Riverdale Season 1 Episode 13 – TV Review
I was worried Riverdale might be happy to just wallow in a final episode of epilogue.
I should have known better.
TL;DR The town retreats into denial after the ugly truth about the Blossoms becomes known; Cheryl attempts suicide, but Archie and the gang save her; Betty and Jughead affirm their relationship, but a forced change of living situation for Jughead threatens that; Archie and Veronica become official; Fred and Hermione butt heads over business; a closing gunshot cliffhanger feels right at home in this gothic, fantasy Archie comic.
The knowledge of a Season 2 renewal also helps.
So with Mr Blossom’s guilt now undeniable, Riverdale starts with the discovery of his hanged-from-suicide body, and the explosive revelation that the Blossoms’ maple syrup business was actually a front for a heroin trafficking operation. Sheriff lays into Skeet for deets, but he refuses to roll over on the South Side Serpents, committing himself to prison time, despite not being Jason’s murderer. The rest of the town, with enforcement from the Mayor, tries to ignore the spate of scandals. But Betty will not be deterred, and against even Alice’s advice, she publishes a scathing article, leading to anonymous threats and animosity. Meanwhile, Jughead is being placed into foster care on the South Side, and will be forced to change schools. He takes to his new surroundings surprisingly well and assuages the gang’s fears for him, but when the Serpents make him an honorary member as thanks for Skeet’s loyalty, this raises Betty’s eyebrows a tad. Meanwhile, Archie struggles to understand his place in the world, and also weathers lingering doubts from Veronica over his possible candle-holding for Betty. All this is put on hold, however, when Cheryl, having spent her episode distant and solemn, sends Veronica a suicide note. In probably Riverdale’s most impressive scene yet, Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead race to save her from drowning in the frozen river, with Archie’s anguished Hulk-out moment to break her out of the ice bringing tears to my eyes. They do save her, and then Cheryl finds a new resolve to burn down Thornhill, which doesn’t impress her mother. Meanwhile, Archie and the Pussycats (and Veronica) perform a song at Riverdale’s jubilee celebration, and Betty gives a speech about the darkness everyone’s ignoring, and implores them to do better. Meanwhile, with Hiram soon coming to town, Hermione offers to buy Fred out of his own business, which he righteously declines. And the season ends as it began, with a gunshot, as Fred is shot in front of Archie by a masked assailant at the diner. And, according to Jughead’s narration, it wasn’t random.
Did Hiram hire ’em?
If you’ve been following my coverage of Riverdale at all, you’d be aware of the near-fanatic level of praise I’ve been heaping upon this show.
But it really is difficult to overstate just how good it is, when it could have, and probably should have, been a total disaster.
“Archie, but with sex and violence and a CW budget” should not be a successful pitch. But the proof is now in the entire season pudding.
And it stuck the landing.
Why I hate this episode:
If I’m forced to sift through and find something to criticise (and that is my I Just Hate Everything mission statement, after all), I’d have to say that the return of the “but does Archie still love Betty” thing has me nervous. I get that Archie/Betty/Veronica is the most famous love triangle of all time, but it was kind of fantastic that Riverdale had sidestepped it past the first few episodes.
I’m also not sure how up I am for the “Jughead becomes a South Side Serpent” set up. I’m with Betty on this one.
Hermione was the most rational character on the show at the outset, but now she’s acting like a stupid bitch. Be better, Hermione.
Oh, and Riverdale has been pretty good about its musical performances. So it was odd that the big jubilee performance, which unites all our singing characters to perform an original song about our characters, is cut down to only a couple of bars.
But it’s not all bad:
From what we did hear, though, the song wasn’t great. So I’ll assume it was a mercy killing from the editors.
Among all the magic of this episode, I think I’m most pleased to report that Archie, our straight white male lead whose story this really hasn’t been, finally addresses his superfluousness, and (momentarily) overcomes it.
Archie gets the episode’s best line during an emotional discussion with Fred about feeling impotent to do anything for Jughead’s living situation, or helping any of his friends:
Fred: “Sometimes you help them by just showing up.”
Archie: “I’ve been showing up all year, dad. And it hasn’t made one bit of difference.”
Thank you for acknowledging that, Riverdale.
But while Archie is unable to do anything for Jughead, his showing up does finally find its place with Cheryl. Cheryl’s suicide text was to Veronica, who Archie only happened to be with when she received it. Betty and Jughead also tag along to look for her at the river, but it’s when they find her and she’s fallen under the ice that Archie is able to be the hero. Out of the four of them there, Archie is the only one who is strong enough to break through the ice. Sure, simply being bulkier than your friends hardly makes you a superhero, but if it wasn’t for Archie “just showing up,” Cheryl would have died. And I think that’s important.
The scene itself is also pure gold. Riverdale is good at pretty much everything, but it sure knows how to sell atmosphere. And the frozen, snowswept river is like some kind of grim fantasy come to life. It’s perfect. And when Archie just goes nuts on the ice, punching and pounding and bleeding everywhere, with the other three choked in horror behind him, I teared up. Archie shows up because he cares.
And in a haunting coda to that, Archie’s foolish attempt to intervene in the armed robbery at the end of the episode shows that being a thoughtless hero doesn’t always work out. Poor Fred.
Fred makes his time count elsewhere in the episode, though. With Hermione being cunty about the business, I relished Fred’s refusal of her offer, knowing that they’ll have to continue working together. Spite her, baby.
I appreciated Cheryl’s unique expression of humility. She apologises to Jughead for hitting him, and offers him her iconic spider brooch. So he can pawn it and buy white trash things. Her oblivious sincerity is what sells it.
After being saved from suicide, Cheryl’s new mission in life is an out-of-nowhere arson attack on Thornhill. I was just as shocked as Mrs Blossom. And I loved it.
It’s revealed that Mr Blossom is the one who planted the Hiram Lodge bag full of money on the dead Serpent, so it seems to be case closed on Hiram’s involvement. Except for the fact that we never met Hiram, which makes me think he’s going to be our Season 2 villain, and things aren’t as innocent as they seem. Although, having another rich Bad Dad as the villain would be very similar to Season 1, and Riverdale is smarter than that. So many possibilities.
Betty’s journalistic tenacity is pretty reckless, but it makes sense for her character. And after some slapfighting with Alice, Alice also admits to Betty her secret that Skeet had alluded to at the pre-dance dinner: Alice and Papa B had a child before Polly. A boy, who Alice gave up for adoption. Hello, Season 2.
Veronica is still playing, at best, third fiddle to her friends as a character, but, like Archie, her power is being just a really good friend. This is why Cheryl texts her above anyone else. And when Hermione tries to recruit her to poison Archie’s ear to encourage Fred to accept the buyout offer, she tells Hermione to fuck off. Veronica may be the mysterious brunette in this trio, but she’s no bitch.
Josie is not a jerk or an SJW this episode. That’s a nice change for her.
Oh, and may I just say, I’m not ashamed about liking Riverdale as much as I do. Riverdale is not a guilty pleasure. It’s great.