Everyone’s got a price in this week’s episode of RIVERDALE, “La Grande Illusion.” There’s a lot of emotional turbulence between both the Cooper family and the Lodge family in this episode. So much so, it’s almost stressful just listening to each family member as they try to suffer through it. Also, Archie is being immature and frustratingly naive, as usual. The kid has a good heart, but let’s face it, would he even be remotely tolerable if he wasn’t so unfailingly kind? Well, okay, maybe – he’s still got his looks.
At the start of the show, the extended Blossom herd rolls into town, sniffing out weakness in the open wound left by Jason in the Blossoms’ family unit. Honestly, if you didn’t think Riverdale was the most highly populated ginger town in the world before, you will after this episode. Not even Ireland and the UK combined could compete with the serious dosage of carrot top happening in this place. Even the show’s guest star for the week, Shannon Purser (Ethel Muggs), has a tinge of the ginge, ironically adding to the glowing reality that Riverdale is a fiction both out of time and universe.
In an effort to cope with her insecurities about the extended family/business board of trustees coming into town, Cheryl asks Archie to accompany her as her escort. It quickly becomes apparent that Cheryl has taken more than a platonic interest in Archie, but Archie, attempting to be at least a mildly responsible boyfriend, tries to avoid going altogether. That is, until the Blossom family dangles a prestigious summer music program in front of Archie’s drooling face, at which point he gets permission from Valerie to whore himself out to the Blossoms. Okay, maybe ‘whore’ is a bit of a strong term here, but the point is, money is shockingly alluring. And, despite everyone and their dog telling Archie to run the opposite direction with his tail tucked firmly between his legs, Archie boldly lets himself be bought, testing both his moral boundaries, and to what extent those boundaries can be pushed before he pushes back.
Veronica is dealing with her own problem that isn’t completely different from Archie’s dilemma. With her dad up for trial soon, Veronica and Hermione are discussing the possibility of needing to lie in court in order to testify in favor of Mr. Lodge. Seeing her father out of jail has of course been a strong motivator for Veronica, since they moved back to Riverdale. However, more and more, Veronica is discovering all the harm, all the pain that her father has caused in his illegal dealings. After a terrible sad and painful poem reading, Veronica realizes that Ethel Muggs is having similar home problems, with her parents fighting constantly because of a mysterious mistake her father made. Veronica takes Ethel under her wing to cheer her up, inviting her over to the Lodge home for some pampering. However, when they reach the house and Hermione hears Ethel’s last name, Hermione tells Veronica that the Muggs were one of several investors Veronica’s father screwed over. Likely, the mistake Ethel’s father made is choosing to have invested in Lodge Industries. Veronica feels terrible.
While all of this is going on, Betty and her mother are trying to get Polly back. Polly won’t answer their calls, and won’t let them know that she is okay or safe, and doesn’t even bother to tell Polly or their mother when she finds out she’s having twins. Betty and Jughead have Archie do some sleuthing on the Blossoms for them while he pretends he’s not being creepily bought to be Cheryl’s boyfriend or future husband, and Betty asks Archie to find out why Polly won’t return her calls. Betty is beginning to worry that perhaps the Blossoms have something on Polly keeping her there, but Polly tells Archie that she chose to stay with the Blossoms because she thinks they have something to do with Jason’s murder, and she wants to spy on them and find out what that is. She has to sell the story as though she’s mad at Betty and Mrs. Cooper, or else the Blossoms may get suspicious. When Mrs. Cooper hears this news, she is hysterically happy. Up until this point, she’s been having nothing short of an emotional, nervous breakdown trying to maintain a show of strength while feeling completely dejected about Polly being gone. Which is still kind of a crazy, wild 360-change for Mrs. Cooper, considering only a little while ago she had Polly locked up in a convent. I suppose people are entitled to change their minds, though, right?
Speaking of mind-changing, Archie finally realizes he’s let himself get entangled in something toxic, but it takes Cheryl kissing him for him to realize it. Unfortunately, walking out on the Blossoms means losing his spot at the prestigious summer academy and any chance at negotiating work for his dad’s company with Mr. Blossom. But things are so much better when they’re earned, right? Also unfortunately for Archie, even though he eventually sees the light and turns away from the Blossoms, it’s too late for him and Valerie. Valerie dumps him because he’s been a terrible boyfriend. Chalk it up to his immaturity, I suppose. It’s sad, but there is one positive out of this break up: no more arguments about whether their ship name is Archerie or Archieval or Valarchie or other cleverly smushed together syllables.
Veronica has a similar bitter resolution in the episode, after finding out that Ethel’s father attempted suicide because of Veronica’s dad. We’re looking at a pearl-less Veronica in future episodes as she rips the necklace from her father off her neck in a moment of despair and pain. She pays a visit to Ethel and her mother who are in the hospital waiting while Mr. Muggs gets treated for his overdose, and confesses that her father is the man who drove Mr. Muggs to attempt his own death. It’s a hard moment, as Veronica doesn’t find forgiveness in Mrs. Muggs, only anger, and Ethel feels utterly betrayed. But it was a moment that Veronica needed to serve as justice for what her father did. She’s walking out of this fiery moment with renewed vigor, and she tells Hermione that she will no longer lie for her father. What he’s done deserves time in jail, and Veronica won’t try to get him out of it.
The episode is certainly dripping with more drama than usual, and it’s not just teen-angst drama. Real serious stuff is happening, and emotions are high enough you can feel them through the screen. For once, a further clue about the mystery of Jason’s death isn’t just handed to the kids – they uncover it thanks to Archie’s great hearing and a little logical connection. Now, Mr. Lodge has been added to the list of suspects, for having both motive and possible means. The good news is, Bughead is still alive and well, so there’s hope that not all good things come to an end…yet.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9PM on The CW
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor