Get Thee to a Nunnery
This week Riverdale goes Shakespearean tragedy, except for Archie. Up until now, he’s been in separate storylines from the rest of the main cast. This week, he’s more integrated with the other characters, but he still has his own theme going. Instead of Shakespeare, he’s trying to avoid becoming part of I Was a Teenage Werewolf. He still has no clue as to what’s going on in the rest of Riverdale, even when he’s sitting at the same table with half the cast.
After they made us think that Jason and Polly were Romeo and Juliet last week, this week it’s revealed that Polly is Ophelia. What’s really scary is the Jughead/Betty-Romeo & Juliet references. Who knows where the Andrews/Lodge/McCoy storyline is going. There are elements of Othello there, or it could end up twisting around to feed into the Hamlet/Romeo and Juliet fusion that’s already happening. I’ve lost track of exactly which parents used to date or have rivalries, and they probably haven’t all been revealed, so those jealousies could go anywhere.
Josie and the Pussycats are busy reflecting the movie that episode is named after, Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill! Mostly metaphorically, of course. And possibly setting up a King Lear story line between Josie’s father and the girls in the band.
But enough with the premature analysis! On to the episode summary!
When they were little, Polly was Betty’s protector from scary monsters in the dark. Betty still has her childhood angel nightlight, and Alice is still keeping Betty and Polly from fully protecting each other, just like she did then. The monsters have only gotten scarier, as Jughead reminds us.
Betty tells Alice that she’s invited Jughead over for breakfast, the most important meal of the day, especially for a growing homeless boy. Jughead is caught figuratively and literally between the Cooper women. Alice accuses him of getting Betty into the Jason Blossom murder investigation, but Betty informs Alice that she’s the one who asked Jughead to help her. Jughead soon gets an out when Betty signals him to use the bathroom, and makes sure that Alice is the one who shows him where to find it. Betty uses the moment she has alone with Alice’s purse to take photos of Alice’s checkbook register.
Archie is digging through his old toys looking for his guitar strap, and comes across a werewolf mask, which he quickly shoves out of the way. He needs the strap so that he can wear his guitar while he auditions for the school talent show. Reggie and the rest of the football team mock him a little from the back of the auditorium before his audition, and he ends up choking. He pictures the football team as wearing werewolf masks and runs off stage. Josie gleefully tells Veronica that Archie choked.
Afterwards, he tells Val what happened, and says that he’d probably do better if he didn’t have to perform alone. Val tells him that Josie wouldn’t like one of the Pussycats performing with another act. She demands exclusivity.
Betty and Juggie discover that Polly is being kept at The Sisters of Quiet Mercy Home for Troubled Youth, some sort of cross between a nunnery, a conversion camp, and a mental institution (think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). But let’s go back to the first part: they actually sent
Ophelia Polly to a nunnery, to teach her to be more quiet and subservient; disobedient, outspoken women having long been considered mad. Forced rest and isolation was one of the preferred cures before drugs were available. Hamlet Jason has already received his punishment for his part in their shared madness, but Polly’s isn’t over yet.
At lunch that day, Betty and Jughead are still talking about Polly, wondering why she’s staying with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and why Betty’s parents don’t want Betty to see her. Betty doesn’t care what their reasons are anymore. She’s going to visit Polly. Archie offers to help, but is dismissed. Jughead and Betty have developed into a smooth team that understand each other, and don’t need any help.
Veronica arrives at the table to announce that she’s leaned on the chairman of the Variety Show, Kevin, to convince him to allow Archie in without an audition. Kevin isn’t thrilled about bowing to outside influence. Archie doesn’t want to attempt a solo performance, so Veronica volunteers to be his singing partner. Archie needs a lot of propping up just to reach the level of mediocre. All episode long.
Val rehearses with Josie and Melody. Josie is extra critical and unwilling to share the spotlight. Val says that she doesn’t have to put up with this level of divaness when she works with Archie. Josie goes all territorial Alpha frontwoman and says Val has to choose between her and Archie, so Val, who isn’t anyone’s property, chooses Archie and walks out.
