Welcome to Riverdale, the CW show 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, Riverdale's 75th annual variety show takes place, featuring Archie (if he can get over his stage fright) and the Pussycats (if they can stop fighting long enough to perform). Back at the home for wayward girls, Jughead and Betty visit Polly and learn much more about what Jason was planning when he ran away from home. "Faster, Pussycats! Kill Kill!" was written by Tessa Williams and directed by Steven A. Adelson.

Chris: Before we get into the episode, Emma, I think it's important to note that you and I are both at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, which means that we actually got to watch this week's episode of Riverdale in the same room --- and we are, in fact, typing at each other from ten feet away while sitting in silence, which is a pretty weird way to talk about a television show you just watched.

Emma: Nothing about this show is normal, not even our watching habits. We chatted less during the show than I thought we would, although you did get to see me physically shudder during certain scenes. Body language says a lot.

Chris: I was going to mention that seeing your extremely visceral reaction to this week's #Bughead (ugh) moment was truly something, but I think I'm getting ahead of myself.

Emma: I wish we didn't have to talk about Bughead at all! But yes, let's start at the beginning. It's variety show time in Riverdale, so Archie finally gets to share his music with the world! And Betty goes in search of her sister Polly with Jughead, visiting the Sisters of Quiet Mercy hospital, which sounds to me like where goth kids go to die.

Chris: These are our two plots in this episode, and it might actually be the perfect example of why poor Archie Andrews is getting completely overshadowed on his own show. Like, what would you rather hear about: Archie having stage fright and maybe not playing his song in front of everyone, or Betty and Jughead teaming up to launch an investigation into Arkham Friggin' Asylum and then discovering a car full of drugs that might provide the clue to why their classmate was shot in the face? Even if one of those stories involves Archie hallucinating werewolves, and Veronica in Thundercats cosplay (none of this is a joke), I think it's pretty clear what's more interesting.

 

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Emma: Archie gets overshadowed in his own comics too, so it's not like there's not precedent. Archie's a loveable doofus, but he's a doofus. His dad's a doofus. The whole Andrews family is full of doofuses (Vegas excepted). Doofuses are cute, but I'd much rather watch murder mystery, or the sexcapades, or the much better music of the Pussycats, or even Penelope Blossom giving a lecture about the maple syrup industry over the dinner table.

Chris: So should we start with the most boring plot and then work our way up to the good stuff? Because it's basically just Archie being afraid to perform onstage alone, and then eventually doing it and getting a standing ovation that is... well, let's be charitable and just call it "not entirely earned."

Emma: It's a classic example of a white man doing the bare minimum and getting a wild amount of praise, while four women of color absolutely crush it on stage --- their harmonies! their costumes! their subtle movement! --- and get a few claps. You said it as we were watching the show: Archie's standing ovation proves that racism is alive in America.

Chris: Somewhere between those, Archie's nervousness leads him to ask Valerie (of the Pussycats) to join him onstage, only to be shot down because Josie won't let her bandmates take side-projects --- which is a pretty strict way of running a band for a trio of 15 year-olds, even if they are overachievers. Veronica volunteers to sing with him instead, but in Classic Archie fashion, he ends up kind of booking both of them when Valerie finally gets fed up with Josie's control freak attitude and quits the 'Cats.

 

Archie Comics. Dialogue from Riverdale.

 

Emma: Which leads Veronica to calling Archie a "ginger Judas." It was a very Doofus move. Even if he thought Veronica was doing him a favor and didn't really care about performing, she's still going out of her way to learn a song in a week to perform with him, making time for practice, all that jazz. It's rude to not acknowledge that labor!

Chris: In revenge, Veronica decides to join the Pussycats, and it is amazing, to the point where I can't imagine anything topping it until they finally introduce Alexandra Cabot and give her an evil cat that allows her to do witchcraft. Which is, what, episode eight at this rate?

Emma: Who's Alexandra Cabot?

Chris: If you saw the Josie and the Pussycats movie --- and I know you didn't because I literally just turned to you in this room and yelled "You've never seen the Josie and the Pussycats movie?!" --- she's the one that they say is only there because she's in the comics. She's the twin sister of Josie's manager, Alexander Cabot III, and her story arc is basically about wanting to be in the band despite having no musical talent whatsoever, and also how she can unwittingly cast magic spells, but only when she's holding her cat.

