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Let me start by explaining the relationship I have with Archie comics. I lived in the UK until I was 17. Archie comics didn’t exist over there. But I visited Canada with my family several times between ages 8 and 13 and was spellbound by these thick comic books being sold at the end of every grocery store checkout. I loved the comedic elements of the Archie comics, the diverse characters, and the relationships throughout. The characterization of a bumbling Archie, Betty the girl next door, Veronica the rich girl, Jughead the anti-teen, Reggie the asshole, and so on . . . all magical in my tween/teen mind.

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When they announced a reboot of the comic book in 2016, I was skeptical. But it turned out to be amazing. When they announced a ‘dark and gritty’ TV show based on the comic with a murder as the centrepiece of the first season, I rolled my eyes. Please note, I do not roll my eyes lightly. I was more than skeptical. It sounded stupid and miscalculated on every level. So imagine my shock upon watching the first episode and being completely blown away to the point where I’m now thoroughly addicted to the show. The story, the characters, the twists, the turns, the cinematography . . . yeah, that’s right, cinematography! It’s not Stranger Things level beautiful, but it’s damn sexy. Needless to say, my inner tween is extremely happy. (please note, I’ve tried to have my inner tween surgically removed but apparently he’s attached to some very important internal organs, and so he stays).

With that lengthy, pointless, and sometimes meandering preamble out of the way, on with the review!

RIVERDALE – Chapter Four: The Last Picture Show

For an ensemble piece, this show certainly knows how to hit all the right emotional points with a scary amount of accuracy. On the Trilogy Spoilers Podcast, Chris Morris and I have often talked about the other CW shows (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl) and how they tend not to drag out storylines. The same goes for Riverdale. While the Jason murder story is ongoing, the Archie-Grundy love connection got wrapped up this week (as far as we know). And it all happened hot on the heels of Dilton’s statement that he saw Grundy’s car by the river on July 4th. Dun dun duuuhhh!

This throws Betty’s super-sleuth (possibly paranoia) into overdrive and she quickly puts two and two together when she sees Archie and that dreamy guy from 90210 having dinner with the seductress in question. Betty’s meticulous diary-writing (therapeutic tool?) tips off Mrs. Cooper, who has no sense of personal boundaries, and we’re left with a bizarre pedophileish mexican stand off.

To jump to the heart of the matter, no matter what Miss. Grundy’s tragic backstory entailed, she was 100% in the wrong. I know some critics of the show have been appalled at this particular storyline and that our all american red-headed teen is messing around with his music teacher. My music teacher was old, overweight, had a very thick mustache, and a rage issue. I feel like I would have been more musically inclined had my teacher looked like Miss. Grundy. Not to say there’s any correlation between the sex appeal of music teachers and the consequent aptitude of their students . . . I think I lost the thread. Grundy is a child predator, just look at the way she ogled the two students at the end. If I had to guess, I expect we’ll see her again.

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Grundy, or whatever her real name was, is run out of town by Mrs. Cooper whose main motivation is to pour a large amount of hate all over Archie, though I can’t honestly figure out why. Apparently she hates gingers because of what Jason did to Polly. Which brings me to another sideline (bear with me) – Who is Polly Cooper?!

We don’t see her. We don’t see pictures of her. We haven’t seen her room. We know she was in a relationship with Jason, that she had some sort of breakdown, that she’s only really ever referenced by Betty and her Mom. I have a theory that doesn’t quite add up, but I believe Betty may have a split personality and that Polly was the ‘other’ personality. Betty passionately asked in this episode “What’s my name?!” and then there was that whole deal with the wig and the maple syrup last week. AND, don’t you think it’s interesting the contrast that’s developing between Betty and Veronica. Ronnie is meant to be the stone cold bitch, but Betty is actually the one with the dark side (she broke into a car and stole a gun, that sneaky interview with Grundy . . . did I mention maple syrup?!). It’s almost like she has another personality showing through! Whhhaatttt?! Yeah, I have no proof. But I’m sticking with this theory for now.

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Back to the show. Grundy’s gone. Arch is upset. His father is incredibly understanding. I feel like maybe there’s something in Mr. Andrew’s past that helps him relate to his son’s dilemma and subsequent heartbreak, but kudos to the old man for giving his son the appropriate amount of support and a literal shoulder to cry on.

While supporting Betty in her investigation of Miss. Grundy, Veronica has her own set of problems. Her mother likes meeting with shady-looking bikers behind dumpsters and not for the usual reasons that people meet with bikers behind dumpsters (so I’ve heard). This all comes down to the central driving force behind the Lodge family – Money! Mr. Lodge paid some bikers to bring down the property value of the Twilight Drive-In so he could buy it cheap, destroy it, and probably build some ugly monstrosity. What confused me here was that Hermione when along with it and initially lied to Ronnie about it. I assume she gets money out of it. Sure, she has a job, but I mean, she still has a butler. I don’t think Smithers is working for free. There’s a lot going on with the Lodges that we’re not seeing yet. Either way, Mr. Lodge’s plan works, resulting in Veronica having a bit of a moral attack over the ethical dubiousness of her family. But that slides nicely into our main storyline of the week, and my favourite character.

This part of the story was heartbreaking for me because in one fell swoop it revealed a massive backstory for Jughead with only a few lines of dialogue and the visual of an empty bed. Up until this episode, Jug has been the one giving the closing cliffhanger narration. This time around, Betty has the mic but it’s the visual pieces featuring Jughead that drop the cliffhanger this week.

Throughout the episode, Jug was determined to save the Twilight Drive-in, which I wrongly assumed was due to both his love of movies and of a classic version of Riverdale. Not so. After he passionately petitions to Mayor McCoy to save the Drive-in and then to Archie’s dad to delay the demolition of the property, it seems pretty obvious that the place has a special place in our burger-munching hero’s heart. But it’s more than that and I hadn’t realized it until this episode. We never see Jughead’s family. We only ever see him at school or at Pop’s. And now we know why. Poor Jug is homeless as soon as the Twilight is destroyed.

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It didn’t just represent childhood memories, it was a place of sanctuary, his home. The revelation that the leader of the local biker gang is his Dad tells us a lot about his character and, while opening it up to speculation, firmly cements Jughead’s story as one of tragic beginnings, and someone who lives on the outside of the Riverdale cliques.

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It’s the delivery of these emotional moments with individual characters that tie the show together and entices the viewer to watch more (That and everyone’s hot. But then, it’s the CW. It’s a prerequisite). It’s those moments that allow us to overlook and accept the cliche-ridden Cheryl Blossom and the stereotypically gay Kevin (although I loved his scenes this week) because the show’s storyline carries so much wonderful teen angst-ridden drama!

I don’t know that Riverdale can keep delivering the goods every week with the same consistency as the first four episodes, but I’m definitely hopping in the jalopy and going along the ride!

Stray Thoughts of Awesomeness . . .
– We got to see Midge! Briefly! She was making out with Moose at the drive-in.
– Kevin and Biker Teen making out!
– To recap the end of episode narration cliffhangers so far:
– The first arrest happened on Tuesday (paid off, Cheryl was briefly arrested)
– Jason wasn’t killed until a week after he disappeared (ongoing)
– Chuck is suspended and the ripples wouldn’t be felt until much later (ongoing)
– Jughead is homeless (ongoing)
– Where was Ethel this week? Was she eaten by the demogorgon? #JusticeForEthel
– Who tore up the Sheriff’s home office? Who had the motive?
– How long are we going to have to wait for Jughead to find a puppy and name it Hotdog?