Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have to recap a perfect episode of television when you are ON VACATION? I was really counting on this installment of Riverdale just giving us more of the same: a lurid teen drama still searching for its voicem, that I could write a quick recap of and then go back to playing on the beach. Instead, last night’s episode proved to be that magic moment when Riverdale figured itself out, and the result was forty-five minutes of pure candy apple joy that finally vindicated by decision to recap this show in the first place. Every shot, every line of dialogue dripped with messy, malevolent pleasure, occasionally spilling over into peak PLL, beating a snake with a mannequin leg zaniness. I’m talking maple syrup murder grudges, and diner snakes. It was flawless. I just wish it didn’t have to be flawless while I’m at the beach.
Nevertheless, if Riverdale can make all its improbable pieces come together to a coherent whole, I can balance work and play, so I am writing this recap on the beach, my laptop perched on a little stool. A family of German tourists is giving me a lot of funny looks.
Okay so the first thing you have to accept is that Cheryl Blossom is our new god and we worship her now.
LEAD US STRAIGHT INTO TEMPTATION.
As Jughead narrates, with Lemony Snicketesque dolefulness, the Blossom family home, Thorn Hill Manor, has a sort of mythic status in Riverdale, no less so than the family who bloom like delicate, deadly flowers within its gates. As Jason’s funeral approaches, Cheryl Blossom is haunted by dreams of her dear departed brother, and is increasingly fearful of her parents, who blame Cheryl for Jason’s death and refuse to let her speak at the funeral.
I’ve given the adults relatively little attention in this recaps, but it’s time we ranked the parents of Riverdale, though whether to sort them my goodness or greatness poses something of a conundrum. In fact, a list of who is the best parent would be almost exactly opposite of a list ranking who is the most fun to watch. But since Riverdale clearly prizes salacious thrills over moral righteousness, we will play by their rules.
1.Betty’s mom and Cheryl’s mom: Tied for first because they are basically the same person with different hair. They’re paranoid, both violently controlling of their daughters, and they both have the same delightful tendency to accusatorily wave cocktails around address everyone by their first and last name.
2.Hermione Lodge: Veronica’s mom has the highest babeliness factor of all the parents, and earns a lot of points for busting her ass as a diner waitress while simultaneously keeping a butler. You contain multitudes, Hermione, and don’t you forget it.
3.Josie’s mom: We don’t know much about her yet but she accepts bribes and created Josie, so I’m on board.
4.Archie’s dad. Dude, quit being such a dang model parent all the time. This isn’t The Fosters; you don’t get points for good behavior.
5.All the other dads: Every single other father on this show looks like the same person who in turn looks like a chipmunk.
Let’s get Archie out of the way, since his earnest, boyish, rock ‘n roll storyline increasingly feels separate from the feminized gothic opera this show so clearly wants to be.
YOU JUST SIT THERE AND LOOK PRETTY.
This week, Archie has to balance his UNBELIEVABLE FOOTBALL TALENT with his UNBELIEVABLE MUSICAL TALENT. On the one hand, he feels obligated to seek out the captain’s position on the team, in hopes of earning a college scholarship that will, in turn, enable him to study music. So he dukes it out on the field with Moose, which makes everyone eye-rollingly concerned that he’s going to damage his precious musical fingers.
GEE IF BETTY HURT HER FINGERS LIKE THAT I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’D DO.
What’s funny about the football scenes is the way the shots and music are just blatant rip-offs of Friday Night Lights’ awestruck homage to American maleness, but with no conviction behind it beyond an appreciation for the male bodies. I bet by season two we look back on those scenes and laugh our asses off.
More concerning is the way Archie seems to be pairing off with Valerie, The Pussycats’ chief songwriter, who I had pegged as a full-on lesbo.
WHY DON’T YOU COME OVER, VALERIE?
Anyway, at the end of the episode, Archie decides to give up being the captain so he can focus on pleasing his new music teacher (who seems to be under the impression that he is training Archie for Ender’s Game and not a talent show). With Archie having learned a Valuable Lesson, the show eagerly washes its hands of him and devotes the rest of its energy to its real passions: classic cinema references and Cheryl Blossom’s lips.
