Hello and welcome back to Riverdale, the show that, in the words of Cheryl Blossom “is crazier than a serial killer on bath salts, but who cares?” Folks, I have to tell you something, and you are not allowed to judge me, okay? (In my mind you are saying “okay” and IT COUNTS.) Replete though Riverdale is with perfect female characters whom I unequivocally adore, my favorite little miscreant is Jughead Jones.
In some ways, Jughead reminds me of myself in high school: an oddball loner with uncool interests and a dogged commitment to his own unhappiness. But Jughead has something I was mostly only pretending to at that age: an actual reason to be unhappy. And while every teen at Riverdale High has their own cross to bear—Betty and Cheryl’s overbearing mothers, Veronica’s familial shame, Archie’s bewildering sexual awakening—Jughead’s issues have less of a glamorous Cover Girl sheen, and more of a deep, realistic ache. And that is really the result of Cole Sprouse’s performance, which he imbues with the bone-deep wariness of a boy who is still very much an adolescent, but has had to be an adult for a long time. This week begins in Jughead’s new abode, a literal, Harry Potter-style, cupboard-under-the-stairs in his own high school.
OR AS I CALL IT, “A BROOKLYN MANSION.”
He’s taking his morning shower in the locker room when Archie happens to drop by and learns the secret of his living situation. Jughead confesses that he’s been essentially homeless since his dad fell off the wagon, after Archie’s dad fired him. Archie, good buddy that he is, offers to help Jughead’s dad get his job back, and Jughead agrees to give it the old college try.
Regardless of how messy their lives are, every other teen in Riverdale has a gorgeously manicured home. Not so casa de Jughead, where the dominant motif is “bottles.”
IT’S WINE, OKAY?? IT’S CLASSY!
Jughead’s dad (Skeet Ulrich, a capable actor who sadly got lost in the shuffle during the 90s) careens aimlessly from room to room, but he does at least try to listen when Jug urges him to get his old job back, in the hope that his mother and sister (whose name is Jellybean, god help us) will be induced to return home.
While Jughead deals with some painfully normal drama, Betty copes with somewhat more exotic problems. As you’ll recall, last week’s episode ended with the dual discoveries that someone burned Jason Blossom’s car full of Drug Evidence, and Polly escaped from her mental hospital/convent/prison. Naturally, Betty is desperate to find her sister again, and to keep the situation quiet. But she makes the mistake of discussing Polly’s disappearance in the school common room and of course, one of Cheryl’s legion of spies overhears and informs the flame-wreathed goddess herself.
Cheryl is eager to find Polly and also to reclaim her spot as captain of the River Vixens, so she kills two birds with one stone by bribing her mother and Sherriff Old Chris Pine with her information.
At once, the town (or the five extras that were in the budget) mounts a search for Polly, everyone hoping to find her first and use her for their own agendas.
THE RALPH LAUREN WAYWARD TEENAGER HUNT COLLECTION.
Initially, the Blossoms pole vault to the conclusion that Polly must have murdered Jason, but they change their tune when they learn that Polly is carrying his child. Then they go full Rosemary’s Baby, desperate to retrieve their little antichrist and its (to borrow GOP language) “host.”
Betty seeks guidance and comfort from Jughead, though she plainly sees him less as a knight in shining armor and more as the hot water bottle you use during period cramps. As he walks her home, she is struck by an epiphany regarding Polly’s whereabouts and races home.
CRAZY HOW I ALWAYS GET MY BEST SLEUTHING IDEAS JUST IN TIME TO AVOID MAKING OUT WITH YOU!
It turns out that Polly is pulling a little Flowers In The Attic number, and has been hiding in her own house, with only the creepy dolls, haunted wedding dress, and troubling half roll of toilet paper to keep her company. She tells Betty that all she wants is to escape and go live “at a nice farm in the country,” utterly oblivious to the fact that the is describing the universal lie parents tell their children about dead dogs.
A NICE FAMILY WILL TAKE CARE OF US, AND WE CAN CHASE ALL THE CHICKENS WE WANT!
Betty tries to persuade Polly that it’s safe to come downstairs, and that their parents would certainly never lock her in a cage and steal her baby, but even she can’t really make herself believe it. So she goes off in search of alternate accommodations for her sister. The first person to come to her aid is Cheryl Blossom, who locks Betty in one of her hypno-stares and is like “Come on, Betty, we both want the same thing.” And Betty is like “To…kiss each other?” And Cheryl is like “No, to save Polly.” And Betty is like “Oh yeah. Sorry but your vibe is very sexually confusing.”
LOOK, YOUR SISTER IS PREGNANT WITH MY BROTHERLOVER’S BABYCLONE! THAT MAKES US FAMILY!
