everything, and I mean everything. He spills his guts in magnificent fashion and in such a calm way that a detective who was good at his job would likely begin to think something wasn’t right. But not Sheriff Keller, he likes an easy clean open and shut case. Even if we’re starting to question that maybe Archie and Ronnie did miss finding that gun in the closet, we, the audience, know that FP is lying thanks to Mr. Cooper being the one that stole the murder wall from the Sheriff’s house. So we’re left with a dwindling amount of suspects. A friend told me it could be Hermione and it’s actually not a bad theory as she’s been known to break the law, but she was in New York when the murder happened. It could certainly be Hiram Lodge who we now discover is out of jail and I really, really, REALLY hope the season finale ends with him showing up in Riverdale. But he’s not the killer, the motivation is too vague. After some fairly weak sleuthing from Archie and the gang which involves chatting to Joaquin, we end up at another crime scene.

The serpent that Joaquin overheard speaking to FP is conveniently dead of an overdose which leaves us at another dead end. But that’s okay because we have at least ten minutes of film to kill here so we’ll just keep chasing our tails for a while and we’ll even have Mr. Cooper show up to remind everyone that he’s the one who stole the murder wall and that’s all. Oh no wait, there’s that little matter of INCEST! Apparently the Coopers aren’t Coopers at all, they’re Blossoms. Wait. What? This is an unusual leap because why even bother throwing this tidbit into the mix? It doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to get Polly out of the Addams Family Mansion.

We’re left with a few loose suspects, no plausible motive, and nowhere for this episode to go. But wait! Joaquin is back to save the day. And it’s true. This episode was only moved along by one character: JOAQUIN! (I feel I deserve a few points back from mistakenly accusing him of being the murderer) Archie’s mom discovers FP’s only phone call from jail was to Joaquin. Joaquin was the one who revealed details of the clean up, and led Archie, Veronica, and Kevin to the Mustang murder scene. He’s also the one who tipped off Kevin where to find the jacket which conveniently includes video footage of the murder. Sure, FP could have just given that information and evidence up when he was arrested, but why bother making things easy?

For all the plot conveniences of how we got to the actual murder in this episode, we’re treated to some great performances in the form of reaction shots when Betty and Co watch the murder video. Jughead returns to his narrator roots and leads us down the path to the big reveal that Clifford Blossom was the murderer all along. I’m hoping it’s not a cop out on the part of the writers that we never get to discover the true motivation behind the murder and I’m assuming that’s what next week’s season finale will be about.

When the police show up at the Blossom mansion, the haunting image of Cheryl and her mother directing the police to the family barn is quite chilling. Clifford, being the criminal he is, pulls a 13 Reasons Why minus the lengthy recording sessions, and hangs himself.

One more episode to go and I’m guessing it’ll end on a neat little cliffhanger. Season 2 starts shooting in a few weeks and instead of 13 episodes, I hear we’re getting a full 22(ish) episode season. This can be good or bad. On the good side, YAY More Riverdale! On the bad side, TV shows can sometimes get a little drawn out and boring when pushed to a full season order. In the end I don’t care, because I’m more focused on the former in which we get more Riverdale. Cue my happy dance . . .

STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS . . .

– As she’s a lawyer, I wish Archie’s mom had been a little more involved in this episode. We didn’t even get to see the scene between her and FP. I feel like Skeet Ulrich vs. Molly Ringwald would be an epic battle.

– Goodbye, Joaquin. We’ll miss you being a convenient plot device 🙁

– If you call your kid ‘Mustang’ he’s almost guaranteed to join a biker gang. It’s like calling your daughter ‘Candy’. Congrats, you’re the proud parents of a stripper.

– Did Cliff actually take the easy way out and hang himself or are the Blossom women the far more fearsome of the species? Look into the eyes of evil, and you tell me . . . ?

Interview with Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Middle School Librarian Christina Keasler

Inspired by Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Middle School Librarian Christina Keasler’s recent School Library Journal piece on “Dedicated Middle School Collections in the Public Library: A New Trend?“, CQ author Amy Bearce – writer of the World of Aluvia Series, which falls perfectly into the middle school catogory – interviewed Christina to discuss the article, and why books for 11-14 year olds are so important.

As a public librarian, what led you to write the article, “Dedicated Middle School Collections in the Public Library: A New Trend?” for School Library Journal?

I had made our library’s middle school collection in the summer of 2015. We were making an exclusive space for middle school students, and when we had asked them what they were looking for in a public library. They had mentioned they don’t like wading through the “baby stuff” to get to where they need to go. After our collection was established, we had a few librarians from nearby libraries ask me our parameters for selection. Parameters are one thing, but finding out which books fit these criteria is another. I had gone to a yearly seminar that would booktalk YA books for 8 hours, specify which ones are suitable for grades 6-8, and the reasons a particular book is not. I thought to myself that this seminar is so needed, and if only publishers would catch on to this need. School librarians can label books “just for 8th graders”, but that goes beyond our role in the public library scope. I decided to write an article explaining the need for this specialized collection in public libraries, and what to look for. I reached out in listservs looking for selection parameters beyond this area, and Harford County reached out to me. I figured they weren’t the only one with such an established middle grade collection, but it was still extraordinary to me, and decided to transform the article to focus on one of the early trailblazers for public library middle grade fiction.

