Ah, Riverdale… You problematic fave, you! After the imperfect but still charming first season, the show hit a major bump in its second year. From ever-changing tones and convoluted plotlines to poor character development (or lack thereof), season two of Riverdale have mostly been a mixed bag of disappointments.
Will the show be able to overcome the infamous sophomore slump? Or will it keep digging itself into a deeper hole? Join me on this recap journey to find out, starting with Episode 3×01: “Labor Day.”
We start off in a courtroom, where Archie Andrews’ summer-long trial (for a murder he didn’t commit) finally comes to an end. In her closing argument, the DA recaps Archie’s impressive resume of dumb-things-he-probably-shouldn’t-have-done from the previous season: creating vigilante groups, beating up people, and as a cherry on top, allegedly killing a boy. It’s not looking good, folks. In her turn, his attorney (aka Mama Andrews) does her best to remind us of the Archie we know and love—a good-hearted person, always willing to help and protect those close to him. She also reminds the jury there isn’t any strong evidence, such as murder weapon or credible witnesses, to tie Archie to the crime.
As the jury is sequestered for the Labor Day weekend, Archie is determined to make the most of what could be his last days of freedom for a while, starting with good ol’ milkshakes at Pop’s with the gang. There we briefly see Dilton and Ben, playing a DnD type of game and being weirdly hostile towards Jughead. Betty, Jug, and Veronica want to discuss strategies of proving Archie’s innocence, but he’d rather just have some fun with his friends than waste his precious time on useless theories. Cheryl Blossom makes her usual dramatic entrance and brags about her summer travels with Tony before inviting everyone to the end-of-summer pool party.
Back at the Coopers’, we meet the new, transformed Alice Cooper, who spend all summer getting
brainwashed enlightened at the Farm, with some help from Polly and a guru named Edgar Evernever. They’re very determined to get Betty on board, but she prefers to get her help from licensed professionals like Dr. Glass, who she’s been seeing.
Meanwhile, Veronica makes an unsuccessful plea to her father to stop his games and save Archie from prison, considering Hiram’s the one who’s framing him. Daddykins, however, is insisting on his lack of involvement and therefore can’t do anything about it.
At the Serpents’ camp, Jughead and FP give Archie an honorary Serpent tattoo, in case he does end up going to juvie and would need some protection. We also see Jughead slowly getting acclimated to his new role as the Serpent King, giving orders and talking strategies.
It’s Cheryl’s party time! It seems like Cupid was quite busy this summer, because love is definitely in the air. Josie and Sweet Pea are all cuddled up and enjoying, according to Josie, the last days of their summer fling. Kevin casually proposes a “friends pact” with Moose to lose their virginity asap, though it’s not quite clear if he means to each other (also I thought that ship has sailed for Moose?). Dilton is also there, giving Jughead weird looks.
The fun gets interrupted when Fangs informs Jug that their rival gang, the Ghoulies, stole Hot Dog, the Serpents’ talisman dog. Jughead and the rest of teen Serpents decide to go on a rescue mission that night. It goes not as smoothly as they’d like, with Ghoulies already waiting for them. Before the altercation turned violent, Cheryl was able to save Jughead and Hot Dog with…*cough*… her archery skills. Serpents are able to leave unharmed, but Ghoulies make it clear that they’re not planning of staying away from the Northside anymore.
The same night, Veronica attempts to sneak into the hotel where the jury is sequestered, in hopes she can maybe persuade at least one of them of Archie’s innocence. Unfortunately, she gets caught by Sheriff Minetta, who was sent there by her father in anticipation of such a stunt. Her mom comes to get Veronica from the police station, where they get into an argument about Hermione’s complicity in Hiram’s bullshit. Hermione tries to explain that Ronnie’s “beloved only daughter” insurance policy doesn’t exactly cover her as well, so her choices are limited.
The next day the Core Four are going on a little trip to the Sweetwater Swimming Hole, to spend the last day before Archie’s verdict together. Right before leaving, Betty is confronted by Alice and Polly, who found out Dr. Glass doesn’t exist and Betty just made him up so she can forge an Adderall prescription. Somehow, she’s able to shrug it off and still go hang with her friends.
At the Swimming Hole, Archie reflects on the events of the last year, and even though he didn’t actually kill that Cassidy kid, there’s still enough guilt inside of him to think that maybe he does deserve to go to jail. As the sun sets, the couples split up in their own little corners and have sweet private moments. Betty confides in Jug about her mental struggles, while Veronica assures Archie she will stay with him no matter what the trial’s outcome is, no matter how hard he tried to convince her not to.
It’s verdict day! Just as Jughead was about to leave for court, he gets a visit from a very distressed Dilton. He starts mumbling about the roleplaying game they played at Pop’s, how it’s so much more than just a game, and how’s “he’s real!”. The Gargoyle King is real. Jughead, understandably being a little preoccupied with his best friend’s trial, asks Dilton to wait ’till he comes back, and then they can talk.
At the court, the jury is unable to reach a verdict, so to avoid a mistrial the DA offers a deal: time served and two years in juvenile detention if Archie pleads guilty to manslaughter. Despite everyone’s objections, Archie agrees to take the deal so he can spare his friends and family another lengthy and painful trial (and obviously punish himself for being a dumbass last season).
After the trial, Fred Andrews and the rest of HRDTTR (Hot River Dads To The Rescue) promise Mama Andrews that they’re gonna prove Hiram Lodge framed Archie while she’s in Chicago working on the appeal. Back at home, Veronica declares a war on Hiram, stating he doesn’t have a daughter anymore after Hiram admits he’s done all of this to punish Ronnie for choosing Archie over her family.
Jughead comes home, but there’s no Dilton in sight. He left a scroll though, with a map on one side, and a drawing of a creepy goat-headed skeleton creature on the other. The map leads Jug to the Fox Forest, where he finds undressed Dilton and Ben, with some symbols carved on their backs, kneeling before the shrine of the creature from the drawing. Dilton is non-responsive but Ben wakes up, spitting out blue goo.
Back at her house, Betty finds her mom, Polly with the twins, and some other people, presumably from the Farm, hanging out around a bonfire. It appears they’re about to throw the twins in the fire but worry not because instead of falling, the babies levitate above it. After having enough excitement for one day, Betty collapses and starts having some kind of seizure, which prompts Alice to run to her help.
Maybe my judgment is still clouded with a mess that was Season Two but I gotta say, I really enjoyed this episode. It mainly kept focus at the Core Four’s bond, and that’s one of the best things going for this show. The trial itself does raise a lot of questions from the legal point of view, but we’re not here expecting Law and Order, so I’ll…allow it.
Archie continues being an absolute dumbass, even if his intentions are good. Really not looking forward to his prison storyline.
As for the cult stuff, on the one hand, I do like a dark supernatural twist, even if it’s probably not real. On the other hand, cult storylines can get really frustrating. It was hard enough seeing Alice turn into an absolute dimwit around Chic, so I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be even harder watching her under the influence of this Edgar person. It’s still unclear whether the Farm and whatever Ben and Dilton got themselves into are in any way connected, and if any of it will tie into the upcoming Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Either way, I’m excited!
Camila Mendes really shined this episode! Without Veronica’s usual cringy dialogue—which usually sounds like that episode of Friends where Joey tried to write an adoption letter using Thesaurus—Camila really got the chance to display her talent. She still called Hiram “Daddy” an uncomfortable amount of times, but… Baby steps, people! Baby steps!
So what did you think of the premiere? What storyline peaked your interest?
The next week promises some spooky shenanigans and a possible comeback of a certain beloved Serpent! Are you excited?