A Town With Pep: Riverdale Recap Episode 3

Rumors are the lifelines of high school, in the most terrible way imaginable. They wind and weave their way through the entire student body, connecting this senior to that sophomore, this girl to that other girl. If you focus, squint your eyes just so, you can almost see these lay lines, cruel little tendrils from which escape is nearly impossible. The more outrageous, the more unbelievable, the faster they spread, the tighter they grip their victims.

I can’t imagine how much worse those rumors are now, with the aid of social media. An ill-timed or well-photoshopped picture on Facebook can ruin a life. A hashtag can force a student to transfer schools.

Rarely do the victims of these rumors have any sort of recourse. The actions they can take too often fall on deaf ears or produce anything of consequence. It’s like a grease fire, and the more they try to douse the flame, the hotter it becomes.

At times, Riverdale is careful, dipping its feet into the waters of certain murky topics. At others, it jumps right in, head first, as it does with the slut shaming of several Riverdale High students, including Veronica and Ethyl. Veronica goes on a date with Chuck, the quarterback and team captain of the football team. They sit in Chuck’s car outside of Pop’s (which, if you’re going out on a date, why wouldn’t you pick someplace new? A place where, I don’t know, people DON’T go seemingly every other night of the week?), talk for a bit, then make out. A typical date, and one Veronica isn’t inclined to repeat. She tells Kevin as much the next day at school, which is when the whispers start. Students give Veronica The Eye, whispering and pointing at her, telling her they liked her sticky maple.

Chuck, as it turns out, is not the nice, sensitive guy he appeared to be the night before. He claimed to give Veronica a sticky maple, posting a picture of them on Facebook with some photoshopped maple syrup covering Veronica’s face. When Betty shows Veronica the picture, she’s horrified, and promises to go scorch-earthed on Chuck. She confronts Chuck in the boy’s locker room, telling him to take the picture down. He refuses, which sets Veronica further along the warpath.

Veronica is not alone in her fight, nor in her victimhood. Nor is Chuck alone in his misogyny. He’s but a part of a larger epidemic among the football team. We learn as much when Betty gathers several victims in the offices of the school newspapers. One girl, Ethyl, recounts how Chuck told everyone that she let him “do stuff” to her in the library, when in reality all she did was help him with some school work. Veronica learns that there are rumors of a book in which this score is kept, and it’s somewhere in the boy’s locker room. Cheryl, overhearing all of this, starts to complain and call them liars for no reason at all.

The girls, led by Veronica and Betty, venture into the locker room at night. Just before they enter, however, they’re confronted, once more, by Cheryl, who seems to have had a change of heart for some reason. Unclear motivations are a hallmark of Cheryl’s character. The girls find the book, which details a history of misogyny and rape culture within this group of football players. Among this group is Jason Blossom. Cheryl is aghast. Veronica wants to turn this in, but now it’s Betty that wants to go scorched earth, her dark side apparently taking over.

A few nights later, Betty lures chuck to Ethyl’s house, saying she wants to learn how to be a “bad” girl. When Chuck arrives at the house, he’s greeted by Veronica, who says she and Betty want to share him. Betty enters the room shortly after, clad in black lingerie and wearing a short black wig. It’s Betty’s alter-ego given form. She fixes Chuck a drink as he chills in the hot tub, spikes it with a muscle relaxant, and once it sets in, handcuffs him to the hot tub. The girls then interrogate Chuck, turning up the water in the tub to unbearable levels, forcing him to admit that he didn’t give Veronica a Sticky Maple. But Betty doesn’t stop after his confession. She wants him to admit to everything else he’s done. She sticks her heel on his head and pushes his head down, nearly drowning him, calling herself Polly in the process.

Veronica stops Betty, since they got the confession they wanted. Veronica shares Chuck’s confession as Betty writes up an expose on Chuck and his crew. The result: Chuck and his posse are expelled, while Veronica and Betty also get some sort of punishment. It’s grand-scale vindication, as the whole school gathers to watch the expelled students leave the building, and unfortunately, the type that victims of rumors don’t often get to see.

While Veronica and Betty deal with the football team’s rampant misogyny, Archie just wants to be taken seriously as a musician, you guys. And, get this: on top of that, his dad grounded him! Life’s not fair!

That doesn’t stop Archie from pursuing his musical dreams. He asks Cheryl, who promised him a favor, to get him in with Josie and the Pussycats, who previously shot Archie down. Josie says Archie can come to their practice, but only to listen, not to play with them. He agrees. He knows he’s grounded, but dammit, this is for his music.

Archie sneaks out of his house later that night to join up with Pussycats at their practice. Josie asks him what he wants to get out of this. He says he wants to write songs for the Pussycats.

Josie asks Archie if he, a white dude who just decided he wants to be a musician, feels qualified to write music for a band of black women. She says that they’re called the pussycats because they have to claw their way into the rooms that Archie can just waltz right into. It’s a fair point. And it’s one that deserved much more attention than it received, because while Archie admits that Josie’s right, by the next scene, he’s helping them with their song, rewriting a lyric and suggesting a change in verses. It’s not quite right to say it’s a white savior moment, but it definitely dulls the effects of Josie’s speech when Archie’s the one who fixes their song.

The show would have been better served by saving Archie’s arc for another episode, thereby allotting more time to the issue. Making it the “B” plot of the episode diminishes its importance. Oh, and Archie sneaks away to hear his song played at the Taste of Riverdale festival. It was truly shocking to learn that the festival wasn’t just a booth serving Pop’s burgers and shakes.

As for good ol’ Jughead, forever the best character, he’s hot on the trail of the Jason Blossom case as the newest reporter for the Blue and Gold. He confronts Doiley, the scoutmaster who found Cheryl sitting on the rocks the day Jason supposedly drowned, though Doiley denies any wrongdoing. But Jughead, intrepid, observant soul that he is, notices one scout looking a little uneasy. He later grills him at, where else, Pop’s, and learned that Doiley was teaching the scouts how to shoot a gun, thus solving the mysterious gun shot heard by Cheryl, Archie and Ms. Grundy. When Betty and Jughead confront Doiley, he promises them better information in exchange for their silence. He reveals that he saw Ms. Grundy’s car at the lake that fateful day. It’s now clear Jughead can’t protect Archie any longer.

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Jordan White

Writer/Editor for hire. Previously: Senior Editor at the Players’ Tribune. Bylines: VICE Sports, Uproxx, ESPN.