Finding a word that captures the books that fit this group can be tricky.  What do you think of the terms, “upper middle grade” “younger YA” “bridge book” or “gap” book? Is there a term you use instead? Does saying “Middle school books” end up being misunderstood by some as the industry term “middle grade” or vice versa, given that “middle grade” or “MG” is used in the publishing world to indicate for ages 8-12? (Many parents have told me this is confusing for them, to see a ‘middle grade book” that is not actually a good fit for “middle schoolers.”)

I absolutely completely agree with this. To me, middle grade is different than “tween”, but they do overlap in age, and both are ambiguous in the profession. There isn’t a standard, widely used term in the industry that is self-explanatory, and part of my article was to address that there should be.

In your article, you wrote:

Not all YA titles are ideal for middle school audiences, while many middle grade novels are a bit too immature. While some publishers are catching onto this trend, marketing certain titles directly to middle school audiences, most still do not identify books that cater primarily to this age group.

This is so true. Why do you think that most publishers are still not yet seeking out books written for this particular audience? Any guesses? Do you expect to see more publishers start marketing certain titles directly to this age group?

In the publishing world, YA was a new and blossoming genre not too long ago. Sadly, I think the publishers have been behind the times with the demands and needs of other literary professionals. The fact that we’re starting to see some books recommended for grades 5-8 or 6-8 is promising, but I think we’re still a long way before this  becomes standard.

What kind of parent response do you see at your library to having the middle school collection broken out like it is? Do they still ask for help finding books that fit their tween/young teen? What are their biggest concerns when their kids are choosing books?

The biggest success for our personal middle school collection is the independence of the reader and the self service within the collection. It’s a browsing collection. Parents will go there feeling a little more confident about finding a book that can relate to their kid, and kids can find their next great read without feeling uncomfortable and being asked what kind of books they are looking for- a question they seem to forget the answer to when put on the spot.

What kind of interests do you see in your students at this age? What are they talking about when they come to the library?

Middle school students are still incredibly overscheduled like their high school counterparts, but lack the ability to be self sufficient to make their own schedule, or get to their destination. We have a good split of kids focusing on homework, but also finding time to unwind a little bit at the library. We try to give them a little leniency with silliness and volume control when they’re here. This is their place and we want them to feel welcome.

What kind of programming do you offer for this age group?

I’ve found that programming needs seem to vary by library. If you label it tech or STEAM, they will come, but middle schoolers absolutely will not contribute anything required to create outside of a program, no matter the incentive. Talent show – zero. Fan fiction contest with winners having a free lunch with the author – zero. Other libraries have not had this problem. We have an active middle school volunteer program with a steady group of regulars.

What are your most popular books right now from the middle school collection?

Sad books. Realistic fiction where kids have to overcome potentially crippling adversities to succeed. We still have the loyal fantasy readers that read series after series, but sad realistic fiction has been a big push lately. Once at a reader’s advisory visit to a public school, I mentioned See You At Harry’s being the saddest book I’ve read in a while, and they could’t keep it on the shelf after tht.

Have there been books that surprised you that your students loved that you either thought would be too young or too old for them?

We sometimes get surprised with a 5th or 6th grader asks about a big name book like The Fault in Our Stars, or something that has explicit reasons for being in the YA collection, but it’s not our job to censor books. Our state award list generated for 4-8th grade sometimes has nominees that are shelved in our YA collection. That’s always a surprise.

It seems most 6th-8th graders who want to read about romance (and they exist, right?) have to go from middle grade, with almost zero romance, straight to YA with 16+ protagonists often facing more advanced relationship situations. What are your thoughts on books with light, sweet romance for middle schoolers, especially books with actual 13-15 year old protagonists authentically navigating that first serious crush / boyfriend / girlfriend relationship? Are those hard to find, even for a librarian who works with this age group?

I think these are becoming a little more common, at least not non-existent. The issue is that they’re still hard to find. First crushes are one thing, but middle grade readers commonly like to “read up”, books that have an older protagonist. 15-17 year old protagonist with a romantic interest, you’re in dangerous territory. I would love it if publisher reviews made a note so say it’s a squeaky clean romance so purchasers don’t have to find out the hard way.

What are some of your favorite books that you recommend as a fantastic fit for this age group?

Again, if it’s a sad realistic fiction, it’ll fly off the shelf. I normally gravitate to our award nominee list, too. In this area, we have a common reader’s advisory scenario where the child reads at a higher level than most books that are suitable for content. If they like fantasy, I normally recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne Valente. That book is cute, interesting, and full of exemplary vocabulary words.

Would you as a librarian be interested in seeing more books that relate to the terror and thrill of the middle school years in all their glory, written FOR tweens and young teens?

Seeing that the Middle School books by Patterson are popular, I think they’d circulate, but we have those in our fiction section, not in our middle school fiction. Again, kids like to read up. I personally feel that they can build up expectations, or completely flop to real life experiences and they may be hard for the reader to engage with the story. Books like Ghost by Jason Reynolds capture what it’s like to be in the middle school years without being strictly about the day-to-day average life. It’s more subtle.

If a public library wants to move toward having a middle school collection, do you have any resources you’d recommend or any advice for how to make the switch a smooth one?

Most people I’ve spoken to find that School Library Journal’s grade recommendation is the most realistic for their community. If you have middle school volunteers, have them pull books from your general fiction collection that they think are interesting to their peers. One comment on my article has been to work with your local school librarian, something that I now wish I had done. Make those partnerships and use them. Finally, know your community. Find what your middle grade readers read. Do they commonly go to the YA section? Do you want them to stay in your area until the designated age? Maybe you need older (but safe) reads in your juvenile section for them.

