Let’s Ponder Fantasy Worlds And Riverdale’s Heightened Reality

by Erik Amaya


Riverdale has never been shy about its heightened reality. Landing somewhere between teen drama and film noir, the show focuses on a lot of wish-fulfillment. What early teen hasn’t fantasized about solving a murder? What teen hasn’t fantasized about controlling millions of dollars and rebelling financially from their parents? And what former teen hasn’t wished to look as sharp or beautiful as the Riverdale cast?
In fact, the wish-fulfillment is so strong, the fan theory centering on all of this just being a story written by a lonely and outcast Jughead (Cole Sprouse) carries a lot of merit. It has from the moment he became the central character, but this week’s episode featured so many collisions between fantasy and reality that it is hard to ignore this interpretation of the show.
Veronica (Camila Mendes) finally opened her speakeasy. Despite the suspicious bottles behind the bar, she intends for the place to be dry. She has good reason as the place is not a secret — note Jug’s objection to it being called a speakeasy — and Sheriff Minetta (Henderson Wade) would love nothing more than to shut her down. And just to make that threat more palpable, Penny Peabody (Britt Morgan) stopped by Pop’s to offer protection and plant some Jingle-Jangle. The real power behind these moves was immediately obvious and Veronica reactivated the surprise espionage squad to get some leverage on Hiram (Mark Consuelos).
Honestly, teaming Veronica up with Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) is one of the best happy accidents the show ever stumbled into. But considering their team-up in this episode only lasted the one scene, it indicates how much faster the show is moving. See also the references to a three-week jump between last week’s show and this episode. That said, there can never be enough of the three of them boldly sauntering into a place and learning things it would take Jug and Betty (Lil Reinhart) weeks to uncover.
Speaking of Bughead Investigations, Jughead’s nearly-lethal game of Griffins & Gargolyes with Ethel Muggs (Shannon Purser) revealed a lot to us even if Jughead’s central clue was lost to his father’s fire. As we suspected last week, the game is a obtuse mixture of Dungeons & Dragons and a card game. Presumably, the rules will continue to confuse viewers even as the game finds more players. But perhaps more important than the game itself is Ethel’s stated reason for allowing Jughead to play: the Gargoyle King’s message needs to spread. She first wanted Jughead to do the work, but when he proved recalcitrant, the game itself appeared in every locker at Riverdale High. And at the episode’s close, we learned this was the very thing the King wanted Princess Etheline to do.
Man, I hope Ethel finds some sort of peace and stability soon. She never catches a break.
Meanwhile, Betty’s attempt to infiltrate The Farm blew up in her face as she discovered Evelyn (Zoe De Grand Maison) and other members know about the murder Alice committed a few months prior and Betty’s involvement in the cover-up. Make no mistake about where this is going. Betty, luckily, has the faculties to see it on the horizon and lashed out. Nonetheless, her horror was accompanied by the early signs of another seizure and as she pointed out earlier, Evelyn has been present at all the ones we’ve seen so far.
Also, Archie (KJ Apa) continues to make stupid decisions at the world’s wildest juvenile detention center. Like the speakeasy, this storyline speaks to the heightened reality of the show. But as Archie made the choice to be there, it’s still not worth discussing other than to say a prison break is the natural extension of this silly plot.
But let’s ponder Archie’s abilities to dig himself out of stupidity while we watch a preview of next week’s show. It’s the flashback episode as Alice (Madchen Amick) tells Betty about her generation’s run-in with G&G. The story sees the younger cast playing their parents and Anthony Michael Hall playing Riverdale High’s principle in the 1980s.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.

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