Riverdale Season 2 Episode 16 – TV Review
Fetishistic lesbian slumber parties are an admirable first step, but don’t you think we could use a Molly Ringwald power moment and a dramatic, rain-soaked showdown between Archie and Jughead?
TL;DR Claudius and Penelope basically try to murder Nanna Rose; Archie is forced to intervene when Jughead opposes South Side High’s demolition; Veronica’s bid for student council president crashes and burns because of all that horrible shit she’s done to everyone, you know?; Molly Ringwald returns to stand by her ex-man; Betty opens hostilities with Chic.
Nobody out-crazies Betty, bitch.
So we’ll start with Archie and Jughead, and although this plot involves the collision of the season’s two worst plot threads (Lodge mafia bullshit and Serpent drama), it works by keeping it personal. Basically, the news of Hiram’s for-profit prison plan breaks, and Hiram pushes up the demolition date for South Side High. Jughead gets his martyr pants back on and bitches out everyone in sight, and then decides he and the teen Serpents will chain themselves to the building in protest. Archie is hesitant to go against his friend, but his blood oath to Hiram compels him, and he forcibly removes Jughead and the gang from the property, while the town watches on and showers Archie with boos (also, it’s raining and melodramatic and perfectly Riverdale). There is one minor upside for Archie, though: he bargains Fred’s release from his business dealings with the Lodges in exchange for the dirty work. Which is good, because Molly Ringwald returns this episode to help Fred with that, and she rightly spends her time berating the fuck out of Archie for choosing to idolise that snake, Hiram, rather than his honest, decent father. She’s got you there, dude. Meanwhile, Veronica bucks Hermione’s advice to lay low and instead announces she’ll be running for student council president. Betty enthusiastically joins as her running mate (despite Jughead’s asides), and it seems like her opponent will be Reggie. But it turns out Veronica’s got slipperier enemies to worry about, as Ethel Muggs joins forces behind the scenes with a still-bitter Josie to take Veronica down. And they do, with Betty abandoning her in disgust for knowing about the South Side High plans. And then Betty joins up with Jughead’s campaign, instead. Nice. Meanwhile, Chic’s DNA test confirms he has no Blossom blood, but this doesn’t bother Alice, as she reveals Chic is her son, but not Hal’s. But now that Betty’s bitchy cat’s out of the bag, things deteriorate, leading to an honestly scary bedside threat from Betty to Chic, before he counters later that he could turn her in for that dead guy whose body and phone she tampered with. Yikes. Oh, and still simmering along is Cheryl’s subplot with Uncle Claudius. Cheryl’s fears over his and Penelope’s plotting are confirmed when Nanna Rose falls down the stairs, having been evidently dosed with paralytic herbs. Cheryl tries to get the word out, but Penelope ships her off to what appears to be gay conversion therapy at an asylum.
Is Riverdale equipped to tackle such a heavy topic? As long as there’s at least one But I’m a Cheerleader reference, I’ll be satisfied.
So goodness me, that’s a big, full episode of Riverdale we’ve got there. And thank God. It’s about time we had an episode of Riverdale that was full, without the qualifier of “of shit” being tagged on the end.
Even the Lodge and Serpent stuff worked. Can you believe it?
Why I hate this episode:
I still fear over what the endgame of these two arcs will be. It was nice to boil it down to Archie/Jughead conflict, but things will have to re-escalate eventually.
Also, I feel like this episode expects that we know what the purpose of Archie’s blood oath is, but they didn’t tell us, did they? Or is it just some nebulous family loyalty thing? Which I thought was ground we had already covered?
That Andy Cohen cameo was a choice. A wrong choice.
Oh, and for a show that’s done a better-than-most job of being socially progressive, I was disappointed that Riverdale would show Veronica so viciously assaulting Reggie in public, and then the episode moving on and treating it as a cute little joke that Reggie got his face broken because he said a mean word about her daddy. Come on, show. If you flip those genders, it would be horrifically unacceptable. Don’t be so regressive.
