Okay. You’ve all been very patient as we broke down CW’s noir-twist on Archie, delved into the mystery of Jason and Polly, and explored Riverdale’s slut-shaming ep. Now to the topic that’s had many watchers itching with the ick of it all: Archie and Miss Grundy’s illicit affair.
When Riverdale’s pilot hit San Diego Comic-Con last July, the news that Archie was hot for teacher, spurred lots of raised eyebrows, especially because the original Miss Grundy wasn’t exactly the kind of teacher teen boys crush on.
But Riverdale’s is a younger, hot Miss Grundy, played by the vivacious Sarah Habel. Still, that doesn’t undo the cringe-factor of this salacious summer fling, which boils down to statutory rape.
Archie’s cool with it! It’s still a crime.
Yes. Archie, a horny 15-year-old boy, is more than willing to bone with the beautiful and busty Miss Grundy. But he can’t consent, not legally anyway. While the specifics of this matter vary from state to state, this case is pretty black and white illegal. Archie is a minor; Geraldine Grundy is an adult. And even in our most backwards states, schools tend to frown on fraternizing between teachers and their student’s bodies.
The series has come under fire for allegedly romanticizing their relationship. Admittedly, Archie does. He’s been largely dodging the standard Betty and Veronica lover triangle to pursue his passions with Grundy. It seems this hunky redhead has blended his love for music-making with his feelings for the woman who encouraged his songwriting. So for Grundy, he risked running afoul of the police, initially ducking the Jason Blossom murder investigation because it could out his illegal lover.
Is Grundy in love with Archie? Not so much.
Granted, she seems to genuinely think the kid has talent, and she cares for him on some level. But, her chief priority has consistently been saving her own skin. With school started back up, Grundy tried to keep her distance from her boy beau. Yet her fear of being found out has repeatedly pushed her to give into his demands, be they private music lessons or claims of love.
When Archie wants to go to the cops and confess that he and Grundy heard a gunshot near Sweet Water River the morning Jason went into the water, he demands Grundy to tell him why he shouldn’t. “How do you feel about me?” Archie presses her, “Is it real? Because if it’s not I don’t know who I’m protecting.”
That’s when Grundy claims, “It is. Maybe it’s not right, but it’s real.” And more telling, “Archie, I’m putting myself in your hands.”
He’s essentially blackmailing her: tell me you love me, or I’m going to the cops. Yet Archie isn’t doing that out of malice, but out of a naiveté that allows him to think this is some forbidden romance instead of a deeply damaged woman manipulating her underage lover to keep her out of trouble.
Jughead gets it.
In episode two, Archie’s old pal figures out why Archie bailed on their July 4th road trip, and why they’ve been estranged ever since. His loyalty to Archie keeps Juggy from ratting Grundy out, but the crowned sleuth quickly denounces her as a “cougar” who “cares more about herself” than Archie. “She’s the one telling you not to say anything, right?” Jughead pushes his pal. “She’s messing with you. She’s messing with your mind!”
Yup. And Riverdale’s been teasing that element since her very introduction. When Grundy rolled up on Archie on that summer day where he was sweaty from working his dad’s construction crew, she was wearing an allusion meant to make savvy viewers unsettled from the jump.
Red, heart-shaped sunglasses, made iconic with Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. In that story, a grown man entreats his audience to understand that he wasn’t monster who robbed a child of her mother, then repeatedly raped the defenseless orphan. No, no. He was the one who’d been manipulated by a “nymphet” destined to doom him for his helpless desires.
Humbert Humbert talks a good game, and may even believe what he says. But just as is the case with Grundy, he’s a criminal, corrupting a minor to his own selfish ends, with no deep concern for the child’s welfare. In this case, Grundy is shredding Archie’s conscience, and through her demanded secrecy, prying him away from his friends and family.
Betty’s got no time for bullshit.
Last night’s episode, “The Last Picture Show,” begins with Betty piecing together the truth of Archie and Grundy’s relationship in the pages of her dear diary. Shortly thereafter, she sets her heartbreak aside to confront her childhood friend and cruel, cruel crush. “It sounds scandalous,” Veronica gawps outisde the Chock-Lit Shoppe. But Betty doesn’t mince words: “It sounds like jail time to me! ILLEGAL!”
From there, Betty investigates Miss Grundy, and discovers that before a year ago there was no record of a Geraldine Grundy. “Before that, she’s a ghost.” Betty pleads, “You don’t know anything about her, Archie. Doesn’t that worry you?” And Archie responds as he has with Grundy, threats. “If you’re really my friend, you’ll let this go.” But fuck that.
As Betty and Veronica break into Grundy’s POS car, the good girl gone rogue declares, “We’re doing this because Grundy has Archie under some kind of sexual spell, and he won’t listen to reason.” Like with the football team’s score book, they girls are looking for evidence to prove a terrible truth to willfully oblivious menfolk. They discover an ID for Jennifer Gibson and a gun.
Dragging with Mrs. Cooper…
In the face of the evidence the girls’ so-called “crazy witch hunt” unearthed, Archie confronts Grundy and discovers Jennifer was a battered wife who ran away. The show gives the damaged divorcee an origin that explains why she’d be attracted to Archie, who is sweet and simple. It’s a reason, but not an excuse. Jennifer fled one abusive relationship, and started another.
“It still doesn’t make what she did to you okay,” Betty tells Archie. “You’re in over your head, Arch. You’re in a relationship with this person who is cutting you off from everyone in your life.”
Archie realizes Betty’s right, and plans to break up with Grundy. Then things turn explosive because of course Betty’s mom rooted through her drawers to discover the stolen Grundy gun and her detail-rich but lock-free diary. So just as Archie and Grundy say goodbye with an embrace, in comes Mrs. Cooper, Betty and Archie’s devastated (and devastating) dad (Luke Perry). Once Grundy is (accurately) called a child predator, Archie scrambles to defend her, “She didn’t force me to do anything. I went after her. Everything that happened, I wanted to happen.” Yet we know Archie was not the pursuer. Grundy approached him in her Volkswagen, with a smile and unlawful proposition.
Mrs. Cooper wants to go to the cops, but not so much to get Grundy arrested as to ruin Archie’s shiny reputation. It’s a recurrence of the slut-shaming issue, with a healthy dose of victim-blaming (which I suspect came into play in Polly’s plot line too.) But Betty Cooper, feminist avenger and loyal friend, won’t have it. She blackmails her mom, threatening to out the Cooper clan’s secrets to make them laughingstocks. And so the compromise is that Grundy must be run out of town, never to be seen again.
Archie goes home, shattered, and his dad—who was weirdly quiet during the big screaming match in the music room—offers a Good Will Hunting it’s not your fault moment, hugging his son, giving him comfort, and attempting to wash away the shame. Archie and Betty make up over text, and so Riverdale suggests thing’s will be okay.
Still, letting Grundy escape is not a solution that sits well. And it’s not meant to. Before she leaves this twisted town in her rearview, Riverdale gives us one last shot of the sultry teacher in her Lolita lenses, checking out a pair of other brawny high school boys. This not only calls into questions what she is really on the run from, but also declares that this predator is on the prowl once more. And Riverdale justice has failed.