Riverdale S3E15: American Dreams
I just want to remind you up top that my fucking DEBUT NOVEL comes out in FIVE DAYS which means you just have a few days left to get it at a pre-sale 20% discount. Right here! Get on it! Go on!
This week’s outing, American Dreams, is Riverdale’s fiftieth episode. Which could be a chance for the show to pause and reflect on things – but instead, we’re gallumphing forward with the speed and control of a runaway hippopotamus. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The biggest story this week, after a little bit of fake-out with Betty not-actually burning down the house the week before, is that Gladys has purchased the Cooper’s home for her family – and that she’s secretly using her involvement in the drug trade to fund their new lives. It’s a plot that leaves Betty unfortunately sidelined, despite the emotional impact it must have had on her as a character, but luckily, it does provide some nice chunky stuff for the episode to get into. So let’s take a poke at that, huh?
And I will say this: I actually think that Mother Jones’ arrival in the show has added a new layer of dynamic conflict to Jughead and
the love of my life and fire of my loins FP. The scene where Jughead confronts his mother about her involvement in the drug trade is a genuinely great interaction, because Gladys isn’t tying to slither out of responsibility the way other villains (like Hiram) often do: she’s upfront about what she’s doing, and her reasons for it. After decades of struggle, she sees no reason that she shouldn’t pursue the American dream as she sees fit: creating a functional family, a safe home, and a decent income for herself, no matter where that comes from. A good villain is one thing, but a good villain with good, believable, and even relatable motivations is even better.
Elsewhere, Archie is trying to shake off the last of the Goobers and Gadges crew who are on his tail after being assigned to kill him by Hiram who is, now, on Archie’s side? For…you know, there are reasons that I could sit here and trace, but that’s not as fun as just staring slack-jawed at how fast this turnaround has come. It’s really an excuse for another extended scene of “hey! We really, really love shooting fight scenes and KJ Apa’s the only one in this cast willing to get the shit repeteadly kicked out of him!”. Look, I get it, I do, the boxing sequences have all been well-directed and interestingly-constructed, but I’ve watched KJ Apa throw so many punches this season at this juncture that I feel like some of them are aimed at me personally.
To be fair, that fight scene is intercut with some of the most eyebrow-raisingly explicit sex we’ve had in the show thus far, as Cheryl and Toni engage in some pre-break-up sex. All I really have to say about this plot is that I can imagine this scene, much like that one in Jennifer’s Body ten years ago that I have no thoughts about at all no siree, is going to be one that many future gays point to as a moment of awakening for their distinct unstraightness. Also, that Toni and Cheryl are destined to end back together just inevitably because you will give the queers their OTP for once, thank you so much.
I would like to pretend to have something to say about the Reggie-Veronica plot here, which mostly revolves around him griping about not getting enough respect? I guess from her as a partner in romance and in business, but it was so crushingly and intensely boring that I almost blacked out all the somewhat-passable character work that’s been happening Lodgeside for the last ten episodes or so. I refuse to spend any more time on it, and, in future, will simply scream loudly over all these scenes when they play in front of me.
So, Riverdale celebrates its fiftieth with one great plot stuck between a pile of…miscellaneous other nonsense that’s either repetitive, obvious, or just plain fucking boring. Basically, they are staying true as fuck to form. And, more than four dozen episodes in, if I haven’t caught on to that by now, I guess I’ve only got myself to blame.
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(header image WCCB Charlotte)