“Chapter Eight: The Outsiders” Plot Summary:
Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) decide to throw Polly (Tiera Skovbye) a baby shower to help her feel welcome. Archie (KJ Apa) tries to help his dad (Luke Perry) after the Blossoms hire out his crew to halt construction on the old drive-through’s land. Alice (Mädchen Amick) makes amends with her daughters.
After a two-week absence, Riverdale is back, and things are no less screwed up than when we left them. Polly is still stuck in the middle of the Blossom-Cooper feud, a pawn in a nebulous fight that stretches back generations. But she isn’t the only one caught in the crossfire of the Blossoms and another family now, as Clifford Blossom’s (Barclay Hope) efforts to get back his family’s old land sees him disrupting Fred Andrews’ construction and driving his business to the brink of ruin. If parental influence has been one major theme of this show so far, the corrupting, destructive nature of the feuds between the rich is right behind it in importance, and that’s the one that takes center stage this episode.
In a continuing demonstration of their healthy father-son bond, Archie does what he can to help out his dad, recruiting some of his friends to act as a temporary crew to get construction moving. But when trouble comes in the form of some goons breaking equipment, we get to see the return of impulsive hothead Archie. His accusation against the Southside Serpents is entirely baseless, and his idea to sneak into their dive bar hangout and look for them is incredibly ill-conceived, so both actions fit with Archie’s well-intentioned but rarely thoughtful personality. And it’s nice to see the lengths Archie will go to help out his dad; given how toxic so many of the parental relationships are, it’s important to have the contrast Archie and Fred provide.
Speaking of toxic parental relationships, our favorite supervillain, Alice Cooper, makes another appearance, although this time she actually makes some genuine efforts to make amends. Encouraged by Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) to relent on Polly’s decision to keep the baby, she gives a thoughtful gift at Polly’s baby shower and invites Polly and the baby to live at home again. Mrs. Blossom similarly repents of her efforts to have Polly declared an unfit mother and offers to let Polly and the baby live with them. Considering both betrayals were only just last episode, the turnaround feels a little fast, but that seems to be intentional. Alice and Mrs. Blossom can’t stop from fighting and disrupting the shower because of the old feud. Alice’s genuine apologies and her vicious fight with her husband after discovering he pressured Polly to get an abortion ultimately aren’t enough to make up for everything she’s done to her daughter, as Polly chooses to live with the Blossoms. And the sinister final shot of the Blossoms closing the door behind Polly suggests that their intentions are not as pure as they claim.
(As a side note, the show’s treatment of the subject of abortion feels a little quaint. Which is not to say that Polly should have considered it, or that Alice was wrong to be angry with her husband for trying to pressure Polly into it, but the characters refuse to even mention the procedure by name, and the mere suggestion that it’s a viable option is treated as an unpardonable crime. Then again, Riverdale has always been fairly conservative in its idealization of small town values and its focus on the plight of working class white men. One still cringes at the extremely loaded imagery of the show having a successful black man sneer at Fred Andrews and call him a “gentrifying fat cat.” Still, it’s mildly disappointing to see Riverdale showcase such an old school attitude about a topic that other CW shows have been considerably more progressive on lately.)
FP (Skeet Ulrich) is easily the parent with the most complex set of actions this episode, though. He calls Fred when Archie tries to sneak in to the Southside Serpent hideout, and keeps the teenage hothead from getting into too much trouble. He also shows up with some of his fellow gang members to act as Fred’s new construction crew, a decent act that even the late episode reveal doesn’t provide any ulterior motives for. That reveal does, however, make it clear that he played a far greater role in Jason Blossom’s murder than he let his son Jughead (Cole Sprouse) on to. As we get closer to the end of the season, the mystery behind Jason’s death is likely to unravel, so it seems the few lingering shreds of trust between Jughead and his dad may be sorely tested before this is all over.
There are many questions left to ponder after this episode. What do the Blossoms plan to do with Polly and her child? How did Hiram Lodge find out about his wife’s infidelity? Will Fred Andrews’ burgeoning grudge with Clifford Blossom eventually lead him down the same dark path as Mr. Cooper? What is FP trying to hide? And, as always, what really happened to Jason Blossom? All of which is to say that Riverdale isn’t even close to running out of the compelling mysteries that have been driving it forward for eight episodes now. If you’ve been hooked so far, there’s little reason to stop now.
Rating: 8 out of 10