Emma: I want a cat that gives me magic powers!

Chris: You also need to be the descendant of a powerful witch, and possibly to live in Riverdale.

Emma: Well, I have family in the maple syrup business, so... And I promise I will watch the Josie movie. This week! On my way home from Emerald City!

Chris: It's the best comic book movie, and I'm not even kidding.

Emma: But Veronica joining the Pussycats is so great. Their strut down the hall in their pussycat ears is fierce AF.

Chris: And what's really interesting is that even when Valerie rejoins the band at the end of the episode, Veronica's apparently still a part of it. I suppose there's a chance that this was just a one-night gig, but she did go through all the trouble of getting a mostly comics-accurate Pussycat costume (you know, long tail, and ears for hat), so I'm thinking this might be an ongoing thing.

 

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Emma: Josie is a reasonable person, she knows how crappy it would be to cut Veronica at the last minute. Even though Valerie has better harmonies with the rest of the cats, and even if Veronica did spend an entire rehearsal texting, it's still a super gross move. As for the costume, Chris, you know the Pussycats don't do anything half-way.

I'd love to see Veronica stay in the Pussycats, though! Even if she doesn't, we got some nice bonding moments with her and Josie in this episode. I'm so happy when Veronica gets a new friend.

Chris: Veronica's only texting because she's distracted by the fact that she caught her mom making out with Fred Andrews, and neither of them are technically divorced, and also because her mom is forging her signature on legal documents in order to award Fred with construction contracts. She and Josie actually bond over their kind-of-terrible families, and we get a new member of Riverdale's Pantheon of Bad Parenting when Josie's dad, Myles McCoy, shows up and is completely uninterested in his daughter's music.

Emma: He's a jazz musician, and apparently jazz is the only kind of music that matters. He even named Josie after Josephine Baker, so it's a real disappointment to him that she's wearing a cat tail and singing pop music. (There is a great moment at yet another awful Riverdale family dinner in which Myles calls Archie out for not knowing who Josephine Baker is, and it's so true, Archie would have no idea who she is.)

All of the parents on this show are pretty awful. It's an important part of teenagerdom, learning that your parents are people and thus fallible, but I don't think my parents ever went to jail or locked my sister up or joined a gang.

Chris: So far, Fred Andrews is in the lead for Best Parent just by virtue of only being kind of a doofus. Our other candidates are a) Bribing the mayor on behalf of her embezzling husband, b) The mayor being bribed, c) Homeless biker gang leaders who seem only mildly concerned about their children being homeless and/or dead, and d) potential murderers who locked their daughter in a 19th century sanitarium.

Oh, and Sheriff Keller, I guess. He's pretty good!

Emma: You're totally right! Sheriff Keller and Kevin probably have the least dysfunctional family relationship on this whole show. Well done, Kellers.

Anyway, Veronica joins the Pussycats, Archie and Valerie get closer after she leaves the Pussycats and starts writing songs with him. It's not a good look for Archie that his new girlfriend is cutting all ties with her friends when she starts hanging out with him --- don't let this be Ms. Grundy's legacy, Archiekins. Join us in the world of healthy relationships.

Chris: But when Valerie rejoins the Pussycats, she and Archie still share a post-show kiss, and I'm all for it --- if nothing else, it keeps Archie occupied while the real Miracle Romance of Riverdale, B&V, can develop.

 

Archie Comics. Dialogue from Riverdale.

 

Emma: Did we get even one B&V scene this episode? I don't think we did!

Chris: They weren't even on screen together, I don't think, with the exception of a brief lunch at school. Instead... we get something else. Something none of us wanted. Something that you recoiled from like a vampire exposed to sunlight. We got Bughead.

Emma: I'm choosing to believe that there's a post-credits scene in which Veronica goes to Betty to talk to her about her mom stuff, and Betty tells her all about how Jughead got weird and kissed her, but "don't worry, Ronnie, I still love you." I'll start searching AO3 when you go back to your own hotel room. I need a palate cleanser after Bughead.