As a publisher, how can we help facilitate this trend? We currently notate our books that are “upper middle grade,” as we have several titles that are written specifically with 5th-8th graders in mind. If there are other ways to indicate to selectors/collection development specialists which books fit which audience, especially the often-overlooked middle school crowd, we’d be interested in hearing more.

Indicate grades in your reviews. Be clear about your levelling system in general.

No publishers use the same system it seems, so we have to acclimate to each one.  Note review factors that made your decision .Does it have sex, or drug use? Language? Let the selectors decide what is appropriate for their readers and the collection they’re purchasing for.

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She’s responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.

 

 

Riverdale Recap and Review – Season 1 – Chapter 11 – To Riverdale and Back Again

I have a theory on who killed Jason and why. But you’re going to have to read to the end to hear it. This week’s episode handed us a murderer wrapped up in a pretty little Skeet Ulrich bow, smoking gun in his closet, and nefarious partnerships with a well-known biker gang and an evil millionaire to cap it all off. Could Riverdale be so bold as to hand us such an obvious murderer? In a word . . . No. No they could not. Because in one single episode we’re led to believe that FP is Jason’s Killer but before the credits roll, the whole thing is washed down the drain.

Let’s discuss . . .

Molly Ringwald as Mary Andrews is just pure gold. Kudos to whoever casts this show because they do a fine job, not necessarily of matching the actors with the source material, but in the way they match the actors to the characters that Riverdale needs them to be. Archie’s Mom is in town to . . . hang out? It’s not really explained other than as a reaction to Archie’s drunk dial in the last episode. Either way, she sticks around to hear Archie play some music (that doesn’t suck or make you want to staple your own genitalia to a chair) and invites Archie to move to Chicago with her. Clearly he won’t. He’s Archie. The way she handles Hermione, even with the knowledge that her and Fred have been fooling around, one would suspect that Mary is a bit of a player herself. Even cooler is how she puts Alice Cooper in her place. Something not many people do successfully on this show. It’ll be a shame to see Mary go when the time comes.

The through line of this episode is the theory that FP was hired by Mr. Lodge to kill Jason Blossom out of some sort of retaliation over Clifford Blossom getting Ronnie’s dad thrown in jail. It’s plausible. FP is known to be sinister and Mr. Lodge is in prison so nuff said on that matter. It makes sense, if it wasn’t too obvious. Alice Cooper, determined to prove the theory, enlists the help of Veronica and Archie. The former is enticed as she wants to know the truth about dear old daddy, the latter is enticed due to Veronica’s enticements and Archie can’t resist a damsel in distress . . . especially an enticing one. They search FP’s trailer while Alice brilliantly distracts FP at a dinner for Jughead and Betty. Nothing is found in the trailer and despite us, the audience, knowing that FP had Jason’s jacket, we’re led to believe he’s innocent.

That is until the cops show up on an anonymous hint, search FP’s trailer, and find what is believed to be the weapon that killed Jason Blossom. This is all wonderfully spliced with Archie and Veronica’s cover of ‘Kids in America’.

Meanwhile, Betty begins to realize that things are being kept from her and I have to throw some credit at Lili Reinhart because she plays a very subtle crazy and she play it very well. You can clearly see Betty is upset before the water works begin but as she watches her mother speak with Veronica and Archie, and then the same pair talking to Jughead, you can practically see the wheels of paranoia spinning out of control. Here’s hoping we see ‘Dark Betty’ emerge from the shadows in the near future.

We get some rapid fire line-crossing at the end of the dance with Betty confronting Archie and Veronica, Jughead finding out his friends went behind his back, Jughead blaming Betty even though she’s clearly not at fault, and Betty confronting her mother about the anonymous tip. Conflict is what makes this show great and we all thrive on it. It’s like watching a car accident, we’re just waiting for the blood. Jughead runs off into the night and throws a bit of a tantrum that’s emotional and dark, and Cole Sprouse continues to deliver these great emotional moments with sincerity. I do kinda wish we could see more of the lighter side of Jughead but I don’t think it’s meant to be. At least not in season one. He really wants his dad to be a nice guy and for his family to get back together but it may be that we’re simply destined to see the ‘broken’ version of Jughead and we may never see the whimsical burger-munching side of him. I can live with this as long as we get to see Hotdog at some point. Take note Riverdale writers, we want Hotdog!

Why was Cheryl angry at the dance? I couldn’t figure it out. Was it because she was jealous of Veronica being with Archie? Was she upset because her pregnant date was unconscious? Did she not like the song? After storming off, she does two things . . . 1) She checks to see that Polly is alive. 2) She sees her mother freaking out while her father consoles her. These are important, bear with me . . .

The final twisted reveal . . . (on a side note, has anyone else noticed that the narrative has gone?) A dangerously angry Betty runs into Veronica and Archie at Pop Tates where it’s revealed there was no gun in the closet when Archie and Ronnie searched the place and that FP is being framed. Dun dun duhhhhh!

WHO KILLED JASON BLOSSOM – A THEORY

It wasn’t FP. We can get rid of that altogether. He’s a patsy, that’s his job. Now, it’s entirely feasible that FP planted the gun in the closet to implicate himself as the murderer. Why? Maybe he’s being paid to take the fall. BUT I don’t think that’s what actually happened, even though it doesn’t change who the murderer(s) is/are. And sure, maybe Alice Cooper had her husband plant the gun so they could get a good story out of it but it seems too contrived.

While Polly’s digging revealed nothing except the presence of her engagement ring, there was a clear absence of some people at the homecoming dance. This is important because someone had to plant the gun in the closet and they had to do it between Archie and Ronnie leaving and FP getting home. Everyone was at the dance at this point. Except two people: Penelope and Clifford Blossom . . . and maybe one other.

