So many relationships broke down in this week’s episode of Riverdale. But in a shocking twist, none of those break-ups involved the show’s romantic pairings. In balancing the teen drama with some of its wider aspirations, the show elected to leave Bughead and … um, “Varchie?” secure while tearing down many of the program’s other key dynamics. Including, it seems, the friendships of the core couples. Considering the way things have been going, that’s not the biggest surprise. The real task, though, will be reforging those connections in the future.
And yes, they will have to be repaired eventually.
But as presented this week, the show finally allowed Archie (KJ Apa) to be the anchor point. Riverdale has always been smart to de-emphasize him until they had a story really worth showcasing the character and Apa as a performer. They’ve finally found it with Archie’s devotion to Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos). While it might seem that Archie should be able to twinge that he is in an untenable potion, recall that he began the series in an illicit relationship with one of his teachers. So his moral blindspots were established early on. This Archie is not the paragon of American Virtues his comic counterpart embodied for decades. And here, it seems, he’s entering into his devil’s pact with clear eyes; even if he thinks it is really about saving his dad.
That choice will only continue to tighten his bond with the Lodges as Fred’s (Luke Perry) run for mayor and Archie’s very public removal of Jughead (Cole Sprouse) from the Southside High land removes the most important male relationships in his life. He will be entirely under Hiram’s influence. Curiously, the storyline has a bit of a Star Wars prequel flavor to it and, come to think of it, Apa would’ve been a wonderful Anakin. I wonder if the show, with its film and TV obsessions, will acknowledge the parallel.
Meanwhile, Veronica (Camila Mendes) also found that her parents’ activities are putting her in a difficult spot. Like Archie’s original state back in season one, Veronica’s original ambition not to be the mean girl comes in to play with her bid for Student Council President. To me, that’s the most interesting aspect of the character. She lived, essentially, in Gossip Girl and wanted Riverdale to be a new chance. Unfortunately, the Lodge Industries designs for the town means she will still be perceived as the mean girl. You can see it in the way Ethel (Shannon Purser) and Josie (Ashleigh Murray) conspired to embarrass her at the campaign event. Their attack was motivated more by her parents actions than anything she’s done to them personally.
Granted, she did co-opt the Pussycats that one time.
Mirroring our times, the elections at Riverdale High and the town itself will be the big season-ending plots. They also put the characters at interesting odds. Jughead and Betty (Lili Reinhart) represent their own faction — especially now that Betty feels she can’t live in the Cooper home because of Chick (Hart Denton) — while facing off against Veronica and her attempt to “shield” herself from the Lodges’ machinations. It is only a matter of time before she convinces Archie to be her running mate, furthering the divide between the two couples and making things more difficult at home for Archie as Fred and Mary (Molly Ringwald) run against Hermione (Marisol Nichols) in the Mayor’s race.
Oh, also, there’s Cheryl’s (Madelaine Petsch) well-being to think about. But let’s ponder that as we watch a preview of next week’s episode. Toni (Vanessa Morgan) knows something is amiss with the Blossoms and vows to make sense of it. Meanwhile, that drug dealer’s car has been found and it can only lead back to Alice (Madchen Amick) and, possibly, Betty. And with all of these plots heating up, no one will be available to protect Nana Rose!
Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.