Riverdale’s done a lot of ridiculous things over the last three or so years. We’ve had incest, Dungeons and Dragons cults, multiple musical episodes and a bear attack. Nothing has ever made me guffaw quite like how this episode began. And I mean with an audible “efffffff yooooouuuu, Riverdale.” This week’s episode opened with an epigraph. “Life isn’t an Agatha Christie novel, it’s a lot messier.” The quote is attributed to Jughead, with his birth and death day below his name. I’m actually impressed by the boldness of the pretension here. It’s just so unashamedly up its own ass. And the quote is such perfectly bad writing. The kind of thing I’m sure I would have thought was super deep when I was 16. It sucks so much. I hate it. I love it.
After that hilarious intro, the show rushes through its next big plot points as fast as it can. Betty gets a call from Yale. There’s been an unexpected opening, and they looked at her application again. She’s in. It doesn’t take her long to figure out this is because of Jughead’s death. Betty stops by Stonewall to pick up Jughead’s stuff. That’s where Brett shows up to imply her tears are fake. I guess now we know the context of that flash-forward. Irked by Brett’s comment, Betty passes Donna’s room and has an idea. She calls in an anonymous tip FP, telling him Donna has something belonging to Jughead. He gets a warrant, and finds Jughead’s tie pin in her desk. Did Betty plant it there, or did Donna actually have that? It’s unclear, but that’s not important right now. Faced with evidence against her, Donna tells FP that she and Brett saw Betty and her friends standing over Jughead’s body.
FP is a terrible cop, by the way. He doesn’t look for corroborating evidence, he seems to just believe the last thing someone told him. (Maybe this is why they typically don’t let cops investigate cases involving their own families.) He arrests Betty, Archie and Veronica, which we now know is something Betty anticipated. She sees it as a desperate move, and a sign that they’re getting sloppy. She might have a point. FP questions all of them (and displays a stunning lack of familiarity with the Fifth Amendment), but has to let them go when the rock Betty swapped out gets back from forensics. It was, of course, covered in stage blood. That’s a curve Donna didn’t see coming. She and Brett even say they saw Jonathan smear it in Jughead’s blood. The conversation’s in private, but now we know for sure that Betty didn’t kill her boyfriend.
Donna even draws what appears to be the wrong conclusion. She calls Betty and says she’s figured out their scheme: Jughead is actually alive. Betty had him play dead for… reasons! That’s gotta be it. Betty convinces FP to hold a wake to put that idea to rest. Or possibly to draw the Stonewall kids out. This is one of those situations where it’s fun not knowing exactly what’s going on. The story of this season is now full of possibilities. Every action has at least two conflicting possible motives, and it’s fun guessing which it could be. In this case, it certainly makes the Stonewall kids make a big public scene. They show up at the wake and start grilling Jellybean about the last time she saw Jughead. Betty asks Donna to leave, but she tells Brett to open the casket. That gets them kicked out of the wake real quick.
Their antics start a rumor that Jughead is still alive, though. It travels around the school, and really seems to take a toll on Betty. She confides in Archie one night at Pop’s. Cheryl Blossom overhears their conversation because she’s been watching over/stalking Betty as part of a shockingly insensitive suicide watch. She then sets up a memorial at Jughead’s locker, causing Betty to seek comfort in Archie’s arms and lips in the music room. Cheryl sends the photo all around school and shows it to Veronica, who confronts Archie and Betty for all to see in the common room. The whole thing feels oddly scripted. Like, Riverdale’s acting and writing isn’t perfect, but this felt intentionally bad. It was.
It turns out the entire Varchie breakup and Barchie get-together was a ploy. The entire goal was to quell rumors that Jughead is secretly alive. Most of the town just accepts it. If Jughead was alive, he wouldn’t stay hidden while his girlfriend hooks up with his best friend. Donna does more investigating, tracking Betty from Pop’s to the sex bunker in the woods. She thinks she’s going to catch Betty with Jughead, but she catches Betty making out with Archie. Donna still isn’t convinced, but Brett tells her to chill. Jughead’s dead, and they’re going to pin it on Betty. Betty, it seems, has successfully gaslit Donna, and it might be the one case where you’re kind of cheering it on. Because again, this is all an act. Betty and Archie are pretending to be dating to convince everyone that Jughead is dead. Archie and Veronica are still together and Jughead, big reveal here, is still alive…
YEAHHHHHH! CALLED! IT! Jughead wasn’t dead. There was no way he was dead. I saw through this game from the beginning! Seriously, this was a fun, satisfying reveal, and sometimes it feels really good to find out you were on the same page as the show the whole time. I also love how everything this episode ties into Betty’s plot. These past few Riverdale episodes have been exceptionally focused. This is what the show’s been building to all season, and it’s not wasting a single scene. This was a tight, fun episode and every little detail went toward making this as satisfying a payoff as possible.
That said, there are still huge holes in the overall story. One particularly good episode doesn’t fix some major leaps in logic that the show will eventually have to explain. If Jughead was dead the whole time, why did Betty need to swap out the rock? Why let it be found in the forest to begin with? And why didn’t anyone notice that Jughead was alive when they found his body? Was FP in on this really? Because that’s still unclear. Hopefully we’ll get some answers next week. We’re in for another big reveal in any case, it looks like. Veronica asked Hermosa to do some digging into the Stonewall kids. She agreed because… the show needed her to I guess. (Seriously, their relationship hasn’t earned nearly this level of confidence yet.) Either way, she comes back with information about Donna that’s apparently a real bombshell. Veronica brings it to Betty and Jughead, who tapes it up on his wall. It apparently is the key to exposing the Stonewall kids. So of course we don’t get to see it.
Despite some gigantic unanswered questions, on it’s own, this was a strong, exciting and absolutely bonkers episode of Riverdale. Not that it was perfect. One particularly annoying detail came at the end as we see both Archie and Betty thinking about their kiss and sending flirty texts to one another. No. No, no, no. You already did this drama as a fake-out, doing it again for real would be impossibly lame. Look, I couldn’t care less about Varchie, but the show really made Bughead work. Yes, I would love it if Jughead was asexual like in the comics, but the show has built this version of Jughead into his own character and made me really invested in his relationship with Betty. If Bughead is no more, I will cut someone.
Still though, this episode accomplished something pretty impressive. Not only itpull off the big reveal well, it didn’t take away from the excitement of the season. Jughead may be alive, but it appears there may be a real murder after all. When Brett and Donna were arguing about whether Jughead was alive, Donna mentioned something implied that Jonathan was dead too. Did they actually commit a murder to cover up the one they think they committed? It’ll definitely be interesting to see that all come out next week.
Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW
Previously on Riverdale:
Would you like to:
*Get time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do?
*Spend more time with the people you love
*Stop helping other people build their dreams and starts focusing on YOURS. CLICK HERE