Finally, the time jump episode in Riverdale is here! This episode was originally intended to open the fifth season, but then 'Rona delays happened, but it's here now. This episode does open up seven years after the gang's high school graduation, and a lot happened in those seven years – so we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!' sign. You have been warned.
First and foremost, I do appreciate the attention the writers are giving to POC actors in this story: Toni is now Serpent Queen and owner of the speakeasy, which is now the White Wyrm. Archie fought in a war that suspiciously looks a lot like WW2, and after being injured, he's now assigned to run the JROTC at Riverdale High; Jughead is a fiction novelist with writer's block, a publisher demanding pages, and big sketchy Eastern-European mob types looking for him. Cheryl is cleaning up her family's reputation and has embraced recluse life whilst wearing lace evening gowns; and Betty, as an FBI trainee, is not only romantically involved with her partner, but was alone in the field working a case and got kidnapped…and trapped in a pit…which is all very reminiscent of…some movie.
This week's story was a complete mashup of tropes, rip-offs, and natural continuations – it was all expected. Hey Riverdale, stop ripping off other movies and tell me an authentic story for your world, please. Leave The Silence of the Lambs shenanigans to the fine folks at Clarice over on CBS and instead deliver more soapy sagas of laughably named street drugs, please.
That said, television is not steel; if you poke at it enough, you will get holes. The plot of some shows is like jelly: you can destroy the whole thing by prodding it with your finger; other shows go to great lengths to reinforce their shows so that something sharp is required in order to poke even a single hole in it, like plastic. The job of the audience, even critics, is not to poke holes in the plot just for the sake of saying, "it doesn't stand up" – you can look at a jelly mold and see that without touching it. As an audience who watches critically, there should be a level of suspension of disbelief – does that mean we have to always forgive lazy writing and overlook sloppy plot? No, but it does mean that we as an audience should sometimes look past the small details and understand the greater story the show is telling.
The enjoyment of Riverdale is rather contingent on the suspension of disbelief: it's mentioned the show takes place in 2021, which disregards the time jump. Clearly, this week's episode was all a set up for the real season arcs that take place next week, now that we're up to speed on what everyone's been doing. Here's hoping it all leads somewhere meaningful.