Parental dysfunction was alive and well in this week’s episode. Add to that a healthy dose of fear, performance anxiety, adults pushing their insecurities onto their kids, and teen pregnancy, well … it’s just another week in Riverdale.
Right off the bat I’m going to have to admit defeat. I was wrong about the split personality theory and I’m fairly certain that Polly is no longer just a figment of Betty’s imagination. We got to meet Polly, it finally happened. After an awkward breakfast and an over-emphasis of the word ‘Jughead’ with Mrs. Cooper, Betty and Jug succeed in discovering the location of Polly. She’s sitting uncomfortably at The Sisters of Quiet Mercy: Home For Troubled Youth (beautifully shot at the abandoned Crease Clinic at Riverview Mental Hospital in Coquitlam BC. How do I know this? Because I shot a short film there a decade ago on the heels of Ashton Kutcher’s ‘The Butterfly Effect’).
Polly is all you’d expect: blonde, beautiful, pregnant … wait, what? Yes, pregnant! Score a point for teen angsty drama goodness. So Polly isn’t crazy, or is she? It’s actually unclear but the show finally revealing Polly in all her glory gives an interesting amount of validity to the pure evil of the Cooper parents. Polly was going to run away with a redhead. Not exactly grounds for committing someone to an asylum. I should know, I’m married to a redhead. The scene in Betty’s bedroom when Mrs. Cooper busts out her best evil laugh is chilling and I was half expecting a ‘yeah, I killed him, what of it!?’ moment but it didn’t happen. However, I think the Cooper parents are still off the hook because they’re too obvious to be the killers.
Polly’s pregnancy reveal and admittance that her and Jason were going to run away is all great fodder for the continuing ‘who killed Jason’ storyline though it opens up questions that the show has yet to answer. The biggest one being, how did Betty not know? How did she not know that Jason was the love of her sister’s life, that they were engaged, that he knocked her up? Betty seems to be among the more savvy of the characters on the show and yet she seems oblivious to anything that happened before July 4th. Either way, her jaunt with Jughead and their discovery of Jason’s car, some drugs, and the consequent burning of said car moves along the season’s main story at a nice pace. The complete glossing over of Jughead and Betty’s kiss though … it was a lovely moment that was ruined by Betty’s investigative mind kicking into overdrive. Will they end up as a couple? I guess this version of Jughead doesn’t hate girls? He sure loves pancakes though.
The final shocker this week is Polly’s escape from The Sisters of Quiet Mercy. A smashed window, blood on the glass, and somewhere out there is a pregnant blonde running to … who the hell knows where?
Archie finally got to stand in the lime light this week though he did so with a quickly diminishing IQ and I have to wonder how he has any friends at all. Archie’s not stupid, but he lacks a certain amount of empathy and … okay fine, he’s kinda stupid. Which is a legitimate throwback to the original comics where Archie really wasn’t ever the sharpest tool in the shed. This week he stood at the centre of controversy with Valerie quitting the Pussycats only to be replaced by a jilted Veronica after she takes her misplaced anger out on Archie. Misplaced? Maybe not the right word. Archie did happily accept Ronnie as his co-star and then ditched her like a slutty music teacher ditches town after she’s discovered to be, well, a slutty music teacher.
“I was born alone. I’ll die alone. I’ll sing alone.” What?! I’m not even sure I fully understand what that means. No one is born alone, we literally come out of another human being. We may die along but that’s not something you’re going to discover for a while. All in all, a pretty dumb statement. Add to that his dismissal of Veronica’s feelings, his uncertainty that Mr. Lodge is in prison, his failed attempts at interesting conversation at that awkward-as-hell dinner at the Lodges … let’s just agree that Archie isn’t playing guitar with a full set of strings and leave it at that. He manages to pull it all together to perform in front of the school, followed by another throwaway kiss between him and Valerie. At least he got to be more interesting this week.
Speaking of kisses, I don’t understand Veronica fighting with her mother over the makeout session with Fred Andrews (workplace sexual harassment much?). Mr. Lodge has already proved to be ethically unhinged, so is Hermione locking tongues with a genuinely nice guy all that big of a deal? Veronica’s anger seems misplaced and Hermione completely fails to placate her daughter and instead decides to piss her off further by arranging for Fred Andrews to win the construction project his company so badly needs.
And while we’re on the subject of Fred, there really isn’t a nicer guy in Riverdale. From him awkwardly telling Archie that he has a thing for Hermione, to his support of his employees to the point where he’s almost bankrupt. Yes he’s almost as oblivious as his son, but he’s still the nicest guy around. Raise your hand if you wouldn’t date him. See, not one hand.
And finally, we got to see a pure example of the standard Riverdale parent-child relationship in for the form of Josie and her dad, Miles. The reason Josie is so bitchy is because her dad is in town and she places a lot of weight on his opinion of her. This is not only a teenage cliche, it’s also a straight up truth. Most kids want to live up to their parent’s expectations. It’s the level of those expectations that can often ruin a young teen’s life, and that’s what we’re watching happen with Josie. Miles expects far too much of his daughter and it bleeds all over the dinner table at the Lodges, right on through to the concert, and ends with Josie crying in a bathroom.
Expectations run high in Riverdale. Mrs. Cooper expects Betty to not be crazy (or maybe she fully expects her to actually be crazy, it’s honestly hard to tell.) Hermione expects Veronica to accept her and her father’s actions no matter how ethically and morally bent. Penelope Blossom expects Cheryl (curiously absent this week) to be the perfect daughter but will never compare to her brother. Fred expects Archie to not nail anymore of his teachers (low expectations on that one).
And me, I expect Riverdale will keep getting better and better.
STRAY THOUGHTS OF AWESOMENESS …
- “The last guy I fired, it didn’t work out so well.” - Referring to Jughead’s father I assume. No serpents this episode, hoping they’ll slither back next week.
- Is it just me or is Archie’s music, well, kinda terrible. Not ‘I’d rather be torn apart by wild badgers’ terrible, but definitely in the realm of ‘I really, really want to go full John Belushi in Animal House on that guitar.’
- The werewolf masks! Imagine how elated I, an author of teenage fiction centred around a werewolf, was when they kept flashing to people wearing werewolf masks! Let me tell you, I was pretty happy.
- Classic teen movie/tv show slow motion walk down the hallway scene. Gold.