Riverdale Season 1 Episode 4 – TV Review
Remember when a promising new show impaled itself on the spear of social justice in only its third episode?
Well, Riverdale has forcefully forgotten that, too.
Let’s get back to steamy teens and murder mysteries, baby.
TL;DR Archie and Grundy’s affair is outed, and she’s kicked out of town; the tale of Hermione’s mystery money is told (it’s business stuff); Jughead’s fight to save the drive-in belies a sadder truth about his home life; Mama B begins a defrost, but not before putting on those faithful Cunt Boots; Kevin gets a love interest that isn’t averse to kissing.
Sorry, Moose, but Kevin’s into snakes, now.
The drive-in is the episode’s big set piece, but we’ll get to the Archie/Grundy stuff first, because it’s so damn salacious. Following the Scoutmaster’s tip-off last episode, Betty quickly puts Archie and Grundy’s stories together and confronts him, with Veronica also squeezing into the conversation. Archie thinks he’s in love and tells them to back off blah blah, but Betty’s not having it, so she and Veronica investigate Miss Paedophilia and discover Grundy created her present identity. They present their findings to Archie, who asks Grundy, and she plays the ol’ “my husband beat me so I changed my name and started fucking teenagers” card, and he convinces Betty to call off her dogs. But Alice Cooper (Mama B was a cute moniker, but with a name like that, I’m using it) stumbles upon it and heroically exposes the lovers, dragging Fred Andrews along with her. Grundy leaves town to avoid child sex offence charges, Archie gets a sad-on, and Betty and Alice decide to make peace with each other. Meanwhile, Jughead’s campaign to save the local drive-in where he works from being bought and demolished proves fruitless. Because Hermione, on assignment from her scumbag husband, has been paying off the local bikie gang, the South Side Serpents, to drive the property value down so they can buy it cheap. And she also bribes the Mayor, because TV show. Veronica doesn’t like it when she finds out, but tough titties, bitch. It also happens that the Serpents’ leader is Jughead’s dad (much escandalo), and that Jughead’s opposition to losing the drive-in was more motivated by the fact that he’d been squatting there. Aww. Meanwhile, Cheryl doesn’t get up to much, but she does further confuse me as to who she’s actually friends with. And Kevin hooks up with a South Side Serpent, which I’m guessing won’t make his Sheriff father too happy.
The Sheriff just wants his son to date a nice, gay boy from the right side of the tracks. For real.
So yeah, this episode certainly got Riverdale back on the right track. Last week’s foray into sociopolitical commentary was too hard and too fast (leave it to shows with nothing left to lose. Like Arrow). Although, I’m still expecting it will be redeemed with an impending reveal that Barb truly did orchestrate the whole football team sex playbook thing.
But for now, Riverdale got back to doing what it promised us at the outset: sexy teen drama, and dark, tantalising world-building around a murder mystery.
And it didn’t hurt that this show’s Ezra is already outta here.
Why I hate this episode:
Sadly, I don’t think it’s the last we’ll see of her. She got away too clean, and there’s still a chance she could have been involved in Jason’s murder. She apparently “tutored” him privately, too, and she was at the river on 4 July. Let’s hope her inevitable return is brief.
Her ousting also didn’t have the impact it should have. Archie never realises that he was being taken advantage of by an authority figure. He constantly handwaves away the relationship as being initiated by him, and pretty much every character buys it. Betty, Veronica, and even Archie’s dad, Fred, don’t make much of a peep about how wrong their relationship is. Just that they want it over. Bizarrely, Alice Cooper is the only character to actively condemn Grundy as a “child predator,” but her motivation is merely to make Archie look bad for being an oversexed monster. I mean, again, it’s not on an Aria/Ezra level of “we’re in love so it’s cool even though they’re my teacher” grossness, but when Riverdale proved it was happy to grandstand about slut shaming and white privilege, it’s odd that it backed off so hard on statutory rape.
Fred is especially hard to believe, as his only contribution is to comfort Archie after the fact, and Archie only seems to be upset that his girlfriend has gone bye-bye. Not that he was abused. I wag my finger at you, Riverdale.
