Riverdale Ep. 3.1 “Chapter Thirty-Six: Labor Day”

After quite the sophomore slump, Riverdale is back with season three. I can’t say that I was excited for more episodes. Season two was a serious mess in many ways. But that was probably due to a lack of direction-planning from the writers.

In this first episode, viewers are given the set-up to what is sure to be the main plotlines of the season: prisons, cults, and magic? Yes indeed.

Jughead’s opening monologue tells us that it is the summer before the gang’s Junior year. So we have to believe that all of season one and two happened during their sophomore year? When I was a sophomore in high school I was in marching band and didn’t even have a learner’s permit yet.

I also looked like this:

God if I lived in Riverdale, I would be tired as hell, kids. I mean, this show can get pretty unbelievable but convincing us that these kids are 15 is probably the most lofty.

At the end of season two, Archie was charged with the murder of another boy (whom Archie saw killed in cold-blood by Veronica’s doorman). Like the good friends they are, the gang pitched in to help with Archie’s case. Betty being the most involved, helping out with an internship with Mary Andrews and Not-Mayor McCoy.

The whole affair is rather like a Depression-era courtroom drama. Though it is pretty difficult to be convinced by the mood, considering that there is little to no evidence against Archie other than he makes stupid decisions.

After the jury deliberates for a bit, the judge calls for the verdict to be postponed until after Labor Day, giving Archie one more weekend of freedom. Instead of looking for more evidence (which is a little late, considering there have already been closing statements), Archie insists on having one more weekend of freedom.

The gang go to pool parties, swim in the watering hole (including a cute Stand By Me reference). Archie becomes an honorary Serpent with his tattoo (again, these kids are meant to be almost-Juniors). FP and Jughead swear that the Serpents will be there to protect Archie physically, but the mental strength will have to come from Archie himself.

Also, weird, but why are the Serpents living in a Hooverville-style hobo jungle? What’s with this episode’s obsession with the Depression?

Speaking of, Riverdale hasn’t given up on beating this gang sub-plot to death. Jughead is informed that Hot Dog (the Serpents’ mascot) has been taken by the Ghoulies, who are now working closer with Hiram than ever before.

A small number of the usual Serpents go together to get Hot Dog, but are unsurprisingly caught by Penny Peabody. She (rightfully) tells Jughead that his jacket still says ‘Southside’ despite the fact that the Serpents no longer have Southside territory. And by not changing said name, Penny (somehow) believes that means the Ghoulies can declare war on the North side? Does anyone really care?

In the end, the jury is hung. But Archie being the ultimate Stupid Archie takes the plea deal offered by the state, sending him to juvenile prison. This is Archie and this is Riverdale. The most insane option has to be the correct one.

But this is why we are all here, isn’t it?

BUT.

This show loves a good “what the fuck?” ending, and this episode tried to throw everything and the kitchen sink at us.

Throughout the episode, Jughead noticed Dilton behaving strangely, playing some sort of D&D-style game. But Dilton later explains that he isn’t playing a game. He mentions the name of the Gargoyle King – some sort of demonic Wendigo.

Dilton leaves behind a map at Jughead’s trailer, prompting Jughead to go to the spot marked on it. When Jughead arrives, he finds both Dilton and Ben (‘memba him?) with marks carved in their backs, seemingly bowing to this a figure than can only be inspired by the Gargoyle King.

Both seem to be dead, but Ben suddenly wakes. Will he survive to tell Jughead the fuck is going on? Hopefully not, that would be too easy for our super-sleuths.

While that would often be enough to close out an episode on an interesting point, “Chapter Thirty-Six” pushes it further.

If you recall from previous seasons, Betty’s sister Polly ran off to join a farm where she could safely raise her and Jason’s babies. Turns out, the farm is just a bit of a cult. I was all on board the Manson Family train, until, well, that bat-shit final scene.

Betty returns home after the trial to find her sister and mother outside by a fire with a few cult pals. The two women hold the babies over a fire and promptly drop them. But instead of incinerated baby corpses, the babies float. FLOAT!!!!!

I’m pretty opposed to supernatural elements being added to a world late in the game. This feels a far-cry from the early vibes of season 1 (remember the kids sitting around, listening to Archie try to write songs?). While this is completely silly, I do wonder if it’s a nod to Archie Comic’s upcoming show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. 

Or maybe it was all just Betty’s dream? I guess it’s the time to say “tune in next week”.

 

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