By Samantha Highfill
October 10, 2018 at 09:01 PM EDT
Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW
S3 E1
  • TV Show
  • The CW

Welcome to season 3 of Riverdale, friends, and I’ve gotta say, based on this opening hour, I already like it better than season 2. The core four getting to hang out for some summer fun? Great. Hiram being super evil? Great. A strange new True Detective-esque mystery? I’m weirdly into it. Cheryl being a vigilante? Not-so-weirdly into it. The only thing I’m not fully into is, well, levitating babies, but we’ll get to that. That’s all my way of saying that I was all in on this premiere until the very, very end, and even that could turn into something interesting. Let’s start at the beginning!

As the summer before junior year comes to an end, we find out how everyone’s been spending their time: Veronica’s been waitressing at Pop’s, Betty has been interning for Archie’s legal team — which just so happens to be his mother and Mrs. McCoy — and Archie, well, he’s been wearing bowties to court in the hopes that they make him look extra innocent. Speaking of his trial, it’s time for the closing arguments. The prosecution throws all of Archie’s bad choices — or at least most of them — in his face with mentions of his assault on Nick St. Clair, that time he threatened to shoot Sweet Pea, and of course, the one true crime that Archie should maybe actually serve time for: Starting not one, but two masked vigilante groups. Oh, Arch.

The prosecution is not a fan of Archie’s classic excuse: “My girlfriend’s father’s doorman did it!” Instead, they want to send “that man” who looks a lot like a teenage BOY to jail for being a “cold-blooded killer.” Now, it’s Archie’s mom’s turn to speak. By the way, can I just say that there is NO WAY his mother should be his attorney! Even if that IS allowed, which I don’t know if it is, it’s a terrible idea: The jury is probably sitting there thinking “OF COURSE you think he’s innocent. He’s your SON.”

But this is Riverdale, so anything goes (including the fact that this courtroom looks like it’s straight out of A Time To Kill with its lack of air conditioning). Archie’s mom gets up and talks about all the good Archie’s done — this trial is a real walk down memory lane for ol’ Arch — from helping solve Jason’s murder to that time he punched through a river of ice to save Cheryl. According to mama bear, there is “nothing here that proves that Archie Andrews is anything less than an innocent boy.” A SWEET, STUPID, INNOCENT PRECIOUS BABY BOY.

With the closing arguments done, the jury heads out to deliberate and when they can’t reach a verdict quickly, the judge — whose name is C. Britton, y’all! — dismisses the court to reconvene on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. As for Arch, the judge advises him to spend his weekend with his family and loved ones, you know, not to make it painfully obvious that the judge thinks Archie is about to go to jail.

On the way out of the courthouse, Hiram tells Archie to “have a terrific weekend,” which gets him punched in the face by Fred. As for Archie, he heads to Pop’s with Jug, Betty, and Veronica, where the girls don’t waste any time discussing ways to prove Archie’s innocence. But all Archie wants is to have a great, normal Labor Day weekend, and that’s Cheryl’s cue. The redheaded bombshell has just returned from three months on the road with Toni and she invites the gang to a pool party at her place, because what good is an episode of Riverdale that’s set in the summer if people aren’t half-naked?!

Before the party, Betty heads over to help Archie and Fred finish up Archie’s car, but she gets stopped by her mom and Polly, who are now fully immersed in the Farm lifestyle and doing whatever their leader, Edgar, says. As for Betty, she claims to be going to therapy. With that interaction out of the way, she visits Arch, who makes Betty promise to look after Fred if Archie goes away. And so she does.

While Hiram simply tells his daughter that the Archie situation is “beyond my control,” Jughead (and Fangs’ abs!) are coming up with a plan to keep an eye on the Ghoulies. Apparently, the Serpents are now living out of tents (and possibly running out of clothes). Meanwhile, FP is finishing a Serpent tattoo for Archie so that he can use it to get protection behind bars. And honestly, it’s probably the best thing he’s done thus far in terms of preparing for this verdict. That being said, are we supposed to believe that FP has a portable tattoo gun that’s totally and completely sterile? (Next: Archie’s fate is sealed)

Next up, it’s time for the pool party, where we discover that Josie and Sweet Pea have been enjoying a summer fling that Josie claims ends now. Then there’s Kevin and Moose, who are potentially making a pact to lose their virginity by … Halloween. (Kevin’s not very patient.)

