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Riverdale Starts Spreading Itself Thin

In “Chapter Thirty-Eight: As Above, So Below”,  Betty and Jughead dig deeper in their search for the Gargoyle King, Archie gets physical, and Veronica plays dress-up at her new club.

Recap

Veronica

After Riverdale’s favorite will-they-won’t-they couple aka FP and Alice finally do, they discuss the relief of Ben and Dilton’s suicide investigation not leading to the mysterious secret from their past after all. Little do they know that their off-springs, while in the same after-sex bliss at the Dilton’s bunker (award for the grossest juxtaposition ever?) have no intention of stopping their own quest for the truth.

Fred visits the warden to ask about why he isn’t allowed to see his son for several weeks now. Warden insists no visitation rights is Archie’s punishment for the “riot” he started. In reality, Archie spends his time in solitary, dealing with the consequences of declining warden’s offer of becoming the “new Mad Dog”.

Veronica complains to Betty about Pop’s financial troubles, so the latter proposes to speed up the opening of the speakeasy Ronnie’s been holding off because of Archie’s incarceration.

Jughead and Betty

Hello, pretentious kettle? Yes, it’s pot! I’ll hold!

Before the opening, Veronica invites Josie and Kevin to recruit them as the singer and MC respectively. Reggie is already there, serving in Archie’s place as useful muscles and just a general right hand to Ronnie. (Can’t help but wonder what kind of other Archie’s duties he might be taking on in the future.)  Their meeting is interrupted by Penny Peabody, who gracefully offers Ghoulies’ protection from the Ghoulies for a reasonable price.

Back at the juvie, Archie finally finds out what has granted Mad Dog special treatment from the warden – underground pit fights.  Warden Norton has his own little team of inmate fighters who train together and put on a violent show, while he takes the bets and sells the tickets. In return, inmates get a few perks here and there.

Betty and Jughead notice that Ethel is chumming it up with Evelyn Evernever. This makes them wonder whether the G&G game (Gryphons and Gargoyles) has anything to do with the Farm. Bughead split up in their investigation, with Jughead persuading Ethel to let him join the game, while Betty signs up for Evelyn’s peer support group.

At Le Bonne Nuit, Veronica’s speakeasy, she and Reggie receive a giant delivery of Jingle Jangle they didn’t order. And what do you know, Sheriff Minetta happens to drop by at this exact moment for his inspection. They manage to get rid of the drugs in time, but the visit still ends on a sour note: Minetta insists on Veronica making a generous “donation” to the Sheriff’s Department. Ronnie is sure the shakedowns from Sheriff and Penny Peabody are her father’s doing and prepares to strike back. She asks Cheryl and Tony for help in finding some blackmail on Ghoulies and soon enough, they find out the gang set up a Jingle Jangle lab at the Whyte Wyrm.

Archie’s having his first fight. All that working out is really paying off cause he ends it with only two punches. As the winner, he gets his reward of getting lunch delivery of his choice, but the warden isn’t that happy with the outcome. He lets Archie know they’re looking for more “entertaining” and long-lasting fights, to make it everyone’s worthwhile, so Archie better deliver next time.

Betty finds Evelyn at school and tries to earn her trust by acting as if she’s interested in the Farm. I guess it worked because the next day she comes home to a full-on Farm meeting in her living room. Disappointed there’s no Edgar in sight, Betty finds out you have to attain several levels before actually meeting the infamous leader. As a new member, Betty expected to give a testimony about her darkest secrets. Alice and Polly gave theirs and apparently spilled it all: from serial killer father to Betty’s webcamming to covering up a murder in their kitchen.

Flabbergasted, Betty tries to share some secrets in return and brings up the fact that Evelyn was around her and Ethel’s seizure, along with suspicious connections between the Farm and the G&G game. However, Evelyn quickly points out that, in fact, the first time they heard about the game from Alice herself. Before Betty gets any answers, she starts feeling very dizzy and leaves to her room.

betty and evelyn

Meanwhile, at the bunker, Jughead and Ethel play some G&G. It’s your usual tabletop RPG until Jug is challenged with drinking from one of the two mysterious goblets; the same goblets of Fresh-Aid Ben and Dilton drank from in the wood, one of which contains cyanide. Jughead refuses, but Ethel insists it’s the only way to “prove his worthiness” and continue. He agrees only after Ethel promising to give him the alleged only copy of the game manual, aka the Scripture. Thankfully, he drinks from the non-poisonous cup and Ethel keeps her promise. While Jug is busy reading the manual, Ethel drinks from the cyanide cup.

