Riverdale, Season 1 Episode 3: “Body Double”

Veronica: Football players behaving badly? What else is new – Steubenville, Glenridge. The coach’s son being the ringleader? Just how depraved is this town?

In its third episode, Riverdale elevates from solid teen/mystery drama to must-watch. I’m not familiar with the characters of Archie comics, but the buzz surrounding Riverdale (as well as the teen drama meets Twin Peaks promotion) convinced me to check it out. Netflix has a new deal with The CW that grants them first-run rights outside the US and the rights to promote it as a Netflix Original, so it’s also one of the most accessible shows on ‘television’ right now. Riverdale began with the disappearance of Jason Blossom – football star, beloved twin, and some other nefarious things – and everyone in Riverdale was wondering just what happened. Jason dated Polly Cooper, and the nasty breakup increased the tension between their sisters Cheryl and Betty. “Body Double” sees Betty and Cheryl coming to an understanding, but what they learned to get to that place changed both of them.

riverdale-103

Unlikely allies.

We didn’t learn much about the Jason Blossom investigation this week, other than that he and Cheryl had planned to fake his death so that he could run away. It wasn’t until she saw his body that she knew he was dead, so now she’s dealing with a different type of grief. She knows what happened to him now, but while he was missing (he was supposed to call her when he was a safe distance from Riverdale so their parents couldn’t reach him), Cheryl hoped he was still alive. Archie corroborates Cheryl’s story that there was a gunshot, and he leaves Miss Grundy out of it, but she still cancels their private study. Betty (whose parents run the local paper) and Jughead revive the high school newspaper so Jughead can dig a little deeper into what happens. Most of this is superficial though, because “Body Double” belongs to the women of Riverdale High (except Grundy, who is the actual worst).

This week Veronica goes on a date with Chuck, and they seemed to have a good time. They talked, they made out, and then Chuck took Veronica home. Then Chuck ruined it all by doctoring their Instagram selfie to make it look like he gave Veronica a “Sticky Maple.” The episode’s slut-shaming story had some clunky dialogue, but it’s a story that matters. When men have numerous girlfriends, they’re celebrated; the practice of having multiple wives to bear several children goes back thousands of years, and is still practiced in certain societies today. When women date a lot of men, they’re shamed. Veronica’s not the sort of person to let this kind of thing lie, so she confronts Chuck. When that doesn’t work, Betty asks around the school to see if this has happened to anyone else.

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Meet Ethel Muggs.

A group of girls gather in a classroom, while Ethel tells her story – she spent 10 minutes in the library helping Chuck with some homework, but according to Chuck she became his latest conquest. She went to the principal, but nothing happened. Without proof, it’s one girl against a football player who is on the honour roll. Oh yeah, and his dad is the coach. Chuck’s brother is friends with Ethel, and he’s seen a book – the football players keep score of their conquests. On a late night mission, Betty and Veronica find the book, and we learn how the footballers keep score.

Betty: New girl? Is that what I’m reduced to – 9 points?
Ethel: Better than big girl – 7.5

Cheryl interrupts the “B&E with B&V,” to see what’s going on. To her surprise, Jason was a part of this game, and Polly Cooper is written next to her name. Seeing Polly’s name changed everything for Betty – Veronica’s her friend, but Polly is broken. Betty and Veronica hatch a revenge plan for Chuck, and it’s delicious until Betty goes too far. The story of what happened between Jason and Polly is mostly unknown, but whatever happened has affected Betty profoundly. The girls are able to write up the story in the resurrected Riverdale High Paper, and Chuck gets dropped from the football team. Then this happens:

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Females are strong as hell. #JusticeForEthel

This was the best scene I’ve seen in scripted television this month. I’d say all year, but there’s a lot of good in One Day at a Time. This is something that happens to women all over the world. The women of Riverdale didn’t solve sexism, but they were able to get Chuck thrown off the football team, and expose the kind of humiliation women are put through. Cheryl can empathise with Betty – she loves her brother, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt Polly, and they’ve both lost their siblings in different ways. So they burn the book together. Betty and Veronica are now best friends, and if you hurt one of them, they’ll come for you. Archie who?

Other thoughts:

  • Cheryl became one of the most interesting characters this week. She’s never going to be close with Betty and Veronica, but she can see when something’s wrong. Allies are pretty good.
  • Because I left out most of Archie’s storyline, I didn’t write about Josie and the Pussycats. I’ll say for now that I love everything about them. If you’d like to read about them, I recommend LaToya Ferguson’s reviews at The A.V. Club.
  • I spent at least an hour trying to find a still of Betty and Veronica doing friend things, but no luck.
  • From memory, the last slut-shaming storyline I remember was in the final few episodes of Veronica Mars. Please correct me if you can think of anything else.
  • I might cover this show regularly, I’ll see how things go. I need to get back into writing more frequently, and there’s a lot going on here.
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