Forget Archie, Riverdale’s real star is its melodrama


After a series of questionable episodes, Riverdale delivers the insanity we want from it, and it’s finally back on track to be the guilty pleasure we deserve.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a rave review for my beloved Riverdale. It’s pained me to turn my critical eye on a show that presented so much promise in its freshman season. Season 2 took a lot of detours on its way back to awesomeness, but “Chapter Twenty-Nine: Primary Colors” is the turn around we needed from a lackluster season.

I’m not saying this is a perfect episode, but it’s damn near close. Aside from its Andy Cohen cameo and its misguided attempt to indict “conversion therapy,” it’s giving us what we love: insane melodrama and WTF moments.

Here are the most delightful bits of juicy drama.

Veronica is (finally) exposed as a villain

Although the show is desperately trying to make us feel sorry for her, this week’s episode reveals her as the spoiled, out-of-touch princess we’ve all recognized her to be. Through the characters of Ethel and Reggie, audiences get to actively root against her, despite the writers trying to sell her as a “victim of circumstance.”

Time after time, she’s chosen to do the wrong thing in a tough situation, and Ethel’s flyer is proof that we can’t really love her like they want us to. I’m sure Riverdale wanted the shake-in-the-face moment to garner sympathy. But it doesn’t. We’re firmly on Ethel’s side as another casualty of Hiram Lodge’s full-on assault on the lower classes of Riverdale.

We’re probably supposed to root for Veronica’s big moment when she decks Reggie “the misogynist” Mantle, but he’s only saying true stuff. Damn you, Riverdale for making me root for such a douchebag, but it just goes to show how thin Veronica is wearing on the audience.

Jughead gets a legitimate cause to fight for

Most of the time, I’m rolling my eyes at Jughead’s righteous indignation. He’s the crusader who constantly cries wolf, and his white savior bit is too much. I mean, a damn hunger strike? Come on.

However, Riverdale knows how to invoke the power of the Serpents, and this “fight for our land” bit is a good way to get back to what’s impressive about this collection of characters. The shot of the grown-up Serpents watching over the baby Serpents while they chain themselves to the Southside High School is one of the best of the night — thanks to the directorial expertise of Sherwin Shilati. They are sex in a leather jacket, and we need more of this.

Jughead’s hunger strike and his disappointment over the lack of commitment from the other Serpents leads to a touching scene between him and FP, and it reignites our interest in this storyline in a real way. Is there even anybody left — besides Archie — who is on Hiram’s side, at this point?

It also provides a clever way to further position Veronica as the antagonist. Watching Jughead huff and sigh and roll his eyes every time the younger Lodge says anything is golden. Let’s finally agree that Veronica is terrible. Even Jughead thinks so.

Jughead also gets a face-off with Archie and his goon squad in a scene that offered more tension than the rest of the season, combined. Watching Archie swagger his way through the crowd recording his every move and do Hiram’s bidding was INSANE. It’s time to pick sides, Riverheads.

The Real Housewives of Riverdale

It’s hard to miss this particular nod when the wooden Andy Cohen makes a brief cameo, but the moms win the night. From Hermione’s dimly lit, fireside interview with Hal Cooper, to Penelope Blossom’s (figurative) mustache-twirling, they bring the buzz.

Molly Ringwald returns as Mary Andrews, and she isn’t here for Archie’s nonsense. Arriving at the behest of Fred as backup for their wayward son, she hits the ground running. She immediately recognizes Archie as Veronica’s cuckhold and tries to intervene, even though he protests. He intercedes on Fred’s behalf with the Lodges, trying to get him to let Fred out of his insanely unfair contract, and she nudges Fred to run for mayor. Where have you been all our lives, Mary Andrews?

Alice Cooper is always a powerhouse, but you start to see her let her guard down a little as she tries to convince Betty to accept Chic. The dramatic irony is palpable as the (increasingly) awful Chic manipulates her against Betty. When Chic is revealed to not have “Blossom blood,” she hints at an FP paternity, and please, please let this be a thing. She even has a real mother-adjacent moment with Betty after Chic narcs about her having sex with Jughead. Alice Cooper could carry this show if the writers would let go a little.

Cheryl versus her homicidal, hooker mother and her father’s evil twin

Reliably the most entertaining bunch on this show, the Blossoms are the workhorse of this teen soap. Everything about their storyline is completely, wonderfully unbelievable, and it feels like they should have their own telenovela. Cut to Cheryl’s Beguiled-themed sleepover. That shot of the girls lining up and brushing each other’s hair is golden. I’m talking peak TV, here folks.

The idea of having Cheryl committed by her own mother is a stroke of genius that this show could really double down on. Having it be a “conversion” experience is something I don’t think they have the chops for.

It’s a little wobbly, especially since Betty supposedly dispensed of Sister Woodhouse in season one, but the nightmarish quality of Cheryl trapped in an insane asylum, a la American Horror Story: Asylum is intriguing. But I pray to the television gods they back off this “pray the gay away” nonsense.

Catch up on Riverdale on the CW app and website, and then head back here for our post-Riverdale rehash and confab.