Riverdale recap: 'Chapter Four: The Last Picture Show'
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
We have to take a break from the Archie-and-Geraldine of it all to get to this week’s event of the week: the final screening at the Twilight Drive-In. Alas, Jughead’s efforts to stop the Twilight from closing fail, so everyone in town shows up for the drive-in’s last night open.
Everyone who is everyone attends the Twilight’s last night, but very few of them actually end up watching the movie. Cheryl, continuing her trend of forcing her way into friend groups she actively terrorizes, plops herself right next to Veronica and Kevin in Kevin’s pick-up truck. Kevin, who is on the verge of eating his feelings after watching a couple make-out, ends up hooking up with a South Side Serpent behind the booth. Meanwhile, Hermione, who came to the event with her ex, Fred Andrews, sneaks off to meet with a member of the South Side Serpent gang because Mr. Lodge hired them to help decrease the value of the drive-in property. Hermione doesn’t notice that her suspicious daughter is watching this all go down.
As Chekhov once said, if you introduce a diary in Act 1, it must be go off in Act 4… or something. Anyway, Alice takes it upon herself to read her daughter’s diary after she finds Grundy’s gun in Betty’s drawer. Based on what we see, her first instinct isn’t to tell the police but to use this as an opportunity to ruin Archie in her daughter’s eyes, because she thinks all redheaded boys are the same; they will all treat her daughters terribly. So she interrupts Fred’s evening out with Hermione and drags both him and Betty to the school for her own staging of To Catch a Predator. This complicated trio ends up walking in on Archie and Grundy, who were sharing a tender goodbye hug after Archie told her it was time to end things.
Oh, Alice tries very hard to destroy Betty’s love for Archie, who admits to being selfish and unworthy of Betty’s friendship, but she fails. Betty stands by her man and threatens to embarrass her mother if she does anything to Archie. Meanwhile, Fred doesn’t say a word because he’s a cool (useless) dad. Geraldine, who spent the entire confrontation basically cowering in the corner, promises all of them that she’ll quit her job and leave town. And, at the end of the episode, we see her get into her car, Slurpee in hand and heart-shaped sunglasses in place, and drive off, but not before checking out a few high school football players walking by. Ew!
Just to be clear: A confirmed child predator (see that last scene) who statutorily raped one of her students is allowed to leave town without suffering any consequences whatsoever? I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel quite uncomfortable, and Riverdale‘s glib tone can’t make that feeling go away. Moreover, the conclusion of this problematic story line feels rushed, like the writers realized it wasn’t working and wanted to wrap it up really quickly. To be honest, I feel like that’s the case with almost every show that does something like this (I’m looking at you, my beloved Friday Night Lights, which tried similar stories, like, almost every season).
However, I think one way to make this story more palatable is to view this as yet another compromise that adds to the darkness lurking beneath Riverdale’s middle-American, suburban façade. It’s clear that this town is built on moral and ethical compromises such as this one. For example, think about how Mayor McCoy helped the Lodges acquire the Twilight land in exchange for a donation to her re-election campaign. Mayor McCoy knows this isn’t right and tells Hermione that no one can know she played a hand in the deal. Veronica actually confronts her mother about this crooked arrangement, and Hermione points out that their lifestyle was built on deals like this. I imagine this must at least add a few more cracks to Veronica’s worldview, because now she’s forced to accept the fact that her father is guilty.
As the episode ends, Archie cries in his father’s arms, and Jughead says goodbye to the Twilight, which is where he was living, by scrawling “Jughead Jones Wuz Here” on the side of the booth. He hopes someone in the future will see that graffiti and remember him. As he leaves, the Serpent we saw talking to Hermione comes up to him and asks where he’s going to live next. “I’ll figure it out, Dad,” says Jughead, revealing to us that his father is in gang. If there’s one thing to say about this episode, it’s that I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about Jughead’s family. What’s up with his father? Why doesn’t he live with him? Is his father the one responsible for his children’s names and the ridiculous beanie Jughead is always wearing?
- Someone broke into Sheriff Keller’s house and destroyed his Jason Blossom Murder Board.
- Archie broke up with Geraldine by pawning one of his guitars so he could buy her a new cello bow.
- Betty didn’t learn her lesson — she starts writing in her diary at the end of the episode.
- “Do you know what happens to snake when a Louboutin heel steps on it?” — Veronica, to the Serpents making noise during the movie
- “Please, God, no more Quentin Tarantino references” — Kevin, to Jughead, who was about to quote the Inglourious Basterds director as he lamented the destruction of the Twilight
- Josie and the Pussycats weren’t in the episode. Sad! (But actually.)