Television 

Five Thoughts on Riverdale‘s “Folk Heroes”

By | April 18th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Welcome back all you Riverdale fans! If you thought last week’s episode was a weird one, you haven’t seen nothing yet. You know things are heating up when we’re promised a shirtless boxing match with Archie Andrews, and that’s just the spark that sets the whole thing ablaze. At least until that wet blanket Percival shows up. God I just wanna punch his face. And so does Archie!

Good for you Archie. Good for you. And as always, spoilers ahead.

1. Filtered Out but Not Gone Yet

Britta seems to be departing the show for now and that’s a shame. She was finally getting the opportunity to become a character in her own respects again. It seems she’s succumbed to the Riverdale curse and will either be brought out for only very specific scenes, like Fangs this week, or she’ll make a triumphant comeback and join Tabitha, Toni and the rest as a series regular.

My guess for why she’s being shuffled off is they needed Cheryl to be on her lonesome again and/or to ensure Britta or Nana Rose didn’t get burnt up during that first night. If so, good move! Not the cleanest way of doing it but, you know what, I’ll take it. So long as she doesn’t end up like Frank & Alice or Ethel, I’ll be very happy to see her around.

2. SHC May Cause a Tingling Sensation in the Limbs, Fiery Poops, and Ashen Skin

Can we all appreciate all the many Riverdale-isms we were treated to this week? It was a buffet of utterly ridiculous things said with complete conviction and earnestness. It’s not quite Jingle Jangle/Fizzle Rocks level of silly but calling Spontaneous Human Combustion “S.H.C.” the entire episode had me cackling. It coming from Dr. Kurdle Jr. made it all the better too.

And then! AND THEN. When Betty’s FBI friend from the paranormal unit came in and was like “Pshaw. S.H.C. is exceedingly rare. What kinda idiot believes in that? No no no. Clearly this is a case of a pyrokinetic manifesting their powers. Duh”? I was dying. Anyway, it looks like more than our core three, and Percy, have superpowers. That opens the door for a lot of fun going forward and firmly cements this season as the full-throated embrace of the supernatural I’ve been hoping for.

Also, I guess they just totally abandoned Abigail’s curse being the cause? Did I miss something? Wasn’t it heavily implied these powers were directly tied to it since the curse WASN’T totally bullshit AND it wasn’t what caused the Rivervale stuff? You know what? It’s best not to think too hard about those season ending cliffhangers. It just leads to more headaches.

3. ON DISPLAY NOW: SEXY ARCHIE. SEE his chiseled abs. MARVEL at his rock-hard triceps. BE AMAZED at the shininess of his pecs.

It’s been a while since Riverdale allowed itself to be Network appropriate levels of steamy and while there’s no hot silhouette-on-silhouette kissing and then undulating once or twice, there are many lingering shots on a shirtless Archie Andrews, as if he’s a sideshow attraction to be gawked at. The reasons why are one-part window-dressing excuses for shirtless Archie and one-part integral thematic set-up.

Yeah.

I’m as shocked as you all are but it’s true! I’ll get to it in a couple thoughts. Right now, I want to appreciate how batshit the whole Guiness World Record scene is because when I say the camera was viewing Archie like a sideshow attraction, I meant it literally. They had a banner and everything! The El Royale looked like it fell right out of Nightmare Alley, though without either film’s seediness. I loved every minute of Archie’s “let me flex all over Percy for 2 minutes” routine. It’s hilarious, made even funnier by the guy with the old-timey camera and the judge’s handlebar mustache & beard combo.

Some nights I dread figuring out what to write about Riverdale. Tonight was not one of those nights.

4. KO’d in the Second Round

I have to confess. At first, I was super bummed Mad Dog didn’t get a chance to come back to fight Archie, instead getting KO Kelly, the Katy Keene carry-over. Then he took a short walk into oncoming traffic – he’s fine, just seriously injured – and I became less bummed and more glad. Mad Dog doesn’t deserve that kind of plot twist. And speaking of plot twists, that boxing match!

