Riverdale Season 3 Episode 16 – TV Review
Riverdale: you’re not Glee. Stop trying to be Glee. Nobody wants you to be Glee.
TL;DR This is basically a bad episode of Glee, as the Heathers musical numbers fall flat, alongside the story beats; Cheryl and Toni get back together; Archie and Josie are now kind of official; Jughead begins his quest to stamp out Gina’s drug operation; Hiram and Hermione are getting divorced; Betty’s worries about The Farm’s growing influence come to fruition as the Farm King himself finally appears.
And in the tradition of hot Riverdale dads, it’s Chad Michael Murray. Now I see why his cult is so popular.
So get your groans ready, as Riverdale leans even harder into the out-of-context musical numbers for its attempt to recapture the glory of last year’s Carrie: The Musical. It’s a spectacular failure, but it does give Farm Girl a chance to insinuate herself as co-director, and she tries to use everyone’s weaknesses to convert them (under the guise of theatre exercises). Betty’s on the case, but her efforts to expose her fall flat against a Farm-inducted Principal. Meanwhile, Jughead finds out his family’s trailer has been stolen to presumably use as a drug lab. He knows Gina must be behind it, so he and Betty eventually track it down and set it on fire (it’s becoming Betty’s signature move). Meanwhile, Veronica is shaken when Hiram and Hermione announce they’re getting divorced. Sadly, it was Hiram’s decision after he found out she tried to assassinate him, but at least it’s happening, hey? She fucks Reggie for some solace, but he’s unimpressed when she doesn’t want to actually be his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Archie and Josie have a similar discussion about whether or not they’re really an item, but they do decide to give it a go. And over in the musical, most of the songs happen offstage, and the roles don’t really matter. Cheryl is the closest to getting an actual parallel as Heather Chandler, red-wearing Alpha Bitch, but her episode is all about being petty towards ex-girlfriend and show choreographer Toni. But then they reconcile, so whatever. The episode does get a minor lift, however, at the very end, when Riverdale tries to repeat the bombastic reveal of Midge’s murdered body from last year’s musical with a not-bad effort of this time having the episode closed out by the reveal of Chad Michael Murray’s Farm King in the audience, slow-clapping with a legion of his Farm followers.
Does joining this cult involve any weird sex rituals with the leader? Where’s the sign-up sheet?
If I’m being honest with myself (I won’t make a habit of it. I promise), I’m not happy that the episode is so bad. I’m not happy that Carrie’s legacy is being trampled on by this shadow of a sequel, and you know Riverdale’s going to try it again next year.
But by this episode being this horrendous, I am also comforted in the knowledge that the Carrie episode was indeed special.
Maybe we should have just left it at that, hey, show?
Why I hate this episode:
Heathers’ songs really are uniformly garbage. When you compare the excellent opening of the Carrie episode with everyone rehearsing their “In” lines to the relentless, exhausting trudge of Heathers’ opening song “Beautiful” (which is also a recurring leitmotif song for the rest of the show. Oof) being performed mainly as Kevin trying to convince a wary Hermione of how great the musical will be, it’s truly embarrassing. I don’t remember a lot about the first half-ish of Heathers’ YouTube bootleg, but I do remember how goddamn long “Beautiful” is, and how I was not interested.
Things hit another low during the big party number “Big Fun,” which is offensively uncool for what should be the very cool party scene. I also remember that song being too long. And Riverdale gets even muddier with this song, when Veronica (as in our Veronica Lodge) takes some of the name-inclusive lines of the character Veronica from the musical, which isn’t the character Veronica is playing. It just reeks of a terrible jukebox musical where they try to ascribe meaning to very specific lyrics. Just like Glee, you know?
Speaking of Veronica (Sawyer, of Heathers), she’s the main character of the show, and Josie gets cast as her in this episode. And she’s barely fucking in it. Why use Heathers, and then pick Josie for the lead role, and then not use her? And let’s not forget that of the female cast, Josie’s the only one who can actually sing. What the hell, Riverdale?
On the subject of underused roles, Heather Duke is one of the more compelling characters in Heathers, and I was excited when Betty got the role. But she is not used as Heather Duke in any way. Veronica as Heather McNamara gets a solo, but Betty never does anything in-character. Using Heather Duke was one of the few things that even the fatally wonky Heathers the TV Series got right. Weak, Riverdale.
Sweet Pea gets cast as JD, but doesn’t even get a song. And his relationship with Josie doesn’t get addressed, despite the setup being perfect for it.
My joy over the announcement of Hiram and Hermione’s divorce was quickly tempered when it turned out Hiram was the one asking for the separation. Why does Riverdale hate Hermione so much?
Kevin and Fangs kiss and apparently become an item just to service the lyrics of one of the songs. Fuck you, show. You dangled Fangs’ hot, sexually ambiguous ass in front of us for over a year, and this is all you can muster as pay off? A mostly-shadowed kiss during a Heathers song? Fuck you.
Oh, and Midge gets a two second cameo in a vision Kevin has of her murdered form after Farm Girl doses him with a laced brownie. This doesn’t build to anything. As is Riverdale’s MO, these days.
But it’s not all bad:
Say it with me every episode: thank God for Betty. She is the only bright spark in a sea of dark, brooding sludge. She is the only character Riverdale apparently doesn’t fucking hate.
I admire her doggedness with going after Farm Girl. It’s a shame when it turns out The Farm has already gotten to the principal, but points for effort, B.
She also serves some delightful reaction shots whenever Farm Girl opens her culty mouth. And her horror at the reveal of the Farmies in the musical audience gave me life.
At least Josie wasn’t as excised from this musical episode as badly as she was last time.
At least Hiram and Hermione are getting divorced. For whatever reason. I’ll take it.
I’m over Cheryl and Toni as a couple at this point, but I suppose I’d rather have them together than to be getting into petty fights. But with Farm Girl setting her sights on Cheryl, we’ll see if things last.
Cheryl mentions to Toni that she was the first thing that was good in her life since Jason’s death. Glad to see someone hasn’t forgotten Season 1.
The song “Seventeen” didn’t make me completely roll my eyes. And “Candy Store” is the only song that’s properly performed on-stage (except for the finale song, which doesn’t count because it’s just everyone standing in a line), and it’s easily the best for it.
Jughead and Betty serve up some teamwork for the best lines of the episode:
Jughead: “When did our lives go from worrying who’s gonna sit next to us on the bus, to drug lord mothers?”
Betty: “And serial killer fathers. And unstoppable cults.”
Good question. Writers? Hmm?
Oh, and a big fucking mess Heathers turned out to be for Riverdale, but you can’t fault the hair and makeup and costuming on the titular three leading ladies. Betty in particular continues her tradition from Carrie by having fucking fantastic hair. Always more of this, Riverdale.