Thursday's Riverdale, "The Last Picture Show," was about telling truths in different ways for its two leading men, Archie (KJ Apa) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse), but both of the reveals changed the course of the show going into the halfway mark of the season.
Riverdale decided to deal with the inevitable early by having Archie get busted for his affair with Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel) in the fourth episode. The truth is, the idea that Archie was hooking up with his teacher is not that shocking in 2017 and it was good to get the scandal opened up sooner rather than later. It's Betty (Lili Reinhart) that discovers his best friend is involved in an illicit affair, and the scrupulous notes she makes about it in her diary leads her mother Alice (Madchen Amick) on a rampage to take down Archie once and for all.
Like we said though, the real scandal here isn't that a ridiculous attractive football star is dating his dubiously young and also ridiculously attractive teacher. It's that Ms. Grundy is not who she says she is. She made up her identity only as she got to Riverdale and she offered no physical proof that her story about being an abusive relationship that sent her on the run is true. It's only her word, and Archie is the only one who heard the story leaving no one else to ask serious questions about why "Ms. Grundy" would need to change her name if she was successfully able to divorce her husband? There's more to the story there, but we're not sure when we're going to find the rest of it out.
Alice's inquisition of Archie leads not only to Fred (Luke Perry) finding out about his son's NSFW extra curricular activities, but to Ms. Grundy hastily volunteering to quit her job and leave town. (Seriously, if all she was hiding was an abusive ex, why is she so eager to quit and move without explaining that to anyone but Archie?) So Grundy is gone, for now — which is actually a good thing, despite the loose ends.
Riverdale also gets points for not drawing out the tension between Betty and Archie in the aftermath of all of this as they could have. It would have been very easy for Archie to blame Betty for what happened to Ms. Grundy, thus forcing us to spend episodes stuck in a cold war between the best friends. It's drama that no one needs with so much other craziness happening around these two characters. It not only shows Archie's emotional maturity (side stepping typical high school drama cliches) but also shows the that Riverdale recognizes where its true drama is. Now it has its main character back to explore that.
As Betty points out in the episode, Grundy's relationship with Archie cut him off from everyone else that he knows. He was in his own world and lying to the people closest to him. How does a show work if your lead character is in a bubble away from the rest of the action? Removing the Grundy relationship at this point frees Archie up to be more immersed in the world and characters that Riverdale has set up for us to play with. We may see the show through Jughead's eyes, but Archie is the guy we are following so he needs to take us somewhere besides Ms. Grundy's rehearsal space.
Speaking of Jughead, a key piece to his backstory was also revealed at the end of the episode and it's probably something our narrator would have preferred to leave out, even though it is an important part of the story. Jughead is the son of the head of the Southside Serpents, played by Skeet Ulrich. All we know about the Serpents so far is that they're a gang working with the Lodge's to bring down the value of Riverdale's drive-in movie theater so that Hiram Lodge could afford to purchase it for an unknown reason.
While Jughead and his dad had a cordial exchange at the end of the episode, there has to be some bad blood between the two because Jughead has been living at the drive-in movie theater where he works instead of at home with his old man. There's also no sign of Jughead's little sister Jellybean or his mom, despite the fact Jughead keeps a picture of Jellybean in his belongings. There's no doubt Jughead's father's involvement with the Serpents is going to affect Jughead — especially if he's teaming up with the Lodges for illegal activities. The question is, how do these things intersect with the murder of Jason Blossom?
Loose ends are unraveling like crazy on Riverdale, but the two major reveals of episode 4 are taking the show into another gear. Taking Ms. Grundy out of the picture at least temporarily frees everyone up to see the rest of the board and where everyone is positioned. We'll need Archie to help us find out what's really going on with Jughead at home if we can't trust Jughead to include it in his narration of events and that is the only way the story moves forward. Secrets are brewing, but it seems like Riverdale knows exactly what it is doing and is only getting better at executing it.
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9/8c on the CW.
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