Riverdale Chapter 10 Brilliantly Weaves Three Very Different Stories Together

Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/The CW

Riverdale Chapter 10 ‘The Lost Weekend’ Plot Summary:

Betty (Lili Reinhart) throws a surprise party for Jughead (Cole Sprouse) after finding out it’s his birthday. Veronica (Camila Mendes) is put in a tough spot by her father. Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) plots with a newly returned Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway) to get revenge on the gang by crashing the party.

I’ve said before that I thought the pairing of Betty and Jughead was a strange choice that was lacking in chemistry, and up until this point Riverdale hasn’t done much to change my mind on that front. But now we finally have an episode to highlight the two of them and give some depth to the relationship.

“Throwing a birthday party for the boyfriend/friend/etc. who hates their birthday” is a pretty classic plot, and it makes sense that it’s the sort of thing Betty, who works hard at the facade of perfection she’s pressured to maintain, would do. Similarly, Jughead is exactly the sort of anti-social loner who wouldn’t want to celebrate his own birthday. And the whole thing is elevated above the cliché it could be by the resultant blow-up between the two, one that does far more to justify the relationship than the preceding episodes have.

Jughead has always been a character who wears his trauma on his sleeve, the effects of his turbulent upbringing clear in his behavior. Meanwhile, the darkness inside Betty, the rage over her controlling parents and impossible expectations, is something she keeps quietly suppressed at all times.

Ironically, it’s the fact that Jughead can’t see this similarity they share, aided by some bad advice about keeping secrets from loved ones Betty gets from her mom, that leads him to nearly trash the relationship. Buying fully into her perfect girl persona, he sees the unwanted party as yet more evidence that the two are fundamentally mismatched and nearly slinks away after some hurtful comments that his facial expressions tell you he dearly regrets.

Amazingly, his father FP (Skeet Ulrich) steps in and does some good parenting for once, convincing Jughead to go make things right (though FP didn’t think anything about this party warranted parental intervention until then?). The scene in the diner where Betty and Jughead open up about their respective baggage is a very sweet moment, and the fact that their anxieties about fitting in and struggles with darker emotions are entirely normal concerns just adds to the silly teenage angst aspect of it.

Between that and the more domestic scenes of the two simply spending time together, which had also been lacking up until this point, you leave this episode with a much better sense of the two as a couple than you entered it with. Like me, I have to imagine it won over most stragglers.

Of course, Betty and Jughead aren’t the only two dealing with some heavy stuff this week. Veronica, now firmly against helping out the father she realizes isn’t who she thought he was, finds herself the target of his latest cruel manipulation. Targeting her mother Hermione (Marisol Nichols) not only proves that Hiram Lodge is cold-hearted, it puts Veronica in the perfect quandary of not knowing whether or not her mother is actually complicit in her father’s crimes.

Their arc has been dominated by how Hermione’s shadier dealings jeopardize her otherwise healthy and loving relationship with her daughter, so of course this brings up all the anxieties Veronica has already been dealing with. That she eventually chooses to help her mother is no real surprise, but there may yet be more trouble in store for the two of them  before the season is out.

And then there’s Archie (KJ Apa). Sweet, simple Archie. Still reeling from his still nonsensical break-up with Valerie (Hayley Law), Archie gets hit with the double whammy of his dad Fred (Luke Perry) going to finalize the divorce with his mother. Adrift and alone, it’s hardly a surprise that he agrees to Betty’s birthday party plan despite knowing it’s a bad idea, and then allows Cheryl and Chuck to turn the party into a raging kegger so he can drown his sorrows.

Ultimately it’s neither wine nor song that he turns to for comfort, though, but women. He and Veronica, both drunk and hurting over parental woes, act on their long-standing flirtations and hook up. The two have a natural chemistry, but between its ill-advised beginning and Veronica sneaking out in the morning, it’s unlikely that things will proceed smoothly from here, if at all.

The only real fly in the ointment this week is Cheryl, who is written rather oddly. Last week ended with the cliffhanger of Cheryl vowing revenge on Archie for his rejection for her, but now she almost entirely ignores him in favor of targeting Veronica. The scene of Veronica challenging her to a dance-off for control of the River Vixens is delightfully ridiculous, but it’s still a new and relatively minor conflict when Cheryl already has an established grudge to be acting on.

Not only that, the “game” she decides to play to ratchet up the tension and shatter the gang feels very strange. It amounts to little more than sitting them all down in chairs and then shouting secrets she knows at them. The return of villainous Cheryl and all her drama is a welcome one, but one would hope that her old creativity would return as well.

Still, that’s a minor point in what is otherwise an excellent character-focused episode. Not much happened in terms of plot (though the slow drip of Lodge-Blossom-Southside Serpent connections is beginning to coalesce into something tangible), but it’s important to take a step back and focus on developing the people and relationships driving that plot every once in a while. They’re especially worth it when they can reveal new sides to characters, tie them closer together, and send them off in interesting new directions. That this episode manages to do all three shows how tightly written Riverdale is underneath all the silliness and angst, and that’s what makes it such a fun show to watch.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Chris Diggins is a staff writer and incorrigible layabout for The Pop Break. He usually reviews TV and movies, although he sometimes writes ludicrously long pieces of critical analysis and badgers the editors to publish it. He cannot be stopped.