Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 6. Not seen Riverdale? Catch up with spoiler-free review of the first three episodes.
Can we talk about how weird the Blossoms are? Nobody in Riverdale seems to do that enough. And they are. They’re weird. They’re really weird. They’re so weird that not only do they all prey on Polly Cooper’s unborn baby with a cult-like passion, but they also live in a mansion that’s perpetually surrounded by fog. Because the name “Thornhill” wasn’t sinister enough for a family home already.
Are the Blossoms going to turn out to be vampires or something similar? Of course not (well, probably not) – this is a family who are caught up in a generations-spanning maple syrup feud with the Coopers. But they still swam about with all the inhuman eeriness of the Cullens from Twilight – a clan that poor old Jason presumably styled his whole vibe after, with his bright red hair, sallow face, and over-emphasised cheekbones. Madelaine Petsch’s Cheryl is the most normal-seeming of the bunch – and even she’s exceedingly odd.
Why spend so much time talking about the Blossoms? Because it must take some serious motivation for Polly to choose to live with them over the Coopers. And that’s what she does in Episode 8, shunning the pastel coloured sibling comfort of sister Betty in favour of the mist-shrouded gothic castle of Thornhill, which, for all we know, has its own moat filled with blood. (And maple syrup.)
The decision comes about after one of the most enjoyably awkward social occasions we’ve had on Riverdale to date – and that’s saying something, given how awkward every social occasion on Riverdale is. The occasion? Why, it’s a baby shower for Polly, of course. And, because Polly’s meant to be staying with the Lodges quietly and below the radar, Veronica naturally suggests inviting basically everyone.
The party is a glorious affair, not least because we get to see Jughead’s playful, sarcastic side, as he pretends to be hugely excited about the whole thing for the sake of Betty (oh, Cole Sprouse). But while the inevitable bickering between Penelope Blossom and Alice Cooper (repeat: Alice Cooper) is the headline act, it’s the little details like their costumes and hair that make their interactions all so deliciously prickly: Betty and Alice, sitting on the one side of the room, both sport similar blonde locks; Penelope and Cheryl match in red and black, but Cheryl’s hair is long and free, the opposite of Penelope’s ruthlessly pinned back do. (Penelope also keeps her gloves on throughout – just in case you haven’t clocked how sinister she is already.) And, in the middle of them both sits Polly, wearing a sparkly headband that matches nothing in the room, including her own clothes. She’s not like the rest of them in every regard.
Speaking of sartorial suspicion, a special mention has to go to Papa Blossom, who has a stand-off with Fred Andrews outside the House of Eternal Mist – and looks for all the world like an alien pretending to be human, from his check flat cap to his tweed jacket, neither of which go with his rust-coloured turtle neck jumper. If he weren’t the patriarch of a creepy human dynasty, paying the whole of Fred’s crew to work for him indefinitely to stop Fred’s development progressing (so that the Blossoms can get their hands back on the land they used to own), he’d be a laughable idiot.
That leads us into the other half of the episode, which follows the blokes of Riverdale. And the females of the species are notably more interesting than the males, as we catch up with Archie and Jughead, both living under Fred’s house in a smelly room, chatting about Archie’s dad’s looming construction contract. It’s hardly scintillating drama – and so it’s with some disappointment, that the episode begins to follow, in detail, the trials and tribulations of Fred’s fledgling company. With Clifford hiring all of his men, in swans Archie and chums to work on the site – a weird idea, thanks to the fact that a. they look like rejected auditionees for a YMCA music video and b. they’re all surely too young to work on a construction site, presumably unpaid.
Within minutes, things go wrong, as poor Moose gets beating up by some nasty hooded men, who set about vandalising Fred’s equipment and telling him he needs to cancel his contract. Archie, being Archie, presumes that the Southside Serpents are behind all this, and so Kevin and his boyfriend lead the gang to a bar where the Serpents hang out, so Moose can spot his attackers. Jughead refuses to go – because he has brains, unlike Archie, who seems to think that walking into a bar full of leather jackets on men twice his age, while wearing a bright blue high school football jacket, is a good idea. “So you like beating up teenagers?” is Archie’s opening line to confront one of them, sealing this as officially the dumbest plan ever.
But before things can go wrong, up pops FP, who firstly keeps the peace, secondly throws Archie and his boys out of the bar and thirdly, calls Fred to get him to pick his son up. Archie and Fred learning that Jughead’s is a Southside Serpent is a nice twist in their relationship, and Skeet Ulrich continues to sell the hell out of the severely wayward father act, but it’s all a bit of an anti-climax: FP hires Serpents to step in and fill the gaps in Fred’s crew, before revealing to Hermione that Hiram is the one who sent the thugs to the site, because he’s found out about her fling with Fred.
With all this detailed construction drama, you wonder why Riverdale is so bothered about Fred and co., when there’s a murder mystery to be solved – but Polly seems to remember that Jason’s death has happened, letting slip to Sheriff Keller that he was going to do a spot of drug-dealing (just a one-off deal, if you believe that) for a biker gang, so that they could get some money to run away with. Presuming it’s the Southside Serpents, does that mean FP has something to do with Jason’s death? After Scream, Ulrich’s got experience at being a sinister, wrongly-accused man, which means it’s still anyone’s guess. The real villain of the week, though? Hal Cooper, who, we learn, tried to get Polly to have an abortion – and, judging by what Alice and he say during a heated argument, once did the same to Alice too. Yep, that’s a good enough reason to move in with the Blossoms in their House on Haunted Hill, without even getting into the fact that Hal looks like a failed Val Kilmer lookalike. The only question we have now is who on earth Penelope Blossom is looking at, as she closes the door creepily on the camera? And why can’t anyone on Riverdale say the word “abortion”?
Riverdale is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription, with new episodes arriving every Friday. Episode 8 will be released on 31st March.