Riverdale Season 1 Chapter Four: The Last Picture Show Recap

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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke

This quote could probably be my recap for the week, possibly for the series, possibly also for the current political situation. In all three cases, there are many people waiting and watching, thinking of themselves as the good people, telling themselves that they are following the rules, the situation isn’t all that dire, others are overreacting, and it won’t be time to act until things get “really bad.” But what does “really bad” mean? When your 15 year old is sneaking out of the house to have sex with his music teacher, who is nearly 20 years older than him? When the teenagers in your supposedly idyllic town are in mental institutions, found murdered, or made homeless, and nobody saw it coming?

At this point, I’m not sure which extreme is worse, Alice Cooper trying to micromanage Betty’s life to keep her out of trouble, or Fred Andrews’ benign neglect and failure to take responsibility not just for his parenting decisions with Archie, but for his decisions as an employer and businessman as well. He affects the town in a profound way, and the only time we’ve seen him realize it was when he thought Hermione might affect his bottom line. Otherwise, he stays in a safe little cocoon of obliviousness, even when the evidence is literally staring him in the face. It’s been pointed out subtly several times over the first few episodes, but it was made blatant in this episode, as person after person appealed to Fred to wake up, open his eyes, and do something about what was happening around him. But he chose inaction in every confrontation. Even at the end, Alice confronted Grundy, and Grundy left voluntarily. Fred watched it all happen around him.

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s one week since the discovery of Jason Blossom’s body. This week’s crisis is the imminent closure of the Twilight Drive-In, a town landmark, Jughead’s employer, and his “home away from home” as he tells us in his opening voiceover. He’s not being completely honest here, because it turns out that the Twilight is his actual home. Whatever other home he might be entitled to with his mother and sister is apparently no longer available to him, or has become someplace so difficult to live that he’s no longer willing to subject himself to it. His father, who turns out to be the criminal leader of the town gang the South Side Serpents, knows Jughead lives at the Drive-In, but, as far as the episode shows us, everyone else in town either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, including Jughead’s close, longtime friends and their parents. Yet Jughead begins the episode by telling us that Riverdale was wholesome and innocent before Jason Blossom’s murder. I’m not sure anyone in this town is a reliable narrator.

Sheriff Keller is stirring up suspicions amongst the townspeople as he goes door to door asking questions about Jason’s murder. It’s becoming like the Salem Witch Hunt. Sounds very wholesome.

Betty is fretting about Archie and his illegal affair with Geraldine Grundy. Jughead refers to Betty as “our friendly neighborhood Hitchcock blonde.” This is an important reference to Betty, because a Hitchcock blonde was anything but the girl next door type that Betty has traditionally represented:

The Hitchcock blonde represents a restructuring of the submissive, domestic female popular image of the time. While she fits the physical appearance of the classic model, she operates as a modern woman with a simmering sexuality and emotional complexity hidden beneath a clean wardrobe, aloof perfection and hairspray.

 

Hitch relied on these women as a key component in making his films work. “Suspense is like a woman,” he said. “The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement. The conventional big-bosomed blonde is not mysterious. And what could be more obvious than the old black velvet and pearls type? The perfect ‘woman of mystery’ is one who is blonde, subtle and Nordic.”

It is, of course, an oxymoron to refer to Betty as the friendly neighborhood Hitchcock blonde, since the whole point of the Hitchcock blonde is that she isn’t the typical, uncomplicated neighborhood girl (as seen by mid-twentieth century men), but that’s why Jughead and Betty are my favorite characters. Nobody, except for possibly Betty and his father, sees Jughead, but he sees everyone.

Hmm, this recap is turning into a character analysis. This is what happens when a metawitch is left with too much time to think.

So, Betty is fretting about Grundy and Archie, because she knows the truth. Fred and Archie go to a concert that Grundy plays in, and Fred is so friggin’ oblivious that he comes on to Grundy. Grundy demures, because Luke Perry is about 35 years too old for her tastes, but Archie makes faces at her until she accepts.

Jughead and the gang, minus Archie, are at the diner. Jughead tries to make a case for saving drive-ins as part of the American dream, which I personally am totally here for, if only he could do something about the mosquitos in most of the country. He’s uncharacteristically worked up about this, which makes sense later.