Cheryl nonchalantly checks to see if Polly is still alive when she returns home. This indicates that even their own daughter wouldn’t put it past the two senior Blossoms to commit murder. Penelope even recounts to Cheryl how Jason had turned away from the family which gives Cliff Blossom the motive to take out his own son. BUT, I don’t think he pulled the trigger. I believe Cliff Blossom hired Joaquin to kill Jason and then frame FP to take the fall. But wait, Joaquin was at the dance! True, he was, but not at the beginning of the dance. When Archie and Veronica show up, Kevin is alone. It isn’t until the duet that we see Joaquin. Where was he before that point?! Planting a gun maybe, while Clifford Blossom phones in an anonymous tip?

The plot thickens. And with only two more episodes to go, it’ll be interesting to see how everything gets tied together so Riverdale can move on and become the idyllic little town it’s supposed to be. Who are we kidding? Imagine how boring that would be. Not to worry, dark and twisted Riverdale won’t be going away anytime soon.

 

STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS . . .

– Cheryl wins the award for best insults. She calls Polly ‘Gollum’ after she makes a snatch at the ring. But the one that made me laugh out loud was when she called Betty ‘Nightmare Smurf’. I don’t even know what that means, but it’s hilarious.

– Joaquin could easily pass for FP’s kid. Same bone structure. And he has that same ‘I’m handsome yet potentially extremely unstable’ look about him.

– I LOVE that they made fun of Archie’s original songs in this episode. “Your songs make people want to slit their wrists,” says Jughead, “In a good way!” Classic.

– Cheryl is extremely flexible. And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. Also, this picture . . .

How to Write Heroes

“I need a hero

“I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night

“He’s gotta be strong

“And he’s gotta be fast

“And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight…”

Excuse me while I digress, but the classic Bonnie Tyler song, “Holding Out for a hero” – and the soundtrack to the 1980 film “Footloose”, starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer – is as good a place as any to start when creating the hero or heroine of your novel. It’s a nice little summary if you like as to just how to create a hero and the key traits.

The hero is also a good place to start when you are thrashing out your plot, although some writers prefer not to plan, but rather to just write more organically and see how the story evolves.

Regardless of your approach or preference, the role of the hero or heroine is central to most stories, especially fantasy and science fiction.

American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell famously came up with the concept of ‘The Hero’s Journey’ (or monomyth) in “The Hero of a Thousand Faces”, published back in 1949.

In it ‘The Hero’s Journey’ was divided up into 17 different stages and while not all stages will necessarily happen in every story or myth, it’s a useful starting point if you do want to plan your novel out and have some sort of framework to work too.

The idea of ‘The Hero’s Journey’, however, is not something only Campbell has discussed. Nor was he the first – think Vladimir Propp, who did something similar with Russian fairy tales and came up with ’31 functions’ in his 1928 book, “Morphology of the tale” – and since Campbell’s 1949 “The Hero of a Thousand Faces” a number of other scholars have put forward their own versions too, be it David Adams Leeming in “Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero” (1981), or more recently Christopher Vogler in his “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers” (2007). The basic framework, however, tends to be split into three.

We’re talking:

  • Departure
  • Initiation
  • (and) Return.

So the hero gets the ‘Call for Adventure’, eventually embarks on said challenge or journey (Depature), perhaps reluctantly initially, before overcoming some trial or hardship (or it could be trials and hardships) (Initiation) and then eventually triumphing and returning to the where the ‘Call for Adventure’ began (Return). ‘The Hero’s Journey’ has gone full circle. The hero or heroine will also often start off as the underdog, and just like in real life readers love to see them rise up and achieve the unexpected. The crucial point is to make the reader identify with your lead character and to ensure any actions or responses are justified and realistic.

Don’t necessarily think of the hero or heroine in your story in the singular sense either, as you could have several characters helping them along the way, each heroic in a different way.

Whatever you decide just get creative and be aware that your journey as a writer will in many ways mirror that of your characters and once you have your hero or heroine thought up and fleshed out, you can turn your attention more fully to the villain or villains because as the cliché goes, ‘every hero needs a villain’…

Parents. Gotta love ‘em.

Parents.  They play a part in most stories, and a huge role in most young adult fiction.  I’ve noticed a trend, though.  Parents in young adult fiction are clueless.  They are childish and neglectful.  The teens don’t feel comfortable sharing anything about their lives with their parents.

Why is this a trend?  Shouldn’t we teach our teens to share and trust their parents?  Shouldn’t we show parents as strong, capable role models?

This was first brought to my attention in elementary school.  Every night before bed, my mom would read aloud to me.  We would then discuss the book, watch the movie (if it had a movie tie-in), and do research (if applicable).  I loved the Ruth Chew books, and into our second or third fantasy adventure, my mom set the book aside with a frown.

“Why aren’t the parents ever involved?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I would take you with me on my adventures.”

Maybe my mom and I just have a unique relationship.  I still take her with me on my adventures.

Maybe my childhood was one in a million.  My parents both worked, but we still played games at night.  They still made dinner.  Sometimes I helped.  It wasn’t me cleaning the house and cooking all the meals because my parents were too immature to know how to turn on a stove.  I shared stories about my life with my parents.  They shared stories with me.

I know there are neglectful parents out there, but why do they have to always be in young adult books?

