As a big old softy who loves feelings and I-statements and compulsively rewatching Frasier on Netflix, I am thrilled that Archie is trying to get his mental health on point. In search of a “good headspace,” he’s started training in earnest with his new boxing coach, Tom Keller — who, to our ostensible hero’s frustration, doesn’t believe he’s ready for a real match just yet.
That said, what with Archie’s truly dazzling array of traumas, I’d be even more thrilled to see him talk to an actual therapist. You know, in a fun, dark-sexy-cool CW way! What if season four introduces Riverdale’s own Dr. Melfi, who maybe then has, I don’t know, a complicated affair with Fred? Does anybody have Ally Sheedy’s agent’s number?
Elio’s Pizza of the Sweetwater Pizzas trolls the boxing gym looking for someone to take on his associate, a very scary undefeated fighter named Randy. Predictably, the Archiedor Retriever bounds over, tongue lolling gregariously out of his mouth. But what Elio’s really asking is for him to take a dive. Archie is reluctant, but Elio’s insistence that throwing the fight would boost his reputation in the ring — not to mention the $5,000 he’s offering — manages to persuade him.
Tom Keller refuses to coach him unless he bails; Archie’s sort-of-maybe potential new girlfriend Josie is equally unenthused.
Shockingly, Elio — thinking of all the sketchy bettors he’s assembled — does not take kindly to Archie’s request to back out of the fight. And so Archie ultimately does convince ex-sheriff Keller to work with him, if only because his life may very well depend on it.
Alice is getting her wedding dress (giant poofy sleeves, navel-grazing neckline) altered in anticipation of her official baptism into the Farm. In the meantime, she’s wearing a pink, satiny, pineapple-print blazer that the Riverdale costume department can feel free to mail directly to me when they’re done with it, thank you. Betty is not enthused, growing even less so when she reads Alice’s signed release absolving the Farm “in case of bodily harm or death.”
Hiram is suspicious about the drug-making equipment that apparently vanished into thin air from the prison. It’s pretty clear he doesn’t entirely buy Veronica’s cover story about how Hermione destroyed the lab to hide it from the Feds. And kinda weird how Gladys Jones just showed up back in town, huh, mija?
Veronica agrees to warn Gladys of her father’s plans, in exchange for erasing some of the debt she owes — and in the hopes that her interference will stop Hiram from rebuilding his drug business. She tries to talk her father into going clean, having forgotten everything that we, together, have learned about him over the last three seasons. Why not focus on the prison instead? Who wouldn’t be charmed by some wholesome, mom-and-pop, for-profit private incarceration? Eh. Hiram would prefer to seize control of the currently leaderless Ghoulies, but cute idea, honey.
When V dutifully informs Gladys about Hiram’s talk of a gang takeover, Mrs. Jones does her best to beat him to the punch: She encourages Jughead to grow the Serpents’ numbers by absorbing what remains of their former and, okay, current enemies. In fact, the young Serpent King even convinces Sheriff Dad to offer them immunity from the law.
Jughead learns that most of the remaining Ghoulies have joined up with the Gargoyles. In a dirty den of a statues and skulls and very unwell-looking youths who definitely could use some more iron and vitamin C in their diet, Jughead seeks out their de facto leader, Kurtz. (This week, Riverdale’s proprietary Random Classic Movie Reference Generator has settled on Apocalypse Now.) For a moment, I thought this was the other Sprouse, but no, it is yet another sad boy with delicate features. Kurtz has no interest in Jughead’s offer, preferring instead to bask in the creepy glow of his lord and savior the Gargoyle King and his sacred prophecies and muscle-bound twig arms. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. Though Jughead would emphatically prefer not to fuck with the spooky-ass Gargoyle Guilty Remnant, Gladys goes ahead and recruits them anyway.
This isn’t the only personnel problem plaguing the Serpents. Now that eight of their sistren have defected to the Pretty Poisons — how is that not a band fronted by Taylor Momsen circa 2009? — Jug tries to convince Toni to take her talents back to the Southside. It’s no use: She wants to be Serpent Queen, but that role belongs to Betty. (Does Betty really care, though? Can’t she be, like, Serpent Royal Consort?)
On Cheryl’s orders, and to Toni’s great displeasure, the Pretties beat the shit out of Fangs and Sweet Pea, which seems a little unnecessary. Then again, every young couple has to have at least one argument about jockeying for control over their shared gang.
Gladys and Veronica do a fun little I Am Very Happy to Meet You I Have Definitely Never Met You Before Why Would Anyone Think Otherwise shtick when time comes for a Jones-Lodge summit at the Pembrooke. Hiram agrees to concentrate on the prison, letting Gladys control the flow of “candy” through Riverdale — but only after Veronica offers to go all-in on the family business, like he always wanted, and after he secures Gladys’s assurances that FP and his handcuffs will “absofrickinlutely” keep the cells fully populated.
The episode cuts rather confusingly between Josie performing at La Bonne Nuit and Josie attending Archie’s big fight, and because Riverdale is Riverdale, I briefly wonder if we’re about to discover that there has been a secret McCoy twin this entire time. Not yet, anyway. If nothing else, this scene is an extremely good showcase for KJ Apa’s abs. (KJ Aba? I don’t know. That’s my first pass.) Archie does a very good job with punches; Randy throws in a nasty headbutt that cannot possibly be allowed. The ending is shades of Rocky: Archie more than holds his own, but narrowly loses in a split decision. Then he and Josie do sex, so congratulations to them.
Betty tracks down an ex-Farm member, Martha, who attests that cult members must endure a near-death ordeal so that they can achieve “ascension.” Boy, that sounds familiar! Martha made her escape after her own sister drowned during her baptism.
The vibe at Alice’s baptism at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy is like a Phantom of the Opera-themed baby shower. “It is a trauma to leave the comfort of our wombs,” proclaims Evelyn, which is exactly what I say to anyone foolish enough to make eye contact with me on the subway. Polly holds Alice down in a tub of water, continuing to keep her submerged even as she struggles.
By the time Betty bursts in and pulls Alice to safety, she isn’t breathing. Nobody seems to be in any rush to call 911, but Betty performs CPR until Alice comes sputtering back to life. But this experience hasn’t done anything to sour her on the Farm. In fact, Betty’s newly “reborn” mother says, she’s going to “purge” herself of their house by putting it on the market.
Hiram informs the women of the Lodge family that the governor told him about Hermione’s timely contribution the day after Hiram was shot. There’s no longer any denying they were up to something behind his back. To protect her mother, Veronica cops to burning all of Hiram’s drugs and equipment herself. And so Ronnie finds herself another $75,000 in debt, this time to her father. I hope to God her FAFSA will somehow take this into account.