Riverdale begins and ends its season finale with a cliff hanger. Yes, Jughead went there. He acknowledges that we’re in the Agatha Christie novel that we’ve been in all along, with a complicated drug and murder conspiracy that ultimately touched the whole town. Jughead and Alice narrate the series of events that lead to multiple deaths, then the episode follows the continuing fall out of those deaths.
The facts as they are currently accepted: The maple syrup was a front for a heroin transport business. Jason found out about the drugs and threatened to expose Cliff. Mustang kidnapped Jason on Cliff’s orders, then Cliff murdered Jason. Cliff killed Mustang so that he couldn’t talk, and left the bag of money implicating Hiram. Clifford then coerced FP Jones into confessing to the murder by threatening to kill Jughead, even though all FP had done was clean up the aftermath and dispose of the body.
The sheriff really is clueless, having had no idea about the drugs, or any of it. I’d thought he was on the Blossom payroll, or possibly a Blossom himself, since his prematurely gray hair matched Clifford’s, but he seems to just go through life turning a blind eye to things he doesn’t want to see, which is almost anything that would implicate a wealthy, influential member of the community. The only way the murder was solved was because the kids wouldn’t let it go.
The mayor has the same philosophy as the sheriff, obviously. They decide a crackdown on the local drug trade is in order. Since the Riverdale police force clearly doesn’t have a single investigator that knows what they’re doing, the sheriff turns to FP. The Serpents are the obvious target for the police, being their usual suspects. If FP names some names, he’ll get a reduced sentence, the mayor and the sheriff get to claim they’ve taken action, and everyone is happy. Except the people who are wrongly imprisoned, and FP, when the Serpents retaliate, but who cares about some lowlife Serpents when there’s fake justice to be had, right?
FP refuses to name names. There is never a lawyer with him, or mentioned as advising him, throughout the entire episode.
Betty’s family is trying to go back to normal, once again appearing to be the perfect family. Betty is worried that her family is going to implode if they don’t start being honest with each other about everything that happened.
Hiram is due to be released from prison in a month. Hermione is already preparing. Ronnie notes that they wouldn’t want to make Daddy angry. With a straight face, Hermione reminds Veronica that her father isn’t the Godfather. Or, at least we shouldn’t say so out loud.
Mayor McCoy asks Archie and Betty to take part in the ceremonies for the town’s upcoming 75th Jubilee. They are the wholesome future of the town, heroes who just solved a murder. Betty asks why Jughead isn’t included, since he did more than Archie. The mayor feels that Jughead is much less inspirational than the other two, since he’s not as middle class, and his father’s in jail.
Later, during lunch at school, Betty tells her friends that she’s going to write an exposé rather than take part in the Jubilee. Jughead tells the gang about the sheriff’s latest ploy to frame someone rather than investigate a crime.
Veronica realizes that she hasn’t been the center of attention for a few minutes, so she stands up to formally announce to Betty that she and Archie have been canoodling. Archie makes sure that Betty knows that it’s not serious. Ronnie is not amused. Jughead is. Betty reassures Varchie that their dalliance is fine by her, since she’s found her soulmate, and it’s not either one of them.
Penelope and Cheryl have just returned from Clifford’s funeral. Penelope laments that Cliff’s funeral was to have been the grandest funeral in Riverdale history. Instead he was buried like a pauper. Exactly when was this grand funeral planned? Penelope continues on, moaning about the family curse, and suggesting they should all die, maybe even the way Clifford did. Maybe Cheryl should even be next. She was never going to win a mother of the year award, but pushing Cheryl toward suicide is a new low. Cheryl looks like she’s considering it.
Archie approaches Betty in the Blue and Gold office later and starts to suggest that he always thought that the two of them would end up together, eventually. When he was done playing with more exciting girls, I guess. Betty cuts him off before he can actually say it, talking about how lucky they are to have found the people they are meant to be with. Archie goes along with the distraction, for now.
Fred walks into the Andrews Construction trailer and demands to know who the new crew are that are now working on the Sodale site. Hermione tells him that she fired the Serpents because the mayor and sheriff are cracking down on them as criminals, and she can’t have Hiram associated with anything that isn’t legit. Fred suddenly develops a sense of loyalty and stops caring about appearances, so he must have had a small stroke or something. He tells her that the Serpents stood by them, so she shouldn’t have let them go. Hermione continues, telling Fred that she and Hiram want to buy out his contract. This is his chance to escape from the situation he’s been so uncomfortable with. Fred tells her to present him with a written offer.
