Riverdale: Season 1 Episode 6 review – Chapter Six: Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!
This review contains spoilers.
Up until this week, Riverdale hasn’t put a single foot wrong. It’s been a stylish, wholly satisfying modernisation of Archie, with a sloping and interesting murder mystery. This week was equally as superb of an episode, except for one thing. This was Jughead kissing Betty. For fans of the show alone, this might not appear too drastic of an error, or perhaps it seems like no error at all, but to Archie fans, who should always be the primary audience for the show, this is as huge mis-step.
Put simply, comic book Jughead Jones is a character who has no romantic interests. To quote Jughead’s wikipedia entry:
He’s obsessed with eating food, and is generally uninterested in any kind of romance, even disliking it and the ways it leads some people to make fools of themselves.
This is a key characteristic of Jughead’s that acts as one core foundation of his character; for while his friends are of besotted with members of the opposite sex, Jughead stands apart and impartial. For Jughead personally, this can be seen as both a virtue and a flaw; it’s a smart man who can hold his think above the hormonal havoc of young love, even when he’s in the throes of that hormonal period himself, but it’s surely a lonely man too and this makes Jughead a very unique kind of Riverdale resident.
In the show, up until this week, the writers were pulling that off superbly. Jughead came across as a cool and intelligent guy on the fringes of the norm, scraping by in his personal life but always going out of his way for his friends when they need him. He’s still that person, don’t get me wrong, but that moment when he took the opportunity to kiss Betty and she (almost as bad) kissed him back felt very wrong indeed from the eyes of someone who has read the Archie comics (albeit only the modern run).
To rub further salt into the wound, it didn’t even feel like a natural conclusion to what’s been happening lately with those two characters. They’ve been chasing a mystery together as platonic friends and it’s come across as nothing else along the way, at least to my eyes. In contrast, Archie and Valerie’s recent friendship has felt very sexually charged, at least from her side, so the kiss this week between Archie and Valerie felt very natural and warranted. Betty and Jughead’s wasn’t; it felt jarring, out of place and absurd. It almost feels like a cheap move to introduce yet one more side to this love quadrangle (Archie, Betty, Veronica and now Jughead), which is the exact thing that no one wants this show to be; a teen show with cheap, vapid romance.
Other than that, the episode was exactly as strong and well-written as I’ve come to expect from the show, week-in week-out. Polly was slightly less impressive than I expected, but she still proved to be a strong addition who highlighted just how truly messed up the Coopers are. Again this was a situation where it seemed unlikely that Betty would have sat idle for that long, without finding a way to visit her sister, but that all plays into the way in which her prior timidity is giving way to a powerful, extroverted woman.
The Josie and the Pussycats focus was very welcome indeed. We still don’t know Melody at all, but we now know Valerie really well (after last week) and now Josie much better. This was sorely needed, because up until this point Josie was coming across as somewhat of a heartless bitch. She still showed her spiteful claws in this episode too, but at least the writers gave her that emotional scene in the female restroom too, to highlight that she does hold some softness to her.
After all of Veronica’s showboating about how she can “sing like a nightingale” we barely got to hear her sing at all, the ending only showcasing some slight backing vocals from her. I think the fact that she got so uptight about Archie cancelling on her for Valerie was certainly to do with it being simple rudeness and also certainly because of the situation with Archie’s father, but I think it was mostly to do with her continued marginal inclination towards liking Archie. That closet moment doesn’t feel like it’s truly left her mind. Equally, Betty glancing at the school speaker as Archie played his songs showed not only that she felt she was failing to be there as a friend, but also that she still feels more than a little something for him (despite that Jughead kiss).
Romantic fluctuations between Archie, Betty, Veronica and even side characters like Valerie are more than fine, because the writers tackle them with taste and stay true to the comics. But leave Jughead out of those romantic machinations, particularly when it comes to the core female characters. He’s not a character whose built for starry-eyed infatuation and a skip in his step. You need someone like Jughead to be an external entity who stands apart from the rest, and after this week’s mis-step the writers have unfortunately moved Jughead one step closer to being just another love-struck teen. That is the solitary reason why this week’s episode warrants a rating of three and a half stars, rather than the four stars that it would have garnered otherwise.
Image credits: The CW