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Gina Torres Normalizes 'Riverdale,' Which is Completely Uncalled For

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 5, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 5, 2019 |


Nothing insane happened on this week’s episode of Riverdale, which takes a lot of the fun out of recapping the insanity for an audience here who does not typically watch the show. In fact, Gina Torres plays a therapist, and she spends the entire episode normalizing and contextualizing the insanity with which each of the characters has been confronted. It was a very troubling episode from the perspective of a recapper because Torres’ character tries to ground the events of Riverdale in reality.

But … but … why? You can’t unring that bell, Riverdale. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube or put the cadaver of Jason Blossom back into the ground.

“You’re not crazy, Cheryl,” the therapist played by Gina Torres tells her. “You miss your brother … what’s the difference between [talking to your brother’s corpse] and visiting the gravesite of a loved one? Or people who have urns on their mantle?” The therapist is talking nonsense, but it sounds so sane coming out of the mouth of Gina Torres. And as for Julian, the spirit of the triplet sibling she absorbed in the womb who now haunts her? “I don’t think you’re being haunted, Cheryl, and I don’t think you’re losing your mind … I think you’re being gaslit.”

That’s not nearly as fun as being haunted by a devil doll, but at least it gives Cheryl something upon which to focus: Who is gaslighting her? There seems to be only three options: Rose, her invalid grandmother; Penelope, her mother who is currently MIA after slipping away last season; or Toni, her too-good-to-be-true girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Archie confesses to the therapist that he’s been moonlighting as a masked vigilante, and the therapist tells him that he’s created this persona out of rage. “Everything that you told me feels like it could be fueled by rage and grief-induced anger.” She tells him that his attempts to help people has become an unhealthy addiction, and suggests that he recruit others to help. Archie decides to move out of his house to keep his mom out of danger, and also to start a hotline to help people in need, not as a masked vigilante but as himself.

You’re really harshing my mellow here, Gina Torres.

When Veronica speaks to the therapist — who is actually a high-school guidance counselor helping students with their post-high-school plans — she tells Veronica that her problem is that, as much as she hates her father, she’s obsessed with him, that they’re obsessed with each other. Ding ding ding. She says the only way to get over the obsession is to cut ties. Since Veronica can’t murder her father, she does the next best thing: She turns down his help in getting admitted into her father’s alma mater, Harvard, and decides to instead attend Yale. She also vows to beat him at business, too, which still sounds like an obsession, but whatever.

The therapist meanwhile determines that most of Betty’s problems originate with her overprotective, privacy-invading mother, and I’m not sure exactly how that’s resolved except that Alice recognizes that she’s too overbearing and she also puts money back into Betty’s college fund. ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

The therapist/counselor saves arguably her best work for Jughead, calling him out for his persecution complex. “The real reason you’re so focused on proving that the Baxter Brothers belongs to your family is because you’re afraid, insecure about your own writing … fulfill their expectation that you’re a bum, then claim that they didn’t give you a chance. Now that is the lazy path.” The therapist illustrates to Jughead how his father, conversely, “did the work to transform himself.”

Ultimately, Jughead better appreciates the sacrifice and hard work of his father, but in the end, he’s still chasing conspiracy theories, telling Betty about all the mysterious murders associated with a secret society at his prep school. Betty tells him, “If you’re right, you need to transfer,” and Jughead says he can’t. He’s too close.

Flash forward to the Spring, when two of Jughead’s prep-school classmates identify Archie, Betty, and Veronica as the murderer of Jughead.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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