Betty presents her exposé to her parents, who tell her it’s the best thing she’s ever written, but they can’t publish it. As Jughead’s girlfriend, she’s too close to the crime, and, more importantly, the mayor and the town have decided to blame the Serpents for the town’s problems. Betty will become a target if she defends them.
Cheryl gives Veronica her HBIC shirt and hands over the head cheerleader position. She tells Veronica that she’s fine, and is done crying over the Blossom men.
Veronica tells Betty about it later, but they quickly move on to their own concerns. Betty posted her article on the Blue & Gold site, with hard copies to follow. Polly misses school. Betty encourages her to go back.
Archie and Jughead get home to Archie’s house to find a social worker waiting for Jughead. His mother and Fred have both conveniently been ruled out as guardians for reasons beyond their control. Fred had a DUI in the past, and has cash flow issues. Fun fact: the state pays you to take care of foster kids. If he can support himself and Archie, adding Jughead officially would be less of a burden than it is now, unofficially. The DUI is trickier, but given Fred’s presumably otherwise clean record, Jughead’s age (only 2-3 years left in foster care), and the fact that Fred’s a family friend that supposedly wants Jughead to stay there, along with the usual overcrowded conditions in foster care systems, you’d think something could be worked out, since it’s an old charge. I’m guessing that he privately told the caseworker that he doesn’t want Jughead, just like Jughead’s mother did. The caseworker doesn’t want to upset Jughead, so she’s not telling him the truth.
At any rate, Jughead’s off to a foster family on the South Side, where his kind belong. He’ll have to transfer schools as well. Not that the school he’s been attending wanted to allow him back in anyway. Jughead agrees to try it, since he doesn’t have a choice.
Archie goes to visit to FP, to tell him what’s going on. FP says that South Side High is no joke, but Jughead is a scrappy survivor. He’ll make it. And the Serpents will step up when it’s time. The Serpents are FP’s tribe. He owes them his loyalty, especially because they’re innocent, and no one else will care. Jughead needs Archie and Betty now, even when he goes dark and tries to pull away.
Cut to Jughead eating a burger in the cafeteria. Veronica joins him. They talk about the things they have in common: Archie & Betty, and dads in prison. Cheryl interrupts them to give Jughead her iconic spider brooch as recompense for wronging him earlier. He can sell it at a pawn shop for a pretty penny. Concerned, Veronica asks Cheryl what’s up with her, but Cheryl’s answer is interrupted by Kevin, who calls for them to come to Betty’s locker. Something terrible has happened. They grab Archie along the way.
Betty’s locker has copies of her article plastered all over it, with Go to Hell Serpent Slut! written in pig’s blood and a Betty doll hung from a noose. Jughead hurries her away. Later, Archie wonders where you’d even get pig’s blood, having never shopped for meat himself, or thought about where his sausages come from, or what meat actually is. That red stuff that leaks out of raw meat? It’s blood, kids. From chopped up animals that used to be cute pigs, chickens, and cows. Whoever chopped them up for you has lots of blood to spare. Just ask.
Jughead tells Betty that maybe she should drop the story. The entire multiverse is against him anyway. He’s ready to give in. He can’t even envision a reality where the town accepts him or his dad anymore.
Hermione, in true Noir Femme Fatale style, suggests that Veronica use her feminine wiles to convince Archie to convince Fred to accept the Lodges deal. Finally, Hermione is getting serious with the mafia princess training. Veronica, who still doesn’t understand the nuances of the adult relationships in Riverdale, or her own true situation, refuses and rebukes her mother for turning against the only person in town who was loyal to her. No, Veronica, sweetie. He was loyal to Hermione for as long as getting into her pants seemed like a viable option that was more attractive than the risks involved with doing business with Hiram. (Not that I think Veronica should do as her mother asked, though getting out of the deal might be better for Fred in the long run.)
Alice and Betty have it out over the secrets Alice has been keeping. Alice admits that she had a baby boy in high school while staying at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, everybody’s favorite convent. He was put up for adoption. Alice and Hal fought over the baby. We know that Alice was a Serpent in high school, and FP overheard this argument. Is there a chance that this was FP’s baby, instead of Hal’s? Especially since Veronica declares that he’ll be a blonde Adonis? Is Joaquin a little older than we realized, and Jughead’s brother after all? Loyalty is everything to FP, he wouldn’t lose track of his child if he could help it, even if he didn’t raise the child himself.
Jughead calls Betty to let her know that he’s transferred to South Side High, where he belongs. The rest of the gang panics that he’s gone over to the dark side, like FP warned he would, and rush to rescue him. They find him holding court in the cafeteria, entertaining the other students with his stories.
