Welcome back to Riverdale, where skies are always gloomy, your neighbours are ready to stab you in the back, and where Pop’s still open 24 hours a day for damn good coffee and cherry pie… Wait, wrong murder mystery. The mysteries on this first new Riverdale after a two week break had more to do with the parents then it had to do with the still dead Jason Blossom, which is okay because the storyline gave us an opportunity to be reminded of a very important point: Archie is the worst.
Let us consider one Fred Andrews, who’s father know best routine has been a warm slice of good old fashioned TV amongst the angst and skullduggery of the rest of Riverdale‘s parental figures. He’s just a good man trying to make an honest living from his construction business, blissfully in the dark that his latest job is built on ground made of bribery, conspiracy, and collusion, and that his right hand woman, Hermione Lodge, is at the centre of it all. But it’s not enough that Hermione’s disgraced husband managed to get the land unfair and unsquare, but there are a lot of people with skin still in the game… and they’re making Fred Andrews cry!
If you’ve been keeping up with these recaps, then you know of my admiration for Luke Perry in the part of Fred, and he kills it in those scenes where it’s just him and Archie, and he confesses that he failed in building a family and it’s hard for him to look at the possibility of being a failure at building. It hurts. By contrast to the rest of town though, Fred is the last good man, and it feels like we need more to him than just the age old meme that there’s no room for an honest man in this terribly corrupt world. I appreciated Fred’s pragmatism in the last episode when he talked about cutting ties with FP or risk drowning with him, but this Terry Malloy “I coulda been a contender” routine is kind of a dead end. Yes, the working class hero’s been shot dead in the streets by big banks, politicians, and foreign governments, but what else is new?
Of course, Fred’s simmering internal drama teed up what’s been Archie’s biggest storyline since not-Ms. Grundy left town. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Archie’s been kind of a bore through this series so far, and the whole Archie-Betty-Veronica triad seems to have been long since forgotten in favour of the much more chemical Betthead romance, and with Veronica’s mom dating his dad, what is there left for Archie?
The answer, it seems, is going off half cocked to confront bikers and doing other ludicrous things to help his dad’s business. It seems that the show is investing every annoying teenager characteristic in Archie, which is fine if you’re more interested in other goings on in town, but it would be nice if we could evolve Archie beyond being a naive reactionist that crashes his friend’s sister’s baby shower to have it out with his best friend about hiding the fact that his father is the leader of the local biker gang.
Speaking of FP, he seems much more central to the mystery than even previously hinted at when we saw Jason’s letter jacket hanging in his closet. Not only does Jughead’s dad give Joaquin the jacket for safekeeping, implying that it may have value beyond being a serial killer-style souvenir or a trophy, but we learn that Joaquin is dating Chris Keller on FP’s orders to get an inside line to the Sheriff. That kind of makes FP the Homeland of biker gangs by cultivating his own moles in the small town sheriff’s office, but there’s so much more going on here, isn’t there? I don’t think FP is guilty of killing Jason, but he probably has an idea about who, otherwise why is hitting the sauce so hard?
As some parents dug deeper into darkness, others struggled towards the light. The Cooper family, once an exemplar of hoity upper middle class apple pie Americana now seem like another exemplar of modern American culture: the Jerry Springer show guest. Meanwhile, poor Polly is stuck in the middle, and like any pregnant teen she just wants to be at home with her family. Betty does her best to try and make peace with all sides, but Veronica thinks bigger and suggests that maybe a baby shower will bring everyone together as one big happy family, the Coopers and the Blossoms. You have to love Ronnie’s can-do attitude!
But it seems like Veronica has never watched a teen show, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned by watching too many of them, it’s that problems aren’t solved at a party, they’re exacerbated by a party Alice and Penelope almost come to blows as they try to pull Polly towards one or the other despite both of them burning her in the past. “Thorn Hill’s gates are always open to you,” Penelope says, which, given the general spookiness of Thorn Hill sounds more like the logline of a Stephen King movie then a welcoming invitation. Adding to the general creepiness, Nana Blossom uses crystal powers and her “gypsy blood” to predict that Polly’s having twins. Modern medical technology be damned, I guess.
The real revelation though was that Hal Cooper tried to get Polly to “take care” of the pregnancy long before Polly was sent to the nunnery or wherever. Is it really still so hard to use the word “abortion” on television in 2017, or were the writers trying to be cute by addressing talking around the matter like its 1957? What was impressive was Mädchen Amick‘s turn as she darkly unloads on Hal for wanting to “take Polly to the doctor.” The scene would have been made better if Hal was being played by an actor that’s not-Lochlyn Munro because he could not do anything in the face of Amick’s restrained ferociousness. “By now, you know what I’m capable of,” Alice warns, and while I don’t, I do believe she’s capable of some stuff.
I hope this isn’t leading to the revelation that Hal killed Jason because nobody’s believing Lochlyn went psycho and killed a kid because of century old feud and the “You knocked up my daughter!” outrage that seems more appropriate for a time when you couldn’t say “pregnant” on television. What’s clear is that there’s two broken men here, Hal and FP, and we’ve seen them both in moments of seemingly deep regret lately, which supposes they’re both carrying secrets not yet exposed. But what was that smile on the face of Penelope Blossom as Polly arrived at Thorn Hill? Is it all going according to play, or is she just thinking about that ugly ginger wig on the head of the actor playing her husband? Stay tuned.