‘Riverdale’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 1 Episode 3: ‘Body Double’
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, the patriarchy raises its ugly head, Josie refuses to put up with white privilege, Ethel gets justice, Jughead gets all True Detective, and Betty… oh, Betty. “Body Double” was written by Yolonda Lawrence and directed by Lee Toland Krieger.
Chris: You know, Emma, there was a point when I was watching this episode tonight and I thought, "Is this it? Has the novelty of Riverdale finally worn off?" I mean, don't get me wrong, it was still fun, but there wasn't anything quite as good as Cheryl referring to Archie as "The Ginger Stallion," or Jughead having a deadpan conversation about necrophilia.
But then... oh, but then, there was Dark Betty, and everything was once again right in this fallen world.
Emma: I don't know if there's anything in this world as beautiful as Dark Betty. She gave me palpitations, Chris.
Chris: But to get to Dark Betty, we have to wind our way through a pretty complicated plot, and I have to admit that this episode might've been the first time that I've been really disappointed in Riverdale's treatment of the characters. Up to this point, I don't think they've necessarily broken anyone --- except Ms. Grundy --- but we kind of hit a point of no return in this one with Chuck Clayton.
Emma: I don't remember Chuck from the comics, but I probably read them when I was 12 and that was... a while ago. How different is he in Riverdale?
Chris: Chuck in the comics was introduced as... well, as Archie's Black Friend. Along with his girlfriend, Nancy, and his dad, Coach Clayton, he was originally intended to add a little diversity to Riverdale in the '70s. He's never really been a major character in the way that the core cast have been, or even recent additions like Kevin Keller, but for the past ten or fifteen years, he's found a defining characteristic in that he's an aspiring cartoonist.
Beyond that, though, he's just Really Nice, to the point where there are stories about him volunteering at a local elementary school to get students excited about making their own comics. Here, though... He might be the worst person on the show, and considering he's up against a teacher who's sleeping with her 15 year-old student, that's saying something.
Emma: Oh wow. Yeah. He is definitely not nice on this episode. Veronica goes on a date with him because, as we all see later when he's got his shirt off, he has "muscles for days", and they seem to have a nice enough time. They flirt with some classic teenage lines --- "I'm gonna have my hands full with you, huh" --- and make out in his car.
But the next day he's got a photo of him and Veronica on Instagram, with the caption talking about how he gave her a "sticky maple." I don't even want to look that up. It's clear that there's some awful teenage boy braggadocio about something that never happened, which leads to some truly gross slut-shaming.
Chris: If you need any further context for that, the Instagram photo has a big glob of maple syrup dripped right across Veronica's face. And while that seems like a pretty elaborate setup just for bragging about some Date Fun, that's just the beginning. As we learn later, the entire football team (presumably excluding Archie) is keeping track of their "conquests" in a notebook where they score points --- whether or not they actually "score" at all.
Emma: Archie's only just joined the varsity team, taking Jason Blossom's place, so I imagine they haven't clued him into the game yet. He's definitely not the type to participate, but given Reggie's appreciation for how buff he got over the summer and his belief in Archie's banging cougars, I'm sure they would have invited him into the fold if Betty hadn't made it her mission to ruin all these awful, awful boys.
I was watching this episode with a friend of mine and after the episode finished she just turned to me and said, "F--- the patriarchy."
Chris: I really do wonder why they decided to go with Chuck as the ringleader behind something so cruel. I mean, they have Reggie right there, and if there's one thing that has "Reggie Mantle" written all over it, it's bragging about imaginary sex acts that did not actually happen.
Emma: I don't know! Reggie is, objectively, the worst, as the official Archie Twitter account will attest. But I think he's still lovable in his awfulness. I don't know if they wanted to ruin any of the classic main characters. Chuck, however, as just the token black guy... that makes it even worse, actually.
Chris: Yeah. Like I said, it's a disappointing move in what's otherwise a pretty compelling episode.
Emma: They may have wanted to make use of his position of privilege as the coach's son. I was wondering this when Josie told Archie that he basically couldn't write her experience as a black woman in Riverdale, but do they have a woman of color on the writing staff?
I also found an article from when Shannon Purser was announced as joining the cast, and they mention that she becomes friends with Betty and Veronica when teaming up on a revenge plot against Reggie. Maybe they changed it? It really does make more sense for it to be Reggie. Unless Riverdale is telling us that aspiring cartoonists are all secretly evil pawns of the patriarchy.
Chris: It's worth noting that this is our first episode that wasn't written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. This one's by Yolonda Lawrence, and she is a black woman.
Emma: Okay! I thought that Josie stuff must have been written by a woman of color. I do love Josie explaining white privilege to Archie.
Chris: Yeah, that's our C-Plot in this episode: After being offered a "wish" by Cheryl Blossom for sticking up with her about the gunshot at Sweetwater River --- a wish where "nothing is off the table, except my body" --- Archie calls in a favor to sit in with the Pussycats as they write their new song. And for a bunch of high schoolers, they are extremely serious about their music.
