Although Archie and Veronica’s teary breakup in Wednesday night’s “Manhunter” now stands as one of the drama’s most emotionally intense moments — and Apa and Camila Mendes’ personal-best performances — don’t get caught up in your feelings. Yes, even when you think about Ronnie sobbing, “Don’t you make me say goodbye to you, Archie Andrews” or Archie waxing poetic about falling in love with his girlfriend the moment he saw her. Sorry, but this is a Riverdale breakup that needs to stick, at least for now.
There is an unofficial rule for all teen shows and soaps: A couple should only survive, problem-free, for one full season. You’ll remember Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) were broken up for four full episodes during season 2, following multiple brief rough patches. During that lengthy time apart, Jughead was able to decide that his simmering sexual tension with Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) wasn’t all that compelling, and Betty had the time to track down a red herring serial killer and invite Chic “Cooper” (Hart Denton) into her home.
Then, when Bughead reunited in “The Wicked and the Divine,” they were stronger than ever, and have kept up that intensity into season 3. It's no coincidence that “Divine” is also the episode where Betty and Jughead have sex for the first time. Because of Betty and Jughead’s break, the momentous occasion actually feels special.
On the other hand, Archie and Veronica, who started to solidify as a couple way back in season 1, have never had to weather any such long-term storms. Varchie split up for less than a full episode’s time in season 2. In both of those hypothetically mettle-testing episodes, one half of the couple said “I love you” for the first time. The sole drama the couple’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it break created was the opportunity for that small kiss between Archie and Betty, which was resolved five whole weeks later with a small kiss between Veronica and Jughead. Snooze.
In the 31 episodes since Varchie announced themselves as a true Riverdale couple — rather than the taboo flirtationship they had at the start of season 1 — the pair have become far too comfortable for the bonkers series they’re living through. Even the drama of Veronica’s tyrannical father Hiram’s obsession with Archie hasn’t created any true tension in this relationship, until now with the breakup. And three boys had to be shot in a mine for that.
Up until “Manhunter,” Hiram’s machinations only pushed Varchie to become even more fixated on each other, though 99% of their conversations revolve around either their devotion to one another or their explosive sexual chemistry. When Varchie isn’t talking about never letting each other go while knocking boots in unexpected places, what’s left? Not much.
This relationship habit has become especially problematic for Veronica, who used to be a River Vixen for the fun of it, take down sexual predators on the regular, and help solve a mystery or two with her best friend Betty. Lately, Veronica’s entire life has been consumed by saving Archie from the horrors of juvie. During Archie’s time in Leopold & Loeb, she was visiting him seemingly every other day, organizing performances for his prison football team, buying him sneakers, planning elaborate breakout schemes, and then fitting in a few spare minutes to battle her father over her boyfriend’s freedom. Veronica wouldn’t even open her dazzling speakeasy because Archie couldn’t be there for opening night. As we see in “Manhunter,” with Archie successfully out of juvie, Veronica’s sole storyline is still dedicated to finding the tape that would exonerate her on-the-run beau.
Although Veronica’s life has revolved around Archie all season long, the same can’t be said for Archiekins. In order to survive, he had to focus on things like not getting robbed in prison and not dying in the teen fight club orchestrated by a mad warden (William MacDonald). Archie didn’t even tell Veronica about that kiss he shared with the now-dead Joaquin (Rob Raco).
Right now, Veronica needs to focus on things like her business, smiling, and maybe even going to school. Archie clearly needs to reset on his upcoming walkabout with Jughead. After some time apart — and hopefully a Veronica-Reggie (Charles Melton) romp — we can talk about a reconciliation.
After all, as KJ Apa promised Refinery29 during an October interview, “At the end of the day, I feel like they will always still love each other, Archie and Veronica.”
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