We gave it a C+
Oh, Riverdale, what are we to do with you? From the moment the show introduced the “Archie and his teacher are making the beast with two backs” story line, we should’ve known it would struggle to craft an ending for that story that worked. Sure, Riverdale is more self-aware than the teen dramas we’re used to, but alas, tonight’s perfectly average episode reveals that it can’t avoid all of the genre’s missteps.
If there’s a theme to “The Last Picture Show,” it’s that most of the characters are desperately trying to hold on to something that’s slipping away from them. Archie doesn’t want his relationship with Grundy to end; Jughead is fighting to save his home away from home from being demolished (my favorite story in tonight’s episode); and Veronica isn’t entirely ready to accept the truth about how her family lives the way it does. All of this sounds interesting on the surface, but the execution elicits a, “Well, okay, I guess…” Furthermore, the episode doesn’t do much in terms of advancing the Jason Blossom story line, either.
As always, tonight’s episode opens with Jughead doing his best Carrie Bradshaw impression as he talks about the town’s decision to close his beloved Twilight Drive-In theater and the fact that Jason Blossom’s murder has suddenly turned the town into Salem, which is quite hyperbolic. But, in a surprise twist, he yields the narrating floor to Betty, who does her best Elena Gilbert impression as she journals about Grundrews in her diary — or Chekhov’s diary, to be exact, because you know this going to come back to haunt her.
Betty finally gets her chance to confront Archie about what she knows later that night at Pop’s when Archie strolls into the diner with his father and Geraldine. (Fred and Archie went to see Ms. Grundy perform, and then Fred awkwardly invited her out to dinner.) Veronica, who follows Betty outside to talk to Archie, learns about Gerachie and is delighted by how salacious it all is. Betty doesn’t get anywhere with Archie, though, because her mother pulls up and orders her to get in the car. Meanwhile, Kevin and Jughead watch all this unfold from inside Pop’s and wonder what life was like before Veronica got there. BORING, PROBABLY!
Archie is worried that Betty will do something crazy with this information. We know he should worry, because we saw what she did in last week’s episode (which, for the record, I didn’t dislike as much as your regular recapper Marc Snetiker did). I’m happy to report that Betty doesn’t try to boil Ms. Grundy alive. Instead, she lies that the newspaper is writing a series of article spotlighting teachers so that she can interview her. During the interview, Geraldine lets slip that Jason Blossom was also one of her independent study students.
“He was an inspiration,” says Geraldine, to which Betty, having no tact whatsoever, responds, “And pretty cute, right?” Ms. Grundy says she doesn’t think of her students that way, and the interview ends.
Fighting the good fight to keep the Twilight open, Jughead meets with Mayor McCoy and explains why the drive-in means so much to him. It’s where he works, but it’s also where he and his sister Jellybean used to go when they were younger, even though they couldn’t afford it. The mayor says there’s nothing she can do to stop the demolition, but what she doesn’t say is that she agreed to demolish the theater because the Lodges want the land and made a charitable donation to her re-election campaign to make it happen. (Gah! If we can’t count on our local elected officials, who can we count on?! We need to drain the swamp that is Riverdale!) Jughead tries to guilt-trip Fred into not demolishing the Twilight by reminding him that he fired Jughead’s father, but that doesn’t work either.
Determined to find some dirt on Grundy, Betty Googles her and discovers that this Geraldine Grundy didn’t exist until a year ago; however, that fact isn’t enough to convince the love-stoned Archie that anything’s amiss with this woman. (Grundy knows Archie is love stoned and uses it to her advantage to dodge his questions about their future together). Realizing she needs more evidence, Betty recruits Veronica to break into Grundy’s car (their second B&E together!), where they discover a lock box containing an ID for Jennifer Gibson — and a gun.
The girls’ discovery raises Archie’s suspicions enough, and he asks Grundy about Jennifer Gibson. She reveals she changed her name to get away from her alcoholic and abusive husband, who put her in the emergency room several times. That explanation is enough for Archie, who now believes that he can’t leave her because he’s all she has. But Betty later points out that this relationship can’t possibly be healthy because it’s cutting him off from the other people in his life.
NEXT: Let’s go to the movies