We are all very INTENSE this week on Riverdale as secrets are revealed. Not who the killer is, of course, don’t be ridiculous. I didn’t even entertain the idea that Cheryl was confessing to the murder at the end of Chapter Two. No, we’re getting deeper into the secrets and obsessions of this supposedly innocent small town.
We begin with Cheryl expanding on her confession. She loved Jason more than she loves herself. She lied in her original statement to the police. [I’m sure we are all shocked to hear this.] She hasn’t seen Jason since July 4th. The Sheriff tells her that Jason died July 11th. Cheryl explains that Jason wanted to leave Riverdale in a way that would allow him to start over without being looked for. They planned to use the drowning story that Cheryl gave the police. Jason was supposed check in with Cheryl within a month, but she never heard from him. She doesn’t explain why Jason wanted to fake his death and leave town. The Sheriff effectively shuts her down by being accusatory, suggesting that she’s lying now and killed Jason herself, and that their plan was cruel. Then Cheryl’s parents show up to take her home, at which point I realized they were still in the school and this questioning was extremely unethical.
Speaking of unethical adults, Betty’s nightmare mom, Alice Cooper, tosses today’s headline down in front of Betty. “Cheryl Blossom Guilty as Sin!” it reads. Betty is disgusted by the way her parents are sensationalizing Jason’s murder in their family owned newspaper. Alice suggests Betty come work for the paper if she wants things to be different. They could really use a “Lois Lane” type like her. That was a low blow. Lois Lane is a great reporter, but never figures out that the real story is her boyfriend. She’s always in trouble and needs to be rescued by Superman. In other words, Lois can’t see the truth or take care of herself. Which is just how Alice wants to keep Betty, even as she disingenuously criticizes her for it.
Archie goes to the police to tell them that he heard the gunshot on July 4th. He says that he was at the river with his dog, writing songs. Kevin tells the gang that his dad the Sheriff says that everyone in town is a suspect.
Betty has decided to revive the school newspaper instead of working for her parents. She enlists Jughead to help her. He asks for complete journalistic freedom as a condition. OMG, Jughead, you’re ultimately working for the man. Betty may try to run the paper independently, but it’s ultimately a school sponsored activity. Let’s not forget that. This is not Mother Jones, and the writers had better not pretend that it is.
At any rate, Juggie wants to write about Jason’s murder and turn it into Riverdale’s own In Cold Blood. Betty sends him to talk to Dilton Doiley and the boy scouts who found Cheryl at the river on July 4th.
Fred finds out from the Sheriff that Archie went to the police alone, and that he ditched Jughead 4th of July weekend. He realizes that Archie has been doing a lot of lying for months and grounds him.
Miss Grundy is mad that Archie went to the police. She suspends their private lessons. It’s tough trying to do the right thing in Riverdale.
Veronica is out on a date with Chuck Clayton, football star and the football coach’s son. As Kevin says, he’s like high school royalty. The date seems to go well, ending with some making out.
The morning after their date, Chuck sends the selfie that he and Veronica took to the entire school. Her face appears to be smeared with brown goo, which is a Riverdale thing called a “Sticky Maple” that the guys use to slut shame girls. Personally, I wonder what kind of disease these slutty boys have picked up already that’s turning their come brown, and what stage it must have gotten to. You’d think they wouldn’t want to advertise that. 😘 If I were these girls I’d collect the photos and show them to the boys’ mothers, with a referral to a decent, but not very discreet, female urologist.
Veronica is ready to go “full dark, no stars,” break whatever rules are necessary**. She’s out for revenge, and not the kind of whimpy revenge she thinks Betty would get. She and Betty storm into the boys locker room where the football team is changing. They demand that Chuck take the photo down. Chuck is demeaning and insulting as he unsurprisingly refuses. The number of horrible comments on the sticky maple post explodes.
