Hello and welcome back to Riverdale, the show where no one is capable of differentiating between legality and crime, parents and children, or any red-headed people from each other. I missed last week’s recap due to a personal emergency, and I’m sorry about that, but since the episode was low on both plot development and Cheryl Blossom, it wasn’t too pivotal.
The current situation is:
-The Coopers and the Blossoms both tried to entice Polly to come live with them, but Polly eventually opted with the Rosemary’s Baby package put forth by the Blossoms over her parents’ Virgin Suicides scenario.
-Jughead and Betty continued to mash their faces together, and it was like watching someone try to light a fire with a can of tomato soup.
-Fred Andrews’ construction business was on the brink of closure, especially after someone (Hiram Lodge) sent some thugs to beat the workers and trash the equipment.
-We learned that Jason Blossom’s was running a shipment of drugs for the Southside Serpents at the time of his death, and Kevin’s Serpent boyfriend is spying on him/the investigation. (But also, there’s feelings.)
-Every single female character continued to have a sort of nebulous queer energy floating around them like jellyfish, with the exception of Betty and Veronica, whose every glance vibrated with a sexual longing more intense than Cheryl Blossom’s lipstick.
When we return to Riverdale, it is for a closer look at the town’s biggest industry: MAPLE MOTHERFUCKING SYRUP.
A GOOD VINTAGE, BUT I STILL SAY WE SHOULD HAVE ADDED MORE POOR PEOPLE BLOOD.
In the wake of Jason’s death, the rest of the Blossom board of directors descends upon the town to search for the new heir to its viscous treasure. Cheryl is apparently considered unsuitable for the position for reasons which can best be summed up as: she has boobs, so the Blossoms are scrambling to find a replacement, which Jughead narrates with a gravitas of which I will never tire.
WE MAKE SYRUP, BUT WE GROW GINGERS.
In their hunt for a replacement Jason, the Blossoms do not think very far out of the box.
QUITE LITERALLY THE POOR MAN’S JASON BLOSSOM.
Together, the Blosoms court Archie like cultists who believe they’ve just met their messiah. Cheryl heads up the charm offensive by throwing herself at Archie, despite the fact that he is nominally dating Valerie. The wrongest thing about Cheryl pursuing Archie is obviously that she is clearly squinting her eyes to make him look like Jason. But the second wrongest thing is that Cheryl has thus far failed to have any chemistry with a male character. She goes through the motions of pursed lips and heaving bosom, but the love/hate/desire she’s shown us with Betty and Veronica is so much more substantial.
Anyway, as we’ve established, very episode of Riverdale has an “event.” Last week it was Polly’s terrifying baby shower, this week it’s the syrup-tapping ceremony at Blossom Farms. Cheryl INSISTS that Archie be her date, and he does this hilarious thing where he pretends he’s capable of standing up to her.
The Blossoms eventually win him over by promising him admission to an elite music camp, so he overcomes his scruples and agrees to attend.
Meanwhile, the Blossoms have some serious competition for Riverdale’s most deranged family from the Coopers. They’re headed up by Alice, who, like the more famous Alice Cooper, seems more than capable of biting the head off a live bird.
Last week, Alice learned that her husband, Chipmunk Cooper, scheduled “AN APPOINTMENT” for Polly when he found out there were Blossom seeds in her lady garden. (Clearly the “appointment” was for an abortion, but everyone’s refusal to say the word made for one of the show’s more surreal moments.) After learning this, Alice kicked Chipmunk out of the house, and with him, her last slim tether to sanity.
When we catch up with her this week, she’s pitching an elaborate plan to Betty: they’ll publish a tell-all article, airing every bit of dirty laundry about the Blossoms they can find or make up. While she rants, the background music is a whimsical piano that suggests we might want to consider taking Alice’s side in all this, which: AS IF I NEEDED CONVINCING.
I’M GLAD YOUR FATHER IS GONE. HE WAS ALWAYS “YOU CAN’T PUBLISH THE CONTENTS OF THE BLOSSOMS’ TRASH, ALICE” AND “THAT SKIRT IS ON SIDEWAYS, ALICE.” WELL NO MORE.
Betty, feeling betrayed that Polly went to live with the Blossoms, asks Archie to do some deep cover recon at the tree-tapping ceremony. Sure enough, Polly is there, but tells Archie that she herself is spying on the Blossoms, trying to dig up the truth of what happened to Jason. And then of course, there’s the “tapping” itself, which is overplayed to hilarious effect.
IS THERE ANYTHING MORE EROTIC THAN THE SWEET, VISCOUS LIQUID WHICH POURS FROM THE HEART OF THE RED MAPLE?
After the ceremony, Archie thinks he’s fulfilled his duties as Jason’s stand-in, but the Blossoms aren’t done with him yet. They have him fitted for a horrific red tuxedo, insist on referring to him as “Archibald,” and demand his presence at all future funerals, blood sacrifices, and weddings that you don’t even know are weddings until they’re over and then, whoops, you’re married to Cheryl now.
