This week’s episode of Riverdale finally reveals what happens to Jughead at the party in the woods. But is his fate sealed?
When we last left Riverdale, Jughead dueled Bret in a challenge for his honor. This week, their conflict comes to a head — with deadly consequences.
There’s quite a bit happening in this episode, as we expect in Riverdale, but the main story is the very heavily foreshadowed Ides of March bonfire in the woods that we’ve seen in the flash-forwards all season. Before we get to Bughead, though, let’s check in on Archie.
Poor Archie has had a rough year. While everyone else was dealing with acceptance issues last fall, Archie is just now trying to apply to college. He meets with Principal Honey to ask about college only to be told he can’t even graduate this year.
Archie asks if he can at least walk with his friends, and Honey is pretty stone-cold saying that he hasn’t merited such a gesture. Oh, Archiekins. Though I have to say, I’ve got to agree with Principal Honey on this one. Archie doesn’t even go here!
Meanwhile, Veronica doesn’t want to think about the future (in this case, her dad’s “diagnosis” or the fact that Archie won’t be going to Barnard with her). She just wants to bone down with Archie in the music room before school.
Hiram shows up at the gym to work out, and Archie doesn’t yet know about his “diagnosis” so at first, he’s cold to Hiram. But Archie has a hard time being cold to anyone. And Archie is struggling with a decision that Hiram could genuinely provide guidance on: whether to keep Andrews Construction. Even though he’s a high school dropout, Archie does have a lot on his plate. The kid is running two businesses! (Take that, Veronica Lodge.)
Hiram tells Archie he’ll keep his dad’s legacy alive no matter what, so Archie decides to sell Andrews Construction and use the money to hire Mr. Keller (who’s getting DILF-ier by the minute) to help out at the community center full time.
While Hiram has mostly been written as a completely one-dimensional villain, his relationship with Archie had its high points and it’s nice to see that come back a little bit — as long as he doesn’t start grooming him for the mafia again.
While Archie and Hiram are rekindling their friendship, Veronica is spiraling due to her dad’s diagnosis. It reaches a peak when Honey finds a flask of rum in Veronica’s locker. Veronica goes ham on him and calls him Principal Mussolini, so Honey threatens to call Barnard. Archie, valiant as ever, takes the blame, and since he hasn’t gotten into any colleges, only gets a week of detention.
Veronica tries to have sex with Archie, like, five more times before the school day is over, which is excessive even for Veronica and Archie, so Archie comes to the penthouse that night to check on her and figure out what exactly is going on. Veronica finally tells him that her dad is dying of “a debilitating disease.”
I know I ranted about this last week, but it still really bugs me that they can’t pick a specific illness. It’s honestly lazy writing of the highest order, even for Riverdale. The official cause of death on Hiram’s death certificate will just read: “A debilitating disease.” Veronica will organize a bake sale with yellow ribbons in honor of those who suffer from “a debilitating disease.” I mean, come on.
Archie tells Veronica her dad needs all the strength she can give him, and that she knows how to make him fight better than anyone, which is honestly very good and sweet advice.
The next morning, in very sixth-grade class president fashion, Veronica presents her newest ad campaign for the maple rum (ugh) to the family at breakfast and “awakens the dragon.” Her mom and Hermosa are concerned at what she’s done, but she claps back, saying he showed more energy than he had in weeks.
And onto the more sinister ominous Ides of March…
Over at Stonewall Prep, Jughead learns the next Baxter Brothers book won’t be his (which, didn’t he forfeit the contract, anyway, in the chess match with Bret?), prompting Jug to fight back and try to prove he can write a book worthy of publication by the deadline: March 15 (ugh).
This part of the storyline is all very much a means to the end in a big series of machinations that I’m quite honestly tired of. I’ve lost the thread on what we’re supposed to be paying attention to at Stonewall. Within this episode alone, there are three different books/stories of Jughead’s that are seriously discussed in the plot, not all of which are relevant to the Baxter Brothers contract. If the Baxter Brothers contract is a Macguffin, it is not a very good one.
Things ultimately come to a head when Jughead is accused of plagiarism for the story he submitted to Yale and the laptop he wrote it on has gone missing. FP and Betty strategize with Jughead on alternate ways to prove his innocence and concoct what may be the most ridiculous scheme yet: a lie detector test.
The Stonewall kids — who outmatch Betty and Jughead by 1,000, I’m sorry to say — are not moved by Betty, a teenager, administering a four-question polygraph test to her boyfriend who is also a teenager. (She could have at least called in Charles for credibility!)
As much as I love Jughead, watch his story with any level of objectivity and you can see how insane he sounds. (This goes for Betty, too.) As conspiratorial as he was with the Gryphons and Gargoyles storyline of season three, the way that Jughead talks about Stonewall makes him sound childish and naive, two very un-Jug qualities.
Jughead is ready to face down the headmaster at his plagiarism hearing and also come forward with his accusations about the other Stonewall Preppies, when Bret tells him he does have a sex tape of Betty and Jughead and he’ll release it if he says anything.
In a wrenching scene, Jughead goes to the hearing and agrees to leave, tears in his eyes, perhaps the first time Jughead has ever quit. FP yells at him for giving up and walking away from the fight, but Jughead tells him the game was rigged the whole time.
He starts to pack up his room and Betty surmises that Bret indeed has a tape of them. Jughead brushes it aside, saying the school sucks all around. (Which honestly, yes. He has never been in any class other than Baxter Brothers there. Does Stonewall Prep teach math? Science?)
Bret and Donna come by to rub it in and invite him to a party in the woods that night. In case it isn’t clear yet, the writers of Riverdale really want you to beware the Ides of March (and recognize the millions of flash-forwards to the bonfire we’ve seen)!
Jughead asks Betty if she trusts him and tells her she loves him. They split up to meet at the party later, and in the most satisfying moment of the entire season, Jughead takes off his Stonewall uniform and puts his Serpents jacket back on, flicking his switchblade open, too.
In a very weird power move, Jughead takes a rubber rabbit mask with him to the party, puts it on and walks up to Bret without saying anything. Bret, of course, knows it’s him and follows him away to “finish things.”
Simultaneously, Betty is looking for Jughead and runs into Donna, who she feels the need to monologue to. Betty always does this. And it never ends well. Donna tries to go “tangerine” on Betty, but this time, takes it one step further, saying she visited Evelyn Evernever in prison and got a word that will send her into a fugue state and make her violent. (Seriously. What.)
You’re telling me Jug brought a switchblade to fight Bret and we didn’t get to see that because Donna got a word from Evelyn Evernever to make Betty go crazy?
Smash cut to the same flashback we saw a few weeks ago as Archie checks Jughead’s pulse and accuses Betty who holds a bloody rock, except now we’ve caught up to the present.
I am almost done with this show. Riverdale has proven it can pull itself together at the very end, but this season is testing me!
Maybe I’m in denial, but I still don’t believe Jughead is actually going to be dead. That would be an insane move for Riverdale to make, one that I think would ultimately not work for their fanbase.
Then there’s the question of structure. How does a show that’s built its narrative frame around Jughead’s voiceover kill him off? Even this episode is told from Jughead’s perspective.
Jughead does look very, very dead, though. So the only possibility at this point is that Jughead and Betty are in on some insane plan together to fake his death, with FP perhaps involved, too. Jughead has been writing murder mysteries all year, after all…