As for shirtless Reggie, he agrees to help keep the peace between the Serpents and Bulldogs if Archie goes away, a thought that makes Cheryl sad. Archie saved her life once, and now she can’t do anything to help him. Well, she might not be able to, but Veronica has a plan. Josie tells her where the jury is staying at the Five Seasons, and all Veronica has to do is get one of them to hear her out. Because jury tampering is always a good plan.

But Veronica’s insane plan isn’t our only problem: It seems the Ghoulies have taken Hot Dog, and based on the “no Serpent left behind” principle, Jug makes a plan to get their spirit animal back. And if Betty is his Serpent Queen, she’s going with him (along with a few others).

Neither plan goes perfectly, but one does go better than the other: While Veronica is caught by Sheriff Minetta — thankfully all he does is call her mother — Jug at least does get Hot Dog back. But there’s a catch: Penny Peabody and the Ghoulies start to get a little too intense, and trigger-happy Cheryl puts an arrow in one of their shoulders. Before they can move in, Cheryl aims her next arrow for Penny’s head. So yeah, the Ghoulies back down, but in the greater scheme of things, Jug just made the North Side fair game. (But also, CHERYL FOR THE WIN.)

The next day, it’s time to head to the Sweetwater watering hole, where Archie will go swimming days after getting a tattoo and possibly get an infection that will cause him to lose his arm! (Especially considering that the last time they were here, they were attacked by leeches!) But before he picks everyone up in his hot new ride, Polly and Alice call Betty out for lying: It seems there is no therapist. Instead, Betty has been writing herself prescriptions for Adderall. Apparently, Betty’s having trouble dealing with the fact that her father murdered four people and her mother and sister are in a cult. Can you imagine?!

Once Jug, Betty, Veronica, and Archie arrive at the watering hole, they strip down to their symbolic undies — Veronica’s are black, Betty’s are pink — and jump in. Aside from Archie’s now festering infection, here’s another issue: IF YOU’RE GOING TO A WATERING HOLE, WHY DON’T YOU BRING A BATHING SUIT!?

The four of them dry off next to a fire where Jughead seriously burns some marshmallows before suggesting Archie make a break for it. Apparently, there are some Serpents in Quebec — talk about far from the South Side — who could help him. But Archie can’t. As he says, “I didn’t kill anyone but I could’ve. I have to take responsibility for that.” Welp, we’ve done it, guys. We’ve just witnessed the DUMBEST thing Archie has ever said.

As the day ends, the couples break apart: First, Jug promises to be there for Betty as she works through all her family drama. He even gives her the matching beanie she never asked for. As for Veronica and Archie, they have sex by the fire while they still can. And then Veronica stops Archie from breaking up with her. She is not letting her dad take away the one thing that she loves. (Sorry, Hermione.)

And that brings us to verdict day, which kicks off with Dilton showing up at Jug’s trailer claiming that his favorite role-playing game is more than just a game. “He’s real. The Gargoyle King,” Dilton says, but Jug has to get to the courthouse. He tells Dilton to wait for him in his kitchen.

The jury is deadlocked, six votes to six, but the state is prepared to offer Archie a deal: Time served plus two years in juvenile detention, and Archie accepts it. He doesn’t want to put anyone through another trial.

With Archie off to face his fate, his mom has to return to Chicago, but she’s already written the appeal. Plus, Fred tells her not to worry, THE HOT DADS OF RIVERDALE WILL HANDLE IT! FP and Sheriff Keller are already in Fred’s living room, and they’re going to prove Hiram was behind all of this (hopefully by wresting one another shirtless).

As for the Lodge family, Hiram admits that he didn’t do this to hurt Archie. He did it because Veronica betrayed him. “This is your punishment. You chose that boy over blood,” he says. “My own daughter.” Veronica’s response: “You don’t have a daughter anymore.”

And Jug doesn’t have a Dilton anymore. He returns home to a creepy drawing and a map of sorts that takes him deep into the woods. There, he finds Dilton and Ben basically bowing at the foot of some creepy Gargoyle King altar. They’ve got carvings in their backs, and they appear dead. Like I said, this is some True Detective stuff, and I’m into it!

What I’m less into? Betty returns home to find members of the Farm in her backyard, and then she watches as Polly and Alice lift Polly’s twins above a fire and let go … leaving the babies to LEVITATE. But then Betty collapses and starts seizing, so here’s to hoping she was hallucinating, because I don’t know if I can handle a Gargoyle King AND levitating babies.

Babies aside, I really loved this hour. It had everything I want from Riverdale: Shirtless shenanigans, romance, good drama, good music moments, hot dads, vigilante Cheryl, and a new mystery. So far, season 3 is off to a good start.

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