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Riverdale Season 3 - Episodes 1-3 summary and thoughts

Mar 15, 2020

Folks... we’re back at it again with Riverdale, the anime for normal people. So, unlike the last time I did this, I’m going to write these up as I watch the episodes and do them in batches. You need to experience the epic highs and lows of Riverdale and to do that I need to give more detailed summaries. So hey without further ado, let’s have the first three episodes of Season 3:

Labor Day

Directly after the end of the season 2 finale, Archie is standing trial, accused of committing the murder of a seemingly inconsequential side character. The prosecutor, instead of providing direct evidence, is mainly trying to sully Archie's names with a list of other crimes he did. And to be fair, he did do a lot of crimes. I even forgot that he started a second militia group in the last post because there's just a lot going on in general.

The whole trial is a character trial because it makes for a good way to summarize everything that happened to Archie. His mom is acting as his own defense attorney, which I don't think is allowed? I honestly don't know because my only experience with the criminal justice system is through Ace Attorney. 

The jury is left to deliberate for a few days but the judge tells Archie to value the time with the people he loves, seems like a normal thing for a judge to say. Even though his friends want to search the premises where Archie's supposed victim was killed, Archie recognizes the writing on the wall and decides that he wants to make the most of his freedom.

Then in walks Cheryl, who's dressed incredibly skimpy to music. Hey, you know this is a pretty fucked thing to do after Jughead acknowledged that they're all sophomores turning into juniors in the beginning narration, right? Like hey, in general, there's a lot of sexy shots of all the characters that really shouldn’t be there.

Anyway, she was enjoying a three month vacation with her girlfriend Toni, which is totally valid. She's bizarrely dismissive of the fact that Archie's going to jail despite knowing he's innocent but invites him and the gang to go to her pool party; however, it's later revealed that it's a mask because she wants to help prevent him from going to prison but is stressed because she lacks any power to do anything about it.

Speaking of powerlessness, Veronica tries to convince her dad to keep Archie from going to jail since he's obviously behind that. Hiram's like "uwu I've done nothing wrong" and nothing comes from it.

So, there's something important that I actually forgot to mention in the last post. When Polly was sent away to hide from the Black Hood, she went to a place called the Farm, which turns out to be operating like a cult. By season 3, Polly's dragged her mom into the Farm's business and she's spouting beliefs she learned from the Farm leader Edgar. But the good news is that Alice is not as high strung as she used to be, so who can truly say what's good or bad about cults? Anyway, Alice is reading Betty's diaries and telling her to burn them and Betty is understandably weirded out. 

That car that Archie and Fred wanted to fix up actually comes back into play, with the two finishing it up in one of their last bonding moments. God damn. Personal experience and knowing that he's going to bite it really makes it hard to watch, if I have to be honest. Archie also gets a sick Serpent tattoo from FP because hey, gotta get gang protection in prison.

Cheryl's pool party is going on when suddenly, uh oh, the Ghoulies! As it turns out, the Ghoulies kidnapped the Serpents' beloved dog, Hot Dog... all the way back at Riot Night, which was canonically at least weeks ago, so it's baffling that nobody noticed until now. Jughead wants to go on a rescue mission despite getting completely owned the last time he went to the Ghoulies. Betty tags along with the incredibly bad line of “this Serpent Queen is a warrior queen” which left me like, huh?

Also at the pool party, Josie tells the gang where the jury for Archie's case is being sequestered, so Veronica thinks about going out to influence them. Unfortunately, Hiram is actually a smart character because his cop stooge, Sheriff Minetta, is there to stop her.

Jughead and the gang goes to rescue Hot Dog, who is surprisingly fine, all things considered. The Ghoulies led by Penny and Mordecai shows up to give a second round of beatings to Jughead, but Mordecai gets merked in the shoulder by an arrow from Cheryl, who may actually be the most powerful character in the cast? Anyway, they manage to leave with the dog safe and sound, but the Ghoulies promise to fuck up the Northside.

Back with Betty, Alice is still on her cult shit and getting mad that Betty's been hoarding prescription medicine because I guess they turned her into an anti-vaxxer. Betty calls her and Polly out for losing their minds but then they point out that she hasn't fully reckoned with her own traumas from the past season, which is not wrong. Betty decides that they're right, but instead of joining up with their bullshit she decides to see a therapist.

After a nightmare, Archie comes to a realization. Even though he did not kill that minor character, he did condemn him to die at the hands of Hiram's capo, so he sees himself as responsible for his killing, anyway. He comes out with all this at a nice camping trip the gang's having which kinda sours the mood. Also, despite everything, what disappoints him the most is that he'll be unable to graduate with his friends, which he thinks is a stupid thing to worry about and yeah, it kinda is.

