Let’s Ponder Country Mice On Riverdale

by Erik Amaya

 

There’s a new suspect in the Black Hood case, one who may be closer to Betty Cooper than she can possible imagine. This person has an interesting motive and may be hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately, the key bit of evidence is a casting notice from the summer that viewers of the series may not know about, so let’s discuss country mice.

The term, introduced by Nick St. Clair (Graham Phillips), reflects Riverdale‘s odd wholesomeness despite its prime time soap trappings. Consider the way Archie initially regards the Jingle Jangle or the way Betty’s ponytail look highlights the hokiness of Archie Comics. Sure, there’s drinking and sex in the background — remember Jughead’s disastrous birthday party? — but things are fairly tame when placed in the context Nick supposed Gossip Girl-style sophistication. Which seemed to be the point of Nick. He comes from that world and reminds Veronica of those City Mouse days when the cocaine flowed and consequences were never considered.

Riverdale‘s Veronica is interesting precisely because she’s running from Gossip Girl. It’s unclear if the show wants to act as though that’s the New York she came from, but it could probably make a pointed reference to Blair Waldorf and get away with it. In fact, Ronnie may have made an oblique reference when the St. Clairs first arrived in town. The show looms large in The CW’s past, influencing the first season of Arrow and no doubt name-checked in every pitch from the Dynasty reboot to Jane the Virgin. But with Nick’s arrival and subsequent actions, Riverdale puts some of Gossip Girl‘s excesses on notice. At the same time, it also points out the parochial fantasy of Riverdale itself. Despite the illicit drugs, the Southside Serpents and Ms. Grundy’s assault on Archie, the show is still fairly clean. Or, at the very least, it features innocent depictions of the sins motivating the Black Hood.

This cleanliness is underlined in Jughead’s initiation into the Serpents. It begins with something as banal as taking care of a stinky dog (hi, Hot Dog!) before escalating into memorizing rules and snake-handling. And it ends, of course, with Jug getting jumped in. I almost have to wonder if the earlier initiation rites come straight from an Archie Comics story for their strange wholesomeness. The fact Jughead’s final test is intercut with the Pussycats attacking Nick (after he himself attempted to rape Cheryl Blossom) suggests the show is well aware of its Country Mouse leanings and what it means to introduce City Mouse “sophistication” into it. See also the disintegration of Betty’s traditional look while she offers up Nick as a sacrifice to the Black Hood.

Meanwhile, let’s hear it for Alice Cooper embracing her Southside past. I doubt it will make her less of a critic, but maybe she’ll view the issues in that part of town differently; especially as Hiram Lodge’s redevelopment plan is now public. Although, it would be weird to see Alice become human. She’s so wonderful as a petty and manipulative mother that giving her any empathy might break the character.

She also explains the existence of Betty’s dark side and her potential dark half. But more on that when we see this character’s face. In the meantime, let’s ponder the mice of Riverdale as we watch a preview of next week’s episode. With tensions rising, Archie and Jughead turn to F.P. for advice. His solution: a drag race!

Erik Amaya

Host of Tread Perilously and a Film/TV Writer at Comicon.com. A contributing writer at CBR, Fanbase Press, Monkeys Fighting Robots and Rotten Tomatoes. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.