Riverdale had a much better episode this week with “Chapter Four: The Last Picture Show” and kind of got its groove back without trying as hard as they have been. Maybe the writers are finally figuring out what and what doesn’t work. Betty, Veronica, and Archie’s parents got more of a spotlight and interacted with their children. We were also introduced to Jughead’s dad and Grundy got the boot. Josie, however, didn’t make an appearance, which is unfortunate and troubling.
Here’s the episode breakdown:
Archie and Miss Grundy are no more
That’s right, Riverdale’s scandalous pair are no longer an item. After last week’s revelation to Betty and Jughead about Miss Grundy’s presence at Sweetwater Lake, Betty investigates Miss Grundy and it turns out she has a secret past and isn’t who she says she is. The relationship between Archie and Geraldine Grundy is honestly one of the more frustrating and foolish aspects of the show thus far. It’s clear it’s been used to heighten the drama and their situation did make for a good episode, but I’m glad she’s gone (for the time being anyway). There were finally repercussions to this terrible idea of a relationship, even if it came by way of Betty’s mother’s snooping. Although the affair should probably have been reported, it would have looked really bad to have had both Archie and Miss Grundy lie to the police. And I respect that Betty was trying to protect her friend from his mistakes. Grundy, on the other hand, seems to have a penchant for high school guys and I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of her.
All the parent/child focus
This episode finally made better use of Hermione Lodge. Since she made her appearance in the first episode, I’ve been wanting to see more of her and her relationship with Veronica. She and her daughter definitely seem close, but Hermione is making deals with the South Side Serpent gang–to close on a buyout made by her imprisoned husband–and Veronica isn’t happy about it. Hermione is using some of the money to fund Mayor McCoy’s re-election… so long as no one finds out about the dealings. I really thought the exchanges between Veronica and Hermione felt the most natural throughout the episode. It’s clear the two have a nice rapport and their interactions are honest and without theatrics, even amid some of the lies.
Alice and Betty’s relationship is still strained. Alice is convinced that Archie is trouble and things between the Cooper women escalate after Alice finds Betty’s diary with notes on Archie’s affair with Miss Grundy. Alice explains she’s just trying to protect Betty, but her daughter isn’t having it and argues that she isn’t Polly and doesn’t want to be controlled. This episode went a bit beyond Alice’s usual superficiality and revealed a small look at her vulnerable side and the reasons behind her actions, which was a nice change of pace.
For all of Archie’s lying about his affair with Miss Grundy and the fact that it’s extremely problematic, I’m surprised kindly-seeming Fred Andrews wasn’t more angry with Archie. He was more upset with him about choosing music over football, so an affair with an older woman, who also happens to be his teacher, should have ruffled his feathers a bit more. Fred says it’s not Archie’s fault, but I’m not sure that he or Miss Grundy really realize the troubling predicament they found themselves in.
Jughead’s ties to the South Side Serpents
Jughead, putting aside writing about Jason’s murder for the week, turns his attention to preventing a local drive-in theater from closing. The drive-in holds a dear place in his heart because, not only is it tied to childhood nostalgia and is his place of employment, but it’s also where he’s been sleeping. At the end of the episode, it’s discovered that Jughead’s dad is the leader of the South Side Serpents and they’re on the outs with each other for unknown reasons. All of these characters have such interconnecting stories with not only each other, but with the town and its establishments as well. I’m glad that Jughead got a bit more spotlight in this episode and look forward to seeing more of his story.
Elsewhere, Cheryl continues to be a one-dimensional, hateful character and her presence in this episode continued to grate on the nerves. More importantly, where was Josie? She continues to be one of the series regulars who barely receives screen time and when she does, it’s only to promote her music. We’ve learned that Josie is Cheryl’s friend, but where was she when Cheryl was causing drama or having dinner at Pop’s? How can we learn anything about her if she’s never around? If she’s friends with Cheryl, Riverdale could do audiences a favor and explore that relationship because I can tell you I’m intrigued and they haven’t even interacted. At this point, Josie’s neglect is getting frustrating and more obvious.
“The Last Picture Show” also completely ignored what happened with Betty in “Body Double.” Are they just going to leave it on the back burner? Her turn to the supposed dark side came too quickly, but it shouldn’t have been neglected as though it never happened. There should have been a scene where it was at least mentioned. Riverdale continues to be entertaining enough, but there are issues within its overall narrative that are becoming clearer and somewhat troubling as the show progresses. “The Last Picture Show,” however, was at least a much more tightly-written episode than last week’s and relied on the strength of its characters without getting too melodramatic. It’s something Riverdale can take note of moving forward.
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.