Riverdale is a strange place. And I’m not even talking about the long-lost brothers or the serial killers or the super, super hot dads. I’m talking about the fact that Riverdale is a town where it’s perfectly normal for a middle-aged man to launch a rivalry with a teenager and, at one point, physically wrestle said teenager to the ground and no one bats an eyelash. After all, the title of this episode is “The Wrestler,” and that’s all about Hiram and Archie.
But before we get into all that, let me set the scene for you: It’s almost time for Pickens Day in Riverdale, a day dedicated to the man who founded the town we all know and love (and are confused by). The Pickens Day celebration is the perfect opportunity for the North and South Sides to come together, which is just what Lodge industries needs, and that’s why Veronica is doing everything she can to make that happen, including landing a performance by Josie and the Pussycats. But seeing as how Mayor McCoy does not approve of Veronica’s new role in her family’s business, that doesn’t quite work out.
For everyone else, Pickens Day is pretty much just a celebration of the place they call call home. At least until Jughead gets ahold of it.
For an oral history report, Jughead interviews Toni’s grandfather, one of the founding members of the Serpents. And he shocks Jug with the news that a historical figure isn’t as great as everyone originally thought! Can you imagine?!
Apparently, the land that Riverdale now calls home used to belong to a tribe. But under the order of Cheryl’s great-great-great grandfather, General Pickens led a raid on the town, thereby killing 400 men, women, and children just to get ahold of some maple trees and the occasional river. Of course, Jughead isn’t just going to listen to this and do nothing. Instead, he writes an article about it for the Blue and Gold, after which he has to apologize to Toni’s grandfather for using the poor man’s story as a pawn in his own revenge against the North Side.
But at the end of the day, the Serpents come together to protest Pickens Day, and when Hiram puts a swift end to the protest — he gives some speech about how the protest is just further proof of what a wonderful place Riverdale is — the hour ends with someone decapitating the statue in Pickens Park. Yes, it’s bad, but I’m not going to lie: Decapitating a statue with such clean lines? Impressive.
On the smaller scale of happenings this week, Chic learns what a truly terrible person Hal Cooper is. Hal spends the entire episode asking Chic questions and trying to kick him out of the house before Penelope offers Hal “comfort,” which is her favorite word for “sex.”
Meanwhile, Betty does everything she can to get to know her brother. After Chic mentions the scars he has from all of the clients his landlord booked for him at the hostel, Betty wastes no time in mentioning the crescent moon-shaped scars on her hand from where she digs her nails in. Because that’s totally the same thing…
Ultimately, it’s Kevin who has the real details on Chic when he remembers him from a webcam site. Turns out, Chic is a video gigolo, and when his former landlord throws out all of his stuff, Betty tries to be the supportive sister by providing him a new laptop on which he can rock the virtual worlds of people everywhere.
Later, when Chic asks why Betty’s helping him or why she even went looking for him in the first place, she tells him about #DarkBetty. She was hoping he’d have a dark side too and that they could make sense of things together. Chic’s response? Introducing Betty to webcam sex, because it’s both profitable and a fun way to escape the blackness that is your own soul. Talk about sibling bonding! (Next: Hiram vs. Archie)
And that brings us back to the central rivalry of the episode: Archie vs. Hiram. After Agent Adams tells Archie that he needs to gain Hiram’s trust, Archie asks Veronica for help getting to know her father. She suggests that Archie ditch basketball in favor of Hiram’s favorite sport, wrestling. The bad news? Archie sucks at wrestling. Sure, he can talk about weight classes while looking all kinds of delicious, but that’s about the extent of his talents.
But it’s okay, because Veronica has a backup plan. Archie can sing with her at Pickens Day. Hiram would love that! Spoiler: She’s wrong.
When Hiram finds Archie and Veronica practicing in her room, he spends the entire time belittling Archie for not being man enough to wrestle. He tells him there’s no shame in accepting defeat, but it’s Veronica who makes things extremely uncomfortable. She tells her father that Archie is actually a very talented musician who is “incredibly sexy when he sings.” WHO SAYS THAT TO THEIR FATHER?! Archie takes advantage of the moment to kiss V in front of Hiram, but then Archie decides to ditch the song. He tells Hiram he’ll see him at tryouts tomorrow.
And not only does Archie see Hiram at tryouts, but he wrestles him. Hiram is there to teach the guys what used to be his signature move — which, by the way: learning new moves doesn’t happen during tryouts — and he chooses Archie as his victim. After he pins him, he tells the teen, “I always win,” thereby feeling good about himself for pinning someone who can’t even vote yet and giving off a weird vibe that he wants a romantic relationship with his daughter. Otherwise, why such an intense rivalry??
Later, Archie storms into Hiram’s apartment and asks him, “Why don’t you like me?” The answer is somewhat obvious: Archie isn’t good enough for Hiram’s daughter. Thankfully, when Arch plays the “I took care of her while you were in prison” card, Veronica is there to step in. And next thing Archie knows, he’s getting a call from Hiram at what I can only assume is 5 a.m.
Hiram takes Archie for an early morning run and a healthy breakfast, where he tells Arch that Veronica has enough on her plate. He doesn’t want her worrying about them. So, he will tell her about this morning, which will make her happy. And from then on, he will “tolerate” Archie until this “phase is over.” Because boyfriends come and go but fathers are forever. Again, it’s a little sexual.
On the last day of tryouts, Hiram does everything he can to sink Archie: He invites Veronica to watch and gets the coach to pair Arch with Chuck, who’s in the next weight class. But, as Hiram said earlier, wrestling is about force of will, and it’s Archie who comes out the victor (all the while making awkward eye contact with Hiram). Again, ONE OF THESE MEN IS NOT A MAN. HE’S A BOY.
As for how it all ends, well, let’s just say that Archie goes from The Wrestler to The Intern, because Hiram claims he’s ready to mold Archie into a proper businessman. So get ready for more wrestling, guys!
Overall, I enjoy the Hiram-Archie stuff. Yes, it’s heinous, but that’s Riverdale. On the other hand, the Pickens Day stuff didn’t quite land, and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Chic. Also, Hal sucks. And there was a lot of Hal sucking in this episode.