“I‘m taking this town back,” vows Archie (KJ Apa) midway through Riverdale’s second episode following its gutsy seven-year time jump. By the end, he and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) have hatched a savvy plan to stop their nemesis Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) in his tracks.
As we learned last week, Hiram is trying to reduce Riverdale to rubble so his nearby housing development SoDale – “Stepford for bougie gangsters”, according to daughter Ronnie (Camila Mendes) – can thrive. His latest dirty trick is to squeeze Riverdale High’s funding so it can no longer afford to open, then have Riverdale “unincorporated” as a town so it loses all state funding. Hiram tries to bribe Toni, who is now Riverdale High’s guidance counsellor, with a juicy job offer at prestigious Stonewall Prep. But she’s having none of it: alongside Archie and Betty’s mum Alice (Mädchen Amick), she’s spearheading the campaign to save Riverdale High.
Archie has another pressing problem: his house has been rented out to the Ghoulies, who’ve turned it into a filthy drug den. But when he and Reggie (Charles Melton) turn up for an inspection, Archie finds the Ghoulies have been tipped off – probably by Reggie, who’s working for Hiram now – and there’s no gear to be found. As he leaves, he spots Betty’s younger sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye) fraternising with the Ghoulies and perhaps even acting as their dealer. He tells Betty (Lili Reinhart), who was already starting to wonder why her little sister keeps coming in so late.
Archie and the gang then take matters into their own hands by raiding the house – Betty is an FBI trainee, after all – and uncovering the Ghoulies’ drug lab in the bathroom. Archie gets his house back, and after he and Betty get super-sweaty tidying it up, they hop in the shower together. As Betty points out, it’s “something we’ve been wanting to do since high school”, and seeing as they’re both single now, there’s no reason to feel guilty. Still, neither rushes to tell Ronnie or Jughead (Cole Sprouse) about their quite literally very steamy encounter.
In fairness, Jughead already has problems of his own: he owes a credit card company nearly $10,000 and the debt collectors are circling. He takes a job at Pop’s so he can start paying them off, but then happens upon an unlikely cure for his writer’s block. After accidentally emailing his agent the speech he’s written for Pop Tate’s (Alvin Sanders) retirement party, his publishers are convinced it’s the beginning of his next masterpiece. Jughead doesn’t seem so convinced, but his agent tells him that writing a book about his dying hometown is his “ticket out of the literary grave” he’s dug for himself. This isn’t going to end well, is it?
Ronnie is still being suffocated by her controlling stockbroker husband Chad (Chris Mason): he’s frozen their credit cards and having her followed. When she asks dad Hiram for help, he callously declines, so this self-described “She Wolf” does her own dirty work and goes for Chad’s jugular. Over Zoom, she warns him that if he doesn’t unfreeze the cards, she’ll turn up on the trading floor and out-perform him in front of his colleagues – just like she used to do. It’s safe to presume her threat has the desired effect.
The episode climaxes with a town meeting where Hiram pushes through his motion to unincorporate Riverdale. He doesn’t manage to strangle Riverdale High, though, because Toni was hip to his tricks. She has already secured private funding for the school from a local benefactor who owes the community a massive favour and can never say no to her – that’s right, it’s Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch). And because Riverdale High is now private, it can hire anyone to teach there whether they have a degree or not. Archie, Betty, Jughead and Ronnie all accept teaching positions so they can fight for their town’s survival from the inside. Let the battle commence.
But before we have time to savour this prospect, the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Tensions between the Cooper sisters are already running high after Betty accused Polly of dealing and turning tricks earlier in the episode. Now we see Polly running away from a truck that’s chasing her down a highway. It looks pretty ominous…
Did you notice?
- Now that she’s a married woman, Ronnie’s full name is revealed to be Veronica Gekko. The writers are clearly having fun linking her Wall Street trader husband, Chad, to iconic ’80s movie character Gordon Gekko.
- Ronnie’s credit card is an “American Excess”. Nice wordplay, lads!
- Line of the episode goes to Kevin (Casey Cott), who tells Archie shortly before the pivotal town meeting: “I love that it feels like an episode of Succession right now!” As we know, Riverdale can never resist a reference to another TV show.