Riverdale recap: 'Chapter Thirty-One: A Night to Remember'
Welcome, all of you, to the Riverdale musical episode, or as I like to call it, a bright light in what’s otherwise been a very confusing season. Not only do we get singing, but this episode also delivers the kind of last-minute twist we want from this show. I should’ve known that the theatrics of a musical would pair perfectly with the theatrics of Riverdale. Anyhow, let’s get into it, shall we?
The hour wastes no time in giving us our first group musical number. After Kevin hands Jughead a camera — never a good idea to give an almost-too-curious person a camera — and asks him to be the official videographer for the school’s production of Carrie: The Musical, we cut to the real drama: Archie doing push-ups…wait for it…WHILE READING. Could Archie’s IQ one day grow to be as impressive as his biceps? THAT is the true mystery of Riverdale, and only time will tell.
The group number then leads us directly into Kevin welcoming everyone — viewers included — to Carrie: The Musical. Running down the cast, he announces Archie as Tommy, the boy next door, and Betty as Sue, the good girl. Veronica is taking on the role of mean girl Chris while Cheryl gets to play the iconic Carrie White, a fact that clearly isn’t sitting well with Josie and Ethel. Then there’s Alice, who has returned to the high school to play the part of Carrie’s mom because, as Kevin puts it, there’s “nothing more inappropriate than age-inappropriate casting.” Finishing out the cast is Chuck Clayton, desperate to redeem his reputation. He’s not a bad guy, he swears!! Watch, he can sing! How can he be a bad guy if he can sing?!
With the cast set, we get into the drama of it all. Betty’s still very mad at Veronica, whom she thinks is just perfect for the part of the “privileged selfish mean girl,” and while she’s busy explaining to Archie why his girlfriend is in the wrong, Cheryl is looking to prove her haters wrong. Are there haters? Maybe. There’s a good chance they’re only in her head and/or it’s just Josie and Ethel, but Cheryl takes the opportunity to stand up and belt out a solo to prove her vocal prowess. Annnnnd then a sandbag drops from the ceiling and nearly kills her. WELCOME TO RIVERDALE’S VERSION OF A FUN MUSICAL!
As for who was responsible for Cheryl’s near-death — but really like near-serious contusion incident — Kevin tells Jug that he received a letter in his locker from someone alleging to be the Black Hood. The letter consisted of cut-out magazine letters, and it demanded that Cheryl be recast. But Kevin’s not too worried yet, and as they say, the show must go on.
And go on it does, with Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Chuck wearing some amazing throwback jeans — and Archie dancing in a way that cannot be described with words. It’s truly magical, and I hope you all watch this number at least twice. Let’s just say: If you thought Archie looked sexy doing push-ups, wait until you see him enthusiastically snap!
From there, we cut to a hallway makeout sesh with Arch and Veronica, after which he asks if he can keep his car parked at her place. He hasn’t told Fred about it yet because he knows it will upset him. So for now, Veronica says “our garage is your garage,” only Hiram doesn’t agree. Seeing as how Fred’s mayoral campaign is all about family, the Lodges want to keep that family apart, which is precisely why Hiram shows up to the school — where Fred is working on the sets for the musical — and mentions the car to Fred. “A young man never forgets his first car,” Hiram says as he walks away. And as Archie expected, Fred is not happy. It seems Fred had a whole plan: They were going to find a car at the junkyard and fix it up together and partake in some serious father-son bonding, and now it’s all ruined!
Speaking of things being ruined, Jug betrays Kevin’s confidentiality and tells Betty about the Black Hood letter. Betty thinks it’s from Ethel, who wanted to play the role of Carrie, so she and Jug launch an undercover operation, which consists of Betty trying to get Ethel to admit to the letter while Jug creepily films the conversation from a (short) distance. Does Jug think that documenting the musical means documenting things like this? I told you they never should’ve given him a camera! Long story short, Ethel catches Jug because he’s not good at this, and tells them she’d never harm anybody. So that’s that. For now.
Back on stage, Josie and Cheryl are rehearsing a song about friendship, which more or less forces Cheryl to apologize for all of the crazy things she did in the name of her Josie obsession. And apparently that’s all Josie needs, because by the end of the song, the lyrics have healed them.
And while one friendship heals, another is…not looking great. After Veronica sings a song about how “My daddy taught me you’ll get nowhere being nice,” Betty decides to go for the jugular: She explains to Veronica why she’s the “literal embodiment of Chris,” a spoiled rich girl with major daddy issue who aims to control everyone around her, including her boyfriend.
