Archie offers an olive branch to Betty and Jughead as an autopsy bombshell rocks the school.
Chapter Two: A Touch of Evil
Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW
Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
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I suppose one could argue that in the peripheral sphere of Archie iconography, in an echelon below foundational knowledge of Archie-Betty-Veronica-Jughead, the next most evocative symbol in the series is an American classic: the milkshake. It was only a matter of time before Riverdale debuted this key item—at the end of episode 2, marking the first union of our iconic foursome — but it’s more than an innocuous prop. The milkshake is the Patronus of Riverdale, as telling of its characters’ internal pathos as tea leaves. Are you a classic friend-zone vanilla like Betty, frozen to harbor universality as well as an intact cherry? Are you a Veronican chocolate, codified in society as a taboo pleasure but largely considered to be even more rewarding for its fringe delights? Are you an indecisive, sexy strawberry, much like Archie, himself an indecisive, sexy strawberry? Or are you the milkshake equivalent of whatever makes a Jughead?

In week two, our main quartet bonds happily over self-reflective milkshakes by episode’s end, perhaps demarcating an unofficial end to the “prologue” portion of The CW’s reintroduction to these characters. But in order to get to this delicious resolution, reconciliation is necessary, and episode two of Riverdale is all about reconciling, be it a friendship or cause of death. Regarding the latter, Jason Blossom’s puffy body is finally undergoing an autopsy following the reveal that he died from a gunshot to the forehead rather than drowning. This week, another bombshell drops: He didn’t die on July 4, but over a week later! (Allow me to get deep into this highly confusing timeline a little bit further down this recap, page 2.)

Meanwhile, for those still alive, opening up is even tougher. Veronica and Betty weather the first test in their new friendship. Archie and Jughead bury whatever sharpened their hatchet. Betty and Archie try to return to Plato’s cave after a moment in the light. Miss Grundy straddles a cello.

Let’s start with Veronica, woefully underutilized and appreciated this week.Betty is still frosty about V and Archie’s seven minutes in Cheryl-mandated heaven, so Veronica tries to restore their nascent friendship through sweet gestures like mani-pedis and cupcakes. (One thing I can’t reconcile vis-à-vis the weird retro-modern setting of Riverdale is the idea that Magnolia Cupcakes exists in the same world as Pop’s Chock’Lit Shoppe). Betty spurns Veronica’s amends, though, and if I do say so myself, her reaction to Veronica’s “betrayal” seems a little extreme, considering that Betty doesn’t even know that anything necessarily occurred in the closet. Maybe they visited Narnia? Fillory? Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30? And Veronica, too, judges her actions to the extreme; her self-diagnosis of “toxic bitchery” is equally undeserved. It was a game, and, as she confesses, she was only trying to make sure Cheryl didn’t take Archie instead. (Let’s just set aside the idea that Veronica and Archie actually do belong together until at least, like, week four.)

Ultimately and happily, Betty and Veronica’s rift is short-lived. Betty forgives her eventually, touched by how she supports tormentor Cheryl during her pep rally panic attack. But any good viewer knows that Betty will only dub Veronica v good for a v short time.

Next, there are the sweet conciliatory efforts of Archie, who must mend bridges with several people. Most pressing is Betty, who ignores his texts following his midnight refusal to reciprocate her feelings of love. Betty punishes him partly on behalf of a broken heart, and partly by the unconscious urging of her batshit insane mother Alice, who has been outrageously gaslighting Betty into avoiding quite literally everyone in Riverdale (except, presumably, Kevin, which seems shockingly tolerant for Mrs. Cooper). But as teen girls are wont to do, Betty is eager to disobey her mother — plus, she misses Archie and his perfectly-fitted V-necks — so she tries to swallow her pride and stay platonic friends with Archie.

It lasts for approximately 10 minutes. When Archie debuts his terrible new guitar tune and Betty realizes she’s not The One he’s singing about, she’s hit again with a sudden wave of despair and calls off their tentative friendship once more.

Archie’s other battle lies with pornographic cellist Miss Grundy, who continues to block Archie’s plans to confess their whereabouts on July 4th. Archie suffers through sleepless, sweaty, God-bless-The-CW shirtless nights, mulling his moral dilemma, so he once again demands that he and Grundy come forward, and Grundy once again cites her feared consequences of job loss and jail as a reason to hush.

Now, if you’ve ever watched a teen drama in your life, you know that Grundy is absolutely hiding something here and has deeper ties to this whole Jason Blossom mystery than Archie would naïvely fail to suspect. THEORY TIME. I’ve been trying to figure out the reason why Jason Blossom had to look exactly like the Cheez Nips version of Archie, and there must be more reason for it than simply serving to set off Cheryl’s pep rally breakdown. So dare I suggest that Grundy has a redhead fetish and that Archie wasn’t the only ripped ginger tween the teacher has seduced? I don’t think it’s a wild leap to guess that Grundy has some sort of connection to Jason Blossom — definitely sexual, potentially love, unlikely rainbow. My brain says yes, but my heart says yas.

NEXT: Jughead witnesses sensual finger grazing in the choir room

The fact that Jughead has already discovered Archie and Grundy’s secret relationship is a sign of great promise as to Riverdale’s mentality toward the length a secret ought to stay secret on a TV show. Moreover, this episode samples necessary insight into how Jughead seems to fit into Archie’s life in general at Riverdale High. He’s at odds with Archie’s dumbass football friends Reggie and Moose, which seems par for the course for any sensitive intellectual whose best friend moonlights as a jock. He’s not so anti-Archie that he won’t stop by his locker, but the terms of their speaking are limited. He’s also miffed at Archie for bailing on their planned July 4th road trip — but it’d be folly to guess that this is the reason for their long-standing rift in the pilot and that Archie and Jughead’s fall-out is no more dramatic than a cancelled day trip to Six Flags Riverdale.

