Riverdale Season 3 Episode 5 – TV Review
Archie tied up and defenseless (and shirtless) is a good start to the episode.
Probably could have done without the forcible branding of tabletop RPG symbols onto him. Underground fight clubs were one thing, but burning inmates with hot metal pokers is too far, man.
Now the makeup department’s going to have to remember that for continuity every time Archie takes his shirt off. And that’s a lot.
TL;DR Veronica rallies the troops to break Archie out of juvie, and it’s a thrilling caper; and it succeeds, which is nice; the Warden turns out to be a G&G fanatic and kills himself; Jughead and the teen Serpents continue to play the game; Betty and Jughead clash over who they suspect is involved in the G&G killings.
I wanted to say Jughead’s conspiracy angle is absurd, but after that Warden suicide, I don’t know, hey.
So to that point first, Betty believes one of the members of The Midnight Club must be the killer. But Jughead, having fallen down the conspiracy hole, thinks things are much bigger than that, and believes playing the game will lead to the truth. Betty is rightfully weirded out, but doesn’t stop him as long as he’s not getting hurt. Betty pushes on, though, and tells Josie, Kevin, and Reggie about their parents’ tabletop RPG past, hoping they’ll get some answers. Reggie simply gets a beating from his dad, while Josie and Kevin’s parents announce they’re getting married. Omg yass. Meanwhile, Archie’s plans to escape juvie fail, and after some gloating from Hiram, Veronica decides it’s time to just do this fucking shit herself (The Innocence Project is also stalling). So she calls in mobster prince Elio, and learns about the fight club, and formulates a plan. She commandeers Betty’s subplot and brings aboard Betty, Josie, Kevin, and Reggie to help, but Jughead and his gang are too busy playing G&G to join them. Thankfully, it turns out they weren’t necessary, and despite some on-the-fly improv (Joaquin betrays Archie and distracts Kevin; Mad Dog appears; Hiram almost gets in the way), Archie is rescued and safely stashed away in the bunker. During this, it becomes clear the Warden is fully absorbed by G&G, and he chooses to Kool-Aid himself as news of his ill deeds at his juvenile detention facility comes to light. Meanwhile, following the day’s events, Josie, Kevin, and Reggie decide to start playing G&G themselves to learn the truth. And the episode ends as Jughead, hot off the completion of his gang’s latest G&G quest, encountering the Gargoyle King in the woods.
If there’s a Gargoyle King, then is there also a Gryphon King? Also, I’ve been using the wrong “Griffin” all this time.
So I can’t say this episode is fulfilling my request to bring Riverdale back to some semblance of grounded, believable teen drama.
But I do appreciate a good caper episode. And for all the wildness of Gryphons & Gargoyles and abusive prisons and mobster connections and magic conspiracies, this episode certainly pulls off the caper. So kudos, Riverdale. You may not have reined it in, but you have learned a valuable lesson about focusing the crazy.
Why I hate this episode:
I don’t much appreciate that Betty’s hypothesis about The Midnight Club has essentially been disproved, as the Warden’s actions suggest it goes above the Riverdale parents and their teen tabletop RPG days. I don’t know how Riverdale is going to eventually pull off the big reveal of the Gargoyle King’s identity and what this all meant without looking monumentally silly. The Black Hood at least was just a guy with a gun. And for all the eye rolling the Lodge family mafia bullshit provoked, they were also still just human criminals. What will the explanation be for an evil board game?
I still can’t get over how unbelievable the Warden and the juvenile detention facility were. Branding an inmate? That’s evidence that doesn’t go away. Some regulatory authority will find out about that eventually. And I’m not sure they’re going to buy your “my evil board game made me do it” excuse.
Oh, and I’m pretty mad that Jughead (and by extension, Cheryl and Toni) found playing G&G more important than helping Archie. The way Jughead spoke to Betty had me initially excited that maybe they were going to go full LARP and stage their own rescue mission. But no, just evil board games in the bunker while Archie could be dying. Rude.
But it’s not all bad:
The saving grace of this decision is that the episode then employs a tasty editing technique where the actions of Veronica’s actual rescue team are paralleled against Jughead’s campaign scenario, with Jughead’s G&G descriptions of what’s going on overlaid on what is happening. It’s simple, but very effective.
And Riverdale makes a smart and restrained choice to have this bleed through in a single detail when the Warden, upon catching up to Betty and Kevin’s decoy, demands to know where the Red Paladin is. Which is what Jughead had titled the character his gang were saving in the campaign. This culminates later in Betty cluing in that the Warden must be involved deep with G&G.
And by gum, he is. Not only solidified with his Kool-Aid suicide at the end of the episode, but also despairingly evidenced by Joaquin. Joaquin kisses Archie backstage before his final fight, and then stabs him on orders from the Warden with the promise that Joaquin may ascend if he does what he’s told. That sucks, Archie.
It sucks for Kevin, too, who is disgusted when he learns what Joaquin did. But the candle may still be burning slightly, as Kevin does try to run after a fleeing Joaquin when he sees him during the mission (he abandons this to instead complete his task and save Archie. Phew). And he does comment that he still wants to track him down. Anything to get Moose off his lazy arse.
Sheriff Keller and Mayor McCoy have gotten off their arses, though. Because they’re engaged, baby. A Cheryl/Kevin bottle episode seems to be but a distant pipe dream now, but I can smell a Josie/Kevin bottle episode on the horizon. I hope.
Archie spends much of this episode, like he has much of the season, shirtless. Mad Dog, too, shows back up as Archie’s final fight opponent, and looks even more impossibly jacked up than ever. I approve.
Veronica earns the episode’s best line when Archie’s shirtlessness actually becomes a plot point when a hooded figure is dragged out into the ring: “I’d recognise those abs anywhere.” Well, we have seen a lot of them.
I’m loving the return of Elio (again, no Call Me By Your Name joke. I suppose it’d be a bit old meme if they made it now, anyway). And Veronica even mentions the casino they spoke about last time he was here. Cute.
Archie takes his Last Supper with the Warden before his “retirement” match as an opportunity to ask about how Hiram was able to successfully frame Archie for murder. The Warden sees no reason to withhold it, so he confirms Hiram simply paid Cassidy’s friends off to make false statements, and now they’re in hiding. That reminds me, the Hot Dad Squad hasn’t done anything about that, yet. Maybe the time is coming.
Some minor drama occurs when Sweet Pea and Fangs grumble about how Jughead is their leader in real life, but they want to switch things up in the G&G world. Jughead angrily reinforces his rule. But the fact that this was given a full scene makes me think it won’t be the last we’ll hear of it.
Hermione is furious at Hiram when she finds out about the Warden’s fight club. I’ll take her open hostility to him as a step in the right direction.
An old timey radio announcement broadcasts that an escaped murderer, Archie, is on the loose. Love it.
Oh, and while I’m still hurting that Cheryl was excised from a grand scheme team, I’ve got to otherwise commend Veronica on putting together such a fabulous and successful plan. Let’s let everybody play next time, shall we?