Archie, Fred and Grundy arrive at the diner for dinner. Betty drags Archie outside to talk to him about Grundy and the morning of July 4th. Jughead stays out of this one, but Veronica can’t resist getting in on the scandal she can sense brewing. She races outside in time to catch Archie confessing his affair with Grundy in the middle of the parking lot. (Where is my face palm emoji?? Don’t talk about your actual legit criminal activities in busy public places at full volume, kids, no matter how much it seems to you like it shouldn’t be illegal.) Betty is disgusted, Ronnie is thrilled. Alice shows up to spirit Betty away from the bad influences in town because she is psychic like that.

Meanwhile, Cheryl notices Hermione arguing with the leader of the South Side Serpents. (See, they have the sense to talk behind the dumpster, where they can’t be heard.) Almost everyone in town has treated Hermione like trash since she arrived looking for a new start. Fred refused to hire her because of her husband’s reputation, while Alice and others have continued decades old grudges. Hermione ended up with a job waitressing at Pop’s and a sackful of embezzled cash. Now, she helps her husband buy a prime piece of real estate with illegally obtained funds by ignoring the historical and social value of what’s already on the property, bribing the mayor, and paying petty criminals to devalue the property and put the drive-in out of business. It’s not clear how much time the Serpents were spending at the drive-in before Hermione started paying them, but it’s doubtful that it was a truly dangerous place, since Jughead has been living there, and the Serpents had to be paid to make it worse. It’s also not clear if this was Hermione’s plan all along, or if she’s getting revenge on the town for rejecting her bid for a second chance. What is clear is that the teenagers have lost a safe hang out spot, and Jughead has lost a safe place to live, while Hermione tries to one up the other rich families in town. And/or hang on to her husband.

Betty begins an investigation of Grundy. There’s no evidence of this Grundy existing before one year ago, but comics Grundy died seven years ago. She tells Betty that she did an independent study with Jason Blossom last year, like she ‘s doing with Archie now. Add another murder motive and suspect to the list, and another reason for Jason to want to leave town. Betty and Veronica break into Grundy’s car, thanks to Betty and her dad’s father-daughter bonding time, and discover an ID with another name and a gun. Betty shares all of her evidence with Archie, and that’s finally enough to make him confront Grundy. She whips out a sob story about being an abused wife which, given the ease with which she tells it, and the way it’s on the tip of her tongue, ready and waiting for him to ask, is almost certainly a lie. It works on Archie, and no one thinks to search on the alias.

It’s drive-in time! Jughead went with Betty’s film choice, Rebel Without a Cause, because he will soon be a rebel without a home. (I’m sorry, that was terrible.) Plus, apathy, alienation and the moral decay of American youth.

Things are hopping at the last picture show. Hermione makes the last pay off to FP Jones, leader of the Serpents. Veronica spies on their meeting. Alice grabs Fred to finally make him confront the reality of his son’s behavior. Kevin meets a nice boy, Joaquin, who’s probably not what his dad had in mind. Cheryl eats twizzlers and misses her brother some more. Archie doesn’t go because he’s inappropriately sleeping with a pedophile, and that’s a time-consuming hobby, apparently. Betty doesn’t go because she’s accidentally helping her mother get rid of a pedophile. Jughead is running the projector, and those old projectors were a pain to use, let me tell you.

Alice, Betty and Fred find Grundy and Archie embracing. Alice takes the lead and let’s the accusations fly, but she goes too far, and blames Archie as well as Grundy. That gives Fred an out to dismiss Alice as a meddler and to comfort his son without really addressing the fact that Grundy manipulated and abused Archie. It’s easy to understand Archie’s loose relationship with truth at this point. Grundy agrees to leave town in exchange for a promise of silence from Alice. Later on, we see Grundy in a new location eyeing potential victims, making it clear that this wasn’t an isolated incident.

Someone ransacked Sheriff Keller’s office while he and Kevin were out for the evening and destroyed his murder investigation board.

