Riverdale recap: Tabitha travels through time in one of the series' strangest episodes
Much like Tabitha, I feel like we've traveled to another dimension, because WHAT just happened? This week's Riverdale episode, "Angels in America," took things to a new level, and I'm still sorting through my feelings about it. In general, I've enjoyed the recent episodes. I'm weirdly into the characters getting superpowers. Something about the show becoming even more bonkers just feels right! But this episode… was a lot. Let's dig in.
This week is all about Percival Pickens (Chris O'Shea) vs. Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook), and it starts when Percival announces his plan to run a privately owned railway through the heart of Riverdale. And given the central location of Pop's, well, he seems to think it'd be the best location for a train station. Tabitha says hell no, but when she goes to rally the troops, they don't seem ready to take on Percival just yet.
Instead she goes home, discovers that Jug can hear her thoughts — honestly, that took longer that I thought it would — and Jug suggests they find a way to declare Pop's a historical landmark. But before they can figure out how to do that, a henchman walks into Pop's and shoots Tabitha, sending her back in time to Dec. 24, 1944.
There, she plays the role of Teresa as she runs into… Jughead? Just kidding, it's not Jughead! It's Rafael, her guardian angel. He's simply assuming the form of Jughead because if she saw his true form, she'd go insane. And this is strike one on this episode for me. Superpowers I can handle, but actual angels? I think I'd rather watch another cult leader build a rocket than watch this angel talk about how only the Almighty has all the answers. So not only is this angel barely helpful, he also hands Tabitha a book titled The Enigma of Time Travel and tells her to read it. Personally, I'd be pissed if an angel gave me homework/ Can you not just tell me the CliffsNotes, dude?!
After Tabitha does her required reading, she decides that much like the explosion triggered powers for Archie, Betty, and, Jug, perhaps getting shot triggered her powers of time travel. But if you're going to tell me that trauma unlocks superpowers in Riverdale, everyone should have roughly 100 superpowers by now.
Tabitha comes to the conclusion that she needs to find a talisman in order to help her control her powers. But before she can search for that, she has to attend a town meeting to decide whether Riverdale should become a sundown town — that is, if all Black people should have to leave the town limits by sundown.
Not surprisingly, it's Percival Pickens — or whatever he's calling himself in 1944 — who's proposing this terrible idea, and once again Tabitha finds herself fighting him.
That evening Tabitha meets Tracy (Toni), Flynn (Fangs), and their child on the run from Centerville, where their car broke down. Centerville is a sundown town, and when their car died they were seen out past curfew. Tabitha agrees to house them, and when Percival tries to arrest them, she has to come up with a plan. It's Christmas Eve and she's in need of a Christmas miracle, so naturally she turns to the angel in attendance! Her plan? To have Rafael show them his true form and therefore make them go insane.
So yeah, it works, and then Percival shows up later in a straitjacket and shoots her again, sending her to April 3, 1968. I swear I'm not making any of this up.
Upon her arrival, Tabitha instantly decides she needs to save Martin Luther King Jr. before he's assassinated. And here's strike two for this episode: I'm fine if you want to take an episode off the rails. Try some time travel! But you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't have a bonkers episode with angels and time travel but then also try to root it in actual history. Watching people cry over the news that MLK Jr. is dead moments after an angel drove some people insane? Perhaps Rafael showed me his true form and I'm now crazy, because it just felt off.
But the crazy doesn't stop there! When the mayor declares a state of emergency and puts an end to public gatherings, Percival tells Tabitha that she has until 6 p.m. to clear out Pop's. So do you want to know what she does? Do you? She calls J. EDGAR HOOVER and tells him she knows all about his secret files!!! (Don't even get me started on how easy it was for her to get him on the phone.) The moral of this episode: Pay attention in history class, kids. You never know when you could use that knowledge to blackmail the director of the FBI the next time you're sent through time!
Long story short, she wins this round and Percival plants a bomb in Pop's. The explosion then sends her to 1999, where a bunch of white supremacists are vandalizing Pop's. But when the kid they catch with the spray paint claims not to have any memory of doing it, she knows Percival is behind things. Tabitha breaks into Percival's shop of "curious items" and discovers things like the Spear of Longinus and, you know, the actual Holy Grail.
Then we get this quote from Rafael, who's played by Betty in this setting: "There are some men whose hearts are so cold they burn down villages just for the warmth." Don't tell me angels aren't wise.
Rafael decides that the Holy Grail must be Tabitha's talisman because… she's so Jesus-like? But when she goes to grab it, Percival, dressed as a soldier, attacks her. Thankfully she grabs the spear and informs us all that she took fencing in college! I cannot.
Percival then reveals his real name is Legion? Or something like that. He shows us a glimpse of what I assume is his real face and it is NOT cute. Then when Tabitha goes to stab him, he disappears. So she burns down his shop and returns to Pop's for the moment I'm calling strike three of this episode (but is really probably strike 10): She drinks a milkshake out of the Holy Grail, kinda like Jesus at the Last Supper, in order to travel back to present day.
Back the in present, she updates everyone on what she learned (and on her new powers). Well, everyone meaning Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Cheryl, because apparently Veronica's lack of powers means she's out of the inner circle. She informs them all that she traveled to the future and saw Riverdale's fate, where the diner was an empty shell and the sky was full of ash. Now they must prepare to battle Percival.
As for what Tabitha learned on her journey: The Holy Grail wasn't her talisman and there was no need to put a milkshake in it: "Pop's was my talisman all along."
Listen, I'm all for Riverdale leaning into the crazy and having some fun with just how over-the-top it is. But throwing together time travel, angels, MLK Jr.'s death, Jesus, and lots of racism? I can't say this one worked for me.