The next time this was brought to my attention was when I hired a freelance editor for COGLING. In COGLING, Edna’s father works on the railroad.  He supports his family as best he can; such a job, however, keeps him away from home.  The mother also works.  In fact, the family is so poor, Edna and Harrison have to work too.  The editor told me I had to make the mother clueless.  According to her, teens like reading about other teens being independent.  Teens don’t want to read about doting parents.  They don’t feel their parents can connect with them. Having Mrs. Mather be preoccupied in her own affairs added “tension” to the story.  So, that’s how I wrote it, but I made sure Edna goes to her mother for help.  I didn’t want Edna to ignore her only parental figure available (much to the editor’s chagrin).

With ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, Honoria has lost her parents, but I show her memories of how much she loved them, how close they were.  I also made certain to write a close-knit, healthy relationship for her with her aunt and uncle.

In the Treasure Chronicles, I wanted Garth and Georgette Treasure to be hands-on.  I wanted them to be solid role-models.  They work hard, but still have time for family.  They know what’s really important in life.  In many ways, I modeled them after my own parents.

In RUNNERS AND RIDERS, Juliet is steered away from her family by the bad influence of a friend.  As time goes on for her, she realizes how much she loves her mother and they grow closer.

I’m not saying books with distant parents are bad.  I’m just saying there are a lot out there, and sometimes it’s refreshing to read a young adult novel with strong family bonds.  If you’re like me and looking for one of those books, check out:

§  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.

§  OUT OF REACH by Carrie Arcos.  (Not as strong as I would like to see, but you can tell the family is trying)

§  EXIT PURSUED BY A BEAR by E.K. Johnston

§  SUPERNATURAL PET SITTER by Diane Moat

§  BLOOD BETWEEN US by Zac Brewer (Not supportive parents; rather, supportive uncles)

§  RED JACKET by Mark Bondurant

§  THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

§  EVERY LAST WORD by Jennifer Niven

§ THE BODY INSTITUTE by Carol Riggs

Most Memorable Moments at Book Signings

I aim to do a book signing every month.  Sometimes I’m able to squeeze in more than just one.  I appear at craft shows, Renaissance Faires, book stores, conventions, and libraries.  Each book signing is a rewarding experience where I get to talk with readers.  Some people keep coming back to see me; others are new to my books.  While each experience is beautiful, there are some moments that stand out more than others.

1.       At my first signing for a ghost story anthology, a man approached my table to call me evil for writing about ghosts.  He then lectured me about unleashing demons.  He explained to passersby that by reading the anthology, they would be opening a portal.  I really hope the book has never opened any portals.

2.      A teenage boy asked to buy a copy of UNDER A BRASS MOON for a quarter.  He didn’t take “the book costs $15” well.

3.      I had to share a table with another author at a convention.  I’d never met her before, but they put us together because she also wrote young adult fantasy. She had fliers listing her books and their blurbs.  She spread these fliers out all over the table. I do mean ALL OVER.  She covered my books with her fliers.  When I asked her to move them, she told me it was important people know she had more than just the books she’d brought.  One of the conventions employees came over to deal with this and the author threw a childish temper tantrum.  This is an example of how not to make friends at a book convention.

4.      At another convention, I was paired with another author I didn’t know.  She had over ten erotica books written and had brought her entire family along (parents, brothers, sisters, husband, kids).  She covered the table with her merchandise and her family took up the space behind.  I didn’t have a chair, or room to stand, and I only had enough table space to place two books side-by-side. This convention didn’t intervene even though I had paid $50 for half a table. 

5.       A teenage girl told me she waited all year for May so she could read my next book.  She asked to have her picture taken with me.

6.      A man approached my table to tell me about the voices in his head.  He kept switching personalities throughout our conversation.

7.       A girl raved to me about how much she loves TREASURE DARKLY and asked about the symbolism behind the blue dress Amethyst wears.  I felt bad telling her it was blue just because I love the color, not because I spent hours deep in thought.

8.      I met an amazing young adult author who lived about an hour away.  We were able to swap books and marketing strategies.  We still keep in touch today, and have done a few more signings together.

9.      A kid pushed over my banner and broke the stand.  The mom thought it was funny.  I didn’t.

10.   A man bought two books for his daughter.  She and I chatted, and after they left, I saw he’d forgotten his change on the edge of the table.  If you’re reading this, sir, I still have it for you!

11.    A girl bought a book from me because her name is also Jordan Elizabeth.

12.   I always wear costumes to the Renaissance Faires.  At one, a woman lifted up my skirt to see what “Renaissance undergarments” look like.  I disappointed her with my Victoria’s Secret panties.  While the breeze on a hot day felt good, I didn’t appreciate the personal space intrusion.

13.   A girl bought a copy of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW because the model on the cover appears to have pink hair.  She told me she will buy anything pink.

Riverdale Recap and Review – Season 1 – Chapter 10 – The Lost Weekend

I’ve often complimented the CW shows on their ability to tie up dangling plot points and sub story arcs in a timely manner. Many shows prefer to drag things out for multiple episodes and sometimes entire seasons (*cough* The Blacklist *cough*). This can get arduous and can result in story fatigue. Don’t laugh, it’s a real condition, 1 in 10 Netflix subscribers suffer from it on a monthly basis. The CW on the other hand loves to introduce some juicy sub story and then tie it up in a neat bow and move on to the next. The latest episode of Riverdale was no exception. They even had a party so they could tie up loose plot points. A party! Genius.

Let’s get to it . . .

