This week, we give thanks for Riverdale, and count the many, many blessings that it has bestowed upon us.
There might not be a new chapter airing tonight, but we’re still here to give you this extra-special-belated-edition of the BSG Riverdale Recap — so read on for our discussion of “The Great Escape,” complete with a prison break, an allusion to Choni’s sexual relationship, and a truly sick pair of bell-bottom overalls (What store is Betty shopping at, and why doesn’t anyone else on this show go there?).
Kelli: “The Great Escape” begins like many vintage Riverdale episodes: with a voiceover from Jughead. This time it’s different, though, because Jughead’s narration isn’t from the novel he’s working on — it’s from the G&G pamphlet, which he’s reading aloud to the Serpents as they play the game. This scene is spliced with Archie and Joaquin’s poorly-executed attempt at escaping the prison, a juxtaposition which seemed random at first but proved to be a through-line for the episode.
I’ll get back to that, but the first thing I want to ask is: what do we think of Jughead’s new strategy for defeating the Gargoyle King? At the end of the last episode, the fact that he was suddenly playing this game with such fervor seemed like an indication that he’d been brainwashed, but as we open this episode, Jughead seems to be mostly in his right mind. He explains to Betty that he wants to get as good at the game as the “game master,” because he thinks that once he proves himself, they’ll meet face to face. Betty isn’t convinced, but she also seems marginally less concerned after talking it through with him. So… is he gonna lose his mind, or nah?
Gabriella: I’m going with no, but they also don’t really explain how or why Jug is the only one who isn’t brainwashed by the game. And if the whole point is that he wants to ascend to meet the king, why doesn’t he just play it with one other person… surely it would go faster?
I forgot Jughead was writing a novel. That is how far this show has moved away from its foundation.
Mary: Oh man, his novel! I’d almost forgotten. I love that you term this “vintage” Riverdale. So true.
I don’t think he’s going to lose his mind, but others might, especially Reggie, who seems to be getting beaten by his dad at home. With some rough things already against him (and him not being super smart?), I think Reggie might be in trouble. Also, as someone who has already been recast once, he might be ripe for the chopping.
Kelli: So, back to that scene-splice I mentioned: I know I’m the one who’s always saying I want the plots on this show to intersect in a meaningful way, but I felt like this sudden connection of Gryphons and Gargoyles to the prison subplot was pretty sloppy.
Basically, Jughead posits a theory: that this game goes far beyond the board, and is actually an analog for the town of Riverdale. All the scenes of him reading from the game pamphlet are then juxtaposed with what’s going on in the real world with Archie at the prison. It seems like every moment in the game has a perfect real-time parallel. It’s all WAY too convenient, especially once it seems like the Warden is most likely involved with G&G. What are the chances that Archie just so happens to get locked up in juvie with the Warden RIGHT as this dark game plot resurfaces after twenty years? I suppose this could be a part of the Gargoyle King’s plan, but in that case… why? Like, is GK targeting Archie specifically? Is it HIRAM?
Calling it now: Hiram is the Gargoyle King.
Gabriella: It does seem like the first season and a half have nothing to do with this show anymore at all. Jingle-jangle was just name-dropped a few episodes ago, and other than Joaquin’s resurfacing, there is literally nothing in this season that has to do with anything which occurred previously. It definitely feels sloppy and disconnected from everything we have learned about this town so far. I guess the GK was just chillin’ waiting for shit to go down.
Hiram as the GK actually sort of fits - especially since he had been in prison previously, that helps to explain why the whole game went underground… (does anyone else feel insane just talking about this?)
Mary: YES! I both feel insane and think Hiram could be the GK. I hope they DON’T lean that way, but knowing the show like we do, I think it’s likely. Are all the HPoR evil when we get right down to it?
I liked how the plots entwined, even when it felt sloppy. I think that G&G as a metaphor is silky, but when it turns out that the warden is actually playing the game? I’m back in!
Kelli: Speaking of Hiram, I would like to quickly complain about the reintroduction of the mob plot, which I truly could not care any less about if I tried. I feel so bad for Veronica, because she keeps getting stuck in the middle of this boring-ass mob garbage. She makes a vague sort of deal with Elio (one of her speakeasy… investors? Who fucking knows), who uses his mob connections to get her into the prison fight club. She finally sees what Archie’s gotten involved in, and it becomes her mission to break him out. One of my favorite things about this scene is that Veronica says “We only have twenty minutes,” and Archie’s like, “great, just enough time to quickly fuck you against a locker.”
Classic Archie amiright?