In the background, there's a character called Dilton Doiley just vibing. He appeared in past episodes but has been incredibly minor aside from providing a red herring clue in the first season. But he's now in the forefront as a player for a tabletop game called Gryphons and Gargoyles and is freaking out about the Gargoyle King, who is the villain of his campaign who is somehow real? Huh?

Anyway he's telling this to Jughead, who does not give a shit about this at all because he has to go to his best friend's trial.

Speaking of the trial, the jury is deadlocked and the case will be tried again. The prosecutor offers a plea bargain deal of declaring the crime manslaughter and sending Archie to juvenile detention instead. Against the advice of literally fucking everyone, Archie decides to take the plea bargain instead of waiting out for another trial because he doesn't want to worry everyone. This is treated as a sad moment but also it comes off as so dumb that I don't really care. Archie's parents however plan on trying to get Archie off by plotting to prove that Hiram framed him for the crime.

With the normal plotline out of the way, Riverdale somehow goes off the rails in a way that the past seasons haven't.

Dilton disappeared, but he left behind a cryptic G&G map corresponding with Riverdale's map. Jughead follows it and he finds Dilton and a guy named Ben huddled kneeling in front of a satanic circle, with Dilton dead. Meanwhile with Betty, people with the Farm are visiting her family when she witnesses a hallucination of her family dropping Polly's twins into a fire, only for the twins to start levitating in a shitty way, which shocks Betty so much that she has a seizure.

Gang? We're in some supernatural shit, now.

Fortune and Men's Eyes

The episode opens with Archie being processed at the juvenile detection center. He's called in by the warden, who reminds the audience that Archie's good at music and offers Archie a chance to check out the center's music room, which is insanely generous.

Betty's out of the hospital and she's assumed to have had a mundane seizure. While people from the Farm were over last night, none of the stuff she saw actually happened. Anyway, Betty's back in detective mode and is helping Jughead get to the bottom of things.

Archie goes to his cell and he's sharing it with a guy named Mad Dog, who is of course a cold big black guy. He's listening to classical music while working out though instead of rap so he isn't a full stereotype. He tries to integrate himself into the local Serpents and surprise, it's Joaquin. So, Joaquin is actually a character from the first season that was pivotal in the mystery that Betty took all the credit for solving and he briefly appeared in the last season to get Fangs out of Riverdale. Joaquin doesn't consider Archie to be a real Serpent and tells him to shiv a Ghoulie that's also detained to get their protection. Despite all the insane shit he did last season, Archie refuses. In hindsight, he should have done it because the Ghoulies in prison were the ones Archie called the cops on last season and they end up beating the shit out of him and taking his shoes. Mad Dog becomes Flowey and gives Archie a "it's kill or be killed speech."

Betty and Jughead hit up the coroner's office to take an early look at Dilton's body. The usual coroner is replaced by his son for some reason, so I guess his actor passed away between seasons? Anyway, Dilton Jonestowned himself and there are runes carved into his back.

Meanwhile there is a completely unrelated sub-plot of Veronica trying to take Archie's place as school president, aka the most irrelevant plotline from the last season. Despite her sympathy for Archie's problems, Cheryl's trying to take his place. And honestly? She's kinda in the right - him being arrested doesn't mean Veronica gets to be president instead.

Veronica retaliates by kicking Cheryl out of Pops since she owns the place. Cheryl reasonably points out that the whole school president thing is stupid and that Veronica should try focusing on actually springing Archie from prison. Veronica decides to start a chapter of the Innocence Project at Riverdale and guilt trips her mom into giving the okay,

Betty is researching the runes that were on Dilton's back and is trying to reach out to Ben, the only survivor of the debacle, when she's visited by Evelyn, the daughter of the Farm. Betty is understandably creeped out by her and bounces out.

She and Jughead end up visiting Ben at the hospital when Jughead finds an effigy similar to the one at the ritual circle. They figure out that it was left there by Ethel, a minor character that's been hanging around throughout the past two seasons. Turns out that she was dating Ben over the summer and they had a completely normal relationship in an apocalypse bunker that Dilton built.

Oh yeah, Dilton in this incarnation is a weird right-wing doomsday prepper, that's important to mention. He was also the one that hooked Archie up with a gun last season and in fact enabled Archie's descent into insanity. Maybe him being gone might be for the best.

Speaking of whom, back to Archie. Archie goes on to do a big speech in the prison yard about how they shouldn't be adhering to Flowey's "kill or be killed" ideology, as if he didn’t do all those batshit things in the last season. And finally, the legendary line is delivered:

And it's actually even funnier in context because the context is Archie being a fucking nerd saying "uwu instead of fighting we should be playing football!" There's actually something interesting about prisoners showing solidarity against their captors, which is actually supported by Mad Dog, but you can't make this serious point after doing this, CW. Anyway, everyone's for it, especially after Archie offers up shoes Veronica gave him as a prize.

