Up to now, Betty and Jughead have actually been the leads of the show- as we get into the last third of the season, it’s time for Archie and Veronica to start moving into place for the end of the storylines.
The Blossoms run the maple syrup trade in Riverdale, a town based around the Sweetwater River and maple syrup. With Jason’s murder, however, the investors are swarming, speculating on the future of the Blossom empire. Alice Cooper is gleeful, since she still super hates the Blossoms.
Hiram Lodge’s legal dramas come center stage as Hermione and the Lodge lawyers pressure Veronica into being a character witness for her father, and Veronica expresses discomfort with lying.
Archie is playing his guitar because Archie, and Cheryl begs him to attend a tree-tapping ceremony with her. Cheryl also comes back to the season theme of Archie bring the replacement Jason, and melts down when he rebuffs her, citing his relationship with Valerie. Later, Penelope does Indecent Proposal Jr and bribes him to come to a tree-tapping ceremony with her in exchange for a recommendation to a good music program for the summer. Man, literally everyone in Riverdale knows you can get Archie to do nearly anything if you use his music. Also, we get it, Archie supposedly looks like Jason, which he doesn’t even, really. When he agrees, the Coopers immediately demand Archie go double agent and check in on Polly, who lives with the Blossoms now.
Barb Ethel Muggs reads an incredibly depressing poem in English class. Even snide Kevin looks disturbed. Veronica, citing her reformed Mean Girl ways, decides to do anything she can for Ethel, and invites her over for a spa day. Things are bad at home for Ethel- money troubles have her parents fighting. Hermione realizes who Ethel’s father is and informs Veronica that Ethel’s family is losing their home because of Hiram Lodge’s actions, and that the Muggs aren’t the only family in that position. Shrewdly, Veronica asks Hermione if the Andrews stand to lose everything, too. Veronica returns to Ethel and starts trying to regift things to her- gifts from Hiram to Veronica. Veronica is disgusted with Hiram and no longer wants them.
Hermione comes clean to Fred. He is furious, especially when Hermione admits that Hiram was likely responsible for the beating of a teenager in the prior episode. Hermione tries to atone by selling the land to Clifford, but Fred demands stake- 20%- for his troubles.
At the weird cult-y ceremony for the opening of maple syrup season, Archie helps Cheryl, and she excels. Her dad looks blatantly shocked, while Penelope looks pretty pleased with her
clone daughter. Two random redheads talk smack on Cheryl, and Archie reprimands them. Clifford confronts Archie and insists he come to a banquet, using the other big leverage he has- offering to help Fred Andrews with his construction company money woes. Cheryl comes to the Andrews’ home, calls Fred DILFY, and is insulted by Jughead after he already yelled at her for being rude to Betty this episode. Cheryl gifts Archie a Les Paul guitar to thank him for his help. The gesture seems manipulative, but you could argue that material things are the only expression of emotion Cheryl truly understands, being rich and neglected.
Another late night caller comes in the form of Alice Cooper- she’s written her
manifesto expose on the Blossoms. Hal has fired her from the newspaper as retaliation for throwing him out of their home. We see Dark Alice as she hurls a brick through the Riverdale Register’s window, with Betty looking on in horror. What follows is the only “Bughead” scene- Betty freaks out about her family falling apart, and Jughead supports her. I’ll admit it- I think Betty and Jughead have one of the better role model relationships for teenagers. They communicate, they support each other, and he is willing to let her take the lead in the investigation.
This next scene is worth spending a bit of time on. In the wake of the frankly irresponsible 13 Reasons Why, Mr. Muggs’s suicide attempt is handled very responsibly. Veronica loses focus when Kevin tells her, so we don’t hear the procedure of what happened. We don’t see the aftermath, or frankly most of the mourning. It doesn’t model the behavior, and I was actually pleasantly surprised again by how well Riverdale handled a sophisticated issue. It’s not batting a thousand, but it could be so much worse. Betty and Veronica arrive with flowers. Ethel is grateful for the gesture, but Mrs. Muggs viciously dresses down Veronica for her father’s crimes. A big theme in Riverdale is adults treating teenagers poorly, so not surprised. Veronica breaks down and tears off her pearls- another gift from her father. Betty supports her. Ethel forgives Veronica, showing huge moral character
Clifford is creepy to Archie, and decides to really see through the Replacement Jason idea and offer Archie the chance to be heir to Blossom empire. Polly confides in Archie that she’s there to spy on the Blossoms. Cheryl admits everyone wanted her to fail, and is grateful to Archie for being authentic and kind. Here’s your reminder: everyone is still 15 years old, and this show is so creepy in that vein. Cheryl kisses Archie, and he panics and tries to bolt. He overhears Clifford saying he’s responsible for Hiram being jailed. Cheryl makes the toxicity of the Blossoms incredibly clear, and it’s sad and gross. She later scratches pictures of Archie and Polly out of a photo.
Jughead offers Alice a job at the Riverdale High newspaper. Whatever, it’s not like Weatherbee does a background check anyway.
Cheerful music. Valerie walking alone. Archie catches up with her, and she correctly dumps him. It’s a great scene. Even the show itself seems to be happy for Valerie.
Favorite Moment: Archie and Valerie’s breakup scene
Worst Parent in Riverdale: Gotta be Clifford Blossom, for trying to Pretty Woman a fifteen year old boy who looks like his son.
Best Parent in Riverdale: Fred Andrews, for standing up for himself and his son.