Let’s Ponder The Prison-Industrial Complex Invading Riverdale

by Erik Amaya


All season long on Riverdale, the Lodges have planned something sinister for their SoDale development. They bought up the Drive-In and Southside High for a purpose known only to the three of them. This week, when Jughead (Cole Sprouse) finally got too close, they had to reveal their plan to Archie (KJ Apa) and Fred (Luke Perry). And in an interesting turn of events, their plan not only offers the family a sort of legitimacy, but comments on something which actually happens to small towns in our world.
Also, a long lost Blossom returned from the sea, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) learned something new and awful about Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) and Polly’s (Tiera Skovbye) surprise appearance with the twins lead to a startling truth about Chick (Hart Denton).
But the key thing this week is the Lodge Industries plan to build a for-profit prison on the grounds of Southside High. In small communities all over the country, these enterprises seemed like a boon as manufacturing disappeared in the 1980s and 90s. They offered jobs and a sense of law and order to places devastated by the loss of once stable mid-20th century businesses. Sadly, for-profit prisons often eat at the souls of communities with the people hired to work there as guards, medical staff and even custodians exposed to the pressure cooker of captive humans. Instead of saving towns, the prisons often make things like domestic abuse, substance abuse and suicide more prevalent. And since these prisons are run like car companies, human rights and quality of life for inmates and workers are a distant priorities to the bottom line.
This is the future Jughead, Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Alice (Madchen Amick) are trying to prevent; even if Hiram’s (Mark Consuelos) silver tongue and Hermione’s (Marisol Nichols) bid for mayor can convince the town that this new business will revitalize the Southside. It is an interesting intrusion of a mundane reality into the hyper-real world of the series. And, perhaps, the point. In the end, the Lodges are not cartoon villains, but very typical corporate raiders.
Of course, it occurs to me that Hiram bought the trailer park precisely to have a ready-made population for the prison when he conveniently decides to restore their debts. It also occurs to me that his promise to Archie that the family will be “completely legitimate” in 18 months is the same promise Michael Corleone made to Kay in The Godfather. If you don’t know how that turned out, go watch the trilogy. Yes, even the third one.
The SoDale prison plan contrasts the soapier plotlines happening elsewhere in town. Chick, for instance, is apparently not Alice’s son … which leaves one to wonder who the hell he really is and if he has ties to the Black Hood. Yeah, I’m not letting that go yet. But if he isn’t Alice’s son, then why is he so keen to isolate her from her family?
Meanwhile, the reading of Clifford Blossom’s will led to the startling reveal of his twin brother Claudius (Barclay Hope); setting up Cheryl as a sort of Hamlet now. In fact, that final scene revealing Penelope’s plan to “deal” with Nana Rose and Cheryl pretty much seals it. Though, I hope Toni (Vanessa Morgan) doesn’t end up playing the Ophelia role in this situation. But the will also led to an interesting quirk: Clifford left a part of his fortune to anyone who can prove a Blossom blood-tie; which included Betty, Polly and their father. While this might seem generous, it is only a matter of time before those blood tests are stolen and a new Black Hood emerges to deal with Blossom claimants. Maybe this is also part of Penelope’s plan. Maybe it’s something for next year as well.
But let’s ponder those things as we watch of preview of next week’s show. From the look of things, it will be nothing by confrontations as Archie and F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) face off, Veronica (Camila Mendes) faces school bullying for her part in the Lodge plan and Jughead and Archie face off again. Also, Cheryl and Toni might be facing some of the new threats already.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.

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