Emma: They come from a small town and they don't play football. Music is basically their only ticket out of Riverdale. They're incredibly talented, performing another stellar number at the Mayor's "Taste of Riverdale" event and absolutely crushing it. Despite Josie's insistence that Archie is useless, he does chip in about some of their lyrics and they actually use his suggestions!
Chris: It does feel like one of those stock scenes where a Talented Amateur makes a single suggestion and it somehow results in The Best Song Ever, and I'm still just flat-out not interested in Archie and his entire deal on this show that's nominally about Archie. But honestly, that's not his fault. He's competing against a plot where Veronica Lodge has decided to rain fire on her enemies and salt the earth so that nothing may grow, and there are very few things I'd be even half as into.
Emma: Veronica's rage at Chuck, and his friends, and the system that supports him, is straight up Daenarys riding in on her dragons and burning everything to the ground. It's perfect. It's so perfect she even convinces Betty, sweet Betty who could only muster up enough fire to call Chuck a jerk when Veronica confronts him in the student lounge, to join her in taking him down.
Can we talk about how Chuck literally barks at Veronica when she first goes to confront him? What the hell.
Chris: I wrote that entire line down, but I don't think we can print it here at ComicsAlliance. Suffice to say that Chuck refers to Veronica's past boyfriends as "betas" and then tells her she's "in Bulldog country now." But things don't really pick up until she and Betty hear from one of his past victims, Ethel Muggs. She's played here by Shannon Purser, who you may remember as Barb from Stranger Things, and she's one of two long-time Archie characters that we're (re-)introduced to here. And the other... is Dilton Doiley.
Jughead and Betty have both decided that the best way to investigate the seemingly endless amount of sketchy stuff in Riverdale is to join up with the school paper, the Blue and Gold (also my high school colors!), so while Betty teams up with Veronica to set her sights on Chuck, Jughead tries to wring some information about the mysterious gunshot out of Dilton. It turns out that he was the one firing the guns, because TV Dilton is "a hardcore survivalist" who spends his weekends teaching boy scouts to "stand their ground" against the increasingly hellish town around them.
Which... I mean, that's a pretty drastic change compared to Comics Dilton, who builds time machines and robot friends, but I can kinda see the logic there.
Emma: Blue and Gold are also the colors of the Dillon Panthers, are they not? Clear eyes, full hearts, can't shoot a gun by the river without Jughead catching you.
I really started to enjoy Jughead here, now that he's actually investigating things rather than just writing his melodramatic book in Pop's. He's funny again! Betty puts him to work on the school paper, reeling him in with the trivia that In Cold Blood started as a series of articles, so Jughead's Riverdale version should too. He's actually a pretty good investigator, noticing which of Dilton's scouts was uncomfortable with Dilton lying about what happened by Sweetwater River and then confronting him in Pop's. I hope Jughead pays Pop some rent on that booth.
Chris: For those of you keeping score at home, that's our second explicit reference to In Cold Blood in three episodes. And maybe the best thing about Jughead's investigation is that he is constantly sitting on things just a little bit weird. Like he's perched on the booth in Pop's when he steals the cherry off Dilton's scouts' sundae, and then there's this weird lean on the desk later. I kinda love that Cole Sprouse is like, "Oh, Jughead's a weirdo," and bringing that out through physicality.
Emma: Yes! Jughead is thoroughly a weirdo! We finally start to actually get a sense of his character this episode. Cole Sprouse does some pretty great work now that we actually get to see his face onscreen for more than five seconds. This kind of Jughead I can totally see Ethel falling for.
Back to Dilton, though, he lied about the gunshot because a) he didn't want to get in trouble for teaching his scouts how to shoot / being a menace with a gun, and b) it would obviously make him the number one murder suspect. He negotiates with Betty and Jughead for them to not share that tidbit of information if he shares something else he saw down by the river --- Ms. Grundy's car.
Chris: Which, of course, Jughead already knew. For Betty, however, this is brand-new information. And that, I think, is the last thing we have to talk about before we get to what we've been waiting to talk about all night. Are you ready, Emma?
Emma: I think I'm ready for Dark Betty, but I don't know if I ever really can be. I’m going to dream of Dark Betty. Dark Betty is my patronus.
Chris: So at first, this is a plot being driven by Veronica "One Day There Will Come A Reckoning" Lodge, and the idea is pretty simple. Since Betty has the "Good Girl" reputation, she'll go undercover as a Bad Girl and lure Chuck into some kind of trap so that they can take their revenge, and a confession that will allow them to share the notebook he's been keeping about all of the girls --- including Ethel and Polly, Betty's sister who's been in a group home since her traumatic betrayal and humiliation at the hands of the football team.
It should be noted that this plan requires Chuck to be about as stupid as a sack of doorknobs, but fortunately, he is.
Emma: "Aren't you friends with Veronica, the girl whose life I just ruined? Oh, but you want to sleep with me? At Ethel's house? In her hot tub? Okay!"