Oh, and Betty’s fucking contribution to things is to accept Archie’s request to stop causing shit. And then, during the big confrontation, when Alice declares she’ll go public with the affair, Betty tries to stop her (presumably to spare Archie) by saying she’ll tell everyone that she made it all up and her diary, which is how Alice found out, was lies. Why is everyone so concerned with protecting Grundy?
But it’s not all bad:
Grundy’s hit the road, so that’s a good start. And maybe Archie will come to the realisation that she abused him? Riverdale has the smarts for it.
Speaking of smarts, Jughead’s horrible narration seems to be self-aware on the show’s part, as Kevin admonishes Jughead for his obnoxious references this episode.
And still speaking of Riverdale’s smarts, how monumentally refreshing is it that the characters in this show actually talk to each other about what’s going on? I feel like over half of every Gossip Girl plot would be resolved in five minutes if any of the characters would just talk to one another. In this episode, Betty immediately confronts Archie when she realises he’s been banging Grundy; Veronica, once Cheryl shows her footage of Hermione meeting with a Serpent, immediately asks her mum about it; and even dumb, lovestruck Archie asks Grundy about her identity switch immediately after Betty and Veronica tell him about what they found in her car. I legitimately can’t believe it. This is a whole new world to me.
Alice, too, is a proponent of exposing the truth, though far less nobly. I admire her tenacity in dragging Fred along to bust up Archie and Grundy. She may have done it for the wrong reasons, but Alice evidently is the hero we need.
After Betty’s big blow up about claiming she would make things up because Cooper girls are crazy, don’cha know, Alice gets real and admits to Betty that her hatred of Archie is because she worries he will do to her what Jason did to Polly. Betty finally convinces her mother that Archie isn’t like that, and it looks like their relationship will improve.
Also on the good parent train is Kevin’s dad, who is super cool with Kevin’s sexuality. The scene where he’s disappointed Kevin is going to the drive-in with Veronica, and not a boy, is great. And Riverdale didn’t Glee out and make this a big, teaching moment.
Not doing so great is Jughead’s dad, who is revealed to the South Side Serpent leader (?) that Hermione was making payments to. The moment of the reveal comes as Jughead is clearing out his squat where he’s been living in the drive-in, and he greets him with a “hey, dad.” Things are even more grim when his dad acknowledges that Jughead is losing somewhere to stay, but doesn’t offer for him to stay with him (I suspect Jughead would refuse that offer, anyway). Shit, dude. That sucks.
Also, where is Jughead’s little sister? That can’t be a happy tale, either.
Jughead’s dad is played by Skeet Ulrich, who has aged a fuckton better than Johnny Depp, I might add. Jughead and Fred briefly discuss how Fred fired him from his company for stealing, so I expect to see that tension pay off. And obligatory #ScreamRepresent.
Cheryl doesn’t get any plot focus this week, but she still effortlessly swans around and makes her presence known. Curiously, her friendship circle situation is yet more odd, as she is seen palling around with her two minion mean girls, but then even after her snipe at Veronica about Hermione’s Serpent dealings, she still comes to sit with her and Kevin at the drive-in. Cheryl is so hot and cold and I just fucking love it.
Veronica gets best line of the episode when she tries to dress down Cheryl early on: “Don’t worry. You may be a stock character from a 90s teen movie. But I’m not.” Is Cheryl supposed to be offended by that? Because being a 90s teen movie alpha bitch is basically my ultimate life goal.
Kevin’s kissy time tryst with Joaquin, the South Side Serpent, is short but welcome. Given that Kevin is openly gay, and the Serpent isn’t shy about going after him, I hope this means there will be no closet angst. But Kevin’s dad being the sheriff could be a problem for a bikie boyfriend. Delicious.
Somebody trashes the Sheriff’s conspiracy board on Jason’s murder and ransacks his files.
Oh, and Archie’s throwing his hat into the ring for the CW’s very competitive Hot Guy Crying competition. Good fucking luck, baby.