I think the diehard fans of my Riverdale reviews might be growing tired of me nitpicking everything little thing I find wrong the series, so let’s start out by examining what this week’s episode, “As Above, So Below,” did right.
Archie (KJ Apa) has refused to be the prison warden’s new “Mad Dog,” or prison informant (as far as I know, the term “Mad Dog” hasn’t fully been explained). As punishment, Archie spends two weeks in solitary confinement in the hole.
I’m amazed Archie maintained his dignity. Prison holes often have no light and are completely silent. I don’t care who you are, two weeks in the hole would drive you mad. It’s curious that Archie’s breakdown came after he had won his Warden-approved boxing matches against his fellow inmates. Surely this breakdown should have happened in the hole?
“But you said you were going to talk about what the episode did right!”
I am. I loved the prison fights. Not because I’m a sick psycho (which I am), but because it presented Archie with a no win scenario: sadistically torture his boxing opponents and make the fight last several rounds, or bad things will happen to both Archie and his inmates.
Archie’s breakdown is understandable. Being a good person is often misconstrued as being a harmless person. This is wrong my friends. Being a good person means harming the forces of evil. I would encourage those of you who consider yourselves “good” people to remind yourselves of times you were a bystander and allowed something bad to occur simply because you didn’t want to “rock the boat.”
Archie Andrews’ breakdown in his cell was the realization that maybe being a good person isn’t worth it, especially since the lengths he’s willing to, or has already gone through to protect others, likely won’t be reciprocated.
Take Veronica (Camila Mendes). Archie is so good to her. He would kill for her. He would die for her. When Archie’s mother (Molly Ringwald) left his father (Luke Perry), it left a void in Archie’s life. This void is undoubtedly the reason for his devotion to Veronica. But Veronica can’t and won’t ever love him in the way he believes she ought to be capable of. Romantic love is opportunistic, whimsical, and most importantly: conditional.
Archie was the cutest guy in school and poised to be the captain of the football team when Veronica moved to Riverdale. He was the hot popular guy. As time went on the two grew to care for one another, and formed a loving bond that’s been nothing short of magical to bear witness to as a viewer.
However, Veronica’s concern for her Archiekins was noticeably absent from this week’s episode. She and Reggie (Charles Melton) were too busy opening their non-alcoholic speakeasy (ok… so like a café?) and blackmailing Hiram (Mark Consuelos).
I’m not saying Veronica is consciously opportunistic in her romantic pursuits, but that romantic relationships are generally (whether we are conscious of it or not) predicated on physical attractiveness and socio-economic status.
“But, but what about Jughead (Cole Sprouse)!” What about him? He’s widely considered to be the most physically attractive man on the show. As for status, well I guess you got me there. He isn’t rich, he lives in a trailer… oh, and he’s the friggin’ SERPENT KING. Surprise! Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
Speaking of which, why were Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead fornicating in Dilton’s (RIP) bunker. EW!!!!!!! Isn’t that bed where Ethel (Shannon Purser) and Ben likely, uh, “role-played” in.
In order to learn the truths of the secretive role-playing game “Griffins and Gargoyles,” Jughead agrees to play the game with Ethel. Full disclosure: I have a huge crush on Shannon Purser, and I was extremely envious of Jughead when kissing Ethel was declared to be mandatory for moving forward with the game. Sign me up Gargoyle King!
Meanwhile Betty voluntarily agrees to attend a meeting of “The Farm” — the cult her mother, sister and the creepy new girl Evelyn Everner, are part of.
It seems like Alice has told the cult about the body FP (Skeet Ulrich) and Jughead helped the Coopers bury last season. YIKES! Poor Betty, Alice trusts The Farm more than her own daughter!
The episode ends with two revelations. Alice and FP used to play G&G, and Ethel has distributed instructions on how to play the game to every student at Riverdale High.
I’m extremely pleased with this week’s episode, especially Betty and Jughead’s storylines. Archie is planning to escape from prison, and I hope his leadership and guidance will prevail against the Gargoyle King and The Farm.
One of my favorite things about this series is how confrontational these characters are. I think the reason I love Betty is because of the sincerity in her eyes whenever she emotes. As much as I love North American society, and in many ways favor it over every other society on earth, there is a disappointing lack of candor among Canadians and Americans.
In a series with a supernatural villain, I think the most unrealistic thing is the fact that our leads don’t really gossip — they confront. I’ve tried this in my own life, and people are just not ready to speak or receive the truth.
If this show can encourage teens to call out injustice wherever they see it, then this show will truly have been worth something. It won’t be just a flashy, sexy, gimmicky comic book adaption (*cough Sabrina).
And yet, these characters are more than just ideals of what we should be — they also depict the ugly truths of human nature. I won’t blame Veronica if and when she cheats on Archie with Reggie. This show needs to make our characters feel real, and from what I can observe about Veronica, she seems like the kind of person who would. After all, even the righteous Archie and Betty had a moment of weakness. Is it a coincidence that Jughead has also kissed Toni (Vanessa Morgan) and Veronica?
Remember how I said being a good person means causing harm and not being an innocent bystander? And how every one of us, even those of us who consider ourselves good, are guilty of being innocent bystanders?
I think the path of least resistance can be tempting. Why not break up with Archie and date Reggie? Why not just give up investigating G&G and The Farm and just lay low and stay safe? Why not do whatever the Warden tells you without question, especially when the risk is being put in the hole for a week?
Put yourself in the characters’ shoes. I mean really do it. Forget it’s a TV show and the fact that everything will probably work out fine for our leads. If you can truly put yourself in their shoes, I want you to honestly answer the three questions I wrote above. Also, tell me any other thoughts you had watching this week’s episode. ~Yanis Khamsi