Chris: That dude opens the door to find Veronica, the girl who literally just confronted him yesterday about how much she hates him and wants to destroy him, and thought "Yes, I will go into this house, which also belongs to my enemy, because there is no other possible outcome than a threesome with Betty and Veronica." But while it's Veronica who lures him in, well... Do you want to talk about it, Emma?
Emma: Betty comes out with a glorious black bob of a wig, a tight black skirt and a lacy dark bra, walking with purpose towards that boy who has no idea what's coming. She's putting on some kind of persona, because this is a side of her we've never seen before, and one that I don't think Betty had previously acknowledged that she had. "Betty couldn't make it, so she sent me instead."
It's also fun to note that Veronica is still wearing pearls with her own sexy black swimsuit.
Chris: The best thing about this is that even Veronica, who up to this point has been the person orchestrating this revenge plot, is clearly like, "WTF is happening right now." And Dark Betty --- a name that's never mentioned in the show but that we picked up from Lili Reinhart's tweet about tonight's episode --- just immediately starts doing things like mixing drugs into alcohol to knock Chuck out so that she can handcuff him to the side of the hot tub.
Where did Betty Cooper get two --- two!! --- pairs of handcuffs?!
Emma: Right? Chuck's arms were splayed out in that hot tub that they were not restrained with the same set of handcuffs. I'm going to say Betty got them from Kevin? But there's no way Kevin wouldn't have wanted to witness this.
Veronica starts questioning Betty's judgement with the muscle relaxers she puts into Chuck's drink --- to make "truth serum" --- but her skeleton just leaves her body once Betty steps on Chuck's head and threatens to boil him if he doesn't apologize for what he did to Polly.
Chris: She literally says, "The truth, Chuck, or so help me I will boil you alive." And then things get really weird.
Emma: Chris messaged me before we started doing this recap with Lili Reinhart's tweet about Dark Betty, and I said that Betty already threatened to murder Cheryl last week, what could be worse? But it gets so much worse. And by worse I mean Betty, step on me.
Chris: Seriously, congratulations to everyone who had a sexual awakening watching Betty step on a man with stiletto heels and then pour syrup on him.
Emma: Oh my god, the syrup.
Chris: It's at this point, though, that Betty starts referring to Chuck as "Jason" and demanding an apology for herself, as Polly. This understandably freaks Veronica out, and the next day at school, in the single best moment of the episode, Veronica confronts her and Betty replies, "Hm, no, I didn't do that."
Emma: Was the black wig Polly's? Was she channeling Polly with that outfit? Before Betty puts their revenge plan in motion, there's a scene with her putting on Polly's bright red lipstick at her vanity. Her mom comes in and freaks out, of course, literally wiping the lipstick off her face and insisting she wear "Pink Perfection" instead. This is now twice in three episodes that we see Betty with red lipstick smeared all over her face! But she says the red makes her feel powerful.
I loved Veronica in that scene. Classic "girl, I love you, but what are you doing" moment. That is how you know their friendship will last.
Chris: There's also a quick but very clear close-up of the Cover Girl logo on the lipstick that was the biggest laugh I had the entire show. It was even better than the ads they had last week, where Cheryl just started talking about how she likes to have a strong lip color, and I didn't realize it was a commercial for a good ten seconds.
Emma: It's a great product placement for Cover Girl. They were probably my first lipstick!
Chris: With the recorded confession and the book, the girls get Chuck booted off the football team and publicly humiliate him, and Ethel seems pretty happy with everything. And that brings us to the end of the episode, where we all learn that slut shaming is bad, and if you do it, Betty will show up with a severe, midnight black bob and step on you like the worm you are. Which... y'know, now that I type it out, that may not actually deter some people.
Emma: Nope, not at all. Did you think that maybe Ethel was not entirely honest about everything? There were some slightly off looks, and some straight up creepy looks when she was watching Betty torture Chuck.
Chris: Nah, I think she was just reveling in sweet revenge.
Emma: I mean, #believewomen, obviously, but this is Riverdale and I trust nothing. And #justiceforEthel!
Chris: Or, since there have been hints that Ethel won't be as interested in Jughead as her comic book counterpart is, maybe her interest in Dominatrix Betty goes a little further than just the casual interest in watching her boil a man alive? Would it not be amazing if the actual love triangle in this show turned out to be Betty, Veronica, and Ethel Muggs?
Emma: Chris. You're blowing my mind.
Chris: It's my OT3. So that's it for this episode... except that it's not.
Because friends and neighbors, pals and gals, there is a teaser for next week and I stood up out of my chair when I saw it. Readers, stop right here if you want to avoid any spoilers from the teaser, and we'll catch up with you next week.
Emma: I could not believe it. This show just gets more and more bananas with each episode.
Chris: "Geraldine Grundy's been dead for seven years."
Emma: Who is the fake Ms. Grundy? What is she doing in Riverdale? Was Geraldine Grundy actually the old lady we know and love??
Chris: My money's on the big twist being that Hot Ms. Grundy is actually hot Ms. Beazley, but I guess we'll find out together!
Emma: We will! Join us next week, pals, as we learn the truth about Ms. Grundy and see if Dark Betty makes a reappearance!