Riverdale S3E5: The Great Escape

by thethreepennyguignol

I mean, ever since the first episode of this season, where Archie ended up in jail, I knew that we were destined/doomed to this plot: a prison break. But this week’s episode, The Great Escape, dives into the inevitable with hysterical commitment – and somehow, success.

The plot that the title reflects is, of course, Archie and his prison pals staging a breakout: it’s a neat opening for the episode, as Archie and his first failed attempt reflects itself in a sighed “your mission is unsuccessful” as the rest of the gang plays at Dungeons and Not Dragons, Not At All, Thanks So Much. But that’s about as grounded as the episode gets, as Riverdale spins off the rails in singular fashion.

Honestly, this is a fucking tremendous episode for Jughead – I don’t think that Cole Sprouse is a good actor by any stretch of the fangirl imagination, but I do believe that he’s completely committed to this role by now, and he’d fucking have to be to sell even a second of this batshit insanity: Jughead has convinced himself that the role-playing game, Gryphons and Gargoyles (that’s the first and last time I’m going to address it by the accurate moniker, handle it) is actually the key to a deep secret wrapped up in Riverdale that he can only unlock by becoming….GAMEMASTER. This involves having people shoot arrows at his face, grinning evilly over fires, and generally dutch-tilting his underlit way around Riverdale. Which, honestly? Fantastic. I know some people don’t like the more deranged side of Riverdale, but honestly, if you don’t, what the hell are you watching it for? The gritty realism? The lighting? Sheriff Keller’s jawline? I live for this factor of the ‘Dale, the more committed the better.

And that batshittery carries on over in the Archie plot: he’s still fighting in the underground prison boxing club, which Veronica (through machinations and a blonde wig I’m not going to go into here) finds out about it and swears to break him out. Jughead, lost to his B-plot insanity, decides that the only way he can deign to help in freeing his best friend is if the whole thing is framed as a Gorgons and Gaycoding quest. Does this work on a practical, prurient storytelling level? Not necessarily. As pure entertainment, though? I cannot get enough.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am and always have been a giant loser, and yes, the kind of loser who played role-playing games as a teenager. For me, the way the prison break is told through the medium of a delightfully keen Dungeonmaster Jughead yelling metaphors over tearing motorbike chases and bad costumes and noble sacrifices amongst plumes of steam is everything I never knew I wanted. Ridiculous, yes, but handsomely directed, committed-to by all actors involved, and at least an original take on the overwrought prison break. And it’ the kind of ridiculous that a show only as bedded in as Riverdale has become over the last few episodes could pull off: I was worried season three would be a strain for this show. But if anything, now they’re not trying to prove themselves to anyone, they’re here for a gorgeous time, a geeky time, and a good time. And they don’t care who knows it.

I’m still loving this season so far, even though I know that some of it might be a little out-there for some viewers. But then, this is a show that has already settled into a viewership, a tone, a style, so why shouldn’t go a little buckwild now they have their grounding? I want to see just how far this season will go, and with Archie on the run, Jughead mad with power, Veronica and Hiram feuding in black bias-cut, and Betty looking like the sanest out of the lot of them, it seems like the answer is “pretty fucking far”.

And that’s us for this deranged little outing. What did you think? Are you confident about this season, or worried about the turn its taking? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr! If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check in with my other recapping projects – I’m currently covering the first Harry Potter book as well as the current season of American Horror Story. If you want to read some of my fiction, please check out the ALPHA FEMALE erotica series (eighteen-plus, obviously), available on Amazon now. As ever, if you want to see more stuff like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image courtesy of Decider)