However, Cheryl eventually comes to the same conclusion about her parents that Betty came to about hers: they do not have Polly’s best interests at heart and will most likely sacrifice her in a blood ritual. Finally, and for no identifiable reason, Betty goes to Veronica’s mom, who is only too happy to help.
WHY OF COURSE I WILL HARBOR THE ESCAPED FUGITIVE CHILD OF ONE OF MY MORTAL ENEMIES! DOES SHE DO LAUNDRY, BY ANY CHANCE?
And what of Veronica this week? As usual, she handles her problems with the same spirit in which Riverdale itself is best enjoyed: drunken enjoyment and no seriousness.
LIFE IS LIKE A BOWL FULL OF CHERRIES: MAKE A SERVANT TAKE OUT THE PITS.
After last week, when Veronica’s mom forged her signature to help out Archie’s dad, V feels she has earned herself some payback. This she takes in the form of some online shopping (at Glamazon.com). Hermione reminds her that they aren’t exactly rolling in disposable income at the moment, to which Veronica is like “Cool, well I will return everything as soon as you break up with Fred Andrews and tell Daddy that you forged my signature.” Hermione declines this offer, so Veronica ups the ante by inviting Josie, Kevin (who she nauseatingly continues to refer to as her “best gay”) and Moose out for a night of clubbing. I’m willing to overlook the presence of a swanky nightclub in a town where chocolate milkshakes classify as haute cuisine, for the joy of seeing these four dancing together on what is clearly a fuck-ton of MDMA.
LET’S ALL MAKE OUT EXCEPT KEVIN AND MOOSE!
The night is cut short when Hermione reports Veronica’s credit card (American Excess) as stolen. The rest of the gang is like “Oh my god Veronica, is everything okay with you and your mom??” But V just laughs like, “Are you kidding? My mom is my best friend. Elaborate, high-stakes games of chicken are just our love language.” Unhealthy though it clearly is, I love that dynamic and I believe in it. Veronica and Hermione are a perfect mother-daughter pair, as ultimately good-hearted women with a flair for intrigue. Just like Archie and Fred are perfect as dim but loveable dudes. And there’s another matching parent-child set, but tragic where those other are triumphant. I’m talking, of course, about Jughead and his dad.
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD IT IS TO BE KNOWN AS “THE POOR MAN’S JOHNNY DEPP?”
BRO I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF I WAS ZACK OR CODY.
Archie is as good as his word, and asks his dad to give FP Jones (doubtlessly short for Fried Potato) another chance. To celebrate the turning over of new leaves, both dads and sons go out to dinner at Pop’s, and the evening progresses as a tragedy, the beats of which are familiar to every child of an alcoholic parent.
Things go so well at first! Fred and FP tell embarrassing stories about each other, laughs are had, and alcohol is avoided. Jughead allows himself to relax and to hope, even though you can see him kicking himself for it the whole time. Next the boys go to Archie’s garage to jam on some sweet tunes, but Archie makes the mistake of bringing up every drunk father’s favorite subject: “Ways The World Has Wronged Me.”
I’M JUST SAYING, MAYBE IF I’D GIVEN TIM BURTON A BLOWJOB IT WOULD BE ME RUINING WILLY WONKA.
FP’s personal tale of woe casts Fred Andrew as the villain, for kicking him out of the business he had helped build. And predictably, recounting this sorrowful story serves as ample excuse for FP to break out his hip flask, and break his son’s heart for roughly the thousandth time.
The next day, on the absolute thinnest of pretexts, Sheriff Chris Pine If You Broke His Spirit takes Jughead in for questioning about Jason’s murder. His evidence is literally: “You seem sad.”
WHAT’S WITH THE DAMN CROWN, ANYWAY? YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?
Luckily, Fred Andrews swoops in with an (utterly fabricated) alibi for Jughead on the night of Jason’s death, and he goes free.
Outside the station, FP reappears and offers to help out by punching every cop in town. Jughead politely declines this offer, but his dad promises to get his act together. For real this time. In like a month, two tops. And Jughead says he believes him, because for now that is still slightly less painful than saying he doesn’t. Because unfortunately, it’s just one of truths you have a learn over and over: that you can’t love or even need somebody into sobriety. On the bright side, Jughead does go and stay with Archie, though after a week or two of soulful guitar ballads, he might want to go back to the spiders.
The episode closes back in FP’s house, where he is (predictably) deciding that he might as well drink all the alcohol in the house before getting sober first thing tomorrow. The last shot pans over to his closet, where there hangs (GASP) Jason Blossom’s letterman jacket.
Do I think FP killed Jason? Hell no. With any luck, we’ll be cycling through suspects for years. But also, I don’t care who killed Jason. I’m here for the matching parent-child salt and pepper shakers.
See you next week.