The throughline of RIVERDALE, one that holds up over even the murder mystery, the petty drama, and the non-stop pop culture references, is that Archie Andrews is an idiot – surrounded by women who are better than him. “Chapter Four: The Last Picture Show” is living, breathing proof of that, as Archie’s affair with Ms. Grundy comes to a head, and one Betty Cooper proves to be infinitely smarter than this walking six-pack with a dye job.
The episode picks up with Betty’s discovery that Ms. Grundy’s car was at the river right at the same time Archie was, and as we’ve already established Betty ain’t stupid. She puts two and two and illegal sexual activity together to realize that this was anything but a normal student teacher relationship. She, with the assistance of the lovely and willing Veronica, confront Archie about it, who, like the true dumb-dumb that he is, admits to it all and doesn’t quite grasp the problem. He’s just happy to be with this older woman, in a very illegal kind of relationship way. Oh, sweet, stupid Archie.
Betty, of course, unsatisfied with this, goes all Nancy Drew on his ass, with Veronica as her trusty Ned Nickerson. There’s a recurring theme throughout this whole investigation that they embark on: is this motivated by Betty’s suspicious of Ms. Grundy in the situation, or is it because of her crush on Archie? Although both can be considered, it’s hard to even hark back to that crush, given that Betty has more chemistry with Veronica, and even most inanimate objects, than she does with Archie Andrews. She’s also just a very pure character, (except for last week, lest we ever forget) so it’s hard to imagine her doing anything without her friends’ best interests at heart. It’s also very fun to see her break into Ms. Grundy’s car, toying with the expectations of both the audience and the character’s, when it comes to how much of a good girl Betty truly is.
The conclusion her sleuthing amounts to – thanks to the car robbery, and the help of her good pal Google – is that Ms. Grundy stole the identity of some poor old lady (aka the actual Ms. Grundy of the Archie comics) and is not who she says she is. When Archie, finally finding a shred of common sense in his fake red hair, confronts her on this, she recounts a story of her leaving an abusive relationship and changing her name so that man never finds her. Which is extremely valid, and a solid explanation. If it’s true. It’s hard to tell when an aura of mystery surround the town and the show of Riverdale. It seems to be fair to say that Ms. Grundy won’t innocuously disappear into the night.
That’s where the episode leaves it, with a massive confrontation coming from Betty’s mom, lest we forget that her name is Alice Cooper (like the band?), and she is terrible. After reading her daughter’s diary, she brings Archie’s dad and confronts the two lovebirds of Archie and Ms. Grundy. It could all go to hell in a handbasket from there, but luckily, Betty Cooper is a smart woman and caring friend, and better than both her mother and Archie. By bargaining with her family’s reputation, she gets her mom to back down and Ms. Grundy agrees to leave. It’s all cleaned up a little too nicely, but there’s always the lovely Jughead narration assuring us that things will get worse soon.
Speaking of, Jughead is the one things are actually getting worse for. He spends the whole episode campaigning for the drive-in movie theater not to close down, and is ignored for the most part. It turns out that the drive-in is being shut down because Hermione Lodge and her sack of money is buying to to make the Lodges rich again. It’s all in shady backdoor deals with the mayor and some creepy biker dude. Poor Veronica, figuring out that her mom is doing all this shady stuff to keep up the family name. Though Hermione might not have the purest of motivations, it is worth noting how many miles ahead of Alice Cooper she is in parenting. Sure, she’s doing not ideal stuff with money for her incarcerated husband, but she gives off the impression that she is doing it all for her daughter, which is refreshing shift from the other mother-daughter dynamic that Riverdale has to offer.
It’s far from the most messed up parenting as we see in the end of the episode, when Jughead fails to save the movie theater, and has to pack up his stuff. It turns out the poor kid has been living there, with the full knowledge of his father, the infamous creepy biker dude from before. That poor boy. The full dynamic between Jughead and his dad is unknown, but it does not seem to bode well. Once again, Riverdale is determined to leave the audience with more questions than answers, and it does it well. At the four episode mark, it’s easy to care about these character (except dumb Archie), and only want what’s best for them. If the spooky Jughead narrations are to be believed, that might not happen anytime soon,
Season 1, Episode 4 (S01E04)
Show Titles airs Thursday at 9PM on The CW
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor