Riverdale’s Edge #203: Cruising After “The Watcher in the Woods”

In the long, storied tradition of The Teen Drama, there’s never been a show quite like Riverdale, which takes the famously wholesome Archie repertoire and drops them into a dark, steamy soap where innocence is a liability and everyone looks unfairly gorgeous. Join Chuck Winters, Andrew Niemann, and Robyn MacLeod as they break down the good, the bad, and the flat-out amazing in this week’s walk on RIVERDALE’S EDGE.Image uploaded from iOS (1)

CHAPTER 16: “THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS”
Written by: Ross Maxwell (episode “Heart of Darkness”)
Directed by: Kevin Sullivan (episode “To Riverdale and Back Again”)

The Serial Grievous Injurer That’s Terrorizing Our Town

Chuck: Moose survived the gunshots and Midge is unharmed! On one hand, yay! I like Midge! On the other hand, that means our big bad is one for four on intended targets. How much of a problem is it that our presumed big bad of the season isn’t that good at killing people?

Andy: Unless, he intentionally just injured Moose and Midge as a warning. He may have also seen Kevin Keller which prevented him from finishing the job.

Robyn: Maybe he’s only targeting adults and scaring kids? I am really happy to see Moose and Midge live, wasn’t really expecting them to be the “bad kids”?

“Hips or Lips?”

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Andy: Kevin’s been getting over his recent break-up with Joaquin by cruising in the woods for dudes. Man, isn’t there a roadside gay bar in between Riverdale and Greendale he could go to? I feel like Betty is right about Kevin being pretty irresponsible but I guess he only thinks with his penis.

Robyn: Cruising the woods is certainly dangerous but Betty is judging Kevin really hard. When Kevin accuses Betty of not really being his friend, I think he’s right. Telling his dad, while it worked out between him and Kevin, was extremely invasive.

Chuck: It kinda gets into who Betty is as a person, though: Very put-together and proper, even if it’s just a front for the river of rage she has boiling inside her. It’s a nice, subtle way to characterize to how much like her mother she ultimately is. And frankly, that kind of foreshadows how her relationship with Jughead could go very wrong as the season marches on.

Robyn: Betty’s sanctimonious side is coming out, demonstrating the risk to friendship that that can cause. No one is really harassing Betty about dating Jughead, but she is passing judgement like it’s her job.

Armed Vigilante Groups Are Perfectly Acceptable High School Clubs

Andy: The Red Circle thing is the kind of crazy weird cult stuff that I wanted for Season 2. And it’s apparently a reference to an old comic imprint that these stories were published under so that’s cool.

Chuck: Even before it goes bugfuck nuts, there’s still this air of violence to the club Archie started that Sheriff Keller’s totally right to call out. It’s like Archie formed The Wolverines before there was even a Russian in sight. Reggie’s clearly in it to live out some action hero fantasies, and there’s Dilton fucking Doiley whittling a stake in the back like the mutated love child of Blade and Raoul from Panic Room. Like, how could this go right, even if they did manage to save Barb on the week of a new Stranger Things season?

Andy: Nice bit of cross-marketing there to have Shannon Purser show up this week as Ethel Muggs in a life-or-death situation.

Robyn: I was taken aback that the Principal was supportive of the initiative? It certainly served the story but it must come back in some way. Perhaps he is scared that he, himself will be hurt?

Chuck: Or he’s just clueless. I mean, that’s the other thing: If you step way back from it, you can kinda see the nobility and the use of a “neighborhood watch,” so to speak. Archie and Reggie coming to Ethel’s rescue shows why somebody would THINK it’d be a good idea. But at the same time…it’s Archie Andrews. What can’t go wrong?

Juggy Can’t Be Half a Gangster Anymore

Andy: Jughead’s now attending Southside High which is the dark rough inner city public school cousin to Riverdale High. Instead of jocks and cheerleaders there’s cannibals (what?) and biker gangs. But also there’s new series regular Toni Topaz who’s like a breath of fresh air.

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Robyn: I am hoping they don’t do a weird rivalry with Toni and Betty, but I really like her. She is very matter-of-fact and it’s great.

