Riverdale S01E03: Body Double
Starring: K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writer: Yolonda Lawrence
A review by Amelia Wellman
Girls standing up for other girls. Girls believing other girls. Girls defending other girls. Not a new phenomenon in life, but a new phenomenon in primetime teen media. This is a space where girls aren’t friends with anyone and are just out for themselves and the piece of ass that plays the male lead/driving force of drama. It makes me incredibly happy to say that Riverdale continues to move beyond the same poorly written, teenage girl archetypes to actually deliver something pure and good!
Riverdale’s third episode, titled Body Double, opens with just a teasing little glimpse of new information to keep the mysterious circumstances of Jason’s death at the centre of the show. Cheryl confesses that they weren’t just taking an early morning boat ride for the hell of it, that it was bigger than that. Overtop of the deepening murder mystery, the main narrative of Body Double showcases Betty and Veronica’s friendship and I continue to be in love with how these two are progressing. The longtime best frenemies with many ulterior motives are now just friends looking out for each other. It’s a beautiful thing.
The main story of this episode has Veronica go on a date with Chuck, once the token black character, now the token dickhead jock. While nothing beyond a little kissing happens, Chuck photoshops a picture of him having done a ridiculously juvenile sex-related-but-not-really-sex thing called a Sticky Maple (literally just maple syrup poured on a person) to Veronica and posts it for everyone to see. The same old slut shaming begins, but how the girls handle it is refreshingly not the same old drama.
Hellbent on getting a little revenge on Chuck and the sexual conquest game he and others on the football team play, Veronica and Betty set up a honeypot. For those of you that don’t know, a honeypot is when sexuality is used to pump information from someone. I never thought I’d use the term side by side with the names Betty and Veronica. Is it a little upsetting to see another teen drama show hyper-sexualize teenage girls? Yes. But is it also cathartic to have them own their sexuality and dominate with it? Hell yes. Watching Betty get some long overdue release for her anger was a beautiful thing. If she had to do it in a lacy bra, red lipstick, and a black wig, then I say all the power to her!
I think the honeypot plot also did a great job of showing that, despite everything happening around them, the Riverdale gang are still just kids. The honeypot ends up going a little further than Veronica thought, but I feel like actual teenagers would take it a little too far. Take the righteous anger these girls were feeling and combine it with the teenage feeling of invincibility and a lack of restraint in the face of hormones and bottled up emotion and Betty’s actions make a tonne of sense. Veronica’s shocked by it, but the smug smile that Ethel (Shannon Purser aka Barb from Stranger Things) displays as she watches it happen? That’s the right level of vindictiveness for a scorned teenager.
And through all of this happening, no girl but Cheryl (for obvious reasons that she’s an antagonistic mean girl) calls any of the other girls harassed by Chuck names. There’s a large group of girls all being slut shamed, but since none of them have been written to see their worth tied into virginity, there’s no name calling or in group fighting. Their efforts are focussed on defending each other and getting a little justice against those that wronged them. Seeing them crowded together, snapping pictures of a humiliated Chuck getting kicked off the football team when that justice comes through was really great. Don’t mess with the girls of Riverdale!
Body Double, as a whole, was just a great episode for Betty. Besides the cathartic revenge of the honeypot, we see her continue to rebel against her horrible mother. When her mother begins running sensationalist stories concerning the Blossom twins in the Riverdale newspaper, Betty strikes back by starting up the high school newspaper. She wants to write unbiased, researched news. You know, like you’re supposed to if you’re a journalist. Her mother tries to put her down by saying she should work for her because they always need more “Lois Lane types”. As if that’s an insult! Lois Lane is awesome and Betty runs with it, writing the article that gets Chuck and his cronies brought to justice and recruiting Jughead (who she affectionately calls Juggy because she’s so cute) to look into the Blossom murder.
Josie and the Pussycats appear again with a slightly bigger role in the subplot as Archie sits in on their songwriting to improve his own. I’ll be honest, I’m not a Josie and the Pussycats fan. I never read their old comics, I’m not reading their new ones, and I only watched the 2001 movie because it was the in-flight entertainment on the plane back from Disney World one summer. I always just thought their tailed bathing suit costumes were ridiculous and stayed clear of them. So while some people are saying they only want the Josie and the Pussycat bits of Riverdale, I’m afraid I just don’t understand why. It’s entertaining enough to see the trio perform a song but they’re not adding much to the narrative. That might change in the ten episodes left to come, but they’re not the characters I’m coming to this show to see.
Archie’s also doing some other stuff through all this, but like all Archie media, Riverdale doesn’t suffer from his absence. Especially since where Archie is, Miss Grundy