Cheryl is grateful to Archie for coming forward about hearing the gunshot. She’s going to reward him by granting him one wish. He can have anything but her body. He asks to have another shot at working with Josie and the Pussycats. Wish granted, as long as Archie can sneak out of his grounding.
Betty has asked around and found a number of girls who have also been slut-shamed by the football team. Ethel tells her story. She talked to Chuck in the library for a few minutes, then he spread stories around about her. Someone wrote “sloppy seconds” on her locker. There are five guys on the football team who keep score of how many girls they’ve slut-shamed. Cheryl has shown up in the middle of Ethel’s story to loudly complain that Ethel’s problems aren’t as bad as hers, so Ethel should shut up and stop complaining. That, dear readers, is so true to life I am once again gritting my teeth. The most popular way to shut women down when they are trying to change misogyny is to shame them into shutting up because they are supposedly whining about something that isn’t the worst problem there could possibly be, therefore it’s unimportant. Women do it to each other all the time, on a small and large scale. Women aren’t allowed to care about issues that only affect women. That’s not important enough to matter.
Ethel says the team kept track of their scores in a book. She went to the principal, but he couldn’t find any evidence and dropped the issue. Cheryl thinks the whole thing is a lie, because she knew her brother, and he wouldn’t have been involved with this.
Jughead asks Dilton about the morning of July 4th. Dilton doesn’t share any new information with Jughead, but Jughead notices another scout watching him. He confronts the scout at Pop’s over an ice cream sundae. Jughead pulls the cherry off the top and pops it in his mouth, then says, “I saw you looking at me.” He stops short of tying the cherry stem into a knot with his tongue, which would have been a fantastic Twin Peaks reference, but might have slowed down the action too much. We’ll save it for another day at Pop’s. The scout looks at Jughead in terror. His secret’s been discovered. Which secret though?
The scout tells Juggie that Dilton is a hardcore survivalist. Dilton was the one who fired the gun at 6:30 AM on July 4th at the river.
Archie sneaks out of the house to go to the Pussycats rehearsal. He tells Josie that he’d love for them to sing and record his songs. Josie tells Archie that he can never understand her experience well enough to write for her. Archie doesn’t argue.
Ethel brings Trev Brown to Betty. Trev was a football player who quit the team because of the slut-shaming contest. Trev knows where the book is kept. The gang reads the book once they find it. Ethel and Veronica are in it. So is Jason, with Polly’s name next to his. Cheryl is floored. Maybe she never knew her brother at all. They take a photo of the book, and plan their vengeance. Full dark, no stars.
As she’s getting ready for step one of the revenge plan, Betty puts on Sinful Scarlett lipstick. Her mother finds her and wipes it off. She doesn’t want Betty to turn out like Polly, Mom says as she hands Betty the Perfect Pink lipstick. Somehow, I don’t think Polly’s problems were due to her choice in lipstick colors. Betty puts the Sinful Scarlett back on and goes to Pop’s to proposition Clayton. He should meet her at Ethel’s house tomorrow, because she wants to keep up with her friend Veronica and be a bad girl. Clayton suggests that she’s just like her sister as well. He says Jason told them all that Polly was a prissy prude by day and a freak in the sheets at night.
Archie ends up helping the band write a song. He gets caught sneaking back into the house after rehearsal, so he won’t be able to hear the song performed the next day. Archie points out to Fred that Fred would let him go play in a football game even if he was grounded. He thinks his dad should support his music as much as he supports sports. Welcome to mainstream America, Archie, where school sports budgets are never cut, and arts budgets face elimination at all times, at every level, from local schools to the federal government. Archie manages to sneak out and listen to the song being performed at the festival anyway, while Miss Grundy tells Fred what a special, talented boy his son is. I’m sure she raved about how great he is with his instrument, too. She also managed to seem like she was slightly coming on to Fred, which is just extra creepy and opportunistic.