Cheryl asks Penelope if she can skip school that day, and is told no. Cheryl stays home anyway. She gets out her funeral whites, and texts Veronica that she’s going to be with Jason now. Finally, somebody picks up on the glaring suicide warning signals that Cheryl’s been sending all episode. The Scooby Gang rush off to rescue Cheryl from herself. They’re having a busy day.
They find Cheryl out on the ice of Sweetwater River, trying to break through so that she can jump in. When the gang yells to her, she turns to listen to them, but then drops into the water, and is swept under the rock hard ice by the river current. The gang race out onto the ice to save her.
Archie figures out where Cheryl’s gotten stuck, kneels on the ice, and punches it over and over until he creates a hole big enough to pull Cheryl up through. KJ Apa, the actor who plays Archie, was so committed to this scene that he actually broke his hand punching the ice. The cast he’s wearing in later scenes is real.
Cheryl visits with zombie Jason while waiting in the freezing water. He tries to grab her and keep her with him, but it doesn’t look like he’s feeling entirely loving toward her. Cheryl seems okay with leaving him behind. Archie gives Cheryl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, then carries her back to shore after she comes to.
Veronica brings Cheryl home with her. Hermione is so done with the Blossoms and this whole town. She wants Cheryl out of her apartment. Veronica explains that Cheryl was in an accident. Cheryl nobly says she’ll warm up and go home. Veronica and Hermione leave for the Jubilee. Shouldn’t someone be on suicide watch?
Veronica tells Archie that she’s noticed him watching Betty wistfully. After she tells him what “wistfully” means, Archie says that he wants them to have the same thing that Betty and Jughead have. Nice save, Archie. He’s also regretting letting Betty go, that’s clear.
Archie sings lead with Josie and the Pussycats at the Jubilee.
Jughead meets with FP to tell him that he’s met his foster family and started attending South Side High. FP expresses confidence in Jughead, and tells him to be there for his mom and Jelly Bean when they eventually need him. Jughead agrees, and says he’ll be fine in his new school and home. Those two still love each other and are there for each other as much as ever. There’s a depth and emotional honesty in their connection that we don’t see in any of the other parent-child pairs.
Betty gives her speech after Archie finishes his song. She calls for the town to end injustice, and to stop sweeping its problems under the rug, especially when they involve the wealthy. Everyone cheers.
Fred refuses Hermione and Hiram’s offer to buy out his contract. He taunts her by saying that selling out was really in her best interest, not his or the town’s.
Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Veronica celebrate the success of the Jubilee with milkshakes at Pop’s. This time, Jughead is a full participant, rather than an invisible 4th wheel in the corner.
Penelope comes home to Thornhill to find Cheryl in another white outfit, holding a lit candelabra in front of the fireplace, the house smelling of gasoline. Cheryl tells her mother that fire is the only way to truly start over and purify themselves, then throws the candelabra to the floor, which ignites in flames. Cheryl’s gotten her mojo back.
Betty and Jughead arrive at FP’s trailer, which Jughead cleaned up after the sheriff trashed it while searching it. Betty tells Jughead that she’s not giving up until FP is out of prison. Jughead says he knows. That’s why he loves her. He repeats that he loves her, while Betty looks at him like she might just be naked underneath her sweet pink trench coat. She tells Jughead that she loves him too, and they kiss. Passionately. Jughead lifts her up and carries her to the kitchen. Not going with asexual Jughead then. 😘
Veronica and Archie sneak into Ronnie’s apartment, counting on Hermione being passed out on a combination of booze and pills. Veronica quotes Streetcar Named Desire, a Tennessee Williams play that didn’t contain a single healthy relationship. “We’ve had this date with each other from the very beginning.” There’s certainly been sexual chemistry between them since the beginning.
Betty is up on the kitchen counter. She and Jughead have just gotten their shirts off. While Archie and Veronica are shot like a soft core porn fantasy, Jughead and Betty are shot in perfect focus, in a mundane setting, because their relationship is so much more real than whatever Archie and Veronica are telling themselves their relationship is. Jughead even takes the hat off.
Alas, they are interrupted by a knock on the door. Everyone assumes that Alice’s tracking/chastity-proximity device went off. She must be determined that at least one Cooper woman gets out of high school without getting pregnant.
Alice must have called in a favor with one of her old Serpent buddies. They are at Jughead’s door when he answers, along with Hotdog, the famous dog from the comics. The Serpents tell him that they’re impressed with FP’s loyalty. As FP said, they are a tribe, and they take care of their own. Jughead is now one of their own. They hand him a Serpents jacket, which he puts on with a little smile.
