Riverdale: Season 1 Episode 3 review – Chapter Three: Body Double
Three weeks in and following two superb openers, Riverdale achieved the highly improbable last night and managed to exceed that very high self-set bar. ‘Chapter Three: Body Double’ provided what is now my personal favourite episode to date and one that will certainly be looked back upon as a one of the best chapters of the season, and perhaps even the show as a whole.
After opening with the very predictable statement from Cheryl that by “guilty” she didn’t mean guilty of Jason’s murder, the narrative quickly veered into a riveting story of vengeful girls versus shallow jocks. Initially kickstarted by Veronica, before being truly followed through by Betty, this ruthless war on the jocks turned what could have been a routine Cheryl inquisition into an impressive tale about how to do whatever it takes in order to achieve justice. It taught us a lot about Veronica’s limits and even more about the lack of Betty’s limits, but I’ll swing back around to that crucial revenge scene later on in this review.
Firstly, I was both pleased and surprised that Archie followed through with his promise to tell the authorities about what he heard on that crucial day. Cleverly, he found a way to keep Grundy out of it, for now, by telling a half truth. However, an underlying plot development saw a smaller character reveal upon the episode’s close that he saw Grundy’s car at the scene, negating all of Archie’s hard work to keep her out of the picture, but at least Grundy will (hopefully) know that he’s not the one who brought her name into it.
Jughead and Betty made an adorable and effective journalistic duo this week (she even adorably calls him “Juggy”), marking a pairing that I would love to see more of going forward. The show is still a little too light on Jughead scenes, for my taste, given the boundless potential that the character holds, but I have a feeling this is more to allow room to set up the state of play in the town, before bringing Jughead in more fully later on in the season, when the murder mystery gets more intense.
It was nice to see Veronica take no nonsense and rapidly go on the offensive to protect the honour of her new classmates. The phrase “B and V” was also thrown around several times this week, in an attempt to further cement Betty and Veronica coming as a pair and being known in Riverdale High as such. Whether they’re in a state of friendship or of feuding, the more synonymous that they make Betty and Veronica’s names, to the ear of the town, the better, because it’s all a move towards faithful comic book content. A shared smile between the two girls towards the end of the episode was beautifully narrated by Jughead when he stated:
“But one thing was certain; Betty and Veronica, now B and V, and maybe forever, had been forged.”
Then there is Betty herself, who this week held instances of both meekness (coyly shielding her eyes in the boys’ locker room) and extreme boldness, as she donned a dominatrix-style attire (a beautiful and jaw-dropping look that really showcases Lili’s beauty in an entirely different manner), as a ruse to con Chuck Clayton. Her decision to shed the role of Betty and adopt a new persona should also be noted (“Betty couldn’t make it; she sent me instead”). It’s hammering home the recurring theme that Betty can go truly wild and scarily intense when she chooses to. This is by far the most extreme step we’ve seen her take in the direction of bad girl, however, with the true signifier of it being a step too far being when she called Chuck “Jason”.
This reveals that while Alice Cooper might place her anger over what Jason did to Polly out on display, Betty feels this anger just as much (it’s her sister, after all), but chooses to bury hers instead. Another great example of this was when Chuck spoke negatively about Polly in the restaurant and we heard a thick, dampened rushing noise as Betty controlled her flaring anger. It’s a true skill to be able to bury intense anger like than, in the moment of feeling it, which shows an immense amount of self-control of Betty’s part (bar her slip of the tongue with the use of “Jason”) and a superior degree of control to her mother.
If a flaw can be pinpointed, it might be that Chuck perhaps fell for the stunt far too easily, but I think this is because he simply is that stupid and because men are often prone to do anything when confronted with a beautiful and alluring woman. Josie was also a little too defensive when it came to Archie. No one’s taking away her right to express how tough it is to succeed at what she does as a an African-American woman, but all Archie was trying to do was listen and learn, so her stance was far too guarded and jaded, but this is down to who the character is being constructed as, rather than being a flaw in the writing.
This episode held visual sumptuousness, a shocking and alluring revenge scene, deep insight into the psyche of Betty, a wonderful message to stand up against shaming, an endearing journalistic pairing and much more. While the opening two episodes achieved quality in a steadier and more laid back manner, this third chapter gripped from start to finish, marked it out as easily the show’s best episode to date. Also worth noting is Jughead’s statement that the cutting of Chuck from the team would have “terrible consequences in the weeks to come”, which sets up further intriguing mystery for the coming weeks.
Image credits: The CW