Riverdale Season 3 Episode 1 – TV Review
Step aside, wannabe-Riverdale. The real, ab-flaunting deal has returned.
Also, levitating babies.
TL;DR Archie’s murder trial ends in him accepting a manslaughter plea deal; Veronica continues to denounce Hiram; Betty might be losing her mind while dealing with a cult Kool-Aid-drinking Alice (thanks, Polly); Jughead does boring, bullshit gang stuff; but he also stumbles upon a (separate?) cult situation; Cheryl, Josie, and Kevin do appear.
Not enough to have any real impact. But at least the show hasn’t forgotten they exist.
So yeah, Archie’s murder trial has already taken place off-screen, and now we’ve got to wait over Labor Day weekend while the jury deliberates. Archie takes centre stage for the episode and chooses to enjoy what little time he may have left with his friends. The Core Four are supportive, but Archie’s conscience, despite being clean of actual murder, still hangs heavy with the bad things he did last season, and that he didn’t do more to stop Hiram’s driver from killing that guy. So when the jury comes back with an even split and a retrial looms, Archie accepts a sudden manslaughter plea deal offered, and is sentence to two years’ juvenile detention. I’m sure the main character of a CW show will definitely not find a way out of that one. Meanwhile, Veronica spends her episode hissing at Hiram to do the right thing and stop the charges against Archie. Hiram plays “it wasn’t me” with her, and Hermione doesn’t offer any assistance. So Veronica does the next best thing and attempts to tamper with the jury. She fails, and after Archie accepts the plea deal, she proclaims to Hiram that she’s no longer his daughter. Meanwhile, Betty, who spent her summer working with Mayor McCoy and Molly Ringwald on Archie’s case, puts up with hippie bullshit from Polly and a newly-recruited-to-Polly’s-cult Alice. Even when Betty is busted for inventing a psychologist and forging Adderall prescriptions, she doesn’t concede. But when the episode closes with her possibly hallucinating Polly’s babies levitating above a fire in a The Farm ritual while she collapses in a seizure, I think maybe Betty might not be the voice of reason here, you know? Meanwhile, Jughead receives intel that the Ghoulies have been holding the Serpents’ dog captive. On the rescue mission, he’s busted and confronted by the Ghoulies and Penny the Snake Charmer, and Cheryl steps in with her archery skills to keep Jughead safe. This unfortunately leads to Penny declaring war on the North Side. Jughead does have more than gang garbage on his plate, though, as the wackiest new subplot emerges near the end of the episode as Jughead follows a map left by the Scoutmaster. He’d been raving about “the Gargoyle King” from some tabletop RPG being real, and Jughead follows the directions to an ominous statue, and a possibly dead Scoutmaster and gravely poisoned other boy. Oh, and in minor character land, Cheryl and Toni are still together and Cheryl wishes there was a way she could help Archie; Josie and Sweet Pea had a summer fling that she wants to stop, but he wants to continue; Kevin and Moose make a sex pact to bang by Halloween (not long, now, boys); Hermione assures Veronica that she’s not Hiram’s puppet; and the Hot Dad Squad reassembles to figure out a way to get Archie out of his bind.
God help the as-yet un-splooshed panties of any lady corrections officers who stand in their way.
After the dizzying heights of Riverdale’s first season, I was absolutely salivating over the Season 2 premiere. But then things took a turn for the gangland, and Season 2 ended up sputtering along dimly, only being saved by a couple of well-timed upshots on the back end. So going into Season 3, I wasn’t holding my breath.
But I’m glad to report that, at least for now, things appear to be looking up.
Two evil cult mysteries in one episode, though? That could be a bit much to ask.
