Riverdale Season 1 Episode 5 – TV Review
With all the Grundy garbage gone, it’s time for Riverdale to put aside its kookier aspects and do some actual work.
And also gothic mega mansion funeral weirdness and crazy blind aunts.
Yes, that’s low on the kooky meter for Riverdale.
TL;DR Betty and Jughead dig further into the Jason murder mystery, and discover the depth of his relationship with Polly; Betty’s dad is now a suspect; Cheryl’s mum might be an even worse parent than Alice Cooper; Veronica and Cheryl bond; Archie chooses music over football; Hermione and Fred grow closer together.
I ship it.
So now that the town paedophile has been handwaved away, it’s back to business on the murder mystery front. Betty probes her dad for the hot deets, and he reveals Polly was sent away after a suicide attempt brought on by a fight with Jason. Jughead and Betty also scheme to snoop through Jason’s bedroom when the town gathers for his memorial at the Blossom family mansion, Thornhill, and a blind, crazy aunt lets slip that Jason and Polly were engaged to be married. Betty’s dad confirms it, but isn’t shy about his hatred for the Blossom family (some old beef about murdered grandfathers and maple syrup. No, seriously). And he’s the one who ransacked the Sheriff’s files last episode. Meanwhile, Cheryl harangues Veronica into becoming better friends with her, and Veronica witnesses firsthand the horror of growing up in the Blossom household. Mrs Blossom could fill Alice’s Cunt Boots, and then some. Meanwhile, Archie tries to throw himself into football training to secure a scholarship, while also seeing a music mentor (his old one fucked him and then fucked off, remember?). Archie gets slapped around with failure on both fronts, but some timely encouragement from Valerie inspires him to choose music, after all. And Hermione leans on Fred for support after a threat from the South Side Serpents, while also enduring venomous hate from Mrs Blossom.
For a red-headed woman named after a flower, she’s neither warm, nor rosy.
After last week’s episode tying up (for now only, I suspect) the Grundy subplot, and the previous week’s foray into case-of-the-week SJW-baiting, I was kind of relieved to see Riverdale finally churn out a necessary, workmanlike episode such as this one.
I don’t mind the arch, grim weirdness Riverdale has otherwise been serving. But at some point it was going to have to buckle down and hammer out some exposition.
So we can get to more arch, grim weirdness. Natch.
Why I hate this episode:
This episode isn’t entirely without, though. I was into the isolated, rotting decadence of the Thornhill mansion at first. But the bonkers, blind, overstyled aunt was a bit too much. And the cemetery-on-premises was a pill I’m not prepared to swallow. It’s like the location equivalent of Jughead’s narration. We get it, Riverdale. You’re fucking edgy.
Cheryl and Veronica’s subplot this episode seems to be working up to Cheryl storming the podium at Jason’s memorial, as Mrs Blossom made a big deal about forbidding Cheryl from speaking, lest she embarrass the family. But when Cheryl does, all she says is how Jason was her protective brother, and how she regrets having failed him. Escandalo? Escandal-no.
I’m all for the adults being involved in the story. Glee was at its best when the adults mattered. But I’m becoming concerned that the adult characters, most of whom are still broad caricatures at this point, will be the only driving force of the plot. If everything is about them, why are we following around a bunch of aimless teens?
Archie’s music vs football subplot, at only Episode 5 of the show’s run, already feels repetitive. He chose music? No wai! Move on, please.
Valerie gets a tiny nod as a potential love interest for Archie. I know he’s unnaturally hot, but come on, Riverdale. That’s enough.
Why wasn’t Josie at Jason’s memorial? Isn’t she one of Cheryl’s good friends?
Oh, and there’s a discussion early on between the Blossoms and the Sheriff about how the whole town will be coming to the memorial, and therefore Jason’s murderer will likely be among them and they will use it as an opportunity to gather intel and/or catch them. But then they, like, don’t. Huh?
But it’s not all bad:
Backyard cemetery aside, Thornhill is an inspired location. Cheryl’s bedroom is a gothic boudoir fantasy come to life. Jughead should come squat here. The house is so huge and cluttered, I doubt the Blossoms would ever notice.
But it’s the Blossoms themselves that really make Thornhill come to rude, hateful life. The dinner that Veronica joins as part of Cheryl’s sleepover is hilariously awkward. Mrs Blossom is a top tier evil queen straight to Veronica’s face. Mr Blossom puts in a scooch more effort to be civil, but isn’t at all coy about his disdain of Veronica’s father. They are relentless.
And Veronica, praise be to her, is unduly classy about the whole affair. She doesn’t snap back at all; her composure puts the adult Blossoms to shame. I was worried the slut shaming crusader in her would come out, but it seems she’s not a total soapboxing idiot. Good.
It’s Cheryl who gets the worst of it, though, with Mrs Blossom reducing Cheryl to tears after her memorial stunt. It’s hardly groundbreaking for the bully to be humanised like this, but Cheryl’s mix of fragility and pompousness is starting to make sense.
But the Blossoms have beef everywhere, it seems, as we get a new solid lead on the Jason murder case. Betty’s dad’s revelation about how Grandfather Blossom murdered Grandfather Cooper, thus cutting the Coopers out of the lucrative Riverdale maple syrup industry, is juicy as hell. And he’s noticeably still got an axe, or gun, to grind against the Blossoms.
The revelation via blind aunt that Polly and Jason were engaged, and that Papa B knew about that, too, also squares up his suspect status. And we also find out he is the one who raided Sheriff’s murder investigation files. It’s too early for the killer to be revealed, so I expect Papa B is covering for someone.
Presumably Polly. That is, if Polly is even real! My wild conspiracy theory about Betty actually being Polly gains some ground this episode when the blind aunt mistakes Betty for Polly. Can you imagine if I was right? God.
Archie’s subplot is a yawn, but the music mentor he meets with is Richie from Looking, so that was cute. And he drops Archie almost immediately after being assaulted by his mediocre material. I lol’d.
Cheryl refers to our main character fivesome of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Kevin as “sad Breakfast Club.” References!
I don’t really get why the South Side Serpents would be threatening Hermione, as she spent last episode giving them the money she owed them, so that’s odd. But any reason for her and Fred to get closer together is welcome. He also offers her that bookkeeping job he refused her in the first episode. I can smell an office romance.
Hermione and Veronica get more “characters actually talking to each other” points when they convene at the end of the episode to discuss what they’d been up to. For Veronica, that’s her feeling bad about Cheryl’s home life. And for Hermione, that’s her admitting to Veronica the situation with the snake-in-a-box. Keep it up, ladies. Don’t be van der Woodsens.
Jughead ends the episode by declaring he and Betty (and Kevin, who is also kind of part of the investigation crew, now, I guess?) need to speak to Polly. If we can have spooky cemetery mansions, then why not insane asylums?
Oh, and it’s a good thing Alice was absent this episode. There’s not space enough in an episode for two bad mums of this degree.