Apparently, Christmas is cancelled in Riverdale this year.
Unlike Season 2’s “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (which featured the Black Hood as Santa, in case you forgot), this past week’s midseason finale saw no mention of the holidays, leaving us to wonder: is it still pre-winter in Riverdale, or is everyone so high on fizzle rocks and obsessed with Griffons & Gargoyles that they forgot about the festivities altogether?
Kelli: Good God, I don’t even know where to begin with this episode… so I guess I’ll begin at the beginning. We open on a normal-seeming Riverdale high — normal until we realize that basically the entire school is high on fizzle rocks. Less than 30 seconds in, everyone on the cheerleading squad (apart from Cheryl) collapses to the ground, seizing.
First of all, at this point I’d forgotten the Vixens were even a thing, or that any of these people still go to school. It seems like high school in Riverdale is mandatory only when the plot requires it. Otherwise, it’s basically a free-for-all. Because of this, it seems pretty inconsequential when we learn that Riverdale High might be shut down, even though everyone at the school is obviously upset about it. I think this kind of plot worked when Southside High was getting shut down because we actually spent a decent amount of time on that campus during season 2, but Riverdale High has taken such a backseat this season that this is one of the least dramatic things to happen this episode — even when men in hazmat suits break into the school to capture the “infected.”
So, here are my questions: Is there such thing as a CONTAGIOUS seizure, other than in cases of mass hysteria? Why was Cheryl the only Vixen who didn’t collapse? Where ARE the other Vixens? And if the fizzle rocks are causing the seizures, why didn’t it affect the ROTC bros?
Mary: Ok, follow me here. There’s not such a thing as a contagious seizure, but sometimes mental illness can be contagious—in a way. Ian Hacking talks about fugue states in his book Mad Travelers, and says, essentially, that some types of mental illness can be due to certain circumstances or current events. So for example, during a certain time period fugue states were somewhat common and dudes would just wander off to other countries on foot and then not remember how they got there. It’s possible that there’s something like that happening in the weird nowhere place of Riverdale, but I doubt it.
I also forgot the Vixens TBH. It was a striking image when they all collapsed though.
Gabriella: I wish the plot was actually about a contagious phenomenon but I agree with you, Mary, it’s highly unlikely Riverdale is going in that direction. It’s just going to be a human guinea-pig situation in which the fizzle rocks are causing seizures in people. Though why, we don’t know. And if it is the fizzle rocks, why did Betty have a seizure in the beginning?
Riverdale doesn’t seem to know where it wants to be - based in the high-school or the town - and it can’t be both because all the main characters are high-school aged. No matter which place you’re in, you’re always wondering why someone is absent.
Kelli: The threat of the school closing sends Veronica into Detective Veronica mode. Detective Veronica is different from Detective Betty in that Betty actually investigates things while Veronica tells Reggie to investigate things for her. If I wanted to get shit done in a timely and efficient matter, I probably wouldn’t be sending Reggie out to do it for me, but I guess she’s got a lot on her plate.
Anyway, Reggie somehow manages to find out that the fizzle rocks are coming from Hiram’s brand new Southside prison, and that members of a new gang, the Gargoyles, have been giving fizzle rocks out to students for free in order to get them hooked. Veronica then gets an even better tip, this time from Betty, who APPARENTLY everyone assumed was “at the farm.”
Pause for a moment, because I want to address this. Why on earth did everyone just accept that Betty was at the farm? If this were any other character, everyone would have been freaking the fuck out and trying to save them, but for some reason no one bothers to actually find out if Betty is okay. Why???
Mary: Uh, yeah! I’m confused at how everyone has accepted SEVERAL people just being gone. Jughead is on the lam and no one seems to care much. Betty is gone and no one cares much. Also, WHY would Betty be at the farm when she’s been suspicious of it this whole time?!
Gabriella: Detective Veronica is as unimportant to me as normal Veronica. Again, I do not care about her. And if she at least did her own investigating, I might care more…
Kelli: Anyway, back to Betty’s tip: she calls Veronica to tell her about the fizzle rocks testing at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. She also tells Veronica about seeing Claudius there. Armed with this information, Veronica and Cheryl syrupboard (?) Penelope until she admits that she’s in on Hiram’s plan, which is essentially to turn Riverdale into a den of iniquity where everyone can do whatever the fuck they want.
So, I have to admit that at this point, I’m pretty confused. Am I to understand that this entire thing — the G&G, the fizzle rocks, all of it — was set into motion in order to create the illusion of an illness that would allow Hiram and Hermione to quarantine the town so that they can then wreak havoc within it? This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Like, yes, G&G and fizzle rocks may turn their citizens into submissives, but I’d argue that having your town put under quarantine brings more attention to it, not less. Am I misunderstanding Hiram’s evil plan, or do we just not have enough information yet?
Mary: I’m not entirely sure what cutting Riverdale off from the world is going to do for Hiram. No one can come in or out! While we haven’t seen much outside of the town, it’s been noted that surrounding towns have some crossover with Riverdale (like Greendale), so, are those people just cut off? I’m not sure what Hiram is really going to get when the town is quarantined.
Gabriella: Somehow Hiram went from being a normal mob-boss to being some bizarre psychopathic drug lord? I don’t understand it — his character seems to have completely lost it since the first season. Surely he would have just started this as soon as he arrived? Why did he wait? It seems so arbitrary.