But most telling of all, it’s Jughead’s late-night confrontation at Archie’s house — wherein Archie reveals the truth about Grundy, July 4th, and Sweetwater River — that we learn the most important thing about this pair: Despite their drama, there’s a deep trust between these two, and it transcends this momentary halt in their friendship when events of real import occur. It’s almost relieving to see Archie unburden onto Jughead, even slightly. Though their encounter ends poorly with a loose threat when Jughead impels Archie to come forward, the message has been sent: Archie will do the right thing and confess.

At the pep rally, Archie does a rapid-fire round of the-episode’s-almost-over damage control: He informs Grundy (who apparently does nothing at this school except stand around looking incredibly shady at all times) that he’s going to the police, with or without her. He apologizes to Jughead for everything and makes a heartwarming plan for burgers. He even shares a moment of unspoken tenderness with Betty, which seems enough to convince her to try and chase the platonic dream once again. All signs point to a smooth confession. And then, Cheryl Blossom is arrested.

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A quick rewind on Cheryl Blossom this week: Riverdale’s high-ponied vixen of vitriol is headlining a pep rally to honor Jason, because much like a Real Housewife, she will grieve in public for as long as it’s commercially viable. Though briefly humanized by mistaking Archie for Jason, Cheryl continues to take her brother’s death in great strides, which makes her arrest seem as shocking as it does inevitable.

A red flag should have been raised on Cheryl the second Jason’s body was discovered with more bullet holes than is the normal number for an average teenage boy (one). She has unconvincingly amended her alibi to say they both fell into the water, but she made it to shore and Jason “maybe made it to the other side of the river and someone shot him there.” Wow, ironclad. Call Christine Baranski, case closed.

Throughout it all, Cheryl seems genuinely intent on finding Jason’s killer. When she finds herself alone with Betty in a vengeful act of Veronica-aimed pettiness, Cheryl turns a weirdly sensual makeover (with more straddling than seems necessary) into an interrogation session. Cheryl’s motive is clear: She wants to know what really happened in the final fight between Betty’s sister and Jason. But Betty throws Cheryl out with another surprisingly violent curlicue — “Get the hell out of my house before I kill you” — before Cheryl can get an answer.

Our last red flag: Cheryl says to Veronica at the pep rally, “You don’t understand. He was supposed to come back.” So, this week’s Blossom Watch poses some theoretical scenarios, none of which are probably accurate:

  1. Cheryl participated in this boat ride as an alibi for Jason to do something across the river. (Murder? Drugs? Grundy? Polly?) He was supposed to return, but didn’t.
  2. Cheryl did something with Jason illegally across the river, but it went wrong, and Cheryl bailed.
  3. Jason was never going to come back. People fake their deaths and start new lives all the time.

The big flaw with all this is that Jason didn’t actually die on July 4th, meaning that Cheryl would need a brutally good reason to spread the word that Jason was dead after being a few hours late. My bet is premeditation. (I also recognize that parsing out the whodunit of Riverdale isn’t exactly high or necessary science, but I’ve been burned by two years of How to Get Away with Murder speculation that theory floating feels required at this point.)

Now, the rest of Riverdale wrap-up:

  • Archie and Veronica: I admire their budding companionship and their willingness to simultaneously make amends with Betty and not address what happened in the closet. I’m still shipping them, though, which brings Veronica’s point column in the B vs. V weekly shipping showdown to two.
  • Hermione Lodge, having fallen from grace, has seemingly accepted the only job she could find: A waitress at Pop’s. One has to wonder whether she really looked around or if this was just an excuse to get the older half of Riverdale’s audience demo invested in a TBD sexy story line between Marisol Nichols and the former love of her life, Luke Perry.
  • Riverdale’s morning announcements are, like, probably not the ideal place to discuss a dead student’s case being reclassified as a homicide?
  • Kevin continues to be mildly problematic, because despite the show’s attempts to joke about him not having much character development beyond being “the gay friend,” he ACTUALLY doesn’t have character development beyond being “the gay friend.” If the Moose story line pays off in a real emotional way, then I’ll retract this judgment; for now, he seemingly exists to have the majority of his relationship problems explored offscreen. (Case in point: Don’t just tell us Moose has demons. Show us the conversation that led Kevin to this conclusion.) But his dad’s the sheriff, so, sure, let’s go with that as his big development this week.
  • In keeping with the theme of bare-minimum exploration of minor characters, Josie’s mom is the mayor. Fun! I have a new theory about Josie and the Pussycats, by the way, and it involves an obsessive Lost-like inquest into the lyrics of their musical performances and whether they signal clues about Jason Blossom’s death. I am 99 percent sure this exercise will yield no results, but I encourage everyone to try.
  • Alice Cooper is giving me unhinged vibes the likes of which we haven’t seen since Marcia Cross on Melrose Place. According to Archie lore, she’s the head of the local paper, which would outwardly suggest why she paid off the coroner to get a sneak peek at Jason’s corpse, but it seems unlikely that she sought autopsy access only to blog about it.

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Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
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