Riverdale Presents: Veronica And The Pussycats
While the school variety show keeps Archie and Veronica as self-obsessed as ever, Betty and Jughead continue solving mysteries and being cute and UM, YES, MORE.
Every week, Riverdale manages to bring us at least one element that bridges the ridiculous and the sublime, be it Skeet Ulrich as a biker-gang secret-dad or last week's revelation that the history of Riverdale has been defined by a generations-long clash between rival maple-syrup dynasties.
This week, the comparatively more normal-sounding idea of a Riverdale "variety show" -- voiceover-Jughead's insistence that this glorified talent show is "no mere student frolic" smacks of protesting too much -- gets turned into, yes, yet another venue for Archie Andrews to prove his good-at-everything-ness. But it's also the platform for a teenage rendition of the Donna Summer orgasm-sound classic "I Feel Love," all in front of the beaming faces of everybody's proud parents. (Well, except Josie's dad's, but we'll get to him.)
And while Archie, Veronica, and the Pussycats are rehearsing, Betty and Jughead's great sleuthing romance (!) continues, as they follow the breadcrumbs to Betty's sister Polly...who is pregnant with Jason's child...and who says that she and Jason were planning to run away together on the 4th of July...in a car that, when Betty and Jughead find it, is full of drugs. And then we see that Polly has escaped her Catholic prison. It's wild.
Speaking of wild? Does anyone want to volunteer an explanation for why Archie (a) has a wolf mask in his bedroom, or (b) pictures the football bullies (who...should be supporting him as their teammate, yes?) heckling him while wearing those wolf masks?
Is this some kind of comic-book Easter egg I'm not familiar with? Like, I get that this show is putting a gothic face on the Archie comics of old. But this kind of random surrealism is straight out of The Shining.
And while I'm not sure about the long-term sustainability of keeping the show's main character isolated from the show's main mystery, for the time being it's kind of fun watching Archie star in a high-school soap while Betty and Jug star in a surrealistic mystery.
I generally like Veronica, but this week is a whole lotta not-a-good-look. Strongarming Kevin to get Archie into the variety show after he biffed the audition is nice, I suppose. But volunteering to sing with Archie -- bragging that she can sing "like a nightingale" -- while literally stepping in front of Valerie -- is some madness. "Be the Jay to my Bey"? Honey, his quasi-girlfriend is right there! Later, Veronica reacts quite overly when she spots her mom and Fred making out at work, embarking on an episode-long freakout that causes her to bitch out Archie, her mom, and -- after being inexplicably recruited to replace Val on the Pussycats -- Josie. Maybe it's not a surprise that she ends up in the friendless corner with Cheryl so often.
- Hermione (Veronica's mom)
The lady likes the complicated life, it seems. Mixing romance with business with Fred Andrews on the job is one thing. Forging her daughter's signature in order to override her husband and send a work contract Fred's way is a good deal more serious.
Six episodes into the series, I think we can say with some confidence that Archie is the one character on this show that the writers seem to have no idea what to do with. With the exception of all the awful Miss Grundy stuff, the only consistent marker in Archie's storylines has been that he's (a) good at everything, and (b) always loudly worrying that he won't be good at everything. Of course Archie's variety-show performance goes well -- so well that Luke Perry smiles bigger than Dylan McKay ever would have allowed. So well that Archie's fellow students applaud him in the hallway afterward. So well that Val rewards him with a big ol' kiss for it. Whatever. I'll wait for the episode where that wolf-mask fetish comes back into play.
This week is easily the best showcase for Josie, who is feeling super-stressed in the lead-up to the talent show because her dad is going to be there. Now, the fact that Josie's dad is a literal jazz-man named Miles who wears a jazzy little hat and named his daughter after Josephine Baker is this show's writers being extra as fuck, but we also get a decent sense of who Josie is as a character, for once. She's dealing with a bad dad and a shady momager and working against her instincts to Kelly-and-Michelle the other Pussycats. Hiring Veronica to replace an insubordinate Val was cutthroat, but she came around by the end there.
While it's great that Val stands up for herself with Josie in this episode, she spends the rest of it being micro-aggressed by Archie and Veronica, who essentially took turns pretending Val isn't even in the room as they went through the motions of their sudden beef. It's not that I don't like Val and Archie as a couple -- she manages to handle his golden-boy complex better than most, and at least they started making out this week -- but if she's going to be hanging around these white idiots all the time, she at least has to smack them down once or twice.
- Alice (Betty's Mom)
After taking a week off, Alice is back and in classic form, passive-aggressively stirring her tea like she's Catherine Keener in Get Out, pronouncing Jughead's name like it's two words, and showing up like the Wicked Witch to whisk Betty out of the Sisters of Insanity asylum (or whatever it's called). Bonus points for her sneering laughter at Betty's notion that Hal could have had the stomach for murder. She WISHES!
While Archie and Veronica are off lost in their own navels this week, Betty is Nancy Drew-ing her way to the bottom of the mystery of Jason Blossom's death, and what role (if any) her family played in it. Now, I fully expect the seeds that have been placed about Betty's own mental instability (e.g. her whole Dark Willow routine with that football player) to eventually end up revealing that Betty did something that she's since repressed. But in the meantime, Betty's reunion with Polly is genuinely moving, the revelation that Polly is pregnant is nicely dramatic, and Betty's determination to defy her parents and save her sister is as strong a story-driver as this show currently has. She's also really forthright for such a seemingly mousy girl. Accuses her own dad outright of killing Jason! Keep that story moving forward, Betty.
Jughead Jones, as I live and breathe. The cuteness! The goggles do nothing! First of all, Juggie crosses the teen-drama streams by referring to his crew as a "Scooby Gang." Then he continues my preferred metaphor for this show by Dawson-ing his way up a ladder to Betty's window, whereupon he sweetly assures her that she's not destined to go crazy like her family, and then leaps across the chasm that usually separates shipper wishful thinking and reality and kisses Betty.
BUGHEAD LIVES [takes seven laps around the block to burn off this excess shipper energy]