Kelli: Meanwhile, Betty is still at the SoQM. Despite her seemingly zombified state at the end of the last episode, she’s actually figured out exactly what is going on: Hiram is paying the sisters to test fizzle rocks on their patients, which makes them hallucinate the existence of an actual gargoyle king. She manages to trap Ethel and force her into withdrawal, helping her to realize that the Gargoyle King is actually just a statue. She enlists Ethel to help her question Sister Woodhouse.
What do we think about the revelation about the origins of G&G? Sister Woodhouse said the game was “never meant to get out,” but if that’s the case — how did it?
Mary: Uuuuugh. I’m so over all of it! G&G—if it’s meant to be a dupe for D&D—-has to be more complicated than what we see. There has to be at least a little bit of math involved, right? If that’s true, I doubt it’s something that was just casually invented.
Also, I just want to note here that I paused the ep on Ethel’s vision board and laughed SO HARD at her pics of a stereotypical gargoyle and herself, complete with little cartoon hearts.
Gabriella: I’m just proud that I called this way back when. Also, how is Alice sitting in that room with Betty and NOT noticing Ethel’s massive obsession board and continue to be oblivious to the SoQM’s part in all this. These adults are idiots.
Kelli: Leaving Sister Woodhouse tied up with the GK statue, Betty and Ethel concoct a plan to escape the SoQM, and to take all of the other girls with them, too. They create a new quest for the other patients, a quest to find hope and escape by following the Griffon Queen.
I actually really liked this moment — when Betty throws the head of the statue to the ground and says, “The King is dead,” I was like, YASS, and then I was like, how is it possible that I actually just felt a sense of triumph watching this shit?
Mary: Well, I think it’s ok for Riverdale to have a good triumphant moment every now and then. Even though we pick on it, it’s not so terrible that we stop watching it, and scenes like this remind us there’s actually a very human story going on. It felt moving to me that Betty wanted to get these girls out so bad that she’d LARP the Gryphon Queen in order to free them.
Also, I suspended my disbelief in terms of where Betty got that costume, but it was fabulous and I’d like her to wear it all the time now.
Gabriella: Yeah I’m with both of you on this - I was happy to see this moment of unity and triumph from the girls at the SoQM. Especially since what I liked about the show, to begin with, was it’s more complex understanding of being a teenage girl (of course wrapped up in the neon-aesthetic and absurdity of Riverdale).
Kelli: On top of ALL OF THAT, something really important and long-awaited happened this episode: we finally met Jughead’s mom, Gladys, and sister, Jelly Bean. Jug and Archie seek refuge at Gladys’ orphan-run auto shop, and entertain a visit from Penny Peabody, everyone’s least favorite ex-Serpent.
I don’t want to focus too much on Penny, who I hate, and who I hope is dead but probably isn’t because for some reason she keeps coming back. Instead, I’ll ask: What did you guys think of Gladys and JB?
Mary: I honestly felt disappointed in Gladys and JB because they are SUCH greasers and I wanted more contrast between them and Jug/FP. I like that Gladys jacked up Penny of course, but I also wish she’d been a little less tough?
Gabriella: I care about them almost as much as I care about Veronica.
Kelli: This section felt very separate from the rest of the episode just because of the nature of Archie and Jughead’s journey, but I actually haven’t hated this subplot as much as I expected to. Mostly, I think it’s because of Archie and Jughead’s friendship chemistry, which we discussed before. I was actually sort of sad to see them part, and I really don’t know what they’re going to do with Archie now that he’s entirely alone. Maybe he’ll realize that Vegas can talk?
Mary: I HOPE SO. We need talking animals in this show. It’s the only unbroken ground. Also, WOW he dyed his hair!
Gabriella: Mary, I legitimately texted Kelli that exact sentiment. Finally - what the hell took him so bloody long to do it, though? I also liked the reintroduction of Archie’s dad, whose name I’ve legitimately forgotten at this point.
Kelli: At the end of the episode, all of the plots actually come together in a fairly satisfying way. Cheryl and Veronica ambush Hermione’s office with the ROTC bros in a last-ditch effort to stop Hermione from closing down the school, but it’s too late. In fact, she hasn’t just shut down Riverdale High — she’s shut down RIVERDALE. FP and Jughead pull up on their bikes to find the road blocked off and monitored by armed guards. The entire town is quarantined.
At the SoQM, Betty and Ethel successfully escape with all of the patients just as the air-raid sirens begin to ring. Alice shows up like, “Betty, I’m here to save you!” and Betty’s like “cool, thanks mom.” I guess this means we’re finally going to the farm.
Are y’all excited to meet Edgar Evernever? Do you think the farm plot is going to tie in with G&G, or nah? Is there a real person under that Gargoyle King mask, or is even Hiram hallucinating?
Mary: There’s been so much hype about Edgar and the Farm that I’m excited to see it. If nothing else it’s a new locale for us to see! G&G and the Farm are almost certainly related in some way, but I’m not sure how yet. Does Hiram have ties to the Farm maybe? Is he dipping into his own supply and seeing the GK? Jenni says that maybe Hiram is the original killer from 20 years ago, and that’s not a terrible idea.
I have a lot of questions, ultimately, which is perfect for a mid season finale.
Gabriella: Yes, me too! Especially now that the whole Gargoyle King thing has been exposed a hallucination, I’m down for some freaky psychological cult shenanigans. I sort of wish the farm was the main focus of the show, instead of on Hiram and his own weirdness. If Hiram was the killer from 20 years ago — why, is my main question. What did he get out of killing the principal?
I would be surprised if Hiram had ties to the farm and to the Blossoms and to the SoQM. They’re making him out to be this small town mafioso and also a weird cult guy? I dunno, I want one or the other. Mostly, I want to see some more floating babies.