Welcome back all you Riverdale fans! Last week, I took a bit of a different approach to my thoughts to give some respect for Luke Perry and to commemorate one of the most effective and well crafted episodes of Riverdale. Seriously, kudos to the team for making that decision, sticking with it, and letting things stand on their own.
This week, we’re back to the usual pulpy camp, gothic horror, and baffling sensuality that is sexy Archie — I mean, Riverdale. Also, would it shock anyone that I haven’t seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High? If so, if I missed any allusions or references, let me know. It seems like one of those seminal pieces of high school media I probably should be more familiar with.
Caveat: Why are we Americans so obsessed with high school? And as always, spoilers ahead.
1. Mr. Honey; Or, The Jackass
Last season, The Farm hightailed it out of town, stealing everyone who was a member of the cult, sans Kevin, away. Among their ranks was a one Mr. Weatherbee, the principal of Riverdale High. While not nearly the same overbearing presence as he was in the comics, he was a steadfast member and stalwart presence of the high school. With him gone, who will fill that role? Why, it’s none other than Discount Taron Egerton (Egsy from Kingsman) and boy is he boring. No fault to Kerr Smith, (of Dawson’s Creek fame, apparently.) He does a great job of bringing to life this character that I just want to punch in the face.
I have no problem with the authoritarian principal character. It’s an easy role to slot in and makes sense for the story considering how much bullshit has happened at the school in the last three years. BUT it’s still a boring as hell trope and the fact that whole swaths of this episode are dedicated to building up just how much of an asshat Mr. Honey is, I could have done without it.
My suspicions are that Mr. Honey is going to be involved somehow in the more nefarious undertakings going on in this season but I’m suspicious of everyone at this point. Heck, I still don’t buy this horseshit about Charles, Mrs. Cooper and the FBI. Dropping that on us in the season finale still stinks to high heaven. It’s not like we haven’t had fake FBI agents or teachers with dark undersides before.
Can we get one season without a crappy authority figure that will almost definitely be gone by mid-season? Please?
2. Enter Chipping; to Him, Jughead
OK, I have a lot to say about the Stonewall Prep. First off, just like Thorn Hill, the Sisters of Quiet Mercy and The Farm before it, this place has something deep and dark and I can just feel it. All the signs are there. It’s an elite academy — read, boarding school — of rich, pompous, pretentious jackasses for starters. Media is not kind to these institutions, usually for good reason but as with all things, there is nuance. Still, it’s the kind of breeding ground for dangerous and cruel hazing rituals and cults of silence and if that real life horror is not reflected here, I would be shocked.
Second, Sam Witwer is the teacher Chipping and he’s being very insistent to get Jughead to the academy. The latter is my in-text clue, the former my metatextual one. Witwer generally plays a lot of villains. Most recently, he was over in the other show I review, Supergirl as Ben Lockwood aka Master Man. I mean, Agent Liberty. If he’s not actually one of this season’s antagonists, I will be shocked and pleasantly surprised.
Witwer exudes the ivory tower, college lit professor aura and his whole class structure cemented the image while also being a good example of how great a lit discussion can be. Our education system sucks. It’s riddled with problems both structural and pedagogical and it leads to students not caring about the subjects being taught and the goals of said subjects being less about building a knowledgeable, informed, and critically minded populace and more about scores. The comparison of these two classrooms, despite the hoity-toity attitude of the Stonewall Prep class, was a great way to show that and to show why Jug would enjoy Stonewall Prep more.Continued below
Let’s just hope he doesn’t get killed in a hazing ritual.
3. Of the Monstrous Reputation of Moby Dick
I love reading. I love lit, I love books, I love analysis. It’s why I’ve loved all the discussion around “House of X,” “Powers of X.” Because of this, I got a kick out of seeing the “Moby Dick” discussion because it is the perfect example of snobby lit book that is forced upon high schoolers but also a great example of how those kinds of books can spark mentally stimulating and important discussions under the right circumstances.
Back at college, I took a seminar class on Moby Dick. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, each day filled with discussions of the most recent parts. For Mon & Wed, we read a maximum of 20 pages at a time between sessions, with a read aloud of the next part on Fridays. It was the only book we read over the course of the 14 or so weeks. About seven of us, not including me, had been forced to read the book in high school and hated it. Absolutely hated it.
My professor and that class got me, and everyone else in the class, to fall in love with that book.
Had I been forced to read it over the course of 3 weeks in high school, I would have chucked the dense, meandering, painful book out the window and sat silent in class while we answered the question “What does the Whale symbolize?” with the canned response that would get us the A. . .which is why I got a laugh out of all these high school characters being so into the book after presumably reading the whole thing in a couple weeks. (If you couldn’t tell, I find that question deeply uninteresting, so seeing the show have Chipping lead with it actually cemented the pretension more than the fact they were studying, and liking, “Moby Dick.”)