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Veronica confronts Hermione about her dealings with the South Side Serpents. Hermione explains the realities of how the Lodges operate their businesses and pay for their luxurious lifestyle to Veronica. Hermione wants Veronica to face the fact that she may not like the way her lifestyle is financed, but she’s always enjoyed the lifestyle itself, and it’s her father who makes that possible.

Alice tells Betty that she won’t allow her to keep secrets the way that Polly did. Betty says that she’s Elizabeth, not Polly, and Archie isn’t Jason. Alice needs to stop using what happened to Polly as an excuse to control Betty’s life.

Jughead packs up his belongings in a backpack, leaving a photo of himself and his sister, Jellybean, to pack last, then leaves the projector booth, where he’s been living, for the last time. He tells his father, FP Jones, that he’ll find someplace else to live, like he always does. Jughead and his father smile at each other a little, and seem to look at each other more wistfully than anything else, even though you’d expect to see anger and bitterness between them.


 

We know from Jughead’s conversation with Fred that Fred fired FP for stealing supplies, and Jughead is still upset with Fred about it. Juggie told the mayor that his family couldn’t afford tickets to the drive-in for everyone, so he and his sister would hide in the trunk until they were parked. That sounds like a family that started out close, and fell apart. It also sounds like Fred’s callousness had something to do with it. Possibly FP was framed or just wrongfully accused, but couldn’t get another decent job after Fred fired him, which led to financial ruin and his marriage falling apart.

That still leaves the question of why Jughead was living alone in the projector booth. Best guess? His father isn’t allowed to have custody of him, and either his mother threw him out because he’s gay or bi, or he left voluntarily because his mother hates his father so much. The photo was conspicuously lacking Mrs. Jones. It’s conceivable that she’s dead or incapacitated, Jelly Bean’s in foster care or with evil relatives who might also have thrown Jughead out, Jughead emancipated himself or he is supposed to be staying with someone who lies and says he’s still there.

 

Jughead: I am by nature a conscientious objector. Not saying anything to either you or Betty was the most moral, apathetic choice I could make. [Said while handing out flyers and working to save the town drive-in. This is why he’s my favorite.]

Veronica: My mom’s a waitress, Cheryl, not Fantine. [Les Miserables shout out! Hermione seems to think she’s Fantine, given how many laws she’s willing to break to get out of that diner. Or maybe she’s Mrs. Thénardier, Ronnie is Éponine, and Juggie is little Cosette. Okay, stop me before I do the entire cast. But Archie is Marius and Betty is older Cosette. Cosette is one of my favorite characters, BTW. Totally under appreciated.]

Sheriff Keller: Is there not a nice gay kid at your school?   Kevin: Yeah, there is, me.   Sheriff Keller: No cruising guys tonight, okay? We both know what goes on in those woods.  [Sheriff Keller being an adorable 50s dad and possibly the only parent I can root for on this show, until Alice learns to lighten up. We’ll see how he handles Kevin’s version of Grease.]

Hermione: An attractive woman going with an old friend is less conspicuous than an old crone going alone.  [First, there’s nothing wrong with being an old crone, we are not put on earth solely to please men, thank you very much. Second, her parents and her husband have done a number on her, we need to do an intervention. Wonder how long Hiram will be in jail.]

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Alice: I’m sorry to interrupt your adultery, Fred, but you need to come with me.  [No one can say that Alice doesn’t know how to make an entrance. That was a move worthy of a Hitchcock blonde. Alice is the horrible character that I love because she’s so horrible, but she’s also right sometimes. And she’s Madchen Amick. Looking at what’s happening to the teenagers in the town, and the lousy job the other parents have been doing, makes some of her motives very understandable, just not her all of her Mama Bear methods. Given what an arrogant ass Fred can be, the chip on her shoulder from high school is probably also not without cause.]

Betty: It’ll prove what everyone already thinks about us: Crazy runs in that family. Like mother, like daughter. [What? There some kind of break down in Alice’s past, too?]

Running list of potential reasons for Jason to want to leave town/someone to murder him:

1- his “independent study” with Grundy/alias Jennifer Gibson, child predator and possible victim of domestic violence

2- the football team’s slut shaming ring

3- his bad break up with Polly that left her in an institution

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