The sheriff snitches to Jughead and Betty's parents that they're back on their bullshit, but the kids are like "whatever" and go out to the bunker. There, they find a huge hulking monster that's a shitty puppet that they successfully run away from. Jughead assumes that this monster is the Gargoyle King, as depicted in Dilton's doodles.

Back with Archie, he asks Mad Dog if he can play football with him. This leads into a normal conversation about how Mad Dog's family is banned from visiting him in juvenile detention and that he's going to be condemned to a proper prison soon for 20 years. He then pats Archie on the shoulder and tells him good luck on the football game and the whole thing makes the football thing even more ridiculous than it already was.

Jughead and Betty circle back and find the bunker Dilton had. Along with usual survivalist stuff, there's a whole lot of Gryphons and Gargoyles stuff, along with a lot of fanart of the Gargoyle King. Also they find some kid that Dilton was training as scoutmaster, who informs them that Ethel and Ben were only dating through the game, confirming that Ethel is on the same shit Dilton was.

The football game begins and hey, we haven't had a musical number yet. Veronica shows up with the Riverdale cheerleaders to perform Schoolhouse Rock to motivate everyone. Unfortunately, Hiram shows up and turns out that the Warden is also in his pocket. Hiram signals to him to tell the prison guards that there's a riot going on and sends in riot cops to beat up the football players even though there's like a dozen witnesses outside of the gate. Archie is epic and he punches at least three riot cops before getting beaten down, and honestly, that's praxis.

Also Mad Dog gets killed offscreen, apparently? You know between this, the sexual predator (Chuck) and the musician guy that abandons his family (Josie’s dad), I don't think Riverdale is good about black male characters. But don't worry, Archie gets to take his place in whatever Warden's been getting him to do.

Betty and Jughead confronts Ethel, who's blurring reality with her roleplaying sessions. She says that she wanted to keep quiet to avoid angering "him," but then she starts having a seizure. At the end of the episode, they check up on Ben, who they find is hanging out by an open window, proclaiming that he'll be reunited with Dilton, as part of "his" plan in a religious fervor and promptly lets himself fall.

But before that, the parents of Riverdale are meeting up to discuss the Dilton problem. As it happened, all the parents, good and bad, were in a similar situation in the past... hmmm...

Also during all this, Kevin's having a romantic sub-plot that honestly feels even more irrelevant than the school president stuff. He's trying to pair up with Moose, a guy he's had a fling with during the past seasons and wants to be serious since his girlfriend, Midge, was brutally murdered in the last season. He winds up joining ROTC to be closer to him. It's whatever. It really feels like the writers forgot they had a gay guy character and hastily wrote stuff to make him included.

As Above, So Below

It's three weeks later. Archie's in solitary confinement for refusing to do what the Warden wants, FP and Alice are sleeping together, and Betty and Jughead decided to take the dead guy's bunker as a private place to sleep. Hey, quick question, is it weird for two people to start dating when their parents are?

Veronica's stressing out about bills, but she has speakeasy ready to open. She's waiting for Archie to get out of prison so that he could be there opening night. Betty tells her that's dumb and to just open it. 

Betty and Jughead are trying to figure out the Gryphons and Gargoyles game, because everyone that's played it are conforming to rules but they don't have access to a rulebook. Ethel's back at school and the two see her talking to Evelyn, which leads them to assume that the game may be linked to the Farm.

Kevin and Josie go to check out Veronica's new speakeasy, which is inexplicably bigger than the restaurant above it. We got Reggie and Sweet Pea as bouncers, we got Cheryl and Toni doing promos. Veronica's tapping them to act as entertainment and I audibly sighed because I have no respect for the musical segments of this show. Anyway, Penny shows up to offer the place "protection" but she refuses.

Archie is suddenly dragged out of solitary isolation and we're finally shown what the Warden wanted him to do: secret underground boxing, with juvenile detention detainees beating each other up for the center's entertainment and profits. The Warden subbed Joaquin in Archie's place after he initially refused and the poor guy's getting destroyed, prompting Archie to enter the ring himself. 

Betty and Jughead hit up Ethel for information. It thankfully goes better than the first time, with Ethel revealing that the rules for G&G is considered some kind of "scripture" that people need to be worthy of receiving and that Evelyn got permission to start a chapter of the Farm of Riverdale High, which is totally a normal thing for a school to approve of. Ethel tells Betty that's she'll never be worthy, so she and Jughead decided to split up on investigating Evelyn and Ethel respectively.

Reggie is working for Veronica and brings down a few boxes down to the speakeasy. He should have checked because it turns out that they're full of our favorite fictional drug, Jingle Jangle. Coincidentally, Sheriff Minetta shows up for an inspection and while Reggie manages to get rid of the stuff in time, Minetta says that he'll be taking "donations" from the joint. I don't know why the villains needed to create a pretext for him to investigate and shut down the place after we witnessed prison guards beating up minors and getting away with it despite there being witnesses, but whatever.