Chuck: She had me when she made an American History X reference. I like Jughead and Betty together, I’ll be sad when they break up, but Toni is so tuned into Jughead’s wavelength that it’s almost spooky. Anyway, she’s a Serpent, and it turns out that Southside High is home to a rival gang, the Ghoulies, that—as Jughead realizes—happens to fill in the missing piece of Hiram’s smuggling operation.

Andy: Here’s another Sabrina reference with the Ghoulies, Robyn, although here they aren’t classic horror monsters but instead possibly cannibalistic (again, what?) bikers.

Robyn: !!!

Andy: They’re definitely like a Shelbyville version of the Serpents, existing to drive Jugs to start taking more control of his father’s legacy.

Chuck: Yeah, at this point he’s asked too much of the Serpents to not be “in” with them, and the Ghoulies would love nothing more than to ruin the shit of FP Jones’ kid—which they do after he stays late at school one night, working on the paper. There’s really no choice anymore: Jughead’s either a Serpent, or he’s maybe-literal lunch for the Ghoulies.

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“This is The Black Hood speaking.”

Andy: Doing a David Berkowitz gimmick for the Black Hood was really interesting except I have a hunch that maybe he (or she?) didn’t really write it. If anything it also points towards Sheriff Keller as being Suspect #1 since he’s the one reading the manifesto.

Robyn: Or the Zodiac killer, who sent letters to the police and killed couples.

Chuck: I like how I felt the tension between “publish the letter, warn the town that this is a thing” and “don’t publish it, this psycho wants an audience.” And I like how Alice completely nullified that shit by sending a copy to the printer before going to Mayor McCoy with it because she’s Alice…but not as much as I liked Polly just “NOPE”ing her way out out town once she realized what was going on.

A Lodgepodge of Family Drama

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Robyn: I tend to struggle with the Lodge family scenes. I don’t know how I feel about the situation. It seems like Hermione is out to get everyone but also playing the victim (which perhaps she is)?

Andy: Hermione has started drinking wine like she’s Cersei Lannister. She’s definitely hiding something and doing her utmost to prevent her facade from cracking. On that note I really feel for Veronica in this because she can never earn her family’s respect by being a good person.

Chuck: Honestly, the Lodge family scenes are the hardest for me to write about because they just wash over me. I care, but I feel like I’m just waiting to see where they go instead of actively engaging with them. That said, how much does Veronica really want her family’s respect? Yeah, she asks for a more active role in the company by the end of the episode, but it feels like more of a bluff call because she knows something’s rotten about her father’s business and she needs to know what.

Andy: I think it’s everything to her. She wants to be on equal footing with her friends as much as her family.

Robyn: There are so many difficult things about the dynamic. Veronica asking to be part of the family business is laughable, but taken very seriously. Okay, sure, let’s put a teen on the board of directors, that happens all the time. Hermione’s situation is just as absurd, when Hiram tells her that he can hear everything in his study with the door closed (okay, buddy, whatever you say) as he creepily zips her evening dress up…you know, I get that Hiram isn’t the nicest guy. But driving it home every single episode is exhausting, even if it’ll pay off down the road.

Moose’s Song

Chuck: I loved the scene between Kevin and Moose. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I never would’ve pegged Moose as such a sympathetic, thoughtful character, but here we are.

Andy: Is it just me or is Riverdale establishing a potential relationship between Moose and Kevin? We do know that Moose is bisexual and they had some kind of hookup situation last season, so it’s certainly possible.

Chuck: I got that vibe too. Seems like Moose still kinda has a foot in the closet, but the fact that they know each other like they do gives Moose that opening to tell him “Hey, I get it.” And it’s amazing how it teaches Kevin something that he didn’t even really know about himself. When he blows up at Betty later on after she and Cheryl track him down to Fox Forest, it’s Moose’s words that he’s echoing. It’s a powerful foundation for a romantic relationship down the line.

Robyn: Agreed. I would be sad to see Moose and Midge break up, but then who knows what couples form out of it.

Poppa’s Got Archie Half in the Bag

Chuck: Andy, you’re the guy among us who knows the most about Archie’s history. I know Hiram and Archie’s often antagonistic relationship was a big thing in the comics, how is this stacking up?