Hermione starts her new job as Fred’s bookkeeper. She tells him that he only has three weeks worth of payroll left in the bank. Maybe he changed his mind about her because he was hoping she could help his money magically grow the way Hiram’s did.
Fred tells Hermione that he’s hoping to get the job building the housing development that’s replacing the drive-in. That would save his business. He needs to convince Mayor McCoy, since she’s acting as proxy for the still anonymous buyer. Won’t it be interesting when Fred finds out that the buyer was Hermione all along? That should be a fun reveal for several people.
Fred has decided to invite the mayor to a business dinner to present his case. He asks Hermione to cohost it with him, so she suggests they have the dinner at her place. Then they kiss, just in time for Veronica to see them as she’s arriving to visit her mom at work.
Josie tells her mom that Val quit the band. Sierra’s response is that Josie is the star, everyone else is replaceable, so, replace her. Josie says that Val was their songwriter, so it isn’t that simple. That doesn’t sway her mother, who has a real Machiavellian streak. Josie’s dad, Myles, who is a professional jazz musician, is missing two concerts to come see Josie and the Pussycats in the Variety Show, so Josie needs to replace Val quickly. It wouldn’t do to disappoint her father, who would find a way to blame it on Sierra. Josie needs to find a thin, beautiful (but not too beautiful, remember who the star is) woman of color (remember their branding) to replace Val so that they have time to rehearse and give a peak performance at the Variety Show.
Veronica walks in on Val and Archie rehearsing for the Variety Show. Archie didn’t tell her that he was switching singing partners. He tells Veronica that he has good news, Val has quit the Pussycats, oblivious to the fact that this is only good news for him. Veronica goes off on him, telling him that he has no loyalty at all (true) and calling him a Ginger Judas (good one, Ronnie!). Then she tells him that their parents kissed. He defends the kiss, because his dad was happy and has been separated for a while. Ronnie gets even angrier when Archie implies that it’s okay for Hermione to cheat on her husband while he’s in prison. He finishes by offering her the Variety Show part back in front of Val, without talking to Val first. Archie doesn’t even understand why everyone’s mad at him. He and Fred are just doing what makes them happy, shouldn’t the women just fall into line around them?
Veronica goes straight to Josie and Melody, and joins the Pussycats.
Betty and Jughead take the bus to the nunnery. They’re standing so close that they’re almost holding hands as they try to build up the courage to go in. The nuns make Jughead wait at the entrance, but send Betty to the aptly named Garden of Deliverance, where Polly and her very pregnant belly go for silent reflection.
Betty and Polly clear up the lies their parents have been telling each of them about the other. They told Polly that Betty didn’t want to visit her. Polly says that she wasn’t sick, into drugs or alcohol, or suicidal (she doesn’t say all of this straight out, so some of it may still be true in the end). Polly says she and Jason were in love, but Jason’s parents broke them up. When Jason found out about the baby, they planned to run away together and raise the baby somewhere beautiful. She went to leave the house on July 4th to meet Jason, but her parents had arranged for her to be forcibly taken to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy that morning. Two large men dragged her from the house to the facility.
Polly asks about Jason. She tries to give Betty a message for Jason so that they can meet at the car they’d packed to run away in. Polly realizes from Betty’s reaction that Jason is dead. One of the nuns comes to take Betty away. Alice is waiting to take her home. On the way out, Polly confronts her mother. Polly is dragged away again by two large men in white, while Alice and another orderly hold Betty and Jughead back.
At home, Betty asks her father if he stole the sheriff’s murder board and killed Jason Blossom. Hal looks hurt and stunned that Betty could think that of him. Alice laughs in both their faces. She says, “Him? You think that he killed Jason? Your father? You think that he has the stomach for that? I wish he killed Jason. I wish I had, after what Jason did to Polly. I swear, Elizabeth, you’re sounding crazy, just like your sister.”
Betty rebukes them for calling Polly crazy. Hal says Polly is depressed and delusional; that her story about them running away together with their baby was an unrealistic fantasy. There is a distinct possibility that Hal and Alice gaslighted Polly, and are now ready to do it to Betty.