Veronica states close to the end of the episode that “we’re all messed up,” while she’s trying to talk Archie down. This nicely emcompasses the whole episode because everyone, even supporting characters, are messed up. Everywhere you looked, someone was messed up. Throw a rock, hit a messed up person. Veronica herself is particularly messed up in this episode, and for good reason. Her Dad threatens her from a distance to coerce her into testifying on his behalf along with her mother. What’s weird is that she goes along with it. And why? Because Smithers claims Hermione is a good person. I’d say that flies in the face of her actual actions over the course of this season, but what do I know? Smithers is clearly a knowledgeable footman/butler/maid/doorman. Thanks to a bit of super sleuthing, Ronnie pulls an Angela Lansbury and digs up a connection between her father and the Blossoms, unfortunately it also ties Mr. Lodge to the murder of Jason. So did Veronica agree to testify because a) She wants to help her dad or b) she wants to tie her dad to Jason’s murder or c) making out with a redhead messes with your mind and she’s just plain confused.

Normally there are clear sections to these reviews but the party took up so much of the episode and contained most of the story for this week so let’s just take a walk through Jughead’s nightmare.

Cheryl is back to being evil Cheryl (and she has the nerve to accuse Betty of a slippery mental state) and enlists the now purely evil and freshly unsuspended Chuck Clayton to crash Jughead’s birthday bash. Why does the fiery haired one do this? Because she lost the dance off. I know I always get a bit antsy when I lose a dance off so this is perfectly acceptable.

Jughead doesn’t want a party. It’s clearly stated. He says it. Archie says it to Betty a couple of times. Jughead repeats it. Mr. Jones reiterates it. So Betty takes the only logical course of action and throws Jughead a party. He reacts . . . badly. Big shocker, it wasn’t without warning. And he has a good reason too. His childhood sucked. He was raised by Skeet Ulrich and there were few happy memories so he suffers from some sort of childhood PTSD. This action says more about Betty than it does about Jughead and the latter actually sums it all up nicely when they’re arguing in the garage. Betty does appear to be a little on the crazy side. The evidence was presented in episode one with her mother giving her prescription pills, then we saw the black wig incident in episode three, and there have been a few other little tell-tale signs along the way. Betty jabbing her nails into her own hands and confronting Chuck in the cafeteria all point to a wonderful instability. There’s ‘Girl Next Door Betty’, there’s ‘Dark Betty’, and there’s ‘Slightly Unhinged Betty’, as displayed by this picture:

Could this be the face of a murderer? I still say no, partly because she’s too obvious but mostly because she’s a main character and I doubt they’re going to be getting rid of Betty.

Jughead’s summation of the ‘Bughead’ relationship is an accurate one. They’re completely different people and while opposites attract, Jughead does represent a sort of pet project for Betty. What’s strange about all this is that it was Jughead that moved in on Betty in the first place and not the other way around so I can only conclude that his big push back is because he really, really, REALLY does not like parties. And why would he? He gets punched at this one.

Chuck and Cheryl show up with half of Riverdale High in order to cause chaos, and they succeed. Chery’s representation of the ‘devil on the shoulder’ (see my review of episode 9) is solidified here because she doesn’t have an ‘angel’ to balance her out. She’s running unleashed and even has a co-pilot in the form of Chuck Clayton who has an axe to grind anyway. As mentioned previously, the ‘truth game’ covers a number of storylines that have been left to dangle for a while or have been waiting to be revealed to the right people. Dilton spills the dirt on Archie and Ms. Grundy, Cheryl takes a swing at Veronica but gets beautifully backhanded by being accused of ‘twincest’, and Chuck paints a scary picture of one of Betty’s personalities (yeah, that’s right, I’m digging back into that multiple personality theory). Everyone heard it so all the cards are now on the table.

Standing creepily in the background is Jughead’s dad who appears way too comfortable hanging out at a high school house party. Points to Betty for getting Jones Senior to actually show up but then he doesn’t leave, has a quick pow wow with his man on the inside, is spotted by Mrs. Cooper, and then in a shocking display of character actually acts like a father. When everything goes south, he throws Chuck out and then convinces Jughead to do the right thing when his son’s natural inclination, much like his father’s, is to run away. Say what you will but that’s a pretty big development for the Jones family in terms of functionality.

Archie makes out with Veronica. No big shocker, it’s been coming for a while now. It’s actually kind of cute that they wake up in the same room but clearly didn’t sleep together, shows a mutual respect on both sides of the fence or maybe they were just too drunk and passed out. Either way, Valerie is way out of the picture and in the past few weeks Archie has made out with, kissed, or slept with Betty, Cheryl, Valerie, Veronica, and Ms. Grundy. He may want to reign it in a little. He’s going to burn through all the Riverdale girls in season one. Run, Ethel! Run for your life!

Finally, we see Jughead without the hat, which admittedly disappointed me a little, especially since he pointed out earlier in the episode that he never takes it off and that’s weird, but that’s who he is. Mere minutes later and he’s not wearing it. I suppose in a way it’s a pay off so I’ll let it slide, but put the damn hat back on! Betty and Jughead’s acceptance of each other’s quirks might make or break their relationship. On the one hand, two people with dark secrets can likely survive quite well together as they’re bound by a common weirdness. On the flip side, having a crazy blonde for a girlfriend can play havoc on your stress levels. Whatever the outcome, Bughead remains intact for another week.

I’m only touching upon the Fred and Mary storyline because it introduces us to Molly Ringwald as Archie’s mother, but really it served very little purpose other than to give Archie a good reason to get drunk. I can’t imagine she’ll be coming on as a season regular so don’t expect her to stick around but, c’mon, it’s Molly Freakin Ringwald! I look forward to the next episode, which we sadly have to wait two weeks to see.

