Riverdale Season 2 Episode 8 – TV Review
Yes, in an episode with multiple Archie shirtless scenes, I decided to give the headline to Betty.
Because who doesn’t love a good awkward, morose strip tease by a sixteen year-old?
TL;DR Jughead’s Serpent status finally gets a foot slammed down on it when Betty starts getting sucked into the vortex, and Skeet, newly released, falls back into his old ways to spare his son; Archie and Veronica take up the Scooby Doo-ing and run down that Riverdale Reaper lead (it’s a bust); Cheryl keeps her crazy eyes on Josie; Archie’s Love Triangle Pendulum starts its swing back to the Betty side.
It was always inevitable.
So after the frivolous fun of last episode, it’s time for Riverdale to get back to work and do some important place-setting as we approach the mid-season finale. Carrying on last episode’s thread about the Riverdale Reaper, Betty and Jughead pass the investigation torch to Archie and Veronica for the episode, and they discover Tony Todd’s story is true, and a family was murdered a few decades ago. In that house that the Black Hood lured Betty to. Yada yada yada, there was actually a surviving child of the family, who turns out to be the school janitor, but whom Archie doesn’t think is the Black Hood, and he explains vigilante justice was carried out on the Reaper the day after the murders, anyway. Whatever. Archie and Veronica have to simultaneously struggle with his blurting of the L word to her, as her Lodge prudishness prevents her from saying it back. This does not impress Archie. Meanwhile, Jughead is excited that Skeet is getting an early release from prison. In between rallying the Serpents to try to broker peace with the Mayor and the North Side, he plans Skeet a retirement party at the Serpent bar, which is to be Skeet’s last hurrah as he proclaims he’s a reformed and sober man. But when Skeet finds out what the Snake Charmer is holding over Jughead’s head, he tragically sacrifices himself to return to the hive of scum and villainy (and alcohol abuse) to apparently get Jughead off the hook. It’s upsetting. Things don’t look up for Jughead on the relationship front, either, as Betty impulsively strip teases at the party to initiate herself into the Serpents so she can be by Jughead’s side. Jughead, sensibly and mournfully, pushes her away, and the episode closes as Betty and Archie share a familiar, longing look between their bedroom windows. Ooh. Elsewhere, Alice has a hate-flirt thing going on with Skeet. And Cheryl gets a couple of disjointed scenes where she inappropriately massages Josie, and then gets angry-jealous of Josie’s continued flirtation with Chuck.
A milkshake gets spilled. It’s serious.
After first finishing the episode, I was honestly underwhelmed. The sudden “I Love You” drama between Archie and Veronica felt like a plot weasel to just facilitate the love triangle swing. And Betty’s decision to be more Serpent-like came off as very stupid. Because it was very stupid.
But upon reflection, and checking myself with the reality that the love triangle was always destined to happen (this is Archie Comics, baby. It’s mandatory), I’d like to believe this episode was an effective way to position our characters for the remainder of the season.
Because honestly, how much more fucking Serpent bullshit can you handle?
Why I hate this episode:
It’s not explicitly stated that Skeet’s sacrifice means Jughead won’t be a Serpent at all, anymore. Only that he’s taken on the blackmail-imposed duties from the Snake Charmer. Which means it’s possible that we’ll have to continue to suffer Jughead’s gang garbage. But damn, man, I’m hoping this is the end of it.
Sadly, the Cheryl/Josie stuff that also took hold last episode appears to be here to stay. I’m not even sure why that thread was even featured in the episode, because it doesn’t get any payoff. I’m not opposed to Cheryl getting her lesbian love on for Josie, but out of all the plot threads to have happened in Riverdale so far, this one feels the most like it came out of nowhere. Cheryl deserves better.
Archie and Veronica (and Betty) do a fine rendition of Mad World at the party. But that song is such a basic choice for your garden variety edgy teen. They even reference knowing it from Donnie Darko: the garden variety edgy teen handbook. Riverdale should have been smarter than this.
The Black Hood is yet to make good on his threats after the town failed the purity test last episode.
Oh, and I hope that Skeet’s return to the Serpents hasn’t already put a stop to his building slap-slap-kiss relationship with Alice. You could tell she was super into that diner uniform.
But it’s not all bad:
Although, given that this is now the second episode where Alice has made a grand entrance to a party in Serpent attire, maybe Skeet’s return to the Serpents is exactly the right trajectory to get together with Alice. Forget Fred and Hermione. Now we’ve got a real Riverdale parents ship.
Speaking of Hermione, although she remains utterly neutered ever since Hiram returned, she does basically admit to Veronica that she doesn’t love her husband (Veronica is bemoaning how saying “I Love You” is weird because it’s not like Hermione has ever said it about Hiram, and then the realisation hits). Because the man is clearly literally Satan.
Hermione and Hiram do also steal an odd comedy beat when they tell Veronica, who has been trying to keep her sexually charged relationship with Archie out of her parents’ view due to their judgement, that maybe Archie should be around more. Because he’s muscular and could fight off the Black Hood. See, Archie. You are good for something.
Archie does get multiple shirtless scenes this episode to reinforce that, and I am not complaining.
The immediate conclusion of the Riverdale Reaper lead is good news. Like they say, if the Black Hood was the Reaper, he’d be in his sixties. Not very menacing. Although, two things still make me worry it could circle back. Firstly: the janitor only says he was told the Riverdale vigilantes took care of the Reaper. So he didn’t see it for confirmation. And secondly: why did the Black Hood bother luring Betty to the murder house if it wasn’t relevant? Hmm.
Onto Betty, and her decision to do the Serpent dance is, again, stupid. But I admire her commitment to Jughead. And we’ve got another Riverdale cast member who can sing. Which is charmingly unsurprising.
The true tragedy of the episode is Skeet’s self-sacrifice. After seeing his proclamations of a reformed life and getting off the booze, I was as aghast as Jughead when Skeet pounded that shot and let himself be dragged back down to save his son. And in smart Riverdale fashion, this moment isn’t played as heroic. Skeet is not shy about how disappointed he is in Jughead, and how damaging this will be. But it’s what he has to do. It’s tough.
Jughead’s subsequent Harry and the Hendersons moment with Betty therefore rings truer than it would have in less savvy teen soaps. Because wanting to be a Serpent is genuinely dangerous, and Betty doesn’t belong there.
Cheryl still manages to shine in her fleeting appearances this episode. I noticed that, opposed to the regular white, Cheryl’s gym locker room towel is red. Natch. And Cheryl’s bitchiness to Skeet when he’s working at the diner is warranted with the reminder that Skeet is the one who helped cover up Jason’s murder.
Betty’s version of a bad girl makeover when rocking up to the party is to simply wear her hair out and unbutton, like, one button of her blouse. The comedy is reinforced by Alice being there alongside her in pure trashtacular chic glory.
Oh, and I am very excited to see the destruction that the promised Betty/Archie relationship will wreak. I’m ready for some emotions.