Archie quickly sits down with Betty. He can’t understand how Betty could be so mean considering how quickly Veronica forgave her after the Black Hood forced Betty to say all those horrible things. So Archie poses the question of who should be playing Chris and who should be playing Sue? (Side note: Jug is creepily filming this whole conversation! I feel like this assignment is revealing something about Jug, and I’m not comfortable with it.)
That leads us into Tommy and Sue’s — so Archie and Betty’s — love ballad, “You Shine,” which quickly becomes a (platonic) love ballad between Betty and V. V admits she’s been a terrible friend. Betty disagrees. They sing. They hug. Conflict over! It turns out, musical really can save the world this town (and also, this show). (Next: Someone winds up dead)
Brief pause for an Alice update: After FP is too busy working to accept her invite to the musical, she walks away from him, refusing to make the same mistakes all over again. She then heads home, takes off her leather and replaces it with her cardigan, snapping instantly back into mom mode as she calls Chic. Apparently he won’t return her calls and she’s worried about him.
Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled programming, where Kevin has received another letter from the Black Hood. This time, Kevin goes to Cheryl and tells her that he has no choice but to recast. And as much as Cheryl doesn’t want to “succumb to thespian terrorism,” she doesn’t have a choice when her mother shows up, refuses to give parental approval for the musical, and takes Cheryl home.
But the role of Carrie STILL doesn’t go to Ethel. Apparently, Midge was the understudy all along, which is why she gets to sing the mother-daughter duet with Alice, though in Alice’s mind, she’s singing to Betty — so much so that she breaks down crying and asks Betty not to leave her: “Don’t leave me like all the others,” she says before running off stage.
Betty catches up with Alice in the hallway, who’s mid-breakdown about how she gave away her son when he was born, and she just sent him away again. Not to mention that things are terrible with Hal, which leaves only Alice’s “frayed” relationship with Betty. That gives Betty an idea: By episode’s end, she convinces Hal to come home with some flowers and ask to move back in. Alice accepts, and Betty is literally the only person in the world who’s happy about this. I’m not even convinced Alice is happy about it. Put back on that leather jacket, Alice! FP is waiting! (Really though, FP ends up showing up to the musical only to see Hal and Alice together and everything is terrible.)
With his dad still not wanting to talk to him, Archie realizes that he’s not the selfless hero that Tommy is in the musical. He recognizes that he’s been going down a dark path, so he goes to Hiram and tells him not to try and get between Archie and his father, because “that is a battle you will lose every time.” To prove it, Archie returns the car to Hiram and heads home, where he gives his dad a gift: a piece of crap car that they can restore together. It’s such a nice gesture that it makes Fred cry. Well, unless he’s crying about his son’s terrible taste in cars. It could go either way.
And that takes us back to our next group number, which consists of everyone singing, Kevin debuting the world’s largest bow tie, and Sheriff Keller lurking in the background for some reason? (He also has a shirt on for some reason?)
But the group number isn’t the main event right now. It’s cut together with Cheryl, in a pink silk dress, going full Carrie and dumping a bucket of blood on herself before confronting her mother: She knows Penelope is working with Claudius, and she knows they tried to kill Nana Rose, and if they try to hurt Nana Rose again, “I’ll end you,” she says. “I burned one house down, I’ll happily burn down another.” YES CHERYL.
Cheryl then demands to be emancipated, at which point she will get Thistle House and Nana Rose all to herself. Her final words: “Start packing mommy, you and uncle Claudius are pig people and should live amongst the pigs.” BOOM.
And that brings us to the big show! Before things begin, Jug finds cut up magazines in Ethel’s dressing room — she’s not even the understudy but she gets her own dressing room?! — but she swears they’re for her “vision board.” A vision board for murder??
Jug then passes an angry Moose in the hallway while Veronica applauds Chuck’s behavior throughout rehearsals. It seems he’s officially redeemed. Not redeemed? Chic, who shows up at the musical after not answering his mothers’s calls.
Finally, Alice is on stage singing about how it’s time for Carrie to come out of the closet when she turns to find Midge, dead, with a message (written in blood) from the Black Hood. It reads: “I am back from the dead. All those who escaped me before will die.” And then he signs it B.H. which seems unnecessary, but whatever. I guess attribution is always helpful?
And that’s where we end things: Murder in the middle of a musical! What else did you expect from a Riverdale musical?!
All in all, I give this episode a lot of credit, first and foremost for going all-in on a musical hour, but also for somehow delivering what felt like a great episode of Riverdale, music or no music. I’m partly convinced that every episode of Riverdale should be a musical. (And I’m FULLY convinced that every episode should involve Archie snapping like his life depends on it.)