Editor’s Note: This recap contains spoilers for Riverdale‘s third episode, “The Last Picture Show.” Only read on if you’ve watched (or want to be spoiled)!
The fourth episode of Riverdale came right out of the gate and told us that Betty Cooper is no fool. She immediately, within the show’s opening moments, said that she figured out Archie and Ms. Grundy where down at the river together, ditching typical TV tropes to confront Archie and bring to close the most disturbing aspect of Riverdale.
Throughout the course of the episode, we discovered that Ms. Grundy, played by the stunning Sarah Habel. was not exactly who she pretended to be. Betty uncovered the fact that Ms. Grundy wasn’t even the music teacher’s real name and that everything about her life had been a lie. But when the big secret of high school sophomore Archie having a sexual relationship with Ms. Grundy is brought out into the open, everyone is strangely okay with it. Betty is the only one who called it what it was: illegal.
So, by the time the credits rolled, Ms. Grundy was kicked out of town, Archie was sad, and his dad (Luke Perry) was like, “Bummer.” That’s it–just a shrug of the shoulders. Honestly, I was glad to see the incredibly uncomfortable story line of statutory rape come to a close, but the way it was treated as such a nonissue by some of the characters was bizarre. Especially the parents.
As a whole, “The Last Picture Show,” as this episode is affectionately named, orbited around the closing of Riverdale’s local drive-in theater. Jughead (Cole Sprouse) was on a doomed mission to save the landmark, but nothing in his power could stop the wheels of time from spinning. The drive-in served as a symbol of a simpler time. In a way, it’s symbolic of Riverdale as a whole. The source material of the show is pulled from a comic that many readers consider to be a slice of Americana, one that often gets labeled as “old-fashioned” or “wholesome.” Those are unfair labels, as anyone who has been a recent reader of the line will tell you, but it’s a prevailing perception in the general public. Like the drive-in theater, those labels are being torn down.
The message seemed to be that the inevitable force of change isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, during every step of Jughead’s quest, he was confronted by characters who told him the positive side of the drive-in closing. Sure, it was a little piece of the town’s history closing, and yes, it represented something special, but that doesn’t mean things should never, ever change. This is a show about pushing boundaries and subverting expectations, and this episode proved that. In other words, Riverdale isn’t afraid to shit where it eats, and that’s big part of why it works so well.
Of course, like everything else in the series, the story of the drive-in theater turned out to be much more complicated than a local business closing. There was a secret buyer–Veronica’s dad! Gasp! From jail!–and some underhanded dealings involving a local biker gang called The Southside Serpents. Apparently, the Lodge family isn’t afraid to get there hands dirty in order to obtain a prized piece of property. If that’s not crazy enough for you, it was revealed that Jughead’s dad is the leader of the Southside Serpents!
Wait, guys, that’s not all. Are you sitting down? Okay, listen up. Jughead’s dad is played by Skeet Ulrich! Skeet freaking Ulrich! What is going on right now?!
With this fourth episode, Riverdale showcased the way these characters will coexist, meaning that everyone is friends and everyone hangs out and everyone forgives each other pretty quickly. They are all super horny for each other (except for asexual Jughead) and sometimes mean and backstabbing, but they quickly fall back into being friends, hanging out, and quipping about life. This dynamic could feel strange in any other show, but the strength of Riverdale‘s cast and the show’s willingness to go bananas crazy at the drop of a hat make the whole thing a blast.
In the end, the pedophile teacher storyline is over and we can call that a win, because Riverdale has so many more interesting characters and tales up its sleeve. I mean, Skeet Ulrich, guys. That guy literally always plays a killer so you just know there is crazy stuff coming up, right?
Images: The CW