Betty watches from the doorway, looking concerned. She says Jughead’s name when he puts on the jacket, and he looks at her, but it’s hard to tell what she’s feeling in that moment. Wondering why he’s putting on more clothes when he should be taking clothes off and finishing what they’d started? Surprised at how turned on she is by the jacket? Worried about him? Ready to join the Serpents herself to support him and rebel against the town? She doesn’t hate the Serpents or think they’re terrible criminals, so she’s not going to be terribly angry. More likely worried about what it means for him and his future.
Jughead’s motivations are easier to guess. He was alone in the world not that long ago. They are offering him a family, including actual adults that he can turn to when he needs them, who will understand his situation and not look down on him. That’s a powerful thing, after the prejudice, ostracization, and alienation he’s faced for the entire season. How can he refuse it? Even if he wanted to, how would that go over with the group of tough guys standing in front of him? Being a Serpent will also allow him to investigate his father’s claim that they aren’t involved in the heroin trade, just small weed deals. He can help clear his father while gaining an extended family.
Cheryl and Penelope watch Thornhill burn. Penelope pummels Cheryl, but Cheryl looks like she’s been transported to another world. Nana Rose is nowhere to be seen. Hopefully Cheryl had the servants grab her from whatever corner she was stashed in and take her out the back door, before Cheryl took over as the madwoman who burned down the Gothic Manor, which is, in retrospect, the only fitting ending for Cheryl’s story. She’s free at last to create a new identity for herself that’s all her own. I can’t wait.
Archie continues to show what a gentleman he isn’t, as he prepares to
sneak out of leave Veronica’s in the morning before she’s awake. Fred wants to have breakfast and a serious talk at Pop’s. Archie arrives at Pop’s, where Fred says he’s ordered Archie’s usual. Archie uses the bathroom, then hears a commotion and breaking glass in the restaurant. He rushes out, to find a robbery in progress.
A masked man is standing over Pop, threatening him with a gun. Fred stands near his booth and gestures for Archie not to try to help. The robber turns to Fred, and demands his wallet. Archie lunges in front of Fred just as the robber fires the gun. Fred is hit in the side of his stomach. The masked man runs out of the diner.
Jughead tells us that this wasn’t a random attack. This will be the day that the last bit of Riverdale’s innocence died and darkness won. Does that mean Fred was innocent and dies, Archie’s innocence dies, or the shooting is going to reveal something, perhaps about Fred, who tries to appear good, that takes away the last of the town’s innocence?
We won’t find out until next fall.
I’m not ok with Betty and Archie being the OTP. That’s a dealbreaker that I will walk away from this show over. Fair warning. Once Betty got over her childhood crush, I don’t believe she’d ever go back, even if she and Jughead aren’t forever. Archie can’t keep up with her emotionally or intellectually. Betty is gorgeous and has a lot going for her, it makes sense that Archie would decide he wants her as soon as someone else has her and makes her seem desirable. He’s an easily led idiot like that. Which is exactly why Betty would never choose him now that she’s a little more mature.
The quote that Veronica uses from Streetcar is said by a sexual predator to his victim just before he rapes her. The dynamics between the characters are complex, but, basically, Stanley has been in a tug of war with Blanche over who will control his wife/Blanche’s sister, Stella, for the entire play. By raping Blanche, he wins final control over both women. Blanche is also overtly sexual, and labelled a whore, so Stanley feels he can take advantage of her flirtatious behavior without explicit consent. Stella, the third side of the triangle, is a “good” woman, appearing socially acceptable by day and saving her sexual desire for her husband, behind closed doors, much like Betty.
The odd thing is to make Veronica the Stanley in this triangle. It comes from her connection to Hermione. She refused to use her sexuality to further her mother’s purposes, earlier in the episode, but is now using it to further her own. She, along with everyone else, can see that Archie is wavering between herself and Betty. She wants to nail down their relationship before he decides to pursue Betty instead. So, she brings him home for a night of passionate sex, even though her mother is in the next room, and it’s rushing the relationship a bit if they mean to be a serious couple. But, Archie’s a bit of a Blanche, having a sexual history similar to hers. Veronica knows he’ll go for it. She hopes that if he’s getting it on the regular, he’ll be satisfied and stay with her.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Veronica unconsciously act out her parents’ methods of dealing with people. Her daddy’s pearls around her neck symbolize how tied to that lifestyle she is, without being self-aware enough to realize it. Of course, Archie is ultimately being dishonest with Veronica as well. He treats the women he dates the same way as his father does, seeing them mainly as sexual objects, and drawing a strict line between the good girl/madonnas and the bad girl/whores, and how much consideration each deserves from him.