The mayor’s festival brings all of the parents together. Fred and Hermione make eyes at each other. Cheryl’s dad punches Betty’s dad. Alice gleefully informs Hermione that her daughter’s being slut shamed.
Clayton arrives at Ethel’s pool house and finds Veronica waiting for him. Betty enters a moment later in a lacy black bra and a black wig. She’s pretending to be someone else. During my first watch, I assumed it was Polly, but after a second viewing, that manipulative femme fatale could only be her mother. She learned those innuendoes, power moves, and roofie dosing instructions at her mother’s knee. Betty is one of the quiet ones who say little, but miss nothing.
Veronica films Clayton cuffed to the hot tub as Betty gets him to confess that all he and Veronica did was make out. That’s enough revenge for Veronica, but Betty needs more. She shoves his head under the water with her foot, asks him if he likes shaming women, and gives him his own sticky maple. Veronica is in shock. Ethel watches from the doorway, a smile on her face. She and Betty have many more wounds that need to be avenged than Veronica does. Clayton apologizes and gets panicky as Betty starts calling him Jason and speaking as if she’s Polly. Veronica calls Betty back to herself and they end the session.
Fred takes Miss Grundy’s words to heart and soundproofs the garage so that Archie has a place to practice his music.
Betty stayed up all night and wrote an amazing exposé about the football team. Veronica is still freaked out about what happened. Betty tells her that she’s just sick and tired of guys taking advantage of girls like them. It almost sounds like she doesn’t remember the part where she was speaking as Polly. Some form of dissociative state?
Betty and Veronica were punished for what they did to Clayton, though Hermione negotiated a lesser sentence (note the absence of Alice). The football players were cut from the team. Ethel went on the record against the football team. Betty and Veronica’s friendship was cemented. Cheryl tried to accept what she learned about Jason.
Archie asks Miss Grundy if they can start lessons again.
Dilton Doiley tells Betty and Jughead that he saw Grundy’s car at the river 4th of July morning, in trade for them keeping quiet about the gunshot.
Jughead’s ending voiceover says: Coach Clayton, to save his job, to save the school’s reputation, was forced to cut his beloved son and his goon squad from the team, an action that, though none of us knew it at the time, would have terrible consequences in the weeks to come. [And then we go to Ethel’s face and how brave she was to step forward and go on the record. #justiceforEthel may come to mean something else.*]
We got some clues as to why Jason may have wanted to skip town this week, and what put Polly in the institution. If Jason hated what the football team was doing, but didn’t feel like he could stop without them turning on him, that could be a reason to leave town, especially if his family didn’t approve of Polly either. It sounds like Polly thought she and Jason were real, then found out the truth. Jason probably was really into her by then, but it was too late. Maybe Poly tried suicide, and Alice had her locked up.
Judging by how Veronica reacted to Betty at the hot tub, Veronica’s only played at being a bad girl. A real bad girl would eat her for dinner. She’s strong, and she talks a good game, sure, but she’s still a mostly untested, spoiled queen bee who likes to play on the edge of the rules, then go scurrying back to safety. Betty’s actually the more dangerous of the two, when she’s pushed too far. Her mother’s abuse guarantees that she’s tightly wound at all times, hidden inside her carefully crafted exterior. Betty will snap more easily than Veronica and has no safety net at home to catch her.
Jughead: I’d love to stay, but I’ve got to shake down an evil adventure scout.
*ETA 7/31/17: SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR STRANGER THINGS And it does mean something else. Now that I’ve finally watched Stranger Things and read up on it a little, I’ve discovered that Shannon Purser, the actor who plays Ethel, also played Barb on Stranger Things. Barb was a character who many felt was treated unfairly by both the other characters and the writers. She ended up with her own fandom and an online movement was started in her name, including the twitter hashtag #justice for Barb, which Veronica was referencing.
ETA again, 8/17/17: I missed that Full Dark, No Stars is a Stephen King reference, specifically a collection of four novellas with the theme of retribution.