‘Riverdale’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 1 Episode 4: ‘The Last Picture Show’
Welcome to Riverdale, the latest CW show based on a comic; but instead of DC superheroes, this one is all about Archie Andrews and his pals ‘n’ gals! Archie Comics aficionado Chris Sims and CW teen drama superfan Emma Lawson will be your recappers for our weekly breakdown of what’s hot and happening at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe.
This week, Betty finds out the truth about Ms. Grundy, Jughead fights to keep the drive-in open, and Kevin Keller gets some smooches. "The Last Picture Show" was written by Michael Grassi and directed by Mark Piznarski.
Chris: Before we get into the content of this week's truly amazing episode, in which we learn that Riverdale is a kind and loving show that gives us everything we ask for, can I take a moment to talk about how great the cast's Twitter is? Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart in particular are delightful every Thursday, and this might be my new favorite tweet ever:
"I'm ready to show you all these annoying memes I made!!" is such a 2017 Betty Cooper thing to say.
Emma: Oh, Lili. Oh, Betty. Do I need to start following the whole cast on Twitter? I really should.
Chris: Listen, maybe the best decision I have ever made with regards to curating my online presence was following the entire cast of Power Rangers Dino Charge, and there's no way that this isn't at least as good an idea as that was. But let's get to the episode.
Emma! I loved this one!
Emma: I loved it too! I was worried at the beginning when Jughead could not stop talking about the goddamn Twilight Drive-In --- don't get me wrong, I love drive-ins, and you better believe I will go to the real Twilight Drive-In in Langley, BC, when it opens for the season --- but man. This show just is solid. Even in a parent-heavy episode, I was utterly delighted for the entire time Riverdale was on my screen.
Chris: After the teaser that we got at the end of last week's episode, I was absolutely convinced that this week, we were going to find out that Young Ms. Grundy murdered the real Ms. Grundy and stole her identity so that she could prey on high school students with ridiculous abs, but it turns out I was only half right. The main plot of this episode is all about what Ms. Grundy's deal really is, and --- in a pretty impressive move --- it actually wraps up the plot and apparently boots her off the show, at least for now.
Emma: It also acknowledged, very clearly, that Archie and Grundy's relationship was problematic and predatory, which I'm grateful for.
After Betty found out last episode that Ms. Grundy was at Sweetwater River on July 4th, and Archie was too, she puts Hot for Teacher + Hot Teacher together and gets Creepy Illegal Relationship. She then immediately starts researching Ms. Grundy, because what awful person would seduce her high school student? Someone who created a new identity a year ago, that's who.
Chris: It turns out that there's a real Geraldine Grundy, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her comic book counterpart, but she died seven years ago. And when Betty and Veronica break into her car to investigate, they not only find her old Minnesota ID with her real name, Jennifer Gibson, they also find a huge gun.
Couple of things about this: One, if you're going to start living under a fake identity in a town full of murders, maybe don't leave your old ID and a gun in your car at all times? And two, the scene of Veronica being just mildly shocked that Betty can slim-jim a car door and pick a lock with a bobby pin is definitely the best B&V Date Night that we've gotten so far.
Emma: When Betty pulled out that slim-jim so casually, I just about crapped my pants. Breaking into cars she says she learned from her dad, but the bobby pin lockpicking was courtesy of the Nancy Drew Detective Handbook --- also just the most Betty thing in the world.
Chris: Speaking of The Most Betty Thing In The World, this is the first episode where we get Betty's narration taking over from Jughead's as she's writing in her diary, a nice little reference to Betty's Diary, which ran for 40 issues in the late '80s. It's not the deepest Archie Comics deep cut that we're gonna get this episode --- looking at you here, Southside Serpents --- but we'll get to that in a minute.
For now, all of this leads to Archie actually confronting Ms. Grundy about who she really is, and finding out that she was in an abusive relationship and created the "Geraldine Grundy" identity to get away from it. And, you know, I definitely was not expecting this Archie Comics Television Show to start getting into discourse about how victims of abuse can themselves become abusers, but here we are.