In closing, yes, everyone in Riverdale is messed up to some extent. Maybe it’s an accurate observation of the human condition or maybe it just makes for really good television. I’m inclined to side with the latter. Seeya in 2 weeks . . .

STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS . . .

– You can take the serpent out of the southside but you can’t take the southside out of the serpent. So Mrs. Cooper did some slithering in her past life . . . interesting . . .

– Archie’s drunken stupor had a very Twin Peaksy vibe to it. Trippy, weird, and involved drunk dialling (was there drunk dialling in Twin Peaks? I’ve honestly never seen an episode).

– Betty’s crown sweater was pure gold. I want one and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

– Don’t make Betty angry, you won’t like her when she’s angry. You’ll unleash DARK BETTY! She’s fearsome! She even wears a wig.

– “And the plot thickens” has been said more than once this season. Are the writers repeating themselves or are they trying to create a recurring catch phrase? Discuss.

– All disagreements should be settled with a dance off. Think how festive life would become.

The Humanity (and Inhumanity) of Laughter

There’s a memorable passage in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land in which the main character “discovers” that humans don’t laugh at things because they’re funny, but rather because they’re tragic. Every incident of humor he describes occurs at someone’s expense, a recognition of physical or emotional suffering. We laugh, he says, at the “wrongness” of the situation, at the subversion of our expectations and the upending our shared social reality. It is an acknowledgement of our tenuous existence, the realization that, but for a bit of chance, the same misfortune could befall any of us.

Laughter, then, is both an act of “bravery” and a “sharing.” We laugh because to do otherwise would ignore our basic humanity and deny the collective nature of our experience. Heinlein gives “death” as an example of a “wrongness” that affects all human beings. When a character tries to argue death is not funny, the protagonist quickly counters by asking why there are so many jokes about death if that’s true.

It’s been almost twenty years since I read Stranger in a Strange Land, but the novel’s musings on humor made a strong impression on me. I think about the nature of humor quite a bit, actually. We spend a great deal of time asking “why” something is funny, but we often can’t answer that question accurately without also asking “who” finds it funny in the first place. If laughter is a response to “wrongness,” as Heinlein asserts, then someone has to be suffering an indignity or an injustice somewhere along the line.

And that’s where things can take a dark turn. The idea of laughing at “wrongness” is all well and good when we’re talking about universal experiences like death or accidental injury. But what about racism? Or sexism? Or even physical violence? In many of these cases, people are able to erect barriers between their own lives and the “wrongness” inflicted upon others. The danger here is that humor can actually cause us to lose touch with our basic humanity. If we forget “who” we are laughing at or with, we suddenly fail to acknowledge the “wrongness” of the situation, which can be incredibly dangerous for a society.

As an extreme example, think about blackface minstrel shows from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There’s no question that these performances drew laughs by tapping into the fundamental “wrongness” of society’s deeply ingrained racism, but there’s something profoundly sinister about the fact that the people actually suffering from that injustice remained invisible to the audience. As a result, audiences lost sight of the “who” in the “wrongness” equation, which made it impossible to understand the nature of the “wrongness” in the first place. Deployed in this fashion, humor served to reinforce injustice by obscuring its presence.

Incidentally, this is why well-crafted satire is so powerful. Rather than deflecting the question of “who” has suffered a “wrongness” and why, satire leans into the injustice and dares you to laugh at it if you can. And it’s an uncomfortable laughter, the kind that stirs a wide range of emotions and sparks new lines of thinking. This is the sort of laughter Heinlein meant when he described the response as a “bravery” and a “sharing.”

To my mind, there is nothing more inhuman than the act of denying others their basic humanity, of denying their fundamental right to exist. As a writer, I believe it’s vitally important that we think about how we utilize humor in fiction. Humor allows readers to relate to characters and situations much more readily than inundating them with dry, pontificating exposition (and yes, I’m well aware that this essay might have benefited from a little humor itself!). More importantly, it’s important for writers to understand the “dark side” of humor. There is a tendency to make evil humorless. In some situations, this might be a good choice because it might convey a lack of interest in “wrongness,” which would suggest an indifference to or an acceptance of suffering (such as The Judge from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian). More frightening, however, is the character who uses humor as a means of inflicting or perpetuating injustice without even recognizing the “wrongness” of it (Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from Django Unchained, comes to mine here).

Then, of course, there’s somebody like The Joker, who is perhaps more keenly aware of the humorous dimensions of “wrongness” than any character in fiction. But that’s a whole separate essay…

Riverdale Recap and Review – Season 1 – Chapter 9 – La Grande Illusion

There are a number of universal truths in this world. Unbreakable and unbendable facts that shape our humanity in a physical, mental, and emotional sense. Water is wet. The sun rises and sets. Snow is cold. Cats have no souls. Pop Tarts are the best breakfast snack food ever created. And so on. However, there’s one universally acknowledged truth that shouldn’t be ignored: You never, ever, ever, ever, ever, mess with a redhead. However, due to the unusual abundance of gingers in Riverdale, it’s impossible not to have a run in with one or more on a regular basis, or so this week’s episode teaches us.

**It’s important to note at this point that I have a weakness for redheads. I’m married to one and, consequently, also have a red headed daughter who can wrap me round her little finger just as well as her mother. Why tell you this? Because if it seems like I’m going easy on Cheryl in this review, it’s because I kinda adore her. Let’s proceed . . .

First let’s get the other stuff out of the way because nothing really compared to the main storyline this week.

