Months have passed since Fred’s funeral: In fact, it’s the first day of senior year for the group of friends I will hereafter refer to as B-VAJ. Unfortunately, the Core Four were too distracted by having sex in adjacent rooms (at least we have, collectively, outgrown the seductive, mildewy charms of the bunker) to set an alarm.
Principal Weatherbee’s meaner, crankier replacement, Mr. Honey (who, if he is indeed related to Miss Honey, definitely inherited more of the Trunchbull side’s DNA), is displeased by their tardiness. But Mr. Honey soon finds an arch-rival in Cheryl, when he cancels her much-anticipated back-to-school dance. “At the last student dance multiple students were murdered,” he explains, which, honestly, is not an unfair point? Undeterred, Cheryl decides to host an equally wholesome back-to-school kegger.
Operating in his unofficial capacity as county truancy officer, Archie recruits his boxing-slash-juvenile-inmate-trafficking best bud Mad Dog — pardon me, Monroe — to enroll in Riverdale High and join the Bulldogs. Reggie is, to say the least, not on his American Teen Princess Football Captain best behavior, exhibiting a great deal of hostility toward the newest, strapping-est young lad to arrive on the team.
At practice, some football happens, and I should warn you that I have a very specific form of psychogenic blindness that prevents me from understanding anything about this sport unless (a) they can ever find a way to make TV’s magical floating first-down line happen in real life, (b) I am housing buffalo wings like Dionysus eating grapes, or (c) Tim Riggins.
Reggie’s dad, observing from the sidelines, calls his son over and berates him for being outperformed, footballingly sports-wise, by Monroe. It’s not long before Reggie, conspicuously wearing sunglasses, at night, indoors, underground, reveals himself to have a nasty shiner. And at the next practice, when they hut the ball, or whatever, Reggie apparently does a bad job again because his dad marches right onto the field to threaten him, in a cool and normal parental fashion. This explicit display of abuse is lost on no one, not even Archie.
Mr. Chipping, a judge from a writing contest that Jughead didn’t win, was nevertheless impressed enough by his story that he invites our little Jug Kerouac to transfer to schmancy Stonewall Prep to study writing with him. Despite Jughead’s skepticism, FP insists he at least take a tour. There, the cafeteria serves “vegan, keto vegan, and raw keto vegan” options and students seem genuinely interested in Moby Dick, which I, for one, find highly suspicious. Jughead — or as his would-be new Stonewall classmates insist on calling him, Forsythe — is inspired, though not inspired enough to ditch Riverdale High, or Betty.
Betty’s been keeping busy too, doing some light Mindhunting with her and her boyfriend’s half-brother. Alice has apparently missed a number of her scheduled check-ins with Charles, who is distractingly hot, I’m sorry, it needs to be said. At Charles’s urging, Betty cultivates Kevin — who has recently apologized for, among other things, aiding in the attempted forced lobotomy of his ex-best friend — as an asset, given that FBI surveillance has found that he’s in communication with Fangs, who is still very much a part of the Farm.
And so she feeds Kevin some fake intel — that the FBI found a witness to testify against the Farm — and tails him as he, predictably, meets with Fangs to spill this particular bean. Kevin is seemingly genuinely hung up on a boy, not a cult; Fangs is seemingly more interested in squeezing his ex for as much information as possible than squeezing him, you know, romantically.
Charles dismisses Kevin as a possible source, but Betty disagrees. In fact, she takes what seems like the wild and unnecessary gamble (but then again, I’m not a 17-year-old junior apprentice FBI agent with my very own secret decoder ring) of telling him that her mom is an undercover agent, and requests that he find out whatever he can from Fangs by feeding him Penelope Blossom’s name as the fake witness. For now, it appears Kevin is cooperating as she hoped: He reports that Fangs took him to the Farm’s current hideout, in an abandoned motel beyond the “maple barrens” (everyone’s favorite episode of The Sopranos). He didn’t see Alice, but did see Edgar, who’s amassed an alarming stockpile of weaponry.
Cheryl’s back-to-school party at Thornhill very nearly veers into Weekend at Bernie’s territory, given that she’s done a poor job of concealing her My Decomposing Dress-Up Twin™ doll (life-size! Wheelchair not included!) under a sheet with his hand sticking out. But before Jason can join the festivities, FP arrives to break them up — someone named Honey called to complain about the noise, he tells the hostess. Lo and behold, the next day at school, a beehive dripping messy CGI honey finds its way onto the principal’s desk.
With Archie by his side, Reggie steadies himself to take a stand against his monstrous father — and against Mr. Mantle’s bright-red convertible with MGNFCNT plates (which my broken brain initially interpreted not as “magnificent” but as, somehow, “my very educated mother just served us nine pancakes”). “Sometimes I think he loves this car more than he loves me,” Reggie tells Archie, evoking Cameron from Ferris Bueller pathos, before smashing it with a baseball bat. After that, Reggie tells his friend that his dad won’t be coming to practice anymore, and the two boys swear to remain “bros for life” — which would look pretty great engraved on one of those BFF heart necklaces, for what it’s worth.
The tabloids can’t resist the Lodge family’s swirling legal drama, which means Veronica is being swarmed by press even at school. Mr. Honey confronts her about an unnamed inside source (who is definitely, for sure Hiram) claiming she’s responsible for her father’s crimes in an article on Riverdale.com. (I could not be more excited to tell you that the IRL Riverdale.com is not some cute inside jokey CW redirect (or a www.creedthoughts.gov\creedthoughts situation), but the extremely unsexy internet headquarters of Riverdale Mills, a “leading American manufacturer of premium quality welded wire mesh fabrics for the marine, security, construction and agriculture industries.”) The principal suggests she take a sabbatical from school. In a rude way, to be clear, not in a nice way.
Veronica finally relents when paparazzi come banging down her apartment door: She’ll hold one and only one press conference, at the Le La Bon Bonne Nuit. First, though, she performs “All That Jazz” in a sequined leotard for the assembled reporters. (Personally, I would have gone for a more thematically relevant “We Both Reached for the Gun,” or at least a “Razzle Dazzle.” Based on Archie’s mysterious fluency with The Wild Party, I’m sure he can handle Billy Flynn.) Was this number a bizarre, even inexplicable thing for Veronica to do — for Riverdale to do? Obviously. But, look: This is season four, and it’s going to take more than one sort-of-non-but-actually-diegetic musical-theater number to rattle us. We made it through the Heathers episode.
Veronica announces that, yes, she did the wrongs that hard-hitting local news outlet Riverdale.com (soon to be acquired by Gannett) accused her of, but “under duress” from her father, and that she won’t testify on behalf of either of her imprisoned parents. Veronica even decides to adopt her mother’s maiden name for the purposes of her Harvard application. The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be Gomez.
After sitting through an overcrowded English class full of paper-airplane-hurling students who clearly didn’t do the summer reading — and, maybe more troublingly, in which the teacher doesn’t notice Betty and Jughead getting up and leaving the room with neither explanation nor apology — Betty tells her boyfriend he should transfer. It’s only after Jughead dons his uniform for his first day at Stonewall that FP reveals that Grandpa Forsythe briefly studied there, too, but dropped out. In this case, FP stands for Foreshadowing, Please!
Cut to spring break, an eerie flash-forward that echoes the last scene of the season finale: A search team scours the forest for Jughead. I look forward to seeing if our good, good writer boy gets The Secret History–ed, or at the very least A Separate Peace–ed.