The second episode of Riverdale, mostly occupied with the aftermath of the pilot, has a tendency to drag, but at least the eye-candy shop is still open. Archie, tossing and turning in his underwear, shoots a late-night “R u up? Can we talk?” text to Betty. Her response: “No … and no.” The estranged friends can see each other through their bedroom windows, but decline to reenact the “You Belong With Me” video in full.
A few minutes later, Archie shows up unannounced at Miss Grundy’s house, still bare-chested (he did put pants on, though — what is he, a farmer?) and now glistening with sweat, having literally jogged there. There’s no time for shirts when a murderer is on the loose.
He’s come to confront his music-teacher-slash-illicit-paramour about the gunshot they heard on July 4 — the one that may very well have lodged a bullet in Jason Blossom’s forehead. But despite his feelings of guilt, she insists they can never tell: “I could lose my job, you could be expelled, we could go to jail.” (I am not a lawyer, but the thousands of hours I’ve logged watching Law & Order: SVU have left me fairly confident that a minor would not be expelled for being the victim of statutory rape?) If there is one takeaway from this scene, it is that K. J. Apa’s chest deserves an acting credit of its own.
As hurt as she was by Veronica and Archie’s snogging session in Cheryl Blossom’s closet — and as much as Mrs. Cooper hates them both, the Blossoms, and also pretty much everyone within Riverdale city limits — Betty intends to repair those relationships. A contrite Veronica offers Betty a bouquet of yellow roses (for “friendship,” she says, which I assume is short for “sexually charged friendship that, with any luck, will become something more when everyone finally realizes how boring Archie is”) and tells her she’s booked them an appointment for “hers and hers mani-pedis” and blowouts. Veronica even had a box of Magnolia cupcakes “flown in from New York,” and a Magnolia cupcakes reference apparently flown in from 2007. Betty accepts her apology, but doesn’t seem too thrilled about it. Maybe she doesn’t like cupcakes.
A bolo tie-wearing Principal Weatherbee and Sheriff Keller (a.k.a. dad to Kevin) announce that Jason Blossom’s death is officially being investigated as a murder and, more important, that the scheduled pep rally will go on as planned. As for the homicide itself, just about everyone in school is an object of suspicion. Reg notes that Jughead is a classic killer type, a “spooky, scrawny pathetic internet troll too busy writing his internet manifestos to get laid.” Cheryl’s classmates look on in fear as she unflinchingly dissects a frog at the same time her twin brother’s corpse goes under the scalpel across town. And Jughead, oblivious to the Miss Grundy situation, reminds Archie how they’d planned to take a road trip over Fourth of July weekend, but Archie bailed at the last minute. That’s not a good look, Archiekins.
Betty is still comfortably cruising in pushover mode until lunchtime, when the pals gather to hear Archie strum yet another mediocre tune on his guitar. Betty’s eyes well with tears. The red-velvet Michael C. Hall that he is, Archie asks if she’s okay. “I’m supposed to say yes,” she replies, “That’s what the nice girl always says.” But she’s not. Not even close.
Soon enough, Betty and Veronica have their first fight at Vixens cheer practice. Veronica can’t deny that nothing happened with Archie in the closet, but pointedly reminds Betty, “It is not my fault he doesn’t like you.” To spite Veronica, Betty offers to share those mani-pedis and blowouts with monstrous Cheryl instead.
The newly minted gal pals’ evening of revenge bonding ultimately takes them to the Cooper household, where Cheryl applies blush on Betty’s cheeks in her hypergirly bedroom. Cheryl purrs an apology for being such a “witchy witch” as she strokes Betty’s face and chin in what feels like a deleted scene from Cruel Intentions. But Cheryl’s ulterior motives quickly surface: She’s gathering intel on Betty’s “crazy, tweaked-out sister” Polly, whom she believes shot Jason after he dumped her.
“Get the hell out of my house before I kill you,” a satisfyingly hulked-out Betty growls.
As Mrs. Cooper — taking a break from reporting on Jason’s murder and bribing the coroner for juicy autopsy details — burns sage to banish the bad Blossom vibes, Betty realizes that she’s ready to visit her troubled sister. In other mom news, Hermione Lodge is now waiting tables at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe, describing her uniform as a “Joan Crawford Mildred Pierce thing,” which I suppose makes Veronica her Veda, Mildred’s spoiled little nightmare of a socialite daughter. (They even kind of look alike!)
It is a small comfort that Miss Grundy is not very good at being a sexual predator. After Jughead spots her canoodling with Archie directly in front of the classroom door’s window, Archie soon confesses all. Jughead correctly points out that Miss Grundy (I don’t know what it says about me that I almost always initially write her name as “Miss Grundle”) is acting in her own self-interest, then encourages his friend to inform the authorities about the gunshot.
The pep rally is a surreal spectacle, with vuvuzelas, glossy photos of the late Jason looking spooky even in life, and seemingly more cheerleaders and football players than civilian students applauding for them. Archie finally makes amends with Jughead — who, it’s worth noting, is lurking not unlike a murderer in the shadow of the bleachers — and tells Miss Grundy that he can’t hide the truth any longer.
On stage, the Pussycats perform “Sugar, Sugar” (originally recorded by The Archies, a fictional band comprised of characters from the comics — their songs were actually performed by studio musicians — in 1969) as the River Vixens dance in the rain. Though her pep rally is seemingly a success, Cheryl sees Jason’s face in Archie’s and sprints off the field. Veronica finds her sobbing in the locker room. “You don’t understand,” Cheryl says. “He was supposed to come back.”
Betty invites Veronica to get make-up milkshakes at Pop’s (for Veronica, double chocolate; for Betty, old-fashioned vanilla). They vow never to let a boy come between them, just as Archie enters the diner with Jughead.
The next morning, Archie heads to the principal’s office to share what he knows — but Principal Weatherbee and Sheriff Keller have more pressing business on their minds. Something uncovered during Jason’s autopsy has led them to his twin sister. And for her part, Cheryl knew this was coming.
“They’ll find out soon enough,” she tells Principal Weatherbee after he encourages discretion in front of her classmates.
“Wait, Cheryl, find out what?” Veronica says. “That I’m guilty,” Cheryl says. “Whaaaaaaat,” I say.