Andy: I think the show is beginning to establish that rivalry. Hiram is clearly using Archie for some nefarious purpose perhaps unrelated to the Black Hood. He’s certainly taking advantage of Archie’s trauma and once Archie has come to his senses it’s not going to be pretty.

Chuck: Offering Archie rum, who, remember, is supposed to be in 10th grade at this point (CW casting logic aside), is such a power move in that respect. And I love how Veronica pushes him into it because Daddy’s approval supersedes the fact that HE’S OFFERING RUM TO A TEENAGER. WHO IS PRESUMABLY DRIVING.

Robyn: Does Hiram know yet of Hermione’s dalliances with Archie’s dad? That is where I thought this whole thing was going, but perhaps not? Is it just weird dueling over Veronica’s affection?

Andy: Honestly I think Hiram just always wanted a son. He’s definitely a traditionalist and leaves Veronica out because, well, the patriarchy.

Robyn: And then all the women are just, possessions? Maybe. Probably what Hermione was getting at saying she will always be a princess.

Chuck: I think that might have been Hermione’s deal this episode: warning her daughter that Hiram likes his women a certain way and not to rock the boat without actually telling her as much. The way Hermione froze when Veronica dared her to say that Hiram was dangerous spoke volumes. It’s like she only sees two paths: be a comfortable possession, or a struggling human being. She’s trying to commit to comfort, but that human being inside her, she’s fighting.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Chuck: The show got me with Kevin’s imagined stabbing, especially since it was proven that encounters with The Black Hood, even if they are violent, were totally survivable.

Robyn: Same, I thought it was lights out for Kevin Keller.

Andy: Oh, I audibly gasped. I love how this season is already playing around with an unreliable narrator.

Chuck: This was such an emotional episode, with so many heart-rending speeches about needs and respect, and Sheriff Keller’s monologue with Kevin was definitely up there with Moose’s, as well as Kevin’s own speech to Betty. And I like how even though Kevin’s done with cruising, his friendship with Betty is still in tatters, because it doesn’t change a damn thing about Betty’s judgmental treatment of Kevin when she disagreed with what he was doing.

That Time Archie Made an ISIS Video Threatening The Black Hood

Andy: Holy shit Archie has a gang of shirtless Red Hoods from Gotham City now.

Robyn: No shirts allowed. On teen boys.

Chuck: If you for some reason don’t watch this show, FUCKING LOOK, WE’RE NOT KIDDING:

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Andy: This show.

Chuck: And Hiram just spins around in his chair after watching it. Whatever his plan is, it obviously involves destabilizing Riverdale, and it’s going better than he could’ve ever dreamed.

Your Stars of the Episode

Chuck: Fucking Moose, man. “If I wasn’t such a big slab of beef, Midge might’ve been hit too.” How many times was that kid shot? And he’s STILL just relieved the girl he’s not even that into wasn’t hurt. Hero.

Andy: FRIENDSHIP WITH BETTY COOPER ENDED. TONI TOPAZ IS MY NEW FRIEND NOW.

Robyn: ETHEL/BARB LIVES. LONG LIVE ETHEL/BARB.

Robyn’s True Crime Corner!

Robyn: True crime is a longstanding interest of mine, and having just noticed that Jingle Jangle comes in pixie sticks, there’s another murderer that’s worth bringing up besides Berkowitz or The Zodiac. In Deer Park, Texas, on Halloween 1974, Ronald Clark O’Bryan took out life insurance on his kids before lacing giant pixie sticks with cyanide, handing them out to his children and his neighbor’s children. His son Timothy died that night; the other kids never ate the pixie sticks and were okay. Halloween was cancelled in Deer Park for a few years afterwards. O’Bryan was executed in 1984; he became known as The Candy Man, or The Man Who Killed Halloween.

Chuck: Funny you mention that he was called “The Candy Man,” Robyn, because Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa tweeted this out over the summer:

Robyn: holy crap.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7 CT on The CW. New episodes are available on The CW’s website in the US, Netflix internationally.

Post By Chuck Winters (39 Posts)

Film school graduate who never learned how to bitterly hate half of everything he watches. He lives in noted cultural hotspot Suburban Long Island, where he is working on his first novel.

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