Riverdale S01E07: In a Lonely Place
Director: Allison Anders
Starring: K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes
Writer: Aaron Allen
A review by Amelia Wellman
Riverdale has reached the point of its season where things need to momentarily cool off so the wrap up of season one’s drama hits the audience harder. The main plot has been relegated to the backburner while a few characters are given a more thorough looking at. The problem for me is that what they’re looking at isn’t all that interesting in the face of figuring out what the hell happened to Jason Blossom. Some of it is just downright hard (for me personally) to watch.
Episode seven, In a Lonely Place, is a Jughead centric episode, which I should be fully down for because Cole Sprouse is a gift from the universe in a beanie hat. Seeing him investigate the murder is a joy. The side eye he gives Archie is like a Renaissance painting. But getting a glimpse at Jug’s dysfunctional, alcoholic father and the life that Jughead is trying to leave behind? Watching a teenager trying to survive a shitty home life isn’t entertaining for people who went through that very thing. Maybe it’s a good time for those that never went hungry as a teenager or worried about what abuse was going to rain down on them no matter what they did. But for those that see Jug’s life and see no differences between that and their own, it’s tiring.
Call me an easily triggered snowflake if you like, but it is so exhaustive to see teenage characters have to be the ones that fix their parents’ shit, to look after themselves like they aren’t still children. Can I appreciate it as some solid character development? Of course. But it’s a subject that will set a tone for the rest of the episode, and different people will react differently to it.
What we see of everyone else is no better. Veronica’s temper tantrum concerning her mother/Archie’s dad continues with bratty displays of binge shopping and rebellious teenage clubbing. It’s pretty tame to anything an actual teenager would do to hurt their parental units. I’m not any more impressed with the Cooper family drama. Mommie Dearest Cooper continues to be a bitch, Betty continues to put up with it, and the big reveal of Polly’s condition (which I predicted immediately out of Riverdale’s gate because I’m just too smart for my own television watching good) leaves me less interested in Jason’s murder than when we started.
Then there’s the whole Jughead and Betty relationship that’s apparently a thing that’s happening instead of an isolated incident in a past episode. The sympathetic shoulder touches and hugs of past episodes were kind of cute. Watching it throughout In a Lonely Place was just bizarre. Besides the fact that Jughead is canonically an Ace character, his and Betty’s chemistry in Riverdale is off for a romantic relationship. They can hold hands all they want but I don’t buy it. I like the idea of Jughead feeling lonely because his home life sucks and reaching out to Betty because it’s Betty, she’s the one that’s going to understand and care the most. But the framing devices of these little romantic gestures is all wrong. It feels like there are opposing forces in this one episode, one trying to make Jug hetero-normal by implanting the romantic gestures and the other trying to stick to canon by not presenting the gestures in a way that visually shows romance. I hope it’s a kink in the narrative that they smooth out quickly, because it’s not coming off how anyone wants it to.
One thing I will say that I loved about In a Lonely Place is the opening. The costumes, the hair, the setup of craving the meat in a family dinner, it turns the “generic dream that reveals a character is feeling a little guilty about something” into a scene that’s interesting. It doesn’t really give us anything, because dream scenes never really do in the grand scope of narrative. But visually, it’s a good way to start an episode to get your audience’s immediate attention.
Keep watching the series to be sure, but if you missed this one when it aired, I personally say don’t go out of your way to see it. In a Lonely Place didn’t add anything to the overall narrative of Riverdale that we didn’t already know. It’s an expansion of Polly’s arc and Jughead’s life into teen drama territory we’ve seen before. The opening is great, some Jughead scenes are great, but overall, it’s a middle of the season episode and it really feels like it.