Riverdale Season 2, Episode 6 – The Brash and the Murderous: Riverdale Drift

Posted November 29, 2017 by Panda Emily Jarrell in TV

If there’s no rest for the wicked, Riverdale must be a city that never sleeps.

The episode starts with Betty rushing to Nick St. Clair’s hotel room, on the assumption that she won’t find him there alive, considering she gave his name to the Black Hood last night. Sadly, the Black Hood decided to spare the one person in this show that arguably deserves his vengeance the most because Nick isn’t actually from Riverdale.

For the life of me, though, I don’t really understand why Betty does this. What did she think she could accomplish by showing up, if the Black Hood had actually killed him? Wouldn’t appearing at the scene of a murder she should have had no knowledge of be suspicious? Even when Sheriff Keller asks her what she’s doing there, he doesn’t seem particularly bothered that she was there at all.

Meanwhile, Cheryl’s mother Penelope is meeting with Veronica’s parents in the wake of Cheryl’s assault from last episode. This scene is heart-breaking; it was physically painful for me to hear Penelope opine that she wished Cheryl had not talked to the police about what happened, and that Cheryl probably did or said something to provoke Nick, culminating in the assertion that “nothing really happened to Cheryl.” It’s horrifying that anyone would talk about their own daughter that way, but the crushing reality is that these are the kinds of things people say about assault survivors all the time.

Jughead and Toni decided to go to Pop’s after the “PG-13 grope session” they engaged in after kissing last episode, and suddenly the Betty/Jughead/Toni love angle is over as quickly as it began. Despite basically having egged Jughead on all season to break up with Betty and date her instead, Toni tells him she’s not interested in being his rebound. What follows is a line that, in theory, I should be thrilled by, but in practice, I loathe.

I complained about Toni’s purported bisexuality back in episode 3, despite being hopeful that a show might actually acknowledge that bisexuals do exist. This hope was clearly wasted on Riverdale, because the only reference we get to Toni’s sexual orientation is a snide comment that she’s “more into girls anyway.” On its own, this wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s part of a larger problem with media feeling the need to skirt around the idea that a person is attracted to more than one gender. It might seem like it would be weird for a character to literally say “I’m bisexual,” but hey, it worked for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

The parents of Riverdale’s main cast of miscreants have gathered in the Andrews house to discuss the ramifications of Nick’s party two nights before. Apparently, learning that Josie tried jingle jangle and that said jingle jangle was sold to Reggie by a “gang member from the Southside” is all Mayor McCoy needs to officially declare war on the Southside, starting with a raid of the high school that results in the arrests of several Southside Serpents.

It’s this raid that becomes the catalyst for an alliance between the Serpents and the Ghoulies, which Jughead vehemently opposes. Unsure of what move to make next, Jughead and Archie enlist the help of none other than Jughead’s dad FP, who suggests they challenge the Ghoulies to a The Fast and the Furious-style street race. If Jughead wins, the Ghoulies stop dealing at Southside High, but if he doesn’t, the Ghoulies get control of the White Wyrm and Sunnyside Trailer Park, where Jughead lives. Unfortunately, we won’t find out who the real winner was until the next episode; rather than ending at the finish line, the race is stopped by a police roadblock, tipped off by Archie. This might get rid of the Ghoulies for a little while, but once they’re out of jail, they’ll surely be out for blood.

Despite having told Archie she was no longer going to keep in contact with the Black Hood, Betty takes one of his calls, during which he tasks her with finding the identity of “the Sugar Man,” the notorious figure behind jingle jangle’s production. The Black Hood even gives Betty her first lead: Cheryl, whose late father was a close associate of the Sugar Man. As it turns out, Cheryl does know who the Sugar Man is—sort of. She tells Betty how her mother used to tell her and her brother about the Sugar Man, a boogey man-esque figure used to scare them into behaving. Rather than helping Betty very much, however, this conversation is actually more revelatory for Cheryl, who sets on her own quest to find out the truth about the Sugar Man.

I’ve long been of the opinion that Madelaine Petsch is by and large the greatest talent in this cast, and nowhere is that more poignant than in this episode. Cheryl ostensibly begging her mother to care about her is among the most powerful scenes in the whole show, and it does get her the truth: Penelope tells her that the Sugar Man is a title passed down from one drug manufacturer to another, and the stories she told Cheryl and Jason were her way of trying to shield them from the horrors of their father’s involvement in drug distribution.

After a phone call from Cheryl, Betty now knows the identity of the current Sugar Man: Mr. Phillips, Jughead’s teacher who had been supervising the Southside High newspaper. This is supposed to be some sort of shocking revelation, but I didn’t really feel it had much impact. Mr. Phillips didn’t really get much character development outside of telling Jughead he didn’t want gangs involved with the newspaper, so while the reveal was surprising, I had a hard time caring that he was behind the drugs all along. Although Betty didn’t actually tell the Black Hood the Sugar Man’s name, he manages to find Mr. Phillips in a jail cell, where he is summarily executed.

We end with things looking like they might return to some semblance of status quo, but what really is status quo in Riverdale? Maybe we’ll find out next episode, but I doubt it.

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Panda Emily Jarrell