Riverdale continues to improve from week to week, even though the show can work to tone down the use of labels and seemingly one-dimensional characterization of certain characters. The mystery is unfolding nicely and there are little things that are being discovered each week that are allowing us to see individual characters, and the plot, differently. “Chapter Three: Body Double” heightens the season’s main plot, puts Jughead on the case of what really happened at Sweetwater Lake, and cements Betty and Veronica’s friendship in an act of revenge.
At the end of last week’s episode, Cheryl admitted to being guilty. “Body Double” had her clarifying that she wasn’t admitting to killing Jason, it’s just that she hasn’t been forthright with the truth. Jason had had enough of Riverdale and promised his sister not to tell anyone that he was leaving town for good; that’s why she was at the lake. Cheryl is backed up by Archie, who also admitted to being out by the river that morning and heard the gunshot go off. He leaves Ms. Grundy’s name out of it, but even so, she still refuses to help him with his music when she finds out he spoke to the police. Their relationship continues to be uncomfortable to watch and what makes it worse is that the whole point of it will probably be used as a plot device in coming episodes.
This episode really turned its focus toward Betty and her unresolved feelings regarding her sister. Her mother, who most recently put Jason back in the spotlight when she released the autopsy records, is cold, distant, and controlling. When Veronica is ridiculed by the captain of the football team and it’s discovered that he and his friends have been keeping a “conquest” notebook (they rated them using points, which is so disgusting) that included Polly, and Betty kind of snaps. Cheryl has talked openly about her brother, but Betty remains quiet about her sister. It’s almost like she’s walking around with a weight on her shoulders that’s only made more prominent by the presence of her mother. Betty and Veronica don’t really interact with Archie in this episode and it’s kind of refreshing. It’s feeling more and more like they’re becoming the core of the show and it’s absolutely warranted. The strongest moments are between the two friends and after this episode, it’s only made it stronger and I hope it continues.
Josie finally gets more than a couple of lines in this episode and most of it is used to put Archie in his place about writing lyrics for the Pussycat Dolls. Archie is eager and Josie is protective of her music, especially because she and her band mates “have to claw our way into the same rooms you can waltz into” and explains their band name. It was a very well-put statement openly speaking to Josie’s experience as an African American woman and to Archie’s privilege. It’s also a bit hypocritical on a show that is essentially not letting her thrive. Beyond Josie’s music, the show has refused to give her more to do, which is very unfortunate. I hope this changes as the series continues.
There are a lot of characters vying for attention and it’s proving a bit too hard to juggle them all equally. Riverdale is still relying too much on labels like “slut” and jocks who aim to ridicule women, talk down to them, and are all-around complete jerks. Then there’s Cheryl, who is so busy shaming the other girls at school and saying things like “boys will be boys” that it’s particularly difficult to offer her any genuine sympathy. Jughead is offered a position writing for the school newspaper and he and Betty begin investigating the mystery of Jason’s death on their own. In the end, they find out that Ms. Grundy was also at the lake that morning, which means it’ll put the teacher front and center soon. Jughead is that lurker who doesn’t quite like people, but wants to help them anyway. He’s closed-off, but he could prove to be the show’s most grounded character.
This episode felt less smooth than the first two and was a bit less engaging. The show needs to work on better transitioning between the various character plots because “Body Double” felt a little too clunky in its pacing. I do really like that Riverdale is building one of the main friendships to be between two women who aren’t always just talking about the men in their life. However, they need to better develop Josie and Kevin, the latter of whom is unfortunately only being paraded around as the gay best friend. Riverdale is working to change perceptions so that we think we know what happened, but find something moving us in a different direction every time. There was a lot going on and the execution wasn’t always successful, but it was the murder mystery and new plot details that kept it afloat.
Riverdale airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW. The series stars K.J. Apa, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Marisol Nicols, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, Casey Cott, Ross Butler, and Sarah Habel.