If there was a word to describe this week’s episode of Riverdale it’s “peak”. It was “peak Archie” it terms of the characterization of our comic book friends and how we remember them. It was “peak teen soap” in terms of the romantic melodrama and friendship dysfunction. It was “peak mystery” in terms of new revelations and long simmering confrontations. And it was “peak deconstruction” as the writers throw in some compelling hiccups in terms of the relationship dynamics of the show. Let’s just come out and say: Jughead kissed Betty! Passionately. And our lives will never be the same again.

But first, Archie had take the next step in his musical career: perform in front of an audience. When Archie freezes during the audition, Reggie tells him to try harder, like maybe try not sucking, which is kind of the most Reggie thing Reggie has said in the series thus far. What Archie needed was back-up, and since Val can’t violate fidelity to the Pussycats, Veronica volunteers. Of course, all that changes when Val and Josie gets into a fight and split, and when Archie tells the good news to Veronica that he and Val can sing together, you could cut the obliviousness with a knife. I’m not sure if this is a compliment to K.J. Apa, but he can play Archie’s insensitivity like a Stradivarius.

Veronica then does the only thing she can do, become a Pussycat. There’s no doubt that Veronica has the sass, and while it’s a classic Veronica move to pointedly demonstrate her social superiority, the real emphasis of the Pussycat drama was on Josie herself, who was trying to impress her distant – literally and figuratively – jazz musician father. “Why?” is a good question, because he’s a stick in the mud snooty, artistic purity tester that gives anybody that plays jazz in the 21st century a bad name. What Mayor McCoy, a vivacious woman in her own right (or perhaps that’s just the Robin Givens factor), sees in him is also mystery, and although Ashleigh Murray‘s emotional reaction to Josie’s disinterested father is palpable, Myles McCoy was really just a nothing burger of a character.

For believable chemistry, one must turn to Betty and Jughead. “Archie who” am I right? Did you see Betty’s face light up when Jughead arrived at her bedroom window? It’s a smart match, and not just because everything that Betty and Jughead seemed to have been doing lately is divorced from all the high school hysterics. This week of the Betty and Jughead mysteries took the dynamic duo to the location of the long since M.I.A. Polly, right after a breakfast mission to get to the bottom of Alice Cooper’s purse. By the way, didn’t you just love the way Mädchen Amick dug her teeth into the word “Jughead” every time she spoke it?

So we go to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, which is naturally run by strict Catholic nuns as a place where wayward young women learn discipline and respect. It’s also a place where ashamed parents stash their pregnant teenagers after catching them trying to run away with their now dead boyfriends like it’s 1954. Yes, Polly is knocked up with Jason Blossom’s child, caught in the act of sneaking away to meet Jason on July 4. Shrewd Polly realized that her parents were lying about the sweet and innocent Betty she used to protect with a night light not wanting to see her, but what Polly didn’t know was that Jason was dead. So Mama Cooper lied about breaking the bad news…

The harsh light of suspicion has been on the Coopers since the beginning, for of all of Riverdale’s they seemed the least perturbed by Jason’s death, and Alice has been outright willing to exploit it to sell newspapers. There’s also their magpie like obsession to cover up and all detail that Polly had a serious relationship with Jason, that they were planning on running away together, and that Polly is pregnant with the heir to the Blossom fortune. Alice Cooper’s long been my prime suspect, but it feels like she’s more desperate than vengeful, trying to cover up the crack in the facade of perfection that she aims so mightily to maintain.

Alice does laugh though at Betty’s idea that her father might be Jason’s killer, and there’s always something about the quiet ones, isn’t there? We know that Hal Cooper is the one that stole the files from Sheriff Keller’s office, and Hal seemed pretty distraught watching old videos of Polly, and in a more than “I can’t believe my daughter’s going to be a mother” kind of way. Hal is too obviously a suspect, and his puffed up anger about the long history of the Blossoms screwing over the Coopers seems a little too well constructed as a plausible motivation. But given Hal’s look of incredulousness at Betty’s accusation he must be innocent because I have to say that Hal’s not that good an actor, and neither is Lochlyn Munro.

Still, there seems to be someone out there trying their damnedest to maintain the cover-up. Betty and Jughead discover Jason’s car, packed up for a getaway and suggesting that Polly’s version of events is the most plausible yet, but someone has their eye on Betty and Jughead’s investigations, and when they go and get the sheriff, someone sets fire to the car. To bad neither Betty or Jughead thought to use their cell phones as phones, but I guess Betty would have missed hearing Archie sing the blues and be conflicted about it. So who would want to burn the evidence of Jason’s drug sales funded getaway?

Would it be too weird to suggest that Polly is the murderer? Somehow, despite her pregnancy, Polly was able to break the window in her room, climb down to the ground, and getaway without one person noticing. It almost makes you think that she might have done it before and knows all the blindspots. It’s worth keeping in mind that Jason was missing for a week before he was killed, so my brilliant theory is that he found out about Polly, got her out, and then maybe they got into a fight that resulted in Jason being killed. Polly’s way of dealing was to go back to her incarceration, and act like it never happened. Just because Polly isn’t locked up for being crazy doesn’t mean that she isn’t crazy.

At least there are numerous facets still left to explore in the Blossom murder mystery, unlike Hermoine Lodge’s sneaky forgery of documents to award Fred Andrews the lucrative drive-in redevelopment, and undermining her husband’s plans. Veronica really needn’t worry about her mother and Fred because it’s kind of hard to buy the idea that Hermoine has any romantic interest in Fred at all, and I’m not sure if that’s how we’re supposed to read it. Is Hermoine not into Fred of is Marisol Nichols incapable of even pretending to find anything appealing about bearded Luke Perry. It’s too bad too because Perry is a great TV dad! He doesn’t get a lot of room to show off, but the empathy and support he gives Apa and Archie in their scenes together is really touching.

It looks like next week we’re going to go deeper into Jughead’s life and his relationship with his father, which is a fascinating thread that’s been sort of left to dangle the last couple of weeks. It’s never really been explained why Jughead is so fascinated with Jason’s murder aside from the need for good writing material, but if he didn’t feel a personal connection to the case before, he certainly does now, driven by the love that dare not speak its name, AKA: Elizabeth Cooper.

Category: reviews, TV

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