OK, I got off topic. Basically what I’m saying is, I found myself split because of the “Moby Dick” scene.
On the one hand, it’s clearly a super pretentious scene. On the other, it is collegiate in the best of ways. It asks difficult and interesting questions and it’s a book that facilitates them. Should “Moby Dick be taught in schools? How does its presentation of race both uphold and, at the same time, subvert the stereotypes and racist portrayals of the era? Are Queequeg and Ishmael boning? These questions and more force you to think deeply about what you’ve read and consider it and, if need be, to disagree with the premise of the question. That’s what a good humanities class should do, get you asking questions. . .the biggest one now being, what’s hiding beneath the surface of the school?
(Oh and the answer to the Ishmael/Queequeg question is yes, don’t @ me.)
4. Reggie Fucks Up a Car
Sorry. That last point got quite off topic and I dunno if I even had a coherent thought. I just like talking about the poster child book for most boring assigned reading.
Let’s talk Reggie.
Reggie’s come a long way from standard jock bully, with last season being a real showcase of that. At first, I thought he was going to start sliding back thanks to Mad Dog’s appearance and him feeling threatened on the football team. Thankfully, they go a bit more nuanced and show how his insecurities are less about his own and more about his father, which manifests in anger and self-doubt and the kicking in of the survival instinct. His growth is visible in his conversation with Archie at the end and I’m very thankful for that.
I also think he totally killed his father by accident.
Huh? What’s that? Why do I think that? Well, the way he was acting at school seemed. . .too relaxed and normal. The father doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who talks. Also, I don’t buy that the thing the gang is trying to hide from the stinger at the end of last season is the death of Jughead. Sure, all the clues are pointing to it like the super death flags of a town-wide hunt for Jughead through the woods during Spring Break and the season trailers that show Jughead in a coffin or the gang burning Jug’s hat in a fire while saying no one will reveal anything. But this is Riverdale. Until I see a body, and have it tripply confirmed to be dead, I don’t buy it. Hell, Jason’s still around and he’s just a corpse! Which is really fucking freaky, I might add.Continued below
Cheryl has fallen back on that gothic terror house to make up for last season and while I am down for the aesthetic, I worry for her mind and also for Toni when she inevitably finds Jason’s rotting body in the basement of a house that apparently needs candles on a candelabra to see?
I have a few rapid fire thoughts I need to get out because I spent an entire one on “Moby Dick.” Sorry y’all.
— Kevin being back and lonely is the perfect way to work him back into the cast naturally. The Farm fucked him up and it’s going to take a lot of time not only to fully get over that but also to regain the trust of his friends. Betty’s acceptance of him makes sense, especially because she probably doesn’t want him feeling like he has to go to Fangs, who is full-on cult man, for any companionship. He best not betray or I will riot.
— THESE ARE HIGH SCHOOLERS WHY IS THERE A CABARET SHOW WITH VERONICA SINGING ALL THAT JAZZ??!! Also, sexy music kicked in at like, minute 4, and you knew the couples were about to go to PG-13 bone-town, which makes the Nancy fucks with all her clothes on in Nancy Drew decision all the more baffling and why is this network so horny?
— Hiram sucks (the actor is great) and I hope he gets shived so we can get more Hermione on screen.
— The guy who shows Jug around Stonewall is named Bret Weston Wallace and I am dying. What a Canadian Madman.
— “Holy Hell Reg” is my favorite attempt to sterilize the language of the show for network censors. Let Archie say shit!
— Cheryl’s revenge being an entire, full hive on Mr. Honey’s desk is excellent.
— Webtoons has an ad on a major network during a prime-time show y’all. They’re putting some serious bank into getting people to their platform.
That about does it for now! What did you all think? Were you significantly more put off by the “Moby Dick” discussion in the show than I? Am I that pretentious? Let me know in the comments and join me again in a week for. . .something, I’ve forgotten what the stinger was. I think it had to do with The Farm? Whatever. We’ll find out soon enough. Until then, stay strange y’all.
Best Line(s) of the Night:
Bret Weston Wallace: “Let me show you to the cafeteria. We’ve got vegan, keto vegan, raw keto vegan. . .”
Chapter 32, ‘Cetology:’ “*I am aware that down to the present time, the fish styled Lamatins and Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of the Coffins of Nantucket) are included by many naturalists among the whales. But as these pig-fish are a noisy, contemptible set, mostly lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on wet hay, and especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials as whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit the Kingdom of Cetology.” (Yes I cheated, don’t @ me.)