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Recap: 'Riverdale' Remembers It's 'Riverdale,' Delivering the Season's Best Episode

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 7, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 7, 2019 |


I assumed that by this point in its third season, Riverdale was a lost cause, a show that had jumped so far off the tracks that it had already careened over the cliff, hair blown black, screaming into the wind, and shitting its pants. But miraculously in this week’s episode, Riverdale manages to find its way back to its season one roots, and it did so by smartly focusing the episode on the show’s two best — and two most underused — characters, Cheryl and Kevin (the latter of whom I’d begun to worry had been mysteriously written off the show). Granted, the episode still features some grand larceny, a shooting, an exchange with a drug kingpin, and the Gargoyle King (no, not that one. Or that one; a different one), but for the most part, Riverdale remembers what the show is about: High-school students dealing with high-school matters.

Specifically, both Cheryl and Kevin face challenges concerning their sexual orientation. Chery’s mother — who is a brothel owner and a literal murderer — got all up on her high horse this week and pulled some strings to ensure that Cheryl couldn’t enroll in Highsmith College despite her legacy advantage. Mumsy doesn’t think that Highsmith should be “polluted” with the likes of Cheryl and her “aberration,” which leaves Cheryl feeling abandoned and out of sorts. However, she doesn’t feel nearly as abandoned as her girlfriend, Toni, who Jughead kicked out of the Serpents, the closest thing to a family Toni’s ever had.

Cheryl, however, uses some good old-fashioned extortion to get her way: She and Toni take pictures of the clients in Penelope’s brothel and threaten to expose those clients if Cheryl isn’t admitted into Highsmith College. Cheryl goes one step further, too, and arranges for Toni to get an interview at the college, as well. Cheryl, who proves to be a very good girlfriend, also establishes a club at school — the Pretty Poisons — for other women like Toni looking for a supportive environment and a family of friends (spoiler: we will never see these friends again).

Meanwhile, Kevin and Moose are getting serious again, but Moose still hasn’t come out to his conservative father, the Major. Now that Kevin’s father, Keller, is marrying Josie’s mother, Siera, Kevin wants to bring a date to the wedding, which would necessitate Moose coming out to his father. Kevin gives Moose an ultimatum — come out to the Major, or we break up — which Cheryl renders moot by outing Moose to the entire school. Moose, in turn, tells the Major, and he takes the news in stride. Kevin and Moose make plans to f*ck.

Good, right? Not exactly.

Elsewhere, the Midnight Club is called to order again by the Gargoyle King and told that they must complete the Ascension night they abandoned in the ’80s. The Midnight Club regroups at Riverdale High to do so, but soon learn the Gargoyle King is using the game to lure the parents away from their kids. The Major is posing as the Gargoyle King so that he can kidnap Moose and Kevin and scare them straight. In a storyline straight out of American Beauty, back in the ’80s, The Major had a major crush on Keller, but the real Gargoyle King scared his gay away (but, like, not really) and the Major wants to do the same for Moose. However, The Major is interrupted after the Midnight Club catches on. “Man, the sisters really did a number on you,” FP tells the Major, summing up the Major’s current psychological state. Meanwhile, with all the problems at home, Moose moves away, leaving Kevin heartbroken (and most likely relegated to a background character for another 10 episodes). Poor Kevin.

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The big four characters, however, aren’t completely absent from this episode. Archie and Josie cozy up and make plans to be each other’s date to Keller and Siera’s wedding. After the wedding is scuttled in favor of a simple ceremony at town hall, however, Archie and Josie decide instead to sing a song together and make out. It’s not a particularly compelling storyline, but at least it’s appropriate to the high-school setting. Archie’s sensitive white-boy voice, however, is skin-crawling. It’s like what John Mayer would sound like if he were trying to sing with a nicked windpipe.

Meanwhile, Hermione insists that Veronica and Reggie come up with enough money to pay off the drug kingpin who was expecting the shipment of Fizzle Rock that Veronica burned last week. Veronica and Reggie decide to rob the safe in Reggie’s father’s car dealership. Reggie gets shot during the heist, but it’s a flesh wound. When they meet up with the drug kingpin to pay her off, however, they find out that it’s Jughead’s mom (Gina Gershon), Gladys. In fact, with the mayor in debt to her and her ex-husband now sheriff, Gladys decides to stick around awhile and see if she can take over the drug trade in Riverdale. I am guessing that it will eventually pit Jughead’s mom against Veronica’s father.

It’s a ridiculous storyline, but it’s given short shrift, and I’m willing to forgive it because the rest of the episode was more grounded and focused on the characters, specifically the only two characters who are still interesting on this series, Kevin and Cheryl.

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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