Riverdale season 4 episode 18 review: Voyeurs and vixens
Riverdale’s “Lynchian” gives Barchie fans a taste of what they want while failing to commit fully to the stakes.
Picking up where we last left off with Riverdale, even though its main mystery of the season (who “killed” Jughead) has been wrapped up, this week continues to dive into the “voyeur” VHS tapes with Jughead showing Betty, Charles, and Alice the tape of someone recreating his attempted murder wearing Betty and Jughead masks.
While Betty is taking a break from mysteries to swoon over Archie on the side, Jughead couldn’t stop investigating if he tried, so he forges ahead with Charles to solve the mystery of the voyeur.
There’s a lot of random details here, including a cliffhanger that reveals another recreation snuff tape of the Blossom murder, but nothing is really connected or revealed. The biggest new piece revolves around the Blue Velvet Video Store. (Get it? Lynchian.)
It appears that there are a lot of comings and goings with the voyeur tapes there (including a visit from Principal Honey), but Charles and Jughead never actually figure anything out. And thanks to the truncated season, we probably won’t learn anything until the fall either.
Of course, while Jughead is trying to solve the newest weirdness in Riverdale and Veronica is trying to get a gang of old men off her back (sidebar: why doesn’t she have hired security with her at all times, but also at the Maple Club?), Archie and Betty meet up in the bunker. Sigh.
I guess it’s a pretty standard trope of teen shows to do the surreptitious cheating thing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always a good choice.
An almost perfect mirror to this occurs in season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (20-year spoiler alert) when Xander and Willow start secretly making out behind Cordelia and Oz’s backs. Like Archie and Betty, they’re lifelong friends with some unrequited but long-ignored feelings for each other.
While Archie and Betty rediscover their feelings for each other due to their fake-dating scheme, Xander and Willow’s romance ignites when they see each other dressed up for a dance. Both feelings come out of a reminder that your best friend is also a sexual being.
I wouldn’t be so opposed to this Barchie thing, but like many things on Riverdale, it’s kind of half-hearted and thrown away too quickly.
After several surreptitious meetings and a few stolen kisses — and Betty spending the majority of the episode doing nothing but reading her old diary entries about Archie — she cuts it off, reasoning that she loves Jughead and he loves Veronica, so they should stop before they hurt them.
This is the point in the script when, usually, they would both agree but then hurt them anyway — that is, if the writing has stakes. But Riverdale increasingly proves that it doesn’t. It’s a show that kills Jughead only for him to be alive. Archie and Betty get together — except not really.
What Buffy did right that Riverdale got wrong was make its characters fallible. It let Xander and Willow make a mistake, as painful as it was for both the characters involved and the viewers watching. Riverdale wants to insist its core four are morally pure.
But they aren’t. They’re a ragtag group of gangsters, murderers, and conspirators who somehow manage to fit school in between the latest meeting with cult leaders and thugs. A little bit of heartbreak would humanize them and ground them in the teenage experience a bit.
Keeping with things the characters on Riverdale do that feel very out of place for high schoolers, Reggie finds out about Kevin and Fangs’s tickle scheme they have going on. In typical Reggie fashion, he’s nonplussed by the complete and total weirdness of it but instead wants in on the cold, hard cash.
Kevin loops him in, and once Reggie realizes how much they actually could be making without Tyler (the guy Kevin went on a Grindr date with who roped him into this mess) taking his cut, he decides they should go independent.
I still cannot believe this is an actual storyline on Riverdale, but here we are. This leads us to a team-up with Reggie and Toni (please give these two something better than this for the love of God), bringing the Vixens and Bulldogs into a massive tickling operation.
Tyler, of course, finds out and threatens to break Kevin’s fingers with what has to be one of Riverdale‘s top five most ridiculous lines: “Forty percent. Or you’ll never tickle anyone ever again.” Enough said.
Thankfully, Mr. Honey finds out, and due to the school uniforms in the video, shuts down the tickling scheme (and storyline) once and for all. For once, thank you, Principal Honey.
However, the tickling storyline did deliver something good: the quasi-reunion of Kevin and Fangs. In a sweet scene near the episode’s end, the former couple discusses their college plans. Kevin shares that he got into Carnegie Mellon, and Fangs reveals that he got into the University of Pittsburgh (yeah, Fangs!).
While the two didn’t plan to go to school together, Fangs shares that he did choose a school close to Kevin, and also one that gave him a scholarship. They sweetly ponder what it would be like to date outside of Riverdale, and honestly, that’s a show I would love to see.
If it isn’t already clear, “Lynchian” was busy and chaotic, not moving any plot point forward. There’s an entire B story in this episode revolving around Hiram, Veronica, and the Maple Club that would make paint dry.
As this season of Riverdale winds down, I hope it can find its footing again. Riverdale is wacky and campy, but it still has to be on rails and follow a set of rules in order to work.
Riverdale airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.