Emma: Riverdale is not afraid to spout truths, Chris. We also get to see Betty telling Archie that no matter what happened to Ms. Grundy in the past, it doesn't make her relationship with Archie acceptable. Even if he weren't underage, Ms. Grundy is using classic abuser tactics: alienating Archie from his friends and family, getting him to lie for her... and Archie, like many victims, has a hard time seeing what's happening.
Chris: Yeah, her behavior is specifically called out, and when she's confronted by Fred Andrews and Alice Cooper (Betty's mom, not the glam rocker that you remember from Wayne's World and from decapitating himself onstage), they pretty much blackmail her into leaving town --- although Betty makes sure to convince her mom to not make the whole thing public by blackmailing her with that most powerful motivator, Family Shame.
The thing is, when Grundy leaves town, the last thing we see her doing is putting on her Lolita movie poster sunglasses, sucking down another Slurpee, and giving a couple of non-Archie high school football players the eye. After going out of its way to make you sympathetic to her for her past, the way the show is structured still doesn't let her off the hook for being a predator herself. It's... kind of shockingly complicated character presentation.
Emma: Especially for a character that's not one of the main four and gets booted off after four episodes. This show gives us shocks galore (real talk, I sent Chris "Oh my god, Chris, oh my god" messages when I got to the end of the episode), but it's also got some surprising depth.
Chris: Honestly, I'm glad to see her gone, too. We've talked about it before, but of all the stuff that's happening on this show, Archie and Grundy's relationship was one that I would sooner move past as quickly as possible. That's not a slight to Sarah Habel, who actually does a pretty good job with the part, and who I almost hope gets to come back as Ms. Grundy's Twin Sister, The Real Ms. Grundy Who Doesn't Want To Make Out With Sophomores. How about you?
Emma: I want the OG Ms. Grundy with her amazing sense of style to come back from the dead and teach music at Riverdale High. Either option is just as plausible. I'm so glad Archie is now free from a sexual predator, but I also don't want to see him date anyone really, which I'm sure is the next step for this show.
Chris: Oh dang it, I hadn't even considered that this would be the stumbling block in the B&V romance that we all so clearly want to see. Dang it. Dang it.
Emma: Skip all the Archie romance scenes and give me more of Kevin Keller making out with cute boys, please.
While Betty and Veronica are investigating Ms. Grundy, and Archie is buying her expensive cello bows, Jughead is busy trying to save the town drive-in. He's very attached to the place, more than an employee probably should be. He even approaches the mayor, who approved the demotion, and Archie's dad, who is set to demolish it, to see if either of them can do anything. But they disappoint him, like apparently all adults do.
Chris: I will admit that when this episode opened with Jughead not only having a job, but being very attached to having a job, I was genuinely surprised. I mean, bad enough that we're not seeing Cole Sprouse double-fisting burgers every week, but taking away his zealous adherence to slacker life? That said, I got swerved pretty hard.
Emma: Same! I did not see any of that coming. After his unsuccessful mission to save the drive-in, we see Jughead cleaning up the projector room and packing up way more stuff than he should have been keeping there. The camera keeps panning out to show us a cot, a hot plate, and a ton of canned goods. Jughead was living at the drive-in.
Chris: And this is what split up Jughead and Archie over the summer: Jughead's dad used to work for Fred Andrews, but when Fred caught him stealing materials from the job site, he fired him and replaced him with Archie. That in turn caused the Jones family to lose their house, so now Jughead's living at the drive-in and his dad is rolling with the world's least threatening biker gang. Also, while I don't think it happened over the summer, Jughead mentions his sister Jellybean, and then it's heavily implied that she's 100% dead. This plot is bananas.
Emma: Not only is Jughead's dad in a biker gang, he is also Skeet Ulrich. No wonder he named his kids Jughead and Jellybean.
Chris: Technically he named them "Forsythe" and "Forsythia," which is actually way worse.