Josie and Veronica have a bad dad diva off at rehearsal, and come to an understanding. Archie and Val rehearse and she’s annoyed by his lack of discipline. He says she’s in a “mood.” I am not impressed. Val has a gorgeous voice and improves Archie’s song 900%. She should be singing lead for the Pussycats sometimes.
The Lodges, McCoys, and Andrews get together for a
friendly family dinner from h*ll. Josie’s dad is a music and cultural snob who insults everyone at one time or another, but especially his daughter, who doesn’t live up to his standards. Sierra’s comments try to soften the blows while also being jabs at her husband. Josie gets in a few of her own, referring to Archie as Yoko Ono and blaming him for Val leaving the band. Fred makes his presentation for the construction contract, and Sierra is impressed, but the buyer is already in the process of accepting another bid.
Ronnie and Josie commiserate with each other about their parents at Pop’s. Ronnie tells Josie about catching Hermione and Fred. She doesn’t know whether to tell her dad about it or not. Josie suggests she listen to what her mom has to say. When Ronnie tries to talk to her mother, Hermione asks her to sign the contract awarding the construction to Fred. When Hiram went to prison, he signed part of the business over to Veronica without telling her. They need two signature to award the contract. Veronica says she’ll sign, if Hermione will stop seeing Fred, but Hermione refuses. Ronnie storms out, and Hermione forges Veronica’s signature on the form.
Archie finds Val before the Variety Show. He’s looked up Yoko Ono, and doesn’t want to be that guy. He tells Val to go work things out with Josie. Once Val hears that Myles is in town, she forgives Josie a little, and decides to try to negotiate new terms. They work things out, and four Pussycats perform at the show. The crowd loves it, but Myles hates it, and walks out halfway through.
Archie is on next. Veronica tells him to focus on someone who makes him feel safe while he’s onstage alone. He has another moment of seeing the football team as werewolves, but pulls himself out of it, and performs his song. Archie is also a hit. He and Val share a kiss when he comes off stage.
Fred and Hermione tell Veronica that he was awarded the construction contract. Josie cries in the ladies room while her mother holds her. I get the feeling that Sierra and Veronica aren’t going to let this end here.
Jughead puts a ladder up to Betty’s window. He calls her Juliet when she opens the window for him, and asks if Nurse is off-duty. He also asks if she’s gone all “Yellow Wallpaper” on him yet. There are too many references to damaged but brave women in this episode to keep up with! The Yellow Wallpapering is Polly’s job, anyway, at least for now.
Betty says her parents are crazy, and spirals from there to wondering if she’s crazy. Jughead reassures her that, while the whole town is crazy, they aren’t their parents, either. Also, he really, really likes her and wants to kiss her, though some of that is implied, mainly by him kissing her.
They both savor how nice the kiss was for a moment, then Betty suddenly remembers the car that Polly mentioned. This is the curse of having a mind that never stops. Jughead has the same kind of mind, so he teases her a bit about abruptly ending the moment, but mostly looks charmed. They’ve been growing closer for a few episodes now, and the actors have done excellent work with having them physically draw closer and closer to each other each week. This episode, that’s escalated, so that they were leaning into each other at lunch, standing close and protective at the nunnery, and she’s not surprised at all when he stands close enough to kiss her. It’s just a natural progression of the closeness they’ve been developing.
They follow Polly’s directions and find the car. Jason’s letterman jacket is there, with a suitcase and a lot of drugs. They realize they need to get the sheriff. Jughead takes pictures with his phone, then they go to the school to find Sheriff Keller. As they are leaving the car, someone who’s been watching them moves out of the shadows.
By the time the sheriff finds the car, it being consumed by fire. Someone is following Juggie and Betty and set it on fire after they left. Juggie and Betty race to find Polly, but she’s already gone by the time they get to her room. Her window has been smashed, and there’s blood on the pieces that are left hanging. Jughead’s voiceover talks about the fear that those closest to you will turn out to be the monsters, and worries about Polly, out wandering alone in her grief.
