Riverdale S3E9: No Exit
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Well, we’re back – and in the break, it feels as though everything in Riverdale has gotten a lot more…concentrated.
And I don’t mean that the show has become more focused, because of course it hasn’t. This is still Riverdale, after all, and even with the town cut off from the rest of the world, there’s still somehow way too much going on. I mean that everything in the show feels as though it’s coming to us in pure, undiluted syrup form, for better or worse. And often for the worse. Cheryl and Toni are sexy gay cat burglars stealing from the rich and giving to themselves! The Serpents are in dissaray as Jughead tries to navigate the social and financial pressures of leading a gang! Veronica and Reggie are totally macking on each other! There’s a lot, maybe too much, but let’s try and break it apart piece by piece.
In fact, no, let’s not, because there’s stuff in this episode that bluntly I don’t give a fuck about. I get that the show eventually had to come back around and acknowledge the fact that Jughead was leader of the Serpents and couldn’t just spend his time hiding in bunkers going on mad metaphorical role-playing gaming sessions, but honestly, I don’t like this version of him very much. Taking Cole Sprouse seriously? With the greatest respect to his very nice hair, no. The Toni and Cheryl stuff is pretty dumb, as they go, and just feels a touch too campy for the tone the show has struck this season so far. Not to mention the fact that they stuck in a cover of Maybe This Time at the end of this episode, and it didn’t even have the good graces to be the Sutton Foster OR the Kristen Chenowith version. Bah. It wasn’t even that I hated all of this, I just didn’t care about it. No, to be fair, I did hate the Maybe This Time cover. Very much.
But breezing by that, let’s take a look at what I actually cared about. Veronica and her father are feuding as Hiram terrorizes her employees in order to scam protection money out of her and, while most of this plot is really Mark Conseulos strutting around in an absurd fur-lined jacket, I’ll take it. Veronica has had a really, well, existent plot this season, contrary to what came before for her, and while her nightclub has descended into a roll-call of cliches of the prohibition-era drama, it’s a location to hinge the drama of Riverdale around, at the very least. I could do without her and Reggie tonguing, but whatever, it was coming. She isn’t, though, because Reggie is terrible in bed, don’t ask me how I know. Moving on!
Betty and Alice are putting up the escapees from the asylum where Betty was held in their house, and this is a fine plot – the best of it comes in Betty working with Josie’s mother, a lawyer, to try and force the Nuns who held them to testify against Hiram Lodge, with the feel of a genuine high-stakes courtroom drama, right up until the point that you remember this all revolves around a villain called the Gargoyle King. Frazzled Madchen Amick is fun, and Lili Reinhart fighting to keep her head amongst the pressures bearing down on her feels like its leading to a satisfyingly Dark Betty blow-up. Hopefully during which she’ll explode and kill Jughead. A girl can dream, right?
But the best part of this plot, and the part that I knew I was going to love the most as soon as it turned up, was Archie’s story. Out in the wilderness with nothing but his lovely dog for company, Archie gets mauled by a bear (yes, I know, bear (hah!) with me), and, in a delirious state from the blood loss, goes on an Existential Mind Journey. Now, as a long-time fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’m all the way here for a wander into the mind of our main character, and this one doesn’t let down. Trippy, disturbing, and revealing, it climaxes with Archie beating a younger version of himself to death while his father watches, unable to forgive himself for what he has done, and that’s genuinely juicy shit right there. KJ Apa has improved so mcuh as a performer in the last season or so, and Archie has developed so much as a leading man, and at this point I can firmly say that it’s his stories I find myself looking forward to the most. So I hope they haven’t actually killed him, as the cheap cliffhanger at the end of this episode suggested. Though “eaten by a bear” is up there with the dopest deaths, so on yourself, Archie.
So, yeah, we’re back, and there’s a lot going on. Too much, some might say. And not all of it is good. In fact, some of it as quantifiably dumb, and feels like Riverdale overstepping its already poorly-drawn boundaries. But there’s also ambition here, big ideas and introspective stories that actually work. There’s still a lot to juggle here, especially in the hyper-concentrated form we’re receiving it all in, but Riverdale is still just hanging on to its sanity. Which is more than can be said for me.
And that’s us for the first half of season three. What did you think? Are you confident about how this season is unfolding? 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. 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 via Den of Geek)