I’m going to make a story prediction, and maybe it’s slightly obvious, but Hiram Lodge isn’t going to end up in jail. The charges will be dropped, he’ll get away with whatever it is he’s being accused of, and he’ll come to Riverdale and cause all sorts of problems. He’s the perfect bad guy for the show and he’s simply got too much potential to be a faceless name. Mr. Lodge is coming. Maybe not this season, maybe even not next season, but he’ll arrive eventually. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

A weird thing happened in this episode. I found myself liking Betty’s mother. She’s gone from a crazy, over-protective, controlling, psycho to a loving, crazy, over-protective, controlling, psycho. That’s a big step. With her relationship with her husband falling apart and her pregnant daughter seemingly abandoning her, it’s not surprising that she’s starting to crack. But that led to a sense of reversal in this episode with Betty having more of a controlling influence over her mother than vice versa. A journey that ends with Mrs. Cooper working at the school newspaper. In what world does a grown adult work at a school newspaper, you ask? Riverdale, that’s where. Mrs. Cooper’s discovery that Polly is nothing more than a chip off the old crazy blonde block, and is only siding with the Blossoms in order to infiltrate their inner circle gives mommy dearest a great foundation to build from. She could actually be good and decent if she really worked at it. Let’s face it, you can’t throw a rock in Riverdale without hitting an insane manipulative parent (see what I did there? With the rock? The throwing? No? Fine). It’s nice to see at least one parent develop in a different direction.

Back in the slut shaming episode when we first met Ethel, there was a singular shot that had Ms. Muggs peering through a crack in a door at the torture of Chuck Clayton with a look of sheer evil glee. This made me think there was more to Ethel than met the eye so I’m actually a little disappointed in her character development. Am I wrong to hope that every character in this show has a dirty dark side to them? Yeah, I probably am. In the end, her story is more about Veronica striving for redemption from the sins of her family while dealing with the ever-growing guilt that seems to come hand in hand with having the last name ‘Lodge’. Her treatment of Ethel is Ronnie’s own cry for help to escape the life she seems to equally love and hate. On the other side of that same coin we have her mother, Hermione, trying to do her own soul searching quest for truth by confessing to Fred Andrews what’s really going on with the drive-in land and the Blossoms. Veronica fairs a little better than her mother with Ethel accepting her attempts, while Fred simply breaks up with Hermione and adopts a cold business like attitude that he’s too good of a person to maintain for too long.

And this brings us to the main storyline that harkens back to that universal truth I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Archie is an idiot. We’ve learned this time and time again and I’ve defended it before as I’m going to defend it now. He’s supposed to be an idiot. He was in the comics, why not in the TV show too? Cheryl even said it herself in this episode he’s the “last decent person in Riverdale.” Well, he’s not. There’s Pop Tate, Mr. Weatherbee, Fred Andrews, Kevin, Moose, Jughead . . . but for arguments sake, let’s say he is. It’s Archie’s fundamental flaw that he’s good and wants to see good in everyone else. Hell, he sees good in Cheryl who is clearly gloriously evil and doesn’t even try to hide it most of the time. Archie represents a naive, somewhat ignorant, archetype who really wants everyone to actually be good and get along. Not in Riverdale, my friend. That maple syrup-drenched town is a cesspool of evil, corruption, and manipulation.

However, Archie will continue to survive because he’s consistent. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body to not be. He agrees to help Cheryl with a bit of light prodding from Mrs. Blossom and continues to help them due to coercion and vague promises until he actually begins to feel sorry for Cheryl. At which point he genuinely tries to help the Blossom Princess but to absolutely no avail. He’s not capable of surviving in that world, a fake corrupt world controlled by Cliff Blossom, and Cheryl isn’t able to separate herself from her family. The result is what anyone would expect. A redhead plus a redhead equals a complete disaster.

While I suspect a lot of this storyline was to get Archie into a position where he could hide behind a bush and overhear that Clifford Blossom was responsible for getting Hiram Lodge thrown in jail, therefore adding another (unlikely) murder suspect to the murder wall, I think Cheryl’s development was the actual focus of this whole episode. “But you have a weakness for redheads!” you scream. Well you only know that because I told you, and if I’d known you’d throw it back in my face like this, I would have kept it a secret!

In a lot of ways, I think Cheryl wants to be Archie. She wants to be decent. But she doesn’t know how and can’t seem to shake the affliction that is her family. Archie and Cheryl truly represent the angel and the devil on each shoulder and the more ‘good’ Archie becomes, the more ‘evil’ Cheryl will have to be. Which is why we find her angrily scratching out people’s faces in the family picture after Archie realizes the error of his ways. That redhead will be seeking revenge, and it won’t be pretty.

Actually it’ll be gorgeous because, let’s face it, Cheryl is absolutely stunning. Yeah, yeah, I know! Weakness for redheads. Shurrup.

Next week’s episode looks like an epic party followed by Molly Ringwald . . . personally I think all parties should be followed by Molly Ringwald, but that’s just my opinion.

Until next time . . .

STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS . . .

–  I’ve never liked Valerie. There, I said it. She’s a boring character so I’m not disappointed in the breakup.

– Red is not a good color to wear if you’re a redhead. Apparently it causes some sort of a clash that affects the very fabric of the universe.

– How many times can you say Archibald in one episode? I counted 14. Also, who calls their son Archibald? Fred, Mary . . . Archibald. It doesn’t fit.

– The classic pearl beads slowly dropping on the floor made me wonder if a Wayne had just been murdered.