Riverdale Episode 2 Recap: Veronica Begins Her Apology Tour

Photo: Courtesy of The CW.
Riverdale is a show that wears its inspirations on its sleeves. The show still doesn’t wholly work even though what it’s aiming for is pretty grand. For starters, Kevin comes across as nothing more than a walking gay best friend stereotype. But what other show on TV name drops classic films like Mildred Pierce, operates as a gloriously arch teen soap indebted to Heathers, and has some killer production design? Riverdale isn’t perfect but when it hits the right note it’s hard to remember what problems I have with it in the first place. This week, Riverdale takes the cheery iconography we associate with suburbia and warps it just enough to make things feel creepy. Take for example the image of Cheryl and Jason drinking a strawberry milkshake at the diner at the very beginning. Jason looks directly at the camera as Jughead’s voice over discusses what would have happened if the red headed troublemaker hadn’t been found washed ashore. Riverdale traffics in the moodiness and interest in dismantling the lie of the American Dream noir has been doing since the 1940s. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised since this week’s title, “Touch of Evil”, references a great film noir from 1958. One of the few things Riverdale isn’t replicating from the noir genre is an interest in psychologically rich profiles. This show is more interested in ripping off the masks these characters wear only to reveal another one lurking underneath. It’s a verifiable hall of mirrors making it difficult to track who these people really are from who they are trying desperately to pass themselves off as. Well, except for Betty. Poor, high strung Betty. After the events of last week she’s keeping Archie and Veronica at arm’s length. Part of the reason is that she’s hurt. I can’t blame her. Especially since her mother, Alice, is insisting she cut pretty much all her friends out of her life which makes it hard to patch things up. Betty decides to carve her own path by trying to remain friends with Archie and Veronica. How could she not? As Archie tells Veronica later in the episode he’s been neighbors with Betty since they were four. They’ve always gone to school together and been in the same classes. These two are inseparable. As for Veronica, she’s pretty much started her own apology tour to get back into Betty’s good graces which includes yellow roses, cupcakes, and scheduling them for a spa day at a local beauty salon. Betty does try to be friendly but even someone as obsessed with being kind as she is has a breaking point. “I thought I could pretend this weekend never happened but I can’t,” she tells Archie before storming off. Betty’s quiet resentment turns into anger when she has an argument with Veronica during cheerleading practice. (Sorry, not calling them RiverVixens.) Veronica becomes a useful target to blame things on. But Veronica counters that Betty was walking on “emotional eggshells” pining for Archie who was totally oblivious. “It’s not my fault he doesn’t like you,” Veronica says. It may sound harsh but it is true. Betty gets a bit cruel insulting Veronica by complimenting Cheryl. “At least Cheryl isn’t putting on an act pretending she’s a butterfly when she’s really a wasp,” Betty says kicking off the fight in the first place. But deciding to warm up to Cheryl proves to be a big mistake but it does produce the best scene of the episode.
Photo: Courtesy of The CW.
Pictured: Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom and KJ Apa as Archie Andrews
Hanging out in Betty’s bedroom, Cheryl seems kind. Or at least trying to be. But soon she starts grilling Betty about her older sister, Polly, who remains in a group home. When Betty recoils at Cheryl’s questioning her true intentions become known. She thinks Polly killed Jason. Usually you’d think Betty would be the meek one in this situation. But when Cheryl refuses to leave Betty corners her warning, “Get the hell out of my house before I kill you.” Damn, Betty didn’t know you had that in you. Watching Betty’s surprising fire and Cheryl’s fear was an interesting reversal. It seems Betty’s nice veneer masks hidden depths. Coupled with her frighteningly hyper-feminine bedroom I was reminded of Natalie Portman’s perfection obsessed ballerina in Black Swan. By the way, Lili Reinhart continues to prove she’s the best younger actor on this show in how she plays Betty. Betty is dealing with quite a bit but it still pales into comparison to Archie’s ongoing drama. For Archie, the devil on his shoulder comes in an attractive package that’s hard to resist by name of Ms. Grundy. Archie is feeling guilty about hearing a gunshot near the river the same day Jason was killed. He even takes a shirtless run to Ms. Grundy’s house to express his desire to tell the truth which she immediately shuts down. Archie is shirtless quite a bit proving that the CW knows its audience. After the principal and Jughead express suspicion about Archie he confronts Ms. Grundy in her classroom. He wonders why he should be protecting her rather than staying true to his integrity if whatever they had together wasn’t real. “Maybe it’s not right, but it is real,” she says grabbing his hand and moving closer to him. Maybe? Ms. Grundy what you’re doing is called statutory rape. Not amount of anxiety and hot librarian styling distracts from that. But Ms. Grundy easily plays Archie getting him to stop his quest to reveal the truth. Unfortunately for them (but not for all lovers of juicy drama), Jughead walks by the classroom the moment things turn intimate. Jughead isn’t staying quiet either. Archie comes home one night to find this former friend on his porch. But Jughead’s influence proves to be vital even though things get tense between them. I think gaining a black eye from Reggie (Ross Butler) defending Jughead and talking to his dad later also helped knock some sense into Archie. “For one shining moment we were just kids. Those bright neon lights of Pop’s keeping the darkness at bay,” Jughead says in voice over when he sits next to Betty, Veronica, and Archie their friendships finally healed. (The best aspect of this episode was privileging fleshing out the friendships over romance and Jughead’s one-liners.) The darkness isn’t kept at bay for that long. Archie doesn’t even get the opportunity to tell the sheriff or principal about hearing the gun shot on July 4th. Just when he’s about to they come walking out to arrest none other than Cheryl for Jason’s murder. To make things even more complicated Jason didn’t actually die on July 4th but over a week later. So, what gunshot did Archie hear? What was up with the ligature marks around Jason’s arms that the coroner pointed out to Alice who payed him off for the information? Did Cheryl really kill Jason or is something even more sinister happening in the shadows of Riverdale?
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