If you thought Betty’s singing of “Happy Birthday” was haunting, wait until you see her striptease! Last night on Riverdale, all hell broke loose when it came to love and romance. And this means some major shake-ups and two exciting new ships.
Archie and Veronica
To cope with a serial killer stalking their town, Varchie was running from death to sex, hooking up in messy bedrooms, greasy garages, and on bearskin rugs in front of a roaring fireplace, because class conflict. Then Archie did as Archie does and mucked it all up by blurting out “I love you.” Freaked out, Veronica threw herself full force into investigating the Reaper case and its Devil House, and Archie followed along like a kicked puppy.
But hey! He actually had a mature moment at F.P.’s retirement bash, telling Veronica, “What I said? That was about me, and what I was feeling in that specific moment. You shouldn’t feel any pressure to say it back to me.” But then, he immediately backpedaled, because Archie.
When she thanked him for understanding instead of erupting into “I love you”s, he switched from caring to sulking then he leaned into his brand by picking the worst possible duet for this or just about any occasion. That he referred to “Mad World” as “that Donnie Darko song” is just gravy on the shit salad this infuriating redhead stirred up.
By episode’s end, Varchie was no more. But they weren’t the only big breakup in “Chapter Twenty-One: House of the Devil.”
Betty and Jughead
Bughead fans lamented last night as the Riverdale’s answer to Mulder and Scully split up. Again. This time it wasn’t because of parental pressure, or the bullying by the Black Hood, or even the return of Dark Betty on the Serpents’ stripper pole that did them in. With the Snake Charmer threatening Betty, Jughead decides the only way to protect his pastel-loving good girl is to keep her as far away from his bad influence as possible. He blames himself for F.P. turning back to the gang, and for Betty’s interest in becoming “Serpent adjacent.” And nothing Betty can say will sway him.
“How many times are we going to push each other away,” she pleads.
“Until it sticks,” he replied.
And then he went all Carrie Bradshaw, musing in VO about “Snakes and ladders.” Meanwhile, heartbroken Archie and spurned Betty shared a heated glance that is sure to reignite the Archie comics love triangle.
It makes sense! Archie as a hot rebound guy is the only viable reason to boyfriend him.
Cheryl and Josie
Recapping Chapter Twenty, I dismissed the idea that Cheryl is romantically interested in Josie. I take it all back. I am full-on shipping them now.
Last week, I believed that the HBIC was being an overprotective and even selfish friend in the all-consuming way of which teen girls are totally capable. Doodling a portrait of the two of them, chasing off a bad boy sniffing about, and otherwise isolating Josie didn’t read as romantic to me, just more standard Cheryl territorial schtick. But this week? When Cheryl manufactured a lame excuse to give Josie a lavender-scented rubdown? I thought back about something actress Madelaine Petsch told me at Comic-Con International in San Diego, “(Cheryl) also has a love interest this season. Just saying.” Because it’d just been announced that bisexual Archie comics character Toni Topaz would join Riverdale, I pressed, asking if her love interest was a boy. “Not necessarily,” she’d teased. “We will see.”
At the time, I assumed that meant either Petsch knew how to score a solo headline out of a packed roundtable setup by dropping a vague but enticing tidbit. OR that she was hinting Cheryl would flirt with Toni. Now, I’m wondering if Cheryl is actually crushing hard and queer on Josie. And frankly, I’m rooting for it. Not just because I’m all for seeing more bi girl representation on television (We’re here! We’re queer! PLEASE STOP IGNORING OUR EXISTENCE), but also because it seems a vein rich with possibilities. Does Cheryl realize the meaning of her growing obsession with her long-time friend? Will Josie reject her? If so, what will that mean for their friendship, and how Cheryl sees herself? Will the thread resolve in a haunting pop ballad? (The answer to the last one is almost definitely yes.)
Also: props for Cheryl chasing off the intruding (and potentially clit-blocking?) janitor by chiding him, “Take your male gaze and your male privilege and get out!” I need a gif of this for daily use.
F.P. and Alice
The patience of Skeet Ulrich and Mädchen Amick fans paid off last night in a big, big way. Thanks to Jughead’s drug running for the Snake Charmer, F.P. was released from jail, and who was there to greet him but his old flame Alice, who asked “Is it true what they say about men released from prison…that they’re sexually frustrated?” While Jughead and Betty were understandably horrified by this smirking mom’s comment, F.P. didn’t mind.
At Pop’s, amid exposition about F.P. deciding to go legit, sparks were flying and lions were roaring. Yes, Archie and Veronica had all the sex this episode, and Betty did a sultry strip tease. But the chemistry between Ulrich and Amick was the hottest thing happening on Riverdale. More specifically, I am 100% convinced Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has heard our thirsty prayers for more Daddy Jones, because last night Ulrich was practically doling out looks for his own pin-up calendar, like tea party bruiser above, leather daddy below.
And bad boy gone milkshake jockey, A.K.A. my newly minted kink.
Amick was no slouch. Before Betty busted our her black bodice, her mother was doing tequila shots while feeling herself in revived Serpent style.
Around this point, I began actively hoping that Hal Cooper (Alice’s absent husband) was either The Black Hood or going to be the next victim, because I want nothing in the way of a resparked romance between F.P. and Alice. And sidenote/random thought: What if Betty’s long lost brother that Alice had in high school and gave up for adoption is not Hal’s son, but F.P.’s? Could that be part of why she resents F.P. so intensely, but also part of why there’s still such a sexual spark between them?
Woefully, F.P.’s plans for retirement were cut short. To save Jughead from the sinister schemes of the Snake Charmer, F.P. has thrown himself on the sword. He gave a rallying speech to his gang, earning cheers of “Hail to the king.” But when F.P. faced his son, he made it clear Jughead betrayed him.
In an intense reference to Godfather: Part II, F.P. kisses his son, saying, “You broke my heart, Jughead.” And just like that, Ulrich snatched this show right away from Cole Sprouse, who has been positively killing it as the “weirdo” antihero for two seasons.
Damn. Not so long ago, I was wondering what ever happened to Skeet Ulrich. Now? I want Riverdale to bend in anyway it must to give F.P. all the screentime. Make him Hiram Lodge’s new ally, the principal of Riverdale High, a special deputy to the Sheriff’s office. I don’t care. Just plaster him across this show like I did across my high school locker.
Like a fine goddamn wine.