Just when you thought the only bad thing going on in Riverdale was that someone put a large caliber bullet hole in Jason Blossom’s forehead, we see that there’s so much more going on under the surface. The third episode put the overarching mystery of Riverdale on hold for the most part, and instead, really, started peering in darker corners. For while a kid shot dead by unknown persons is shocking and tragic in its own right, there’s really nothing any less horrific than what a predatory teenage boy might be capable of with a girl that mistakes rapaciousness for charm.
It wasn’t too hard to hear a message in this week’s Riverdale, and it was a timely one. Veronica goes on what’s supposed to be a regular date with football team captain Chuck Clayton, but it turns out that some members of the team partake in a perverse game of seducing the girls of Riverdale High for points. Of course, if that weren’t bad enough, they slut shame the girl. Veronica is the latest victim, but she has no intention of staying that way. Naturally, Betty helps in the cause, but Veronica had no idea the monster in her blonde-haired pal that she would unleash.
Now you would have to be blind to not notice a not-so-nice girl undercurrent to our good girl Ms Cooper, especially when it comes to the way her mom puts her in a box. Alice’s consternation about Betty hanging out with the wrong crowd (like Archie, Veronica, and Cheryl) is prompting Betty to act out and hang out with that wrong crowd. On a particularly shady note there was an exchange last week when Alice asks how long Betty is going to let girls like Cheryl use her. “Until I learn my lesson, Mom,” Betty said. I guess the lesson is that while girls like Veronica and Cheryl might be bad, the boys are actually worse.
Of course, Veronica’s not actually bad, and really neither is Cheryl. Cheryl actually shows signs of being genuine and magnanimous, first by thanking Archie for his overheard gunshot confession by arranging a jam session with Josie and the Pussycats, and then my helping Betty and Veronica (or B&V as they seem destined to be universally recognized as) expose the football players slut shamming circle. For Cheryl, there’s also the matter of some personal responsibility since Jason took part in the game, once “winning” nine points for seducing the “shy and repressed” Polly Cooper.
So Betty and Veronica decide to honey trap Chuck, and get righteous justice for Polly, Ethel and the other girls by luring him in with hottubbing and giving him a “sticky maple” of their own, which, incidentally, sounds more like a “Canadian thing” than a “Riverdale thing.” But this is where Betty goes off the rails. Appearing in a dark-haired bob wig, she seems to channel both Polly and Jack Bauer and waterboard Chuck for Jason’s crimes. Now one might might forgive Betty for getting carried away, but she point blank refuses to admit the next day that she went as dark as she got. So did she suffer from some kind of fugue condition, or is Betty going down the dark path?
I’ll admit, it was a bit jarring that Riverdale, for all its stylized staging and hyper-realism, slammed home so hard on such a down to Earth issue. Although it was handled in a very TV way with the football players getting their just desserts and the ladies getting justice, Riverdale waded into a very real issue and handle in such a way that definitely made you feel the creep factor from Chuck and his cohorts, and made you relate, no matter your gender, with Ethel and the others. The Archie comics have always come from an idealized vision of being an American teen, and in a modern context this was Riverdale being it’s most Archies like in pursuing this story the way they did.
As to the Jason Blossom mystery, we did learn a couple of things. Cheryl confesses that she and Jason had a plan to stage Jason’s disappearance. He was leaving home and felt that faking his death would make it so that no one came looking for him, but why would football hero and stud Jason Blossom want to run away from home? Cheryl didn’t know. It could be something at home, but when Mrs. Blossom slaps Alice Cooper for her full National Enquirer-style expose of Jason’s autopsy it seems all too raw for a woman that could have driven her son to fake his own death.
Archie’s true confession moment put his personal and educational relationship with Ms Grundy at risk, even though he went to great pains to leave her out of his statement. Even if you hadn’t seen the preview for next week’s episode, it’s pretty obvious that Ms. Grundy has something to hide, and the mere possibility of getting police attention immediately set her off like she’s wanted in five states, which maybe she is. And you can’t tell me that Fred Andrews isn’t more than a little suspicious that Archie’s interest in music doesn’t have something to do with his teacher. Speaking of Fred, I appreciated the way his concerns about Archie’s musical interest didn’t purely come from a place of dad logic and the apparent frivolousness of music.
Of course, Ms Grundy, whether she likes it or not, is about to become the centre of the Jason Blossom mystery. Scout master and survivalist Dalton Doiley was the man who doth shot the gun that everyone heard on the Fourth of July, while teaching his young scouts how to defend themselves in the coming apocalypse (which might be rather astute of him). Under the piercing interrogation of Betty and Jughead, Dalton admits that he saw Ms. Grundy’s car in the woods on the day in question, and as Jughead knows, Ms. Grundy is a man-eater. Might Jason Blossom had gotten caught up in her web? Find out next week.