But it’s not all bad:
Amid all this backpedalling by Veronica about how the only reason she joined her parents’ scheme was to keep them in check or some shit, it’s heartening to see the actual Dark Veronica starting to bubble back to the surface. That attack on Reggie was ferocious and upsetting. Let’s let the bitch loose.
Dark Betty is also on her way to being loose, as she overpowers both Molly Ringwald’s dinner monologue and the rain showdown to scoop the best scene of the episode. Betty wakes Chic up at night by holding a lighter over his face and basically says she will fucking kill him. She lists her previous Bad Man conquests: Clifford Blossom, the Sugar Man, and the Black Hood, and notes how the one thing they have in common is that they’re all dead after tussling with her. Jesus Christ, Betty. Even I was scared.
Chic does go some way to proving he has that same hereditary mettle, though, by countering later that should Betty try anything, he can go to the cops and tell them about the guy he killed. But because all the evidence points to Betty’s tampering with the body and the guy’s phone, Chic has nothing to fear from that coming out. He served you, Betty. How do you respond?
We’ll take a moment to give the Archie/Jughead subplot the love it deserves. I’ll still roll my eyes anytime Archie has a strategy briefing with Hiram, or Jughead tries to rally the oppressed teen Serpents (who, funnily, initially reject the protest because, again, they don’t really like South Side High), but the culmination of this with the cutting of the chains is worth it. I’d like to imagine that Archie is starting to see the error of choosing Hiram, and Jughead’s fury doesn’t feel so self-aggrandizing when it is rightly aimed at his supposed best friend.
Also helping Archie see the error of his ways is his mum, a gloriously returning Molly Ringwald. Fred calls her in for legal help with his Lodge contract break (she’s a lawyer, remember), and she is none too impressed with Archie’s Hiram-related choices. This comes to a head at dinner when Molly shouts down Archie for admiring Hiram as “a man who saw what had to be done and did it.” She’s like fuck you, cunt, your dad gave up his whole life to take care of you and get shit done you little turd. That Molly would stand up this way for a man who is her ex-husband makes it all the more moving. Fuck you, Archie. Open your goddamn eyes.
Ethel and Josie’s eyes are open, though. Ethel enters the episode with a bang by publicly denouncing Veronica and her family’s scummy plans. And then she dumps a milkshake on her. It’s fabulous.
Veronica then tries to regroup amid her struggling campaign and tells Ethel that she could arrange a cushy job for Ethel’s dad at the prison when it opens. But we find out later what Ethel’s response to this is when she destroys a campaign performance Veronica is doing with Josie (whose endorsement Veronica had earlier secured) by handing out flyers exposing the fact Veronica knew about the fate of South Side High before it happened. This effectively ruins Veronica’s entire campaign, and the scene is deliciously capped off by the reveal that Josie had planned this with Ethel. Bitter bitches be bringin’ it.
The more severe fallout from this, though, is that Betty severs ties with Veronica because she can’t trust her, anymore. Veronica’s parents also fall out with her for not heeding their advice about laying low, so it looks like only Archie’s in her corner these days. Oh, dear.
Cheryl is still largely sequestered from the rest of the main characters with her own little family intrigue subplot, but she’s still got Toni in her corner. She hosts a slumber party for the girls because she’s afraid of being home alone with Claudius and Penelope, and this anxiety is proven true when Nanna Rose falls down the stairs, supposedly having consumed paralytic herbs from Penelope’s garden through her own confusion. Doubt it, baby.
And to keep Cheryl’s suspicious mouth shut, Penelope promptly sends her off to some asylum, under the guise of going to boarding school overseas. The episode doesn’t outright say “gay conversion therapy,” but that’s what it looks like.
Fred decides to run for mayor against Hermione. Hot.
Oh, and it looks like Kevin is truly being paired with Josie instead of Cheryl these days. I’m disappointed. But they have potential for a bottle episode, too.