Riverdale Season 1 Episode 7 – TV Review
This week, Riverdale gets a little more personal (raw).
If you, too, get that reference, I hope you’re as ashamed as I was for writing it.
TL;DR Jughead’s homelessness and deadbeat dad are addressed; the witch hunt gets in swing for Polly, but things end up okay thank to Cheryl (and the Lodges); Hermione and Veronica trade barbs but make peace eventually; Skeet Ulrich is real hot.
Again, Johnny Depp: eat your heart out.
Also, joke about Johnny Depp eating.
So remember how Jughead is basically a hoboe because his dad is an alcoholic gang member? Riverdale does, and this week Archie stumbles upon the truth and is determined to help. He arranges for Fred to hire him back, and things start out promisingly. But it isn’t long before old grudges about who forced who out of the company bubble to the surface, and when Jughead is brought in for questioning in Jason’s murder, it’s the Andrews (and Betty) who are there for Jughead, not his hot dad, Skeet Ulrich. Refreshingly, though, Riverdale sidesteps the obvious demonising of Skeet and instead serves up a harrowing, hopeless situation between father and son. For a sexy teen soap on the CW, it’s remarkable. Oh, and Skeet is probably also the person who set that car on fire last episode and thus may have killed Jason. Meanwhile, Betty musters most of the cast to try to find the missing Polly before the Blossoms do, and insults are traded between the two camps. When Alice reveals (in a press conference. How else would you do it?) that Polly is el prego with Jason’s baby, Mrs Blossom schemes to have Polly deemed unfit and snatch the child (for the record, the Coopers want to chuck it out for adoption), so Cheryl breaks ranks and helps Betty hide Polly at Veronica and Hermione’s apartment. Speaking of, Veronica goes on a reckless spree of teenage self-indulgence as punishment for Hermione forging her signature. But they come to an agreement that Veronica will respect Hermione’s adultery as long as it isn’t in their home, and as long as she tells her locked up husband what she did with the signature.
I suspect, for the sake of drama, that he will be the one Lodge who isn’t a reasonable human being.
You know, it’s surprising. I came into Riverdale expecting a glitzy, salacious, soulless murder mystery and twenty-five-year-olds-playing-teenagers good time. But Riverdale again and again has proven to be much more than that.
Riverdale has a soul. It has characters who, under all the requisite glitz and salaciousness, of course, are decent. And have emotional consistency and integrity.
Except Mr and Mrs Blossom.
Why I hate this episode:
The major plot is still being driven mainly, if not solely, by the adult characters. I know it’s an ensemble cast, but Archie, Betty, and Veronica need to have more agency when it comes to what really matters. Especially Archie. Unless this is all leading to some grand deconstruction about Archie as the undeserving straight, white male protagonist of a story that isn’t his, then I’m concerned. Give our lead three something to do.
Except Betty, though. She’s flying the flag loud and proud about going after Polly. So it was disappointing that the Polly jailbreak subplot ended quite bizarrely with Hermione agreeing to let her live under her roof. Particularly when Betty knows Polly is fucking unhinged. What if she hurts Hermione and Veronica? Weird solution.
Cheryl’s back, so thank God yass queen work slay and all that. But her allegiances are a little off. Last we saw, she was reduced to tears and being treated with about as much regard as dog shit by her mum. But this episode she’s back to being a good little Blossom family shill. Until her turnaround, that is. But should Cheryl really be surprised that her mum would have a monstrous scheme? This is ground we’ve already covered, no?
Part of Veronica’s rampage of recklessness is to go clubbing with Josie, Kevin, and Asian Jock. But clubbing where? Riverdale has a nightclub?
Oh, and the Scooby Gang openly talk in the student break room about Polly’s jailbreak, and one of Cheryl’s minions, who is within eyeshot, just casually leaks it to Cheryl. This is supposed to be a secret, guys. Don’t put it on loud speaker at the Peach Pit. Goddamn.
But it’s not all bad:
The payoff of this is that Cheryl tells it to her parents and the Sheriff, which is what leads to the two opposing search parties facing off in the woods. So operatic. So juicy.
Still on the subject of Cheryl, yes her journey this episode is ground already covered, but it’s still gratifying to have her turn her back on her parents and do the right thing by warning Polly. She and Polly have a tender moment where Polly tells Cheryl about how much Jason would say he loved her.
I’d throw in a hyperbolic “could Cheryl be the emotional centre of Riverdale,” but this episode puts a big, Jughead-sized stop to that idea. Who knew that Sir Edgelord the Narrator would be so damn affecting?
Cole Sprouse and Skeet Ulrich definitely bring the required intensity to the table when it comes to the heartbreaking exposure of their father/son reality. The situation just sucks, and they’re both trapped and it isn’t fixed in a forty minute episode. It’s fantastic.
And Riverdale isn’t smarmy enough to pretend this is the kind of thing that a couple of grand gestures or revelations from the past will solve. Sure, we find out that Fred bought Skeet out of the company because of his downward spiral. And sure, Skeet has his big moment outside the police station. But things aren’t fixed by episode’s end. Skeet is still mired in his alcoholism and isolation, despite his sincere desire to change. And Jughead’s stay with the Andrews might be a good solution for now, but it’s not forever. This is family drama done with the tenderness it deserves.
Veronica is also an expert at family drama, and the lighter (by comparison) subplot about how she has a pattern of behaviour she uses to punish Hermione is delightful. First, she goes on a lavish spending spree. Then she takes out a standard set of friends (celebrity gal pal, best gay, and dumb arm candy) to a nightclub. When Hermione cuts off her credit card, that’s when she knows she’s ready to negotiate.
And to continue their streak of actually talking to each other, Hermione and Veronica actually talk to each other and end up coming to an agreement regarding their relationship moving forward. Again, they couldn’t be further from Serena and Lily van der Woodsen.
Veronica’s fury at Hermione is justified as more than just pettiness. In forging Veronica’s signature, Hermione stole the one thing that hadn’t yet been taken away from her: her name. She made her feel like she was worth nothing. A little melodramatic, to be sure. But it works.
Veronica gets the best line of the episode during the afore-mentioned Scooby Gang discussion of current, dangerous Riverdale events: “Honestly, guys. We should just move.” Pretty much. Yeah.
I’d like to give Asian Jock points for having no qualms about dancing at da club with Kevin.
Fred gets Jughead out of the police questioning by fabricating an alibi that Jughead was working for the construction company when Jason was killed. That will come back to bite him, I’m sure.
Betty is mostly stuck with lugging the Plot Ball around this episode, but it’s encouraging to see her budding relationship with Jughead still in effect. And she’s a pretty cool little sister.
The closing shot of the episode is of Jason’s jacket in Skeet’s closet. The same jacket from the car last episode before it was torched? I assume so.
Oh, and Skeet Ulrich is super fuckin’ hot. Have I mentioned that, already?