But seriously: where do we see Veronica’s plot going this season? I’ve come to dread her scenes, which is unfortunate, because I do like her - but I like her most when she’s interacting with Betty, which has barely happened at all in the past five episodes. Is she going to go full mob teen? Or will she join the G&G investigation?
Gabriella: Again, I do not care about Veronica. Sorry, not sorry.
Mary: I’m tired of the mob plot, too, Kelli. I think they’re going to keep using Veronica as a mob plot anchor as long as Hiram is around to… IDK do mob things? I wish they’d drop this plot, or at least make it less of a thing.
Elio, creepily, was one of Veronica’s potential mob boss son suitors from last season. Remember how bananas that was?
Kelli: Oh yeah. Ew.
This episode culminates in Archie’s prison break. It plays out kind of like an Oceans Eleven-style heist, which was one of the few things I actually enjoyed about this week’s episode — I’m a sucker for that part in every movie where each team member has an individual task and we get to watch them all in their dumb disguises as they put their plan into action. What they accomplish here is obviously absurd and would never, ever work in reality, but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. Did y’all? Or have I been brainwashed by the film industry?
One of the most notable things about this part is the way Joaquin’s role shifts. Archie warns him about the prison break, and then with no warning at all, Joaquin KISSES Archie and then STABS him. I found this to be a very fascinating strategy. Like, why the kiss? To distract him? To show affection? Or just because he’s really into Archie’s abs? It’s pretty clear that Joaquin is wrapped up in G&G as well, as we learn from his later interaction with Kevin (!!!!!!!!!!!), and I’m curious to see how they’ll use his character now that he’s back.
Also, just for the record, Kevin x Joaquin >>>> Kevin x Moose.
Gabriella: Betty and Joaquin are the only good things about this show.
While I liked the heist scene too, I found the whole ‘split screen’ to the G&G game conceit really annoying, I just wanted to watch the heist. Except the parts with Veronica, because, like I said, she is irrelevant to me now. Except when she said “I’d recognise those abs anywhere” which may be the best line ever because it reminded me of the old school Riverdale which subverted gender norms. But then Veronica went back to being irrelevant.
When Kevin and Joaquin saw each other, ugh my heart.
Mary: Jughead said (and I think Ethel said too, at one point) that the quest has to end with a kiss? Start with a kiss? Joaquin said the warden told him to do all this, so I think the implication is that he’s playing GG, although when and with who i don’t know. My heart broke for him and Kevin though. I ship them foreverrrr.
I liked the heist fine. It was better than Archie’s idea of “run for the fence in the middle of daylight.” I’m more interested in why Mad Dog wasn’t dead and why he couldn’t also go down the tunnel. I don’t think he’s THAT much bigger than Archie.
Kelli: This episode was built around making us believe that the Warden might be the Gargoyle King, and as a result, it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t. As we learned with the BH, this is waaaaaay too early in the season for any certainty on that front. At the end of the episode, the Warden drinks everyone’s favorite cyanide juice and dies (gruesomely, might I add), adding another blue-lipped body to this season’s growing pile of corpses.
So: what was the point of all this? Are we ever going to return to the prison fight club, or is that plot point going to fall away like so many others before it?
Gabriella: Wait, I so did not think they were trying to make us suspect the warden was the Gargoyle King… I figured it was still some enigma. I’m also really suspicious about a Sabrina crossover with this, because I binged the first 5 episodes of Sabrina on my flight last weekend it’s really fresh in my mind, and the ‘Dark Lord’/creature Harvey sees in the mines and the Gargoyle King are very similar. My bet is that they hide Archie in Greendale (the town Sabrina takes place in) and that will spark a crossover.
I took issue with Betty not explaining to Reggie, Josie, and Kevin what their parents did, or maybe did, during G&G in the past. Withholding of information for NO REASON is my least favorite cinematic device. Betty has no reason not to tell them the previous principal died/was murdered, and because she hasn’t told them they’re now going to play the game.
I have to say, this episode bored me beyond belief. As bizarre as the previous ones have been, they at least held my attention. The only thing that brought me back was THAT KISS.
Mary: I saw potential for a crossover too, Gabriella! When the warden said something about criminals hiding in the mines, it gave me major thoughts of Sabrina and the mine subplot there. I still don’t get what everyone means with the ascension of the game and I keep trying to map my D&D terms onto it (you’re ONLY level 3, Jug?!), but that’s a me thing. I’d like to see more of the game and find out what the consequences (besides death) are for failing in it. I still don’t know how it brainwashes folks or why they’re committing suicide over it.
I was pretty bored with this episode too, but mostly because I am tired of the mob stuff and don’t love Archie in general. More Jughead and Betty! More GG!