Why I hate this episode:
I guess The Farm and the Gargoyle King could turn out to be part of the same cult (Betty namedrops Heaven’s Gate when deriding The Farm, and Jughead sees what appears to be Kool-Aid with the boys when he finds them poisoned). But that would be even wackier. The episode was doing just fine with reeling in Archie on his personal responsibility train, and grounding The Farm stuff in terms of just the Cooper family dynamics. But then it goes and throws self-sacrificial, back-scarring, statue-worshipping D&D kids at us at the last second. You don’t need to be this extra, Riverdale. You were extra enough, already.
We’ll add the floating babies scene to that. Sure, it was a satisfying jaw-dropper. But with Sabrina and her actual witchcraft just around the corner, and the fact that we’ve been told over and over that it’s not a direct Riverdale spin-off, I just question why? Why do we need it in Riverdale?
Unless, of course, it was merely a hallucination of Betty’s. Which I strongly suspect will be the case. And that’s a cop-out, baby.
While I respect Archie for trying to atone for his sins, I was fuming that he accepted that plea deal. And I’m also mad at the show for expecting us to believe that our protagonist will sincerely be sent to prison for two years. Bitch, he’ll be out of there in no time.
Veronica keeps making grand statements about how she hates her father, but a little less conversation and a little more action, please, would be nice.
Kevin and Moose had their Big Damn Kiss in the finale, and then apparently spent all Summer as chaste friends? What?
Oh, and Cheryl invites everyone to a pool party. But apart from the skimpy outfits, nothing really happens at it. Gossip Girl is rolling in its grave. Don’t you know shit always goes down at parties?
But it’s not all bad:
Those outfits, though. The true star of this episode is Archie’s shirtless torso (who are we kidding? Archie’s shirtless torso is the star of the whole series), and it is out and proud in several scenes this episode. I’d be almost willing to abandon the frosty, mist-soaked aesthetic that made Riverdale great in favour of Summer all the time if it means Archie forgets to get dressed every episode. God, I’m thirsty.
And Archie’s not the only one. The ever-reliable Ghoulies leader has a big ol’ open shirt when he attacks Jughead; Fangs lets his beef flag fly with a similar get-up at the Serpent encampment; and Reggie flexes his bare chest across from Archie when they toss a football. No shirts for all!
Speaking of the attractive male form, the Hot Dad Squad getting back together solemnly after the trial is encouraging. I would certainly want Betty, Molly Ringwald, and Mayor McCoy on my side in court. And if it went south, I’d feel just as safe in the hands of Fred, Skeet, and Sheriff Keller to find an alternative solution. Archie has all the right people in his corner.
And that’s because Season 3 is making an important course correction from Season 2: evil, dumbass Archie is out. Pensive, atoning Archie is just as sexy, but without the obliviousness and relentless Hiram dick-sucking. And if Archie isn’t a mobster, anymore, I can only hope that means less time is spent on the Lodge family mafia shit. Because you know how fucking done with that I am.
Sadly, the Serpent gang crap is still holding on nice and tightly. But Cheryl popping up as an archery sniper in her bright red jacket makes it slightly more tolerable. I’d quip that I bet the Ghoulies leader didn’t see that coming, but considering how much she stuck out on this apparent stealth mission, he really should have.
Skeet gives Archie a Serpent tattoo to help him gain protection on the inside. Smart.
Betty doesn’t get a lot to do this episode, but her few scenes with her family are affecting. Alice is essentially a pawn in Polly’s weird power grab, and the sisterly rivalry is a new angle that could have some mileage.
The Gargoyle King stuff is pretty out there, but the image of the near-dead boys with symbols carved into their backs in the woods was appropriately creepy.
Fred punches Hiram in the face at the courthouse. I’m here for it.
Cheryl’s entrance in the episode features a slo-mo power walk.
Archie’s rescue of Cheryl in the Season 1 finale is brought up by Molly in her closing argument at the trial, and Cheryl also invokes it when telling Toni she wished there was more she could do for Archie. That would probably be my favourite scene of the entire series, so I appreciate that Riverdale recognises how good it was, too.
Oh, and here’s more shirtless Archie. Because woof.