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…OK. I can’t even fake being surprised. The second Percy telepathically shoved KO into traffic and challenged Archie to a boxing match, I knew something was up. There was no way he didn’t have a plan and, lo and behold, he did. A dastardly one which involved turning what should have been a cathartic trouncing of his smug ass into a brutal takedown of Archie, an event that serves as both the buttoning up of that plot AND of the episode’s theme, one which will be more fully explored next week.

Before I get there though, I did want to commend Riverdale for making Archie’s acceptance of Percy’s request feel natural rather than forced. They’ve done a really good job of making me feel existential dread the last couple weeks, where every victory is teetered on a knife’s edge, one push away from being snatched away. And this week, that’s more true than ever. There is still hope but damn if it doesn’t seem nearly hopeless.

5. I’m Holding Out For A Hero. No, not you. Too Many Abs on You.

One of my favorite things about this episode, and this is said with all seriousness, is how well the writers understand the expectations of what a folk hero is “supposed” to be and what one actually is. Generally speaking, they’re a hero of the people who fight against exploitative power. Specifically here, the folk hero model is that of the small-town, working-class, “traditional” compassionate hero of the people standing up to the elite, ultra-rich, “modern” representative of exploitative power & hate.

Usually this archetype is fulfilled by the All-American Golden Boy, thus making Archie a shoe-in for the role, as both the characters and the show’s structure has imposed the role upon him, even though he’s been actually written as far from that character. It’s a tension the show has long lived with but, crucially, it is now ready to confront it. And sure, they never went full Gotham’s Jim Gordon but come on. It’s Archie. Of Archie Comics. Of course he’d be put on a pedestal.

Or, in this case, have a statue built of him in order to facilitate the creation of a modern myth, which did feel a bit like Jug was putting the cart before the horse, but I digress.

By episode’s end, Archie is taken down, in-part due to his own hubris but mostly because he isn’t the hero Riverdale actually needs. That role needs to go to another. To a person who’s story is quintessentially American, both in the mythology of The Dream and its tragic reality. The role needs to go to Tabitha.

I wanted to make this the featured image but the prospect of showing Sideshow Archie was too funny not to do.

I wrote in my notes when Jughead presented Archie & Betty with his plan that he was completely ignoring Tabitha as a source of inspiration for the town. Had things played out as expected, this would’ve been a much angrier note. Instead, that choice was perfect for reinforcing the ways women and people of color have been historically, and currently, overlooked and underestimated. Tabitha, despite being a business owner, granddaughter of a beloved fixture of the town, one of the few people to resist Percival’s powers, complete with the backbone to stand up to him, AND someone with a compassionate heart and a clever brain, isn’t brought up even once.

She doesn’t fit the mold in Jug’s eyes in the way that Archie does and, ultimately, that seals their fate. Because Archie is not the golden boy needed nor do they properly understand the threat that Percival is. Remember, Percival didn’t really need to push the town all that much to embrace their worst impulses and willfully repaint the worst parts of the past and pass it off as the building blocks for a brighter future.

Archie Andrews represents an idealized, but fictional, version of what America believes itself to have always been at its heart and is therefore fighting to reclaim, what he sees, as a bygone past. As a people who’ve lost their way. However, it’s just as false a version of Riverdale as Percival’s. It’s why he failed against the reality of that past, as personified by Percival. Tabitha Tate, on the other hand, represents real change because she better understands, as a Black American, granddaughter of the first Black businessman in Riverdale, what the past actually was and why Percival is so dangerous. She knows what Riverdale is like at its core while also knowing what it can become with the right folk hero to look to as its north star.

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She knows what a true brighter future can look like. And she’ll fight like hell to see that vision come to fruition.

That about does it for now! Whew. That was a lot, wasn’t it? What did you all think of this episode? I’m feeling pretty good about Riverdale right now and I’m a little worried it won’t last. We’ll see. Let me know what you all thought in the comments and I’ll see you in a week for a blast to the past! Yeah, I think I have a right to be worried now. Until then, stay flaming hot Riverdale.

Best Line of the Night:

Betty: “Burn your mother! Burn her for all the pain she’s caused! SET HER ASS ON FIRE!”


//TAGS | Riverdale

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.

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