So, Bughead. Betty + Jughead. We knew they were getting closer, working together at the Blue and Gold and investigating Jason's death, but that doesn't mean they have to smooch. Jughead even enters Betty's bedroom in that scene by climbing through the window while referencing Romeo and Juliet. Gross!

Chris: Amazingly, he did not make the Clarissa Explains It All reference that I did while we were watching, but yeah. Betty and Jughead orchestrate a pretty complex scheme in this episode, using Jughead as a distraction while Betty photographs her mom's check register --- in the year 2017! --- to find out where they're keeping Polly. It turns out she's been making regular payments to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, a local home for Wayward Delinquents that is basically a Dickensian orphanage in its approach to "helping."

Emma: The Sisters of Quiet Mercy stuff was shot at the Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, which has lent itself to I think pretty much every CW show now. It was even on X-Files back in the day! Lili Reinhart had a great tweet tonight about the scenes in the garden; apparently they had to stop shooting because it was so full of spiders.

But yes, the Sisters of Quiet Mercy hospital is basically a place to send your kid to hide them away from the world. And the Coopers definitely wanted to hide Polly away, given her condition.

Chris: Yes: Polly Cooper is Great With Child, which makes her departure for an isolated life of prayer and contemplation seem like a pretty weird choice. This is the sort of thing that feels extremely old fashioned, right?

 

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Emma: Super old fashioned. If Alice Cooper really cared about propriety and keeping the family name untarnished, she'd have started both Polly and Betty on birth control as soon as they got their periods, just in case.

She may have suggested an abortion, but Polly seemed pretty intent on keeping the kid and running away with Jason. She tells Betty that they had a plan to meet up on the 4th of July on the other side of Sweetwater River, and go live on a farm together.

The farm part also seemed pretty old fashioned, but hey, I live in Canada so what do I know?

Chris: There are a lot of really great things about this scene, but the one I love most is that before they head into this creepy old building, Betty takes a moment to tighten up her ponytail just in case the stuff jumps off. A close second: Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse both reacting to everything around them with faces that are less "I am concerned for my sister who doesn't know that Jason is dead" and more "literally everything that happens in this town is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to anyone, anywhere."

Emma: They make such good faces. Lili Reinhart knows the power of her face. She even makes her own memes using screencaps during the cast's live tweeting. Jughead wasn't allowed to actually visit Polly, only Betty was, but we did get some good Jughead faces during that awkward family breakfast at the Coopers that you mentioned earlier.

There was a recent article on Women Write About Comics about Hawkeye's ponytail, and everything in that applies to Betty's ponytail in this scene. The ponytail means Betty is ready for business. She is going to do what needs to be done, Nancy Drew style. No hair's gonna get in her way.

Chris: A key part of this scene is that Polly doesn't know that Jason's dead until Betty tells her --- and also that her pregnancy has provided the Coopers with even more of a motive for murdering Jason than they already had. Betty confronts them, and her mom's response to being accused of murder is some straight up supervillain stuff. I know that I'm a little more versed in the comics than you are, but it may surprise you to find that in the more traditional Archie stories, Betty's mom is not the Joker.

Emma: Madchen Amick was amazing in that confrontation scene. We watched with captions on and when Betty asks her father, very earnestly, if he killed Jason the captions then read "[Alice sobbing]". Alice's sobs turned into straight up cackling, though, as she found the idea that anyone could think her pathetic husband could kill a man absolutely hilarious. She wishes she had married a man capable of murdering that evil Blossom boy! She wishes she had done it herself!

I would consider the Blossoms to still be prime suspects in Jason's murder, but I do think Alice would own up to it. She'd be too proud not to.

 

Archie Comics. Dialogue from Riverdale.

 

Chris: Yeah, she's been so open about him wanting him to burn in hell that you kind of feel like she would gladly walk through town on her way to the police station announcing it with a bullhorn, just so everyone knows that the Cooper family is not to be trifled with. It's after this that Jughead comes over, and we get the Jughead/Betty kiss that, I cannot stress enough, had you cringing like you were watching surgery going wrong.