Emma: Okay, you can refresh my memory on this --- Jughead's family used to be super rich in the comics, right?
Chris: That's a Mark Waid/Fiona Staples-era invention. Traditionally, Jughead's just been the same kind of vague middle class as Archie, just with the five-dollar name that explains why everyone goes with "Jughead." The Mantles are meant to be a step above that, and then the Lodges, obviously, are way richer than anyone except the Blossoms. And of course, Betty's family is at the lower end, possibly because the Coopers have three kids instead of one.
Emma: Which is why Alice Cooper hates everyone else in town. Gotcha.
Chris: But yeah, in the current continuity, Jughead's family was super rich until some bad investments by Forsythe Pendleton Jones, Jr., aka Jughead's Dad, aka Skeet Ulrich.
Here's another fun fact about the Cooper family: Polly's in the comics, but she's not institutionalized, she's just a reporter. But Betty also has an older brother, Chic, who is just a straight up secret agent.
Emma: Um, I need Chic to join the kids in Riverdale immediately. He can come to investigate Jason Blossom's murder! Especially now that someone broke into the Kellers' home and destroyed the sheriff's murder board and files. Dude’s going to need help.
Chris: I'm kind of shocked Chic hasn't shown up, but you gotta keep something in reserve for Season 2, and television is simply not ready for the Elevenaire. But yeah, let's talk about the Kellers, because we got some good-as-hell Kevin stuff this episode!
Emma: We need to talk about Kevin. Kevin moves beyond gay stereotype in this episode and it is fantastic. He gets some awesome friendship moments with Veronica, and the cutest conversation with his dad, whose version of The Talk is, "No cruising guys tonight, we both know what goes on in those woods."
Chris: I loved Supportive Sheriff Keller! That was something I was really worried about after those initial bumps in the road with Kevin. I think the record will show that I'm not at all opposed to a darker take on the Archie Characters --- I'm loving this show --- but Kevin being pretty much universally loved and accepted in the Riverdale of the comics is something that I do think is pretty important. I was afraid that Kevin's supportive family might not be there for the sake of drama, but here we have his dad just wanting him to find a steady boyfriend. Plus, there was a really solid line here: "Aren't there any cute gay guys at Riverdale High?" "Yeah: Me."
Emma: I love that we don't have to see a tearful coming out or any family drama here. Kevin's gay, his dad knows and wants him to find a cute boy to settle down with, and by the end of the episode, Kevin's kissed as many people this season as Archie has.
Chris: So Kevin and Veronica go to the drive-in for Jughead's last movie --- Rebel Without a Cause, which is exactly what a pretentious teen would pick as his Big Statement --- where they're joined by Cheryl. That in itself is weird, because Cheryl has spent the entire episode sniping at Veronica's mom and then trying to stir up more trouble after seeing her meeting with some shady biker guy. And yet, Veronica lets her hang out, for reasons that I do not understand.
Emma: Veronica is trying to reject her New York persona, who definitely would have kicked Cheryl off the back of the truck. And Rebel Without a Cause was Betty's suggestion; Jughead was leaning towards a Tarantino flick, ugh.
The Southside Serpents also came to the drive-in and were causing a ruckus at the back, infuriating Veronica enough that she stood up and shushed them with a Louboutin-to-the-snake threat.
Chris: While wearing her wizard cloak!
Emma: I need to buy that cloak, Chris.
Chris: Veronica standing up and telling a biker gang to shut up or catch these hands is the best thing that has happened on this show, with the obvious exception of Dark Betty.
Emma: All of Riverdale agrees with you. The whole drive-in bursts into applause.
One of the bikers struts up to Kevin later at the concession stand, all threatening-like, but when we see them again they’re making out against a fence.
Chris: As far as I can tell, Joaquin is a new character for TV, but the Southside Serpents are another weird deep cut, this time from the Little Archie series. They were basically just the rivals for whenever the story needed another bunch of kids for Archie's crew to compete against, and I kind of wish that instead of grown-up drug-dealing hoodlums, they were all just surly children.