Betty approaches Evelyn, pretending that she's still having issues with seizures. Evelyn's concerned about her taking medication to deal with them, further proving that the Farm is on some anti-vaxxer shit, but she's offering Betty a chance to get closer to her dad, Edgar.

Archie is woken up in the middle of the night to do his first match. He goes Ultra Instinct and knocks out his opponent in two blows. If there was a Riverdale tier list, he and Cheryl would definitely be in the top spots. Unfortunately this makes people mad because nobody wants to see a five second fight.

Speaking of whom, Veronica approaches Cheryl, who's chilling on an armchair in Serpent territory with Toni standing by her side in a pretty gay way to remind me that she's a high ranking member of the gang. Veronica knows that her dad's probably behind the people bugging her, so she wants to blackmail him. The Ghoulies under him turned the downstairs of the White Wyrm into a Jingle Jangle lab, and thankfully Toni knows a secret way in. The trio go on a stealth mission into the White Wyrm and... I can't fucking take it seriously because Veronica's sneaking clothes just has a huge boob window that she didn't even have in the last scene. God it looks bad. They’re high schoolers, CW! Anyway, they take pictures of the Jingle Jangle lab to use as blackmail material.

Back to the cult stuff, Jughead is playing a game of Gryphons and Gargoyles with Ethel in a creepily lit bunker while Betty has to attend a Farm meeting going on in her own home. They both have to prove themselves to attain the information they want. Betty blows her cover by immediately calling out the Farm. However, in doing so, she learns that the Farm didn't introduce Gryphons and Gargoyles, but her mother did, tying back into the mystery with the parents at the end of the first episode. Betty is understandably distressed that her mother is linked to the deaths of two teens.

Meanwhile, Jughead's having an okay time until Ethel asks him to pick a drink from two chalices, which is exactly how Dilton died. Jughead gets lucky and picks the chalice that isn't spiked with cyanide, earning the right to have the rulebook. Ethel then decides that she's thirsty and tries drinking from the spiked one, but Jughead manages to save her before it takes effect. Ethel is at least pleased by all this because Jughead can act as a vector to spread the game further.

Veronica confronts her dad, telling him to get rid of his lackeys and to give her money. He's like, "you fucking idiot, I own the cops" and she's like "well I'll just go to the FBI," which shuts him up and is honestly what he should have expected her to do.

The Warden's on a normal one, telling Archie to draw out his next fight to sate his bloodlust. Archie confides to his dad everything that's been going on and he gives Archie a pep talk and tells him to find new creative ways to satisfy his need for violence.

The opening night of the speakeasy is here and honestly, it's sad that it's way more successful than Pops. He is a good guy that just gets dragged into whatever stupid bullshit is going on. While Betty and Jughead discuss their findings, Josie's here to give a musical number.

While her slow song plays, we transition back to Archie, who's back in the ring. His brain genius plan is to allow his opponent to just fucking whale on him for a few rounds. Archie ultimately retaliates with a single punch, which was strong enough to knock the guy out. Don't understand why Archie needed guns last season when he can clearly fight guys with his bare hands.

The Warden rewards him with all of Mad Dog's old stuff along with a liquor bottle. Archie fucking loses it when he sees Lodge's name on the bottle and smashes everything up. However, in doing so, he discovers that Mad Dog had hidden a rock hammer in one of the books he was gifted.

Everyone heads home after their ordeals. FP discovered the manual for Gryphons and Gargoyles and he chooses to burn it, while also refusing to tell the detective duo what the deal with it is. Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter because the following morning, it turns out that Ethel made copies and distributed them to the entire student body. Ruh roh.


So, if there's anything to admire about Riverdale, it's that it keeps finding new bullshit to introduce to the story. It's a new season, so they got to introduce new stakes, and they really introduced new stuff that I never would have expected.

Now, I am confused about the Gryphons and Gargoyles stuff. The thing with it is that it's clearly alluding to the Satanic panic that was surrounding Dungeons and Dragons way back when. However, that's a non-issue today, as far as I know. In fact, tabletop gaming in general is becoming more mainstream, so it's kinda ridiculous that this is a central part of the plot considering that Riverdale really goes out of its way to address current issues (ie like how it somehow worked in the Confederate statue controversies into its plot).

In writing this, I notice how there's a bunch of extra plotlines that don't seem to matter. The school president stuff, the Kevin stuff, are just extraneous bullshit that doesn't matter to the plot at all. We get a taste of the Serpent - Ghoulie rivalry at the detention center, but that is also completely dropped in favor of Archie's exciting new adventures as a secret underground fighter. Which in turn is a continued step away from his love of music, which only gets addressed twice the whole time.


Well anyway, looking forward to watching more. 

Anyway, this show rules, will continue to watch soon.

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