Jughead: “The Sisters of Quiet Mercy Home for Troubled Youth, where disenfranchised teens will learn such virtues as discipline and respect, enjoying lives of quiet reflection and servitude.” [I need a flashback with Alice actually commanding Polly to go there with some variation on “Get thee to a nunnery.”]
Archie: What are you guys talking about? Anything I can help with? Jughead: What we are attempting is a stealth operation, Archie. If we go in there with the entire Scooby Gang , forget it, we’re compromised. Betty: Don’t you have to practice for the Variety Show, anyway? [Archie suddenly notices that his two former best friends are now spending time together, sharing secrets and a silent language. Suddenly, he feels left out and wants to be part of their lives again. They effortlessly blow him off without even bothering to consult each other first.] 😎
Veronica, referring to Archie having a spot in the Variety Show: Except that, yes you do, thanks to a certain Veronica ex machina. I had a few words with our director/host and reminded him that he’s heard you sing on numerous occasions. Kevin: Even though it compromises my artistic integrity. Veronica: Cutting to the chase, you have a slot, if you want it. Archie: You saw what happened. Kevin: We all did. [Does anyone in this town actually respect Archie? ]
Fred mentions that it was “not good” the last time he had to fire someone. That’s likely a reference to Jughead’s dad. Based on the promo, we’ll find out more next episode.
Fred thinks he and Hermione are dating now, since he’s ready and she kissed him. Her marriage and conflicted feelings don’t play into it at all for him. If she’s hanging around with him, it must be a date. To be fair, it’s not clear how much Hermione is attracted to him and conflicted about her marriage, and how much she’s encouraging him and keeping him interested so she can use him. It’s a dangerous game for both of them.
Archie’s morals are loose and confused. Mainly, as long as he’s happy, and he doesn’t notice anyone being physically hurt by his actions, he thinks it’s probably okay. He gets that from Fred, who also has situational ethics. For both of them, what’s right or wrong changes according to how it will affect them, but they are both completely unaware of that and think they have steadfast morals.
Veronica knows what she believes and her values are steadfast. Unfortunately, her parents raised her with different values from the ones they practice. Ronnie is starting to realize what being a mafia princess actually means. It’s not all pearls and designer clothes. Sometimes it’s signing off on backroom deals or being the recipient of threatening messages in the form of rattlesnakes.
The mayor’s daughter now knows about Hermione and Fred, and that Hiram doesn’t know about it. That seems like some prime blackmail material for an unscrupulous mayor.
How far into her pregnancy is Polly? If Jason disappeared July 4th, and it’s now maybe early October, that’s 3 months. Polly looks like she’s at least 6 months pregnant, more like 7 or even 8. How far along was she when Jason disappeared and she was sent away? How was she hiding it if she was 5 months pregnant? Who had figured out/been told about the baby?
Polly is wearing a blood red sweater, sitting in a garden full of blood red roses and leaves blood behind on her broken window. There’s no other red in the Home for Troubled Youth scenes. Is this showing us her connection to the red-headed Blossoms, and their garden of red roses, where Jason is now buried? Or is Polly going to be connected to blood and death in some other way? Ophelia dies, but she goes mad first, passing out flowers and wandering alone before killing herself. She and Hamlet are caught in a web of murder, lies and betrayal, created mostly by other people, that leads to several deaths, including their own. Are we coming in at the end of that story? Or the middle? (Riverdale will probably go for symbolic deaths rather than kill everyone the way Shakespeare does at the end of a tragedy.)
It seemed like Hal couldn’t have been involved with Jason’s murder, because it was too early to reveal the real murderer, so all of this attention meant he wasn’t the killer. But, Alice’s utterly dismissive reaction puts him back up on my suspect board.
Josie is named after Josephine Baker, who was a jazz singer, but who was also married four times, adopted 11 children from all over the world, was bisexual, was a pioneer and icon of the civil rights movement, was a spy for the French resistance during World War 2, was a famous dancer, movie star, and had a pet cheetah she brought on stage with her. Josie has a lot to live up to.
Where was Cheryl this week? Have Penelope and Clifford done something terrible to her?
Ugh, this got so long. This show throws so many references in, and has so much happen in each episode, compared to other shows.