It took 10 episodes, but they finally did it: A Riverdale ragger! Where was the debauchery? Where was the revelry? Where were the forced errors from drunken escapades and the sober regret? Well, it just turns out that we had to wait for Jughead’s birthday, the bizarro confluence of the capped one’s hatred of birthdays, his girlfriend’s desire to put on a perfect facade, and his best friend’s deep seeded need to forget that his parents are divorcing and he doesn’t know what to do. Yes, this was a consequential Riverdale, and not just because that girl from Sixteen Candles appeared at the end.
Like all good drunken high school keggers, this was the ideal chance to air some dirty laundry, and there’s been a lot of stuff building up for weeks, and some stuff that we’ve forgotten. For example, remember when Betty went Eli Roth on Chuck Clayton for slut shaming the girls at Riverdale High? That seemed to be a thread we lost as Betty threw herself into other things, like dating Jughead and finding out about her sister, but it came back in a big way this week as Chuck returned to school.
Now it was nice that Betty immediately jumped to Ethel’s defense, but he know that Betty’s actions at the hot tub had a lot to do with displaced anger about the apparent abuse of Polly by Jason, and we know now, as does Betty, that Jason and Polly were in love and planning to run away together. Of course that doesn’t forgive Chuck for what he did to Ethel and those other girls, and Betty was right to be suspicious about his “apology”, but this whole “Dark Betty” thing seems a matter of the writers trying to make make Betty as messed up as everyone else.
Of course, the instigator of all this is Cheryl, who feels burned by Veronica who decided to challenge Cheryl’s dictatorial control of the River Vixens because she learns that the Blossoms might have had something to do with her father’s jailing. It remains to be seen just how innocent Hiram Lodge really is, especially when he sends a note to his daughter, threatening her mother if she doesn’t testify on his behalf. Then, for that added psycho touch, he sends her a new pearl necklace as a “Thank you for testifying” present. When we finally meet Hiram Lodge, he’s going to have to be portrayed by an actor that can summon a very specific flavour of scumbag.
In other words, something definitely not in the Skeet Ulrich oeuvre, and wasn’t F.P. hanging around at a high school kegger for far too long for anyone to be comfortable debouching while this disheveled middle-aged man was in the room? Anyway, F.P.’s mission was two-fold, to spend time with his son on his birthday at the insistence of his annoyingly perky girlfriend, and find out from his plant Joaquin what he’s learned from dating the sheriff’s son. It turns out that Joaguin’s learning more from the kids than the sheriff as F.P. seems taken aback that the kids know so much of the scheme: the Blossoms paying off the Lodges for three-quarters of a century, et al.
But a game of “Secrets and Sins” (like “Truth or Dare” but with a Cheryl twist for added salaciousness) didn’t end up revealing anything that we the audience didn’t already know, although things are probably going to be a bit more uncomfortable for Archie now that everyone knows about him and Ms. Grundy. It certainly isn’t going to help Archie’s prospects at getting back together with Val, not that it really mattered in the end after making our with Veronica, who wound up spending the night in Archie’s bed albeit full clothed. So destiny achievement unlocked on that romantic development, not that Veronica’s in a rush to tell anyone. Especially Betty.
While Betty’s inner-darkness was a dilemma in this episode, so was Jughead’s. The man in the grey watch cap, like any well-adjusted weirdo, does not like celebrating his birthday. Why? Being ever so dedicated to truth, Jughead disliked the facade that his birthday promoted growing up: one big happy family that are able to paste over their own problems and dysfunctions for a day to look normal. That’s why Jughead prefers to just openly embrace being an outsider and own his outsider status because to do otherwise would be disingenuous. People don’t change, they can only pretend to change, and Jughead’s not about to expend energy on pretending.
Which brings us to his relationship with Betty. I didn’t see Jughead partake in any of the beverages available at his birthday party turned kegger, but he certainly sounded like he had when he digs into Betty for making him one of her projects. She’s trying to ignore the fact that he’s weird to have a normal high school romance, and most pointedly, that she’s only dating him till Archie pulls his head out of his ass. This was like watching your parents fight, and while it might seem like an artificial way to stick a pin in what may be the show’s most successful attempt to shake-up its source material, it feels right that someone as cynical as Jughead might doubt something because it seems so right.
However, there may be another reason that Betty feels so comfortable dating from the other side of the tracks. “Once a serpent, always a serpent,” F.P. tells Alice Cooper, who is more than a little interested in the doings next door, but for someone typically concerned about appearances, Alice seemed very relaxed about letting teenage Sodom and Gomorrah unfold one house over for the chance to confront F.P. One wonders to what extent of Alice’s secrets have been revealed, the ones that she shouldn’t have shared with Hal that she mentioned to Betty. Is her secret that she was once one of the Southside Serpents, or does it go deeper?
Parental drama is something Archie can identify with because his parents divorce sent him to the liquor cabinet early with red-level moppiness (otherwise known as a full-Dawson), which prompted him to drunk dial his dad and persuade him to not give up on mom. Even though it was Jughead’s birthday, it was Archie’s wish that was granted as Fred brings home Mary, and thus beginning the inevitable appearance by Molly Ringwald. In order to solve the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom it seems that the mystery lies more deeply in what the parents are doing, which makes you wonder what secrets Mary’s return is about to uncover…