This review contains spoilers.
“This is what happens in Riverdale.”
Six episodes in to this season of Riverdale and the brakes are fully off. Finally.
It has long been my complaint that the series needs to fully ramp up the crazy without hesistation and this has come to pass. Yes, Jingle Jangle, the Gargoyle King, the Black Hood, The Farm, etc were all insane, but now, in its fourth season, a murderous doll named Julian is front and centre. Oh hell yeah.
It is the kind of televisual insanity I live for. Not since the glory days of Melrose Place has a series had so many stupefying plot developments, and really, it’s a thing of beauty. This episode’s most interesting storyline involves Cheryl further descending into madness as she becomes convinced that the spirit of Julian, a triplet she absorbed in the womb, is haunting Thistlehouse. Logic dictates that the seemingly nimble refuge from Trilogy Of Terror is just a device being used by her remaining relatives to drive her insane and then be able to sell the family’s struggling maple syrup business out from under her. Then again, this is Riverdale, so maybe the doll actually is alive a la The Boy. Fingers crossed!
Regardless, something is going on with Julian, and it is causing Cheryl to miss school. When Toni finally convinces her to leave Thistlehouse and return to Riverdale High, Dagwood mysteriously chokes on a ping pong ball in Cheryl’s absence. Seeing how Julian has escaped the containment circle she created, Cheryl decides to take matters into her own hands and drowns the doll – hoping to kill its malevolent spirit. That’s how she rolls.
Further complicating her already-packed week is the arrival of her relatives, who want Cheryl to agree to sell her stake in the family’s maple syrup business. Cheryl seems amenable to this until Uncle Bedford mentions wanting to visit the Chapel, the same place in which Corpse Jason is currently enjoying the afterlife. Before you can say “institutionalise,” Uncle Bedford breaks in to the Chapel, discovers the grotesque tableau on display there and attacks Cheryl. A fight ensues in which Bedford is mortally wounded by Toni. The couple that kills together chills together!
What is so much fun about this whole storyline, more than its inherent ridiculousness, is that it plays off the American Gothic nightmare that is everything about the Blossom family. Glued together by incest and maple syrup, this is the most dysfunctional of families whose reality is severely heightened on a show where things already have a baseline off-kilterness. Meanwhile, Toni is a level-headed character who increasingly is becoming poisoned/enhanced (your call) by Cheryl’s bizarre drama. Now the pair have blood on their hands, and this plus the yet-to-be-resolved Julian saga should result in some captivatingly goofy TV in the coming weeks.
As Choni contends with actual murder, Betty resumes her investigation into whether or not that Charles is a serial killer. The verdict is still out on that one, but in this instalment we learn that he is in cahoots with his lover, Chic (a returning Hart Denton). Chic and Charles have launched an ambitious plan involving the exhumation of the Shady Man’s body to gain the Cooper family’s trust. Sure, why not? The plan works, Betty welcomes Charles fully into her life. Oh Betty, you are so much smarter than this. Sigh.
Family matters are also the focus of Veronica’s storyline, as she welcomes her mother home from prison and into a new hostess job at La Bonne Nuit. Much like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, Hermione isn’t prepared to live an ordinary life like a schnook, so she soon falls back into the arms of Hiram. (“I already regret this,” she sighs, echoing the sentiments of viewers who have had enough of these two already). Veronica’s new normal also involves having her dad and Hermosa embark on a new rum business, which apparently has been Hiram’s passion… even though he’s never mentioned it before. Contrivance Rum, drink it and let thoughts of contemptous writing drift away.
Hermosa has now firmly taken her place in her father’s heart, so much so that a picture of her hangs where Veronica’s once did. At least that’s what she thinks. Hiram however tells Veronica that she remains his favourite daughter. Reminder: Parents shouldn’t have favourites. This declaration aside, Veronica doesn’t want him back in her life, let alone the Pembrooke. She’s standing her ground, renewed vowels or not, and setting out on her own without her parents’ help. We’ve heard all this before though, haven’t we?
The repeated mistakes don’t end there though! Archie is in a bit of a pickle in that his community centre still isn’t a hit with the kids, despite all the free junk food and videogames he throws at them. (Might I suggest an animatronic band at the El Royale?) Dodger is still being a pain in the ass, even more so once he discovers that Archie is the vigilante that has been messing with his burgeoning criminal empire. Following having his house shot up, Archie takes the desperate measure of seeing if Mr. Lodge can handle Dodger for him. This move actually makes some sense, with Fred gone all he has is Mary, and his wanting to protect her at all costs very much charts with what we know about Archie. Hiram says no to Archie’s request for street justice. Nevertheless, Archie and Reggie arrive at the gym to find a nearly dead Dodger wrapped in a carpet and thrown in the trash. And with that, Archie again owes Mr. Lodge big time.
There’s no flash-forward about Jughead’s impending death this week. Instead, we are given some exposition about how Forsythe the First created the Baxter Brothers series and apparently had the characters ripped away from him by Mr. Dupont. Exactly why Dupont was so eager to reconnect with Forsythe is a mystery, other than to perhaps rub salt in an old wound. Jughead goes to Mr. Chipping with his findings, who says he is eager to help before subsequently leaping out a window. Jug has uncovered a truth that could shake Stonewall Prep’s very foundations. And maybe result in his faking his own death? Time will tell…
See what else is new on Netflix this month here.