Emma: There's a few reasons I wanted to cover my eyes and my ears during that scene. Number one is that Jughead is explicitly asexual and aromantic in the comics. That's only become canon in the last few years, but Jughead has a long history of preferring burgers to any person. It would have been amazing to actually see that onscreen, because I can't even think of a single ace or aro character on television. (That being said, the show could still do this later on --- Jughead may still be working through his sexuality at this stage.)

Number two, though, is that I really don't enjoy them together. Betty and Jughead are really good friends, but I've never seen any flirtation between them, unlike Betty and every other girl in Riverdale. Betty didn't even seem that into the kiss ---  she stopped kissing Jughead because she remembered Polly and Jason's car that might still be out there --- so I'm hoping this scene was just a one-off. Jughead goes for it, Betty's not into it because she's really into Veronica, they get over it and decide to focus on their friendship.

 

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Chris: On the one hand, Jughead's being canonically asexual is a pretty new thing to the comics --- for decades before that, he was characterized as a "girl hater" at worst, or just uninterested in dating, which commonly led to him being read as subtextually gay. With that being the case, I do think there's room to play with his character and motivations, even if I don't think it's the best choice. In this case, I think a kiss with Betty after a pretty intense experience isn't nearly the disservice to the existing character that we got with, say, Chuck Clayton.

But at the same time, Jughead is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters, and one of the things that I genuinely love about him --- the thing that was made literal when Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson did the story where he's explicitly referred to as asexual --- is that he lives in a world that's literally defined and built around romance and love triangles, and he's the only character who is allowed to exist outside of that. It sets him apart from the rest of the dynamic, and it means that he can always work an angle that goes counter to what everyone else in the story is doing, and that's so great that I hate to lose it, especially since Riverdale as a show is still built around those themes --- or their hilariously sexed up equivalents, anyway.

I will say that if you're going to try to make it work with anyone in the cast (and you're not going to try for Ethel, who's due for a comeback according to the IMDB listing, which has Shannon Purser down for three episodes this season), then it definitely should be Betty. She's Jughead's closest friends besides Archie, and their different personalities have the potential to play off of each other very well.

But I definitely think that relationship would work better playing them off as friends more than as a budding romance. I hoped that's not the direction they were going, but I can also easily see this show treating it as Jughead kind of giving it a shot and deciding that this is Not For Him, especially given Betty's reaction.

Emma: I hope that's the case, but I feel like it's still just the beginning of Bughead. Betty and Jug do have a fantastic relationship, but it's just so pure, I don't want it ruined by romance. Their investigation of Jason's murder feels so... wholesome, in some ways? These guys don't have any weird, sexy alternative motives, they just want to find out what happened. Let them do that without adding in weird, sexy moments!

If Jughead is going to wax poetic about anyone, please let it be Pop. Let Jughead eat a goddamn burger.

Chris: If we finally see Jughead eating a burger and he's like, "This! This is what I wanted to feel when we were kissing! No offense, Betty," that would be the best.

Emma: Okay, Chris, it's that time of the night. Apart from Jughead/burger, what's your Ship of the Week?

Chris: Well it sure ain't Bughead, and as we mentioned above, we have zero B&V content this week, continuing a frankly very disturbing trend from last episode. With that being the case, I think I'm going to have to go with Joronica. Verosie?

I think I like "Joronica." Those two bonding over their terrible parents is really great, and as we've mentioned before, Veronica in her cat costume singing Donna Summer songs is yet another Riverdale scene that's going to be linked to an awful lot of awkward sexual awakenings.

Emma: (Dear Reader, I just volunteered "Rosie" as a possible ship name --- Ronnie/Josie --- but Chris shot it down with a grumpy head shake. Tell him he's wrong.)

I'm going with Hermione Lodge and Fred Andrews for my Ship of the Week. Fred is a doofus, but he's being pretty cute with Hermione, and they both deserve to have some fun. Consenting adults can do what they want!

Chris: Lodgeycat?

Oh god, no. Not Lodgeycat. How do I delete Emma how do I delete?

Emma: I actually really like Lodgeycat. Lodgeycat it is!

Chris: Noooooo!

Emma: Okay, folks, join us next week for Jughead family drama, and please let Chris know in the comments how much you love Lodgeycat too.