Riverdale Season 1 Episode 3 – TV Review
What isn’t comforting is Riverdale’s bizarre foray into Glee-esque sociopolitical commentary.
The third episode of a fledgling, sexy teen show is not the time or place, CW.
TL;DR Betty and Veronica (and Cheryl) get dragged into some forced progressiveness about slut shaming, but do manage to sneak in a few character beats; Jughead enters the world of investigative journalism; Archie gets back on his musical aspirations, and back into Sexy Teacher’s predatory arms; Josie also falls into the political grandstanding trap.
She’s like a thin Mercedes.
So we’ll just tackle this Betty/Veronica plot, because it really is fuckin’ weird. Veronica goes on a largely chaste date with Black Jock, who then has a brag about banging her or something, which gets Veronica in a tizzy about the concept of slut shaming. After Veronica’s attempts to take Black Jock head on fail, Betty uses her newfound interest in journalism (thanks to her mum, who apparently does run the local paper) to blow open a football team-wide scandal surrounding faking sexual conquests and keeping track of points. Huh? Cheryl, whose dead twin brother Jason you’ll recall was captain of the football team, is initially incredulous, but once the evidence comes to light, she joins Betty, Veronica, and Barb from Stranger Things in taking the jocks down. Meanwhile, Betty recruits Jughead to investigate Jason’s death, as the authorities seem uninterested in it, and he discovers a local scout troop had been practicing with a rifle on 4 July, which accounts for the gunshot heard. But the Scoutmaster did see ol’ Grundy’s (Sexy Teacher needed a name) car there. Escandalo. Meanwhile, Cheryl concedes her admission of guilt from last episode’s cliffhanger was actually regarding a plan Jason concocted on 4 July to fake his own death, which she thought had been successful until his body turned up (that explains her tears). Meanwhile, Archie gets a lesson in white privilege from Josie, the rich, basically-famous Mayor’s daughter, while honing his musical craft; Archie keeps Grundy’s secret, which stokes her pussy fires for him; Hermione and Archie’s dad pine for each other; and Betty has a dissociative episode while almost murdering Black Jock.
So when she threatened to kill Cheryl, she might have meant it. Cool.
You know, if not for the dual Social Issues sledgehammers that this episode swings, it would otherwise be perfectly fine.
Wouldn’t it have been enough for Betty and Veronica to be opposed to Black Jock and the football team’s antics simply because they were gross (and they were)? Why did Riverdale have to go Afterschool Special on us?
Why I hate this episode:
The plot doesn’t even make sense. Veronica’s supposed opposition to Black Jock’s harassment is because slut shaming is wrong. But she didn’t even fuck Black Jock. So shouldn’t she be mad that he’s telling people they did, when they didn’t? The problem isn’t slut shaming. It’s lying about a sexual conquest that didn’t happen.
Furthermore, Barb tells her tale of how one of the jocks lied about banging her when all they did was study together or whatever. But then the episode kind of forgets about that, and instead focuses on how yucky it is for the guys to have assigned points in their “playbook” about their sexcapades. But these sexcapades, or at least some of them, didn’t even happen. Did the football team know they were all lying to each other? Were they in a secret club of sexual chicken where they were all making up conquests to seem tough? Because there’s your real story.
And besides, Veronica Mars already did this plot, but it was for real. And part of a rape investigation. With a great twist that made for some sublime moral ambiguity. Riverdale, despite being from Veronica Mars’ network, isn’t clever enough for that, it seems.
Josie, not one to miss out on a good whinge, pukes all her white privilege, “it’s hard out here for a sistah” bullshit onto Archie, when all he wants to do is learn how to be a better musician from her and the Pussycats. Like I said before, Josie is the daughter of the mayor, has a suite of performance-quality musical gear for her and her friends, books gig after gig (paid?), is pretty much a celebrity at the school, and is besties with Cheryl, the queen bee. Yeah, you’ve got it real hard out here, sistah. The only one victimising Josie is Josie, as evidenced by Valerie and Melody not backing her up when she attacks Archie. Shut up.
Jughead’s narration is still super edgelordy, and I’m still unsure of whether the writers are self-aware of that.
Archie reneges on his resolution to out Grundy by omitting her from his statement about being at the river on 4 July. Boo.
Black Jock is fucking retarded to accept Betty and Veronica’s sexual advances when he already knew they were out to get him.
Oh, and the ease with which the Scooby Gang find the football team’s playbook is absurd.
But it’s not all bad:
Probably because the playbook isn’t genuine, and was planted. My theory is that Barb did it. She’s the main reason why Betty gets such a wet-on for the playbook story; she’s the only non-main character to be part of the mission to find the book, and she’s the one who “finds” it; and she gets an odd, lingering shot during Betty and Veronica’s torture of Black Jock that shows a smile that says less “victim’s justice” and more “if I had a moustache, I would twirl it. Because I’m a villain.” Trust no bitch in Riverdale.
Cheryl also makes an on-the-nose, but still satisfying, reference to Barb’s Stranger Things fate when she says, during the football team’s perp walk, “#justiceforEthel.” Ethel is her name in Riverdale, by the way. But she’ll always be Barb to me.
Back to that torture scene, though, and Betty’s near-homicide is what keeps this plot from being solely a social issues wank. Betty dons a black wig and when she’s pressing Black Jock to confess on camera for Veronica, she gets a little too into it and starts forcefully stepping on his head, calling him “Jason,” and demanding he apologise for destroying Polly, which then goes from “Polly” to “me.” The conspiracy theorist in me (look at that Barb one up there) is tantalised by the idea that maybe Polly doesn’t exist, and is part of Betty (Mama B’s sidestepping of Betty’s requests to see Polly would make sense). But I’d settle for mere craziness.
Archie may sit in the corner at Pussycat rehearsal for a little while, but he eventually gets the balls to make suggestions for the song they’re working on for this episode’s town event. And Valerie and Melody back him up with Josie, which is nice.
Jughead is yet to impress me as a character, but he does doggedly sniff out the clue about the gunshot. And when he later harangues the Scoutmaster into giving some more hot deets about that morning, he can see the revelation about Grundy’s car could lead to people discovering Archie’s affair with her. Will Jughead prioritise journalistic integrity and the investigation of a murder over his friend? So juicy.
Mama B hasn’t turned down the Cunt Dial yet, and really chews the scenery this episode. She drinks heavily at the town event and gets the best line of the episode when cruelly informing Hermione about the rumours spreading about Veronica: “Slut shaming. That’s what they call it when sluts get shamed.” Well, she’s not wrong.
She also gets the best moment of the episode when she tries her cunt moves on Cheryl’s mum, and gets an immediate and epic bitch slap to the fucking face. No hesitation from Mrs Blossom. I laughed.
I haven’t decided on any ships yet, but I am not opposed to Hermione and Archie’s dad. They’re the only two sane people in Riverdale, so it seems fitting.
Oh, and Cheryl is tertiary to the events this episode (her only beat is the realisation, per Jason’s apparent conquest of Polly as written in the playbook, that her brother didn’t tell her everything and maybe wasn’t perfect), but she still looks like a fucking queen.