Let’s Ponder The Tall Grass And Riverdale’s Class Struggle

by Erik Amaya

 

While it seems the citizens of Riverdale had a quiet holiday once the Black Hood was (sorta) revealed, the new years brought with it the one thing that cannot be easily solved: class warfare.

The show’s return saw Southside Hide shuttered — another tentacle of the Lodges’ SoDale plan — and the key Southside Serpent kids transferred to Riverldale High. And despite a concerted effort by Veronica (Camila Mendes) to welcome the Serpents with open arms, perennial agitators Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Reggie (Charles Melton) immediately created a wedge because Riverdale High belongs to rich kids, dammit.

You have to love that the show makes no attempt to humanize Reggie Mantle in any way. He is an all-purpose goon to generate teen angst. Remember when he was selling Jingle-Jangle last fall? Or how about when he joined Archie’s (KJ Apa) Red Circle gang? Now he’s back to being a nemesis of sorts for Jughead (Cole Sprouse), which is where he actually began within the story some twenty chapters ago. But maybe this time there will be some reason for him to be the bully besides Reggie’s status as the adversary. Maybe he’s worried his part in the Jingle-Jangle affair will come to light? That’s always a possibility, but considering everything else the show has on its plate, turning Reggie into an actual character may have to wait for season three.

Cheryl, meanwhile, served all of her story functions in a dizzying episode of “The Harrowing Tales of Cheryl Blossom” this week. Her mother is now a high-class sex worker, her attempt to blackmail Archie with knowledge of his kiss with Betty turned into a series of revelations about Nick St. Clair (Graham Phillips). It also morphed into an opportunity for Cheryl to get the hush money from Nick she threw into the fire a number of chapters back. Considering how effortlessly Archie pivoted the situation, it seems he can play Cheryl despite her saying otherwise. Not that any of it mattered in the the end as Cheryl’s leverage against Archie disappeared and her mother revealed that she likes being a sex worker.

But joining Reggie and Cheryl on the Good Ship Antagonist this week was Principal Weatherbee (Peter Bryant), whose condemnation of the Serpent jackets Just. Kept. Escalating. Like Reggie, Weatherbee’s status changes to whatever works best for the plot, but forcing the Southside kids to wear Riverdale High polo shirts seems one step beyond into fascistic territory. Now, the kids are marked as others in a humiliating way. But then, that’s class warfare for you. If the show is going in this direction at all, Weatherbee may not even be aware he’s supporting a system that will intentionally keep the Serpent kids down just because they live in the wrong part of town.

And yes, class struggle is more complicated than that, but it begins with such simple things.

Because we’re more sympathetic to the Serpent cause at this point — even if Jughead’s initial bullishness made things worse — the emerging aristocracy will take a back seat this week except to note that Chic (Hart Denton) finally made his debut. There’s something off about the abandoned son of Alice (Madchen Amick) and, apparently, Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro). It comes into focus during the episode’s closing moments, but is it possible it also relates to Archie’s doubts about the Black Hood? The conclusion to that mystery never sat right, so, perhaps, there’s still a Black Hood hiding among Juggie’s tall grass to yet be discovered.

So let’s ponder those doubts as we take a look at a preview of next week’s episode. The relationship between Archie and Hiram Lodge (Mark Conseuelos) has suddenly turned frosty. Does he know Archie is aiding the FBI investigation against him? Or is no one good enough for his little girl?

Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.

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.