Riverdale Season 2 Episode 11 – TV Review
After last week’s tepid entry, Riverdale is back to form with an episode overflowing with homoerotic wrestling.
Sadly, not enough of it includes Kevin. But I can ‘mire from afar.
TL;DR Archie takes up wrestling to schmooze Hiram on orders from that FBI agent; a town founder festival brings up issues of Native American genocide, which also somehow involves the Serpents; we get to know more about Chic and his similarities to Betty; Veronica discovers being an evil little Lodge is not without its drawbacks.
Mostly that people don’t like villains. Who knew, huh?
So we’ll get to Lodge and Cooper family intrigue and genocide in just a moment. Because first we have to talk about wrestling. Spurred on by the FBI agent, Archie joins tryouts for the school wrestling team in a bid to get into Hiram’s good books. Because Hiram used to be a star school wrestler. This plan has its ups and downs when Archie discovers he’s not automatically good at wrestling. And Hiram reveals he’s got the knives out for Archie because he is the son of the man who boinked Hermione. But then Archie wins a wrestling match against Chuck (oh, here’s arbitrarily here, too), and Hiram changes his tune and becomes Archie’s mentor. Cool. Meanwhile, a town festival to celebrate a founder is coming up (how very Mystic Falls), but Jughead’s SJW sense tingles when he discovers that this founder committed a genocide against some Native Americans, who also happen to be Toni’s ancestors. And who also happen to be the reason the South Side Serpents were founded: to preserve their legacy or something. Toni gets pissy when Jughead whitesplains the plight in a newspaper article, but he makes it up to her by leading a protest at the festival, which Hiram (he and Hermione are sponsoring the festival as part of their land development PR pitch) does his best to quash. Meanwhile, Veronica finds herself being looked down upon by Mayor now that it’s clear she’s a shill for her villainous parents, which complicates her bid to have Josie reunite to perform with the Pussycats at the festival. Josie backs out, so Veronica becomes their front woman instead. Burn, Josie. Meanwhile, Cheryl is disgusted to learn that an ancestor Blossom funded the town founder’s genocide against the Native Americans, and joins the protest. And Betty spends her episode bonding with Chic. The Coopers learn that Chic used to be a cam boy, which is somehow far more shocking than his established admission that he was a straight-up prostitute, and Hal isn’t having it. Betty is, though, and she admits to Chic that she wants to know if he’s dark inside like she is. Luckily, he is. And he pledges to teach her his cam boy ways.
We know Betty’s not afraid of a bit of role play.
So yeah, Riverdale decided it needed to cover a lot of ground this episode after last week’s stumble (and salt-in-wound embarrassment from Dynasty). And it certainly did.
Why I hate this episode:
But not all that glitters is golden, sadly. And the biggest WTF of the episode to me is the bizarre reactions from everyone regarding the revelation of Chic’s cam boy ways. Sure, it’s not explicitly confirmed that Chic was a prostitute, but it’s heavily, heavily implied. But then we find out that he also used to do web shows for money, and everyone loses their minds. How is being a cam boy more shocking than, again, literal prostitution?
And of all the ways for Betty to bond with Chic over their inner darkness, she chooses “learn how to be a cam boy/girl?” WTF all around for the Coopers.
I can’t fault the wrestling plot for giving us all those delicious and lovingly lingering pans over the boys in their spandex, but with all the homoeroticism in the air, Kevin is oddly excised from having anything meaningful to do or say. Don’t be such a tease, show. We needs some actual gayness up in here, too.
With Archie and Betty eating up so much screentime, it’s not surprising that Veronica gets moved to the back. But her subplot with Josie is pretty inane. Who cares what Mayor thinks? She’s just as corrupt as the Lodges, honey. And the anticipated showdown between Mayor and Hermione fizzles. Lame.
Jughead himself is innocuous enough this episode, but now the Serpents are also tied into the genocide of the local Native Americans? No, Riverdale. The North/South classism thing wasn’t working. Don’t escalate this into a racial thing, too.
Oh, and we get a shot of Penelope eavesdropping on the Coopers when Hal blows up at Alice, Betty, and Chic at the festival. I expected this to be the beginning of some kind of scheme. But the payoff is, instead, that Penelope simply solicits Hal to be a client (she’s a hooker, remember). Boring.
But it’s not all bad:
Maybe it’ll be juicy enough for Alice to find out her husband banged Penelope? But does Alice Cooper really need an excuse to be mad at Penelope Blossom?
Or it could provide Alice with the impetus to run into Skeet’s arms. So if that’s the case, I’m down.
The shining light of the episode, and bringing Riverdale back to its strengths, is the Archie major plot. Because it involves small town weirdness and Archie’s hot physique. Throw in swaths of other scantily clad wrestler boys (not least of all the revelation of Kevin’s beefcake bod), and a machismo contest between Archie and Hiram, and you’ve got yourself a winning episode, baby.
I know Archie sometimes struggles to use his words, but it’s his turn to take a bow from the Characters Actually Talking To Each Other pedestal this week. After some early failed attempts to impress Hiram, Archie just straight confronts him and asks why he’s such a dick to him. Hiram, too, lets it all hang out and concedes it’s because he’s Fred’s son. And Fred got intimate with Hermione when he knew she was a married woman, so he expects Archie is similarly sleazy.
And I’ll give Hiram extra points for choosing to let Veronica’s affections for Archie fade on their own, rather than go full Overprotective Dad Character and try to break them up himself. Because wouldn’t you know it, but women can make their own decisions and choices. Weird, huh?
Veronica is basically an extra this episode, but I loved the sick burn of her fronting the Pussycats at the festival. Josie’s face was worth it.
I’m not on board with this “teach Betty to cam girl” thing, but if Chic can bring out more of Dark Betty, I’ll allow it.
Riverdale is careful not to lean too hard into the racial genocide angle, instead using it as a way to knock Jughead down a peg after he hijacks the message in his relentless crusade to cry Serpent persecution. He attends the rally with tape over his mouth, which is a good look for him right now.
Cheryl’s teeny tiny subplot also benefits from this reveal. Penelope’s confirmation of ancestor Blossom’s involvement in the genocide is deliciously blasè. And out of everyone who joins the anti-founder crusade, I’d put my money on Cheryl being the one crazy enough to decapitate the town statue of the founder.
We get a couple of small moments that show Archie’s friendship with Kevin independent of Betty or Veronica. It was nice.
Oh, and is it wrong that I think it’s sweet that Cheryl still hangs out with her mum?