Distraught over been iced out of her own twin’s funeral, Cheryl vents her frustrations on Veronica. Ronnie is still trying (really trying!) to be a good person, so she’s like “look Cheryl, I get that your brother-lover just died but what do you say you use me as a rebound instead of a punching bag?” To which Cheryl is like “Sleepover. My house. Tonight.”
When Veronica arrives at Thorn Hill Manor, she is like “Where are the other girls? I thought this was a sleepover?” And Cheryl is like “Jeepers, Ronnie, how many girls do you need? Am I not enough for you?” And Veronica is like “Oh. If I’d known it was that kind of sleepover I would have packed differently.”
After a dinner in which the Blossoms give Veronica a typically icy reception, she really starts to bond with Cheryl when they talk in whispers on her bed. Now, y’all, as a lesbian recapper I usually have a pretty good ability to differentiate between characters I merely want to kiss and characters who are ABOUT TO KISS, and I seriously thought these two fell in the latter category.
I WANT TO PLUCK YOUR BLOSSOM.
I’m sorry but I have never seen two people who want to kiss each other more in my life, including Sheetal Sheth and Lisa Ray, and their mouths are made out of magnets. It doesn’t happen this time, but I’ve got my eye on you, Cheryl. Anyway, Veronica does helpfully suggest that Cheryl should grab the mic at the funeral tomorrow and give Jason a guerilla eulogy.
But Veronica isn’t the only one interested in Jason’s funeral. Betty, Jughead, and Kevin all see the funeral as a chance to snoop in the dead boy’s room and gain some insight into what he was going though before his untimely demise.
THAT COLLARED SHIRT-SWEATER COMBO IS GAYER THAN FAN FIC.
They decide to attend Jason’s funeral, which gives Jughead the opportunity to dress up in a suit in which he looks so goddamn precious I want to adopt him and cuddle his precious blackened heart forever.
YOU CAN STILL BE ASEXUAL AND HANDSOME, RIGHT?
At the funeral, Mrs. Blossom accuses literally everyone who walks through the door of murdering Jason, like she’s playing a drunken game of Clue.
SLEEPOVER. MY HOUSE. TONIGHT.
But Cheryl, our beloved demon mistress, steals the show, sashaying up to the coffin like the bride of death itself.
RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU HAVE EVER FELT PERSONALLY VICTIMIZED BY A BLOSSOM.
Her much-ballyhooed eulogy for Jason is actually pretty tame, but for her insubordination, her mother promises she will suffer.
While the Blossoms are dealing with their own drama, Betty and Jughead sneak up to Jason’s room to look for clues. What they find is Jason’s crazy old aunt, who mistakes Betty for Polly and drops a major truth bomb: Polly and Jason were engaged.
I’M TELLING YOU: I’M GERALDINE GRUNDY. WHY WILL NO ONE LISTEN TO ME?
After the funeral, Betty confronts her father about Jason and Polly’s engagement, learns the truth of the two families’ animosity.this is where things really get interesting. Per Betty’s dad, here is the exact quote concerning the ancient feud between Riverdale’s first families: “Your little friend Cheryl’s great grandfather murdered yours. They were in business together, selling and trading maple syrup, and one day great grandfather Blossom decided he didn’t want to share the profit.”
THERE YOU HAVE IT PEOPLE. BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER, BUT NOTHING IS THICKER THAN MAPLE SYRUP.
I MAY BE A CHIPMUNK MAN WITH A GRUDGE THAT DOUBLES AS A PANCAKE TOPPING, BUT I DEMAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A MURDER SUSPECT.
But even that is not the craziest thing that happens in this episode! No, that honor belongs to Hermione Lodge, who is just finishing her shift at the diner when someone plants a box with a VENOMOUS SERPENT IN IT.
It’s from the biker gang, who are apparently not huge fans of subtlety. In the wake of this discovery, Archie’s dad offers Hermione a job in his serpent-free business. I will miss her in that uniform something fierce. Let’s see it one more time, for old time’s snake.
It took Pretty Little Liars five whole seasons to build up to venomous serpent/possibly clairvoyant old woman territory, and it has taken Riverdale a mere five episodes. I don’t know where they’re going from here, but I am with them all the way.
See you next week!