At the very beginning of Riverdale, the CW teen soap really tried to get us to care about the supposed love triangle of Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). Anyone who has read Archie Comics, which Riverdale is based on, knows that relationship conundrum is the central tension of the hilariously throwback-ish series. But, despite Riverdale’s best efforts, the love triangle was never obsession-worthy in the same way a far more natural relationship ended up becoming. And, of course, that relationship is Bughead, the adorable coupling of Betty and Archie’s best friend Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse). Even though Bughead is the TV drama’s dominant duo, season 2 has started showing the cracks in everyone’s favorite couple. After last night’s “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” it’s time to start dealing with the fact Betty and Jughead probably shouldn’t be together forever.
Any strong relationship is built on trust. Right now, however, that’s something Betty and Jughead are sorely lacking. This issue comes down to how the pair is dealing with their investigations into who the Black Hood is — and that’s the problem. Currently, there are multiple investigations rather one, singular, shared investigation à la their obsessive season 1 search to track down Jason Blossom's killer and Polly Cooper (Tiera Skovbye). In chapter seventeen, “Sundown,” Betty gets her first correspondence from the Hood, which includes a letter revealing the high schooler is the inspiration for the masked serial killer's rampage. The first person she tells about the creepy message isn’t Jughead. No, it’s her on-the-rocks BFF Kevin Keller (Casey Cott).
Over at Southside High, Jughead has started his own research into the Hood, and his partner in (stopping) crime is now his low-key new love interest Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). The Riverdale self-proclaimed “weirdo” wasn’t even going to tell Betty about his detective work until she asked him about it.
The problems in Betty and Jughead’s relationship get worse, and more obvious, when the couple is tossed in a tiny room with Toni, who represents Jughead’s burgeoning Southside allegiance and darker tendencies. Polar opposites Betty and Southside Serpent Toni can barely play nice for a full minute, since they quickly start debating the politics of “Northside” hypocrisy and the demonization of the Southside. Soon enough, gang member Toni spits at Betty, “Why is it your boyfriend here lies about the fact he sits with [the Serpents] at lunch?”
Toni essentially dragged out into the light the reason Betty and Jughead are destined to break up: they can’t stop lying to each other. Lunch buddies aren’t the sole things Jughead is lying to Betty about. He’s also lied about the fact he was assaulted by a rival gang at SSHS, telling Betty he fell off of his motorcycle during a ride around the block. We can pretend Jughead lied because he didn't want to seem weak in front of his girlfriend, but the truth is he’s afraid to share his whole truth with Betty now that he’s getting in deeper with the Serpents.
Similarly, Betty is now scared to share her darkest parts with her boyfriend. During the so-called “code-breaking party” she doesn’t even tell Jughead why it’s so important the group breaks the cypher sent to her by the Black Hood. That means he doesn’t realize the cryptogram is actually the announcement of the next place the serial killer will strike. This is pretty important information, yet Betty doesn’t fill Jughead in because she’s ashamed of the fact the Hood credits her as an inspiration. Jughead happens to find out about the Hood’s secret letter to Betty because it fell out of one of her books. If that coincidence hadn’t happened, Jughead would still be in the dark.
Betty and Jughead’s cagey season 2 relationship is a far cry from their unconditional love during Riverdale season 1. Remember when Betty showed Jughead her nail mark self-harm scars in “The Lost Weekend?” That was a show of fearless honesty about the darker parts of Betty’s psyche, which are nothing for the young woman to be ashamed of. Betty couldn’t have been more honest, as she admitted of the entire Dark Betty Thing, saying “There’s this darkness in me that’s overwhelming sometimes.” Jughead wasn't freaked out by Betty’s truth — instead, he kissed her scars. In the same honest vein, Jughead admitted, “Sometimes when people do nice things for me, I short circuit.” Now, these two are hiding their biggest secrets from each other.
Although Bughead is no longer acting like Riverdale’s cutest couple, it doesn’t mean Jughead absolutely has to date Toni next. It’s merely a simple fact the Serpent member understands what Jughead is going through, and will never make him feel like he has to lie about his day-in-day out activities. As Jughead tells Betty, the new addition has an “affinity for the darker side of things,” which he clearly relates to. Betty obviously does too, but it looks like Jughead no longer recognizes that. Now this is a love triangle the Betty-Archie-Veronica plotline could learn from.
Unfortunately for everyone who’s hoping Bughead has only hit a minor rough patch, the trailer for next week’s episode, “When A Stranger Calls,” suggests things are only going to get worse. The teaser shows Betty talking to the person we can all assume is the Black Hood over the phone. The guy she informs of this horrible fact seems to be longtime friend Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), who is definitely not Jughead. On the other hand, Jughead seems to be descending even deeper in the underworld of gangs, as he’s sporting his Serpent jacket and announcing he wants to “stand with” the bikers.
I would say everyone should probably start preparing to see Bughead squashed.
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