Riverdale S3E16: Big Fun

by thethreepennyguignol

Alright, you know what? That’s it. I’m done.

I’m done trying to make sense of this show. I’m done trying to figure out what the best version of Riverdale is – I’m done lying awake at night imagining KJ Apa lurking at the end of my bed and croaking horrors about another fucking boxing episode. Trying to find logic in what makes Riverdale work is very possibly the reason that I am currently seeing a therapist. You look back over these recaps and tell me that they haven’t just been a desperate record of my personal descent into madness. I defy you.

This week’s episode, Big Fun, was another musical outing, following on from last year’s Carrie-themed found footage clusterfuck, because why the fuck not? Riverdale seems to fit well with the blunt-force emotional battery of musical theatre, and the choice of Heathers as the musical in question makes a lot of sense tonally: both are pitch-black straight-faced parodies of the high school genre with a bunch of murder thrown in for good measure.

And you know what, of course I fucking love this episode. That’s what’s driving me so crazy about all of this. A few weeks ago, I was ready to write Riverdale off as just stuck on whatever idea it thought was cute that week, existing in a void of its own creation where time is irrelevant and Cole Sprouse is a sex symbol. And then it comes out with something like this and reminds me that it can find nuance in the madness, that it actually remembers the nightmarish history of this town, as well as just hucking a bunch of great musical numbers at the wall. “Are you really all so miserable?” Hermione Lodge demands halfway through a musical number, and the answer is: yes, but make it fashion.

The best plot of the week, without a doubt, is Cheryl’s: Madeleine Petsch plays so huge most of the time it’s easy to forget that she is a pretty talented actress, and the show’s tender exploration of her traumas and loss, from Jason to Toni, really give her time to shine. Not to mention the fact that she just knows how to make the enormity of the musical performances work for her- whether she’s caught up in sapphic competition or grounded depression, Cheryl will and forever has been my matte-lipped queen.

Veronica is devastated after the revelation that her parents are breaking up, and man, it’s good to see some stone-cold Lodge feudin’ back up in this place. Mark Conseulos got the moment of the episode with his delightfully dry delivery of “your mother tried to have me killed…twice” which will only ever make me think of this Muppet Treasure Island scene. But beyond just the pure enjoyment of watching him swan about in suits that are slightly too tight (I see you, Riverdale costume department, and I appreciate the good work you’re doing for all us thirsty bitches out here trying to cling on to the last of our sanity), I’ve always found the Lodge family dynamic compelling, and this is a whole new spanner in the works for them to play with.

Speaking of families falling apart, Jughead is grappling with the realization that his mother is an unapologetic drug lord (lady?), and further discovering that she’s responsible for the destruction of the home that he shared with his father for years during her absence. I still don’t think Cole Sprouse is the greatest actor in the world, but this is genuine, actual pathos and conflict for a character who had That Fucking Speech in season one. Not to mention the fact that Betty is off trying to expose the secrets of the drug-addled cult of The Farm, and her and Jughead making fuck-eyes at each other over human rights violations in eighties drag is obviously great. Josie and Archie also have a plot, but for what remains of my sanity I’m not going to go into it because it’s so boring I forgot I was even writing this sentence abou

But you know what? I don’t have a fucking clue if the show is going to be able to sustain this momentum. This was a great episode, filled with solid emotional beats, immensely fun musical numbers, and strong character development all-round. But next week, the show may walk directly into my apartment, knock my tea into my lap, and tell me that my cat has hated me all this time just like I feared. I thought there was a method to this madness, and I’m finally starting to accept that there just isn’t. Riverdale needs to be taken week-by-week, scene-by-scene, in terms of dissecting quality, and right now, all I can do is cling on to a really solid outing and hope that it’s enough to preserve what remains of my sanity.

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(header image via the CW)

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