Riverdale recap: Alice and Betty say a musical goodbye to Polly
I've always been a fan of Riverdale's musical episodes. They're fun, the musical numbers always tie into the stories they've been telling, and traditionally, some big things happen! But this season's musical number was different in a couple of ways: Instead of focusing on some major twists, this was an episode about grief as Alice and Betty said goodbye to Polly. And although I think that's an interesting approach, it certainly made for a less exciting hour. Something just felt... off.
The episode starts with everyone rallying around Betty at the Whyte Wyrm and asking about her mom. She says that Alice is home, listening to the Next to Normal soundtrack on repeat. And then, Betty painstakingly explains the plot of Next to Normal and how it applies to her family. I've never felt like the writing on a musical episode was so heavy-handed before. Like, we understand the parallels; we don't need Betty to explain the musical episode at the start of the musical episode!
Meanwhile, back at home, Alice isn't only listening to the Next to Normal soundtrack, she's living it. We get a glimpse inside her imagination as she, Polly, Charles, and Betty sing about how Alice's son is a little odd and her husband's boring. It's mostly true, but does being a serial killer count as being boring? I do have to say, Polly singing that she felt like she'll "live forever" almost made me spit out my water. Arguably the episode's best moment.
Betty then spends the rest of the hour singing to her mother, trying to pull her out of this imaginary life where she makes meatloaf, Charles plays football, and Polly is perfect. Upset, Betty asks her mom, "Is your plan to just never leave the house ever again," a question that feels like an attack on just about everyone who's been quarantined for a year and a half now. But when Betty proposes they see a Broadway show, Alice agrees. At least until she decides she can't leave Polly behind.
Cue the confrontation and cue Alice telling Betty that she left her for seven years, only to return and drive Polly away. Alice then tells Betty that Polly is dead because of her.
Betty leaves and runs to Kevin for a quick pep talk that's really a pep... sing? She then gets rid of her mom's record player, promises to never leave her alone, and together, they give Polly a memorial service, where for some reason, Jug is the only one not singing? He's been singing all episode, but what, is he too good for a group number? Even Frank is singing!
Speaking of Frank, let's get to the Varchie story this week, shall we? After finally getting her divorce and getting to be with Archie, Veronica doesn't want to waste any time, so she suggests they move in together. Archie says yes, but he wants to live at his place, which means Veronica will also be living with Frank and Jughead. And because Archie's still a fireman, a plot point I completely forgot about, he's not at home a lot, which means Veronica is mostly living with, well, Jughead. (Frank is also an unqualified fireman.)
And when Reggie starts telling Veronica about his stockbroker dreams, she realizes that she and Archie have very different visions for their lives. So, just as quickly as they got back together, they decide to take some time apart. Because if anything says "our relationship is over," it's one member asking the other the dreaded job interview question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
Meanwhile, Jughead and Tabitha are officially a thing! With her parents in town for Mother's Day, Tabitha invites Jughead to join them for dinner. She really just wants a buffer, so she calls Jughead her "boyfriend" in front of her parents. And when Jug suggests he could be her boyfriend for real, Tabitha accepts. And even after her father tells Jughead that Tabitha is out of his league — a fact, if we're being honest — Jug still shows up at dinner and sweeps Tabitha off her feet with a rose he steals out of one of the restaurant's vases. (Yeah, he's not good enough for her.)
Speaking of romance, there's one more couple we should talk about: After Britta is found sleeping in a closet at school, Toni tries to find her a foster home. And when Fangs suggests Cheryl, Toni takes his advice. So while Cheryl takes care of Britta for the time being, Toni returns home and tells Fangs she thinks she loves him. And he feels the same. By the end of the episode, they're a full-blown couple, and I have no real feelings about it, which is a problem I have with all of Riverdale at the moment.
So, was Next to Normal a good tie-in for the themes of this episode? Yes. Was this my least favorite musical episode so far? Yes.