Ethel wakes up in a hospital, with Jughead by her side. She’s chained to a bed, as a part of the suicide watch policy. Jughead yet again asks her to come clean about the game, but she refuses. Ethel does mention that Jug proved his worthiness, just as she told the Gargoyle King he would.

Veronica decides to follow her boyfriend’s footsteps and blackmail Hiram, ’cause that worked so great the last time. She says if he won’t stop messing with her business, she’s gonna send the pics of the Jingle Jangle lab to the FBI. Oh, and she wants 10k weekly, as a compensation or whatever.

It’s opening night at the Le Bonne Nuit and it’s a huge success. Jughead tells Betty he hid the game manual at his home, and she notes their parents definitely know more than they let on. Josie blesses us with her wonderful performance, while back at the juvie, Archie has a performance of his own to attend. Taking the warden’s wishes into account he makes sure his opponent and he give the fight all they got, keeping the audience satisfied. As a reward, the bunch of Mad Dog’s stuff, such as TV and books, are awaiting him at the cell after the fight. Oh, and a hidden small rock hammer. Archie tells about this finding to his Fight Club buddies and declares they’re gonna escape.

Hiram attends Veronica’s speakeasy opening and brings the giant portrait of hers as a gift. He says despite their fighting he’s proud of her nonetheless, while she correctly assumes he already moved the Jingle Jangle lab into a different location (wow, good job with that blackmailing, Ronnie! You really got him!)

After returning to the Jones’s trailer, Jughead and Betty are confronted by their parents who found the manual. FP yells at Jughead for playing the game, and after Jug confirms it’s the only copy, FP throws the manual in the fire. Later, Jughead tells Betty that maybe it’s for the best since no one can play it now and therefore, get hurt.

Alas, at the hospital, Ethel assures our old pal, the Gargoyle King creature in the flash, she’s done what he asked and “spread his gospel. The next day Jughead is horrified to find that every single Riverdale High student found a G&G manual copy in their locker.

Thoughts

The show is slowly getting back into its old habits of a bunch of disjointed storylines. The tone of each plot is so jarringly different that sometimes it feels like watching several shows simultaneously. The biggest problem, however, isn’t as much quantity as it is quality of the said storylines.

The Gargoyle King plot remains the most interesting one.  Sure, it’s kooky, but at least it feels like it’s going somewhere.

Archie’s juvie adventures are nothing but an obvious stalling for time. It’s hard to get invested into something you know ultimately not gonna matter.  I also find it hilarious that Archie made such a big deal out of taking the DA’s deal, but then lasted what, a month? What about all that guilt you’ve been talking in the premiere, Archiekins? Was pleading guilty for the metaphorical symbolism of it all wasn’t as fun as you’d hope?

And finally, Veronica… The writers really don’t know what to do with her, huh? This speakeasy thing is such a joke, I’m sorry! The idea of a teenager running a bougie underground bar in the middle of suburbs, catering to mostly local teenagers drinking mocktails is ridiculous! And apparently, it’s more lucrative than a beloved family-friendly affordable diner above it, so the speakeasy pays for both of their bills??? in what world???

Veronica’s relationship with Hiram also continues to baffle me. So much for declaring “You don’t have a daughter anymore!” just two episodes ago. She continues to live at the Lodges’ apartment, converses with her “daddy” on a daily basis, and live on whose money, exactly? Also, the portrait Hiram brought to the speakeasy… It’s gotta be bugged, right? Like, there’s no way there isn’t anything wrong with that thing!

Do you think the writers ever realize that just because they keep telling us what an iconic power couple Cheryl and Toni are, doesn’t mean it’s supported anywhere in the story? Toni has a character depth of a cardboard cutout and Choni as a couple is nothing but hashtags and buzzwords. Gif-able entrances and quotable zingers are not substitutes for actual character development and quality representation, and I’m quite frankly getting tired of it!

At least we had the unnecessary nudity quota filled by the Fight Club boys, and Reggie carrying Jingle Jangle boxes shirtless for some reason. Shout out to Ronnie for bringing back the infamous boob window catsuit. She just can’t break in places without it!

Next week is an exciting one, cause flashback episode, baby! We finally get to see the Riverdale parents as teenagers and hopefully, find out more about the G&G game!


Images courtesy of CW

Written By

Instead of sorting her actual life out, Nastia prefers living vicariously through dozens of fictional characters.

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