Everyone keeps warning Archie that he’s in too deep, and Valerie swiftly pulls the plug on their relationship. (YAY VALERIE! DATE A GIRL NOW!)
TRUTHFULLY I GET MORE TURNED ON BY THE VIBRATIONS FROM MY BASS, ARCHIEKINS.
But Fred Andrews’ business is still being strangled to death by the Blossoms, and Archie can’t walk away from the chance to help his dad. Archie secures a promise from the Blossoms to let his dad build in peace, and in turn agrees to consider changing his name to “Jason.”
While Archie is taken in by the Blossoms, Betty and Alice try to take them down. Mother and daughter sneak into the offices of the Riverdale Register in the dead of night to publish their damning information on the family, but Chipmunk Dad is waiting there for them and forbids it! Personally, I find the idea of this featherweight “forbidding” his wife and daughter from doing anything even more ludicrous than the idea of Archie asserting his will against Cheryl, but nevertheless, Betty and Alice walk away. Except on the way out, Alice spies a rock on the ground and hurls it through the window.
I WILL NOT BE OUT-CRAZIED. NOT IN THIS TOWN, AND NOT IN THIS FAMILY.
Unbelievably, this storyline resolves itself with Betty and Jughead charitably offering that Alice join their reporting team on the Riverdale school paper.
I have no idea where the show could possibly be going with this collaboration, especially after building up Alice as one of its most unhinged villains. But wherever it is, I am on board. They could solve the murder, hell they could resurrect print media, and I would believe it.
Once again this week, Veronica’s storyline is separate and apart from everyone else’s, though it does touch on the intergenerational conflicts that have become so central to the show.
It starts in English class, where Ethel Muggs reads a poem called “13 Reasons Why: A Cry for Help.”
“I HATE YOU SO MUCH IT MAKES ME SICK, IT EVEN MAKES ME RHYME.”
Veronica knows an emotionally fragile girl when she sees one, since in her days as a mean girl, causing nervous breakdowns was her chief source of entertainment. Concerned about Ethel’s mental state, Veronica takes her aside after class for some girl talk.
Ethel confides that things aren’t going very well at home, since her father landed their family in financial hot water and they’re in danger of losing their house. Veronica quickly discovers that the author of the Muggs’ financial misfortunes was her own father, and is terribly guilt-stricken. Trying to make things right, she does what her father used to do when he felt guilty: throw trinkets at the victims.
HERE YOU ARE, POOR. SHROUD YOUR FEELINGS IN FUR.
Veronica means well, but her generosity towards Ethel does nothing to help her family’s financial woes, and the next thing you know, Ethel’s father tries to kill himself. Veronica rushes to the hospital and apologizes on behalf of her whole criminal family.
THE LILY MEANS I DARE YOU TO LOVE ME.
Ethel’s mom unhesitatingly lays the blame for her husband’s overdose at the feet of her daughter’s classmate, but Ethel herself is more fair, and assures Veronica that she doesn’t blame her.
I MEAN IT’S NOT LIKE YOU MADE ME SHOTGUN A BEER AND THEN ABANDONED ME BY A POOL! THAT’S REALLY THE ONLY UNFORGIVABLE SIN FOR ME.
So, I love Veronica and I love Shannon Purser as Ethel, but I really hate this storyline. For one thing, even though Veronica’s “reformed mean girl” shtick has allowed her to grow beyond the bitchiness of the original character, apologizing for her father’s behavior doesn’t do much to advance that. I mean, in spite of the Blossom/Lodge/Cooper blood feud which has raged for a thousand years, kids carrying on their parents’ squabbles just doesn’t carry a lot of emotional resonance. And then there’s Ethel, who is starting to become a sort of sentient frown emoji. I love that they cast the actress whose character was so wronged in Stranger Things, but not if their only plan was to continue wronging her. Every other Riverdale character has branched out beyond their Archie Comics origin, so I’m really going to need Ethel to follow suit and stop being the show’s whipping boy.
Speaking of boys, Archie eventually hits his limit with his new role in the Blossom family when Cheryl plants a maple-flavored kiss on his poor, blameless mouth.
I HAVE OFFICIALLY INGESTED MORE COVER GIRL PRODUCTS THAN THE ANIMALS THEY TEST THEM ON.
Archie is ostensibly repelled because he’s still into Valerie, but it doesn’t help that he and Cheryl have even less chemistry than Jughead and Betty. It just could not be clearer that this show is bored to death of compulsive heterosexuality, and the sooner it stops going through the motions, the better.
After the kiss, Archie runs from the party but happens to overhear Mr. Blossom smarming on about how he will never in a million years help Fred Andrews out. Fully disillusioned, Archie flees the scene and swears off the Blossoms forever. Meanwhile, furious at having been rebuffed, Cheryl expresses her ire at Archie and Polly in the manner of fictional mean girls since time immemorial.
HOW ELSE WILL I REMEMBER THAT I DESPISE THEM AND WANT THEM DEAD?
Next week: The kids throw a Roman-style bacchanal, and if this show somehow manages to depict an ACTUAL ORGY in which only Kevin gets some same-sex action, I am going to be pissed.
See you next week!