Emma: Oh my god, yes. Although then we wouldn't get Kevin making out with Joaquin, who is a little nervous that Kevin is the sheriff's son, given he's a full-on gang member with a Dark Mark tattooed on his arm.
Chris: Dear Reader, she is only slightly exaggerating. It is hilarious.
Emma: I have to believe that Archie and pals live in a world without Harry Potter, because otherwise why would you ever do that?
Chris: He's basically one of the Tunnel Snakes from Fallout 3, right down to the jacket. But his moment of realizing who Kevin is and being like "is this going to be a problem?" is actually really cute.
Emma: Super cute! This is as dark as I want Kevin to get, agreeing to keep his biker boyfriend a secret from his dad.
Chris: So here's how everything kind of ties together: It turns out that the still-unseen Hiram Lodge is sending money to Hermione so that she can pay off the Southside Serpents to loiter around the drive-in, dropping property values enough so that the mayor --- who is also being bribed by Hermione --- will award the contract for tearing the place down to Archie's dad. Right?
Oh, and Jughead's dad is the leader of the gang, who is a perfectly willing participant in destroying the closest thing his son has to a house, making him officially the Worst Parent In Riverdale, a shockingly competitive field.
Emma: No, she's bribing the mayor to sell the land to the Lodges. Archie's dad getting the demolition contract is just a nice bonus.
Chris: Honest question: Is there any way this ends up with anything other than the construction of Lodge Manor?
Emma: I don't think this Hiram Lodge would waste prime real estate that he could make money from, but maybe!
Chris: That's gotta be the endpoint to this, right? A mansion springing up and Hiram showing up like Stefano on Days of Our Lives to claim his status as Riverdale's most powerful oligarch?
Emma: I never pegged you for a soap fan, Chris, but I should have known given your love of wrestling.
I would say Hiram will show up by the midseason finale, but Riverdale itself is a midseason show, so I actually don't know what the schedule is like.
Chris: I'm not a huge fan, but, I mean. Stefano.
Here's the reasoning behind my theory: Of all the relationships from the comics that have been imported into the show, the one that we really haven't gotten is Jughead's intense dislike of Veronica. Right now,they're perfectly fine with each other, which makes sense because Veronica rules. But, "Your dad manipulated the system and tore down my home and the only place in this town that I loved so that he could build your awful McMansion?" That's something I can definitely see driving a wedge between them going forward.
Emma: Okay, I buy that.
Chris: So that's the episode, but before we're done, Emma, we talked about doing a new segment here at Pals 'n' Gals. So who's your Ship of the Week?
Emma: I am jumping on board the good ship Joaquevin this week, Chris, but I will always be team B&V. What about you?
Chris: Spoiler warning, but it's literally just going to be B&V every single week --- Especially with Archie newly single and ready to swing into our perfect developing romance like a redheaded wrecking ball. Their late-night Crime Date this week was utterly charming, and I love that Veronica has just decided to roll with the idea that Betty has an almost Liam Neesonian level of Particular Skills.
Emma: She's MacGyver! And Veronica loves it.
Chris: And while we're at it, let's bury Grunchie face-down at the crossroads with a stake in its heart and hope it never rises again.
Emma: Ew, even the ship name sounds like the worst breakfast cereal.
Chris: That's by design.
There wasn't much definite in the preview this week; it looked like everyone was at a murder mystery party. Don't get me wrong, it's #lit, but it's not "Geraldine Grundy died seven years ago" #lit.
Emma: True. But I am into Goth Cheryl.
Chris: Goth Cheryl's no Dark Betty. God, what transformation are we going to have for Veronica? Witch Queen?
Okay pals, join us next week as Cheryl goes goth to bury her brother, Archie finds a new musical mentor, Betty goes deeper into her investigation of Jason’s death, and the Southside Serpents cause more trouble. Let us know your thoughts on this week's episode in the comments!