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‘Riverdale’ resets after its hiatus with a dull “Blackboard Jungle”

‘Riverdale’ resets after its hiatus with a dull “Blackboard Jungle”

The last time we saw the dimly-lit Riverdale and its impulsive inhabitants, the Black Hood was revealed to be a janitor no one cared about. Now we’re back and everything is relatively back to normal, and it’s so, so dull. “The Blackboard Jungle” drops us back into a Riverdale that’s entirely recovered from the Black Hood (seriously, no one even cares anymore) where the biggest drama is Southside High students being transferred to Riverdale High. I’m not saying the Black Hood plot was perfect (it wasn’t), but it had more urgency than what we get in here, where the only thing remotely Big is a special agent pulling Archie into his investigation into the Lodges.

First of all, this special agent’s clearly bad at his job–assuming he is a special agent–if the key to his investigation is Archie Andrews. Second, the Lodges haven’t done a single interesting illegal thing except orchestrate Nick Sinclair’s “accident”. Otherwise, all they do is bribe Mayor Mccoy, buy land, and try to hide it. I guess I should credit Riverdale for its accurate, ho-hum portrayal of white-collar crime, but we don’t even get to see the Lodges rolling in their decadent, illegally-obtained wealth (the only person enjoying their money is Penelope Blossom, now running a one-woman brothel out of her house). All Hiram and Hermione do this week is stare seriously and urge Veronica to do her part.

Veronica’s part is to keep the peace when Southside High’s shut down, a casualty of whatever dull criminal enterprise the Lodges are running. Southside’s student body is funneled to the hallowed, more-privileged halls of Riverdale High where Veronica makes a couple valiant, misguided attempts to keep everyone chill. But Weatherbee ends up prohibiting out and proud gang affiliation on school property which, let’s be real, is probably the only sensical administrative decision ever made in Riverdale and is far less pressing than the murder, blackmail, and drug running we were dealing with a few weeks ago.

But if you ask Jughead not being able to wear his jacket to school is the worst thing ever. The other Serpents remind Jughead that, you know, they can just take advantage of jackets’ wonderful ability to be taken off and put back on again, but Jughead’s like “Nooo, we’re being oppressed.” Since this is the only sensible administrative decision we’ve seen Riverdale High make, I can’t be mad about it, and I really can’t be mad about it when just a few weeks ago we were dealing with murder, blackmail, and drugs.

Archie, at least, is keeping with the usual. There are some glimmers of promise in his storyline, though it’s mostly populated by attempts to squeeze some information from the Lodges (information we already know, mind you) and handwringing over Veronica’s and Fred’s fates. The many threats to Veronica and Fred should probably be a clue that Archie should at least Google this Fed to make sure he’s the real deal, but we know he won’t. Instead, he puts on a blazer (for some reason) and pays a visit to Nick to 1) get another check for Cheryl, who’s trying really hard to give her mom a reason to abandon her late-in-life calling as a sex worker and 2) to get info from Nick about his “accident”. Archie only succeeds at one of these, but he does get to beat Nick up which, if you ask me, is always good.

But that’s not enough. This is still so, so boring. True, there’s a lot of resetting the show has to do now that the Black Hood is off the board (for the moment), but instead of using this time to sift through the emotional fallout, which would have the benefit of being more resonant, it’s right back to some not-so-thrilling business. The episode’s best moment comes as Archie confesses to Veronica about his kiss with Betty. It should be fine because he and Veronica were broken up at the time, but it’s certainly touching to watch Veronica process this information, be hurt by it, and ultimately decide to be fine with it. It makes for a nice, grounded moment in an episode that feels a bit too occupied with filling the time until it can get to the good stuff.

And that good stuff is still up in the air. I’m not convinced the show will make good on the Black Hood, whoever he really is, but I’m cautiously optimistic that Betty’s half-brother Chic will serve up some creepy realness soon. Until then…meh.

Stray Observations

  • Polly’s decided she no longer wants anything to do with her family, a decision which would have made sense months ago, before they were actually pretty chill with her. But I’ve decided the decision-making skills of someone who names their kids Juniper and Dogwood can’t be trusted anyway. Chicago would have been better.
  • Penelope is so, so cringey, and now I’m imagining Cheryl awkwardly running into men she knows from town as they depart after receiving Penelope’s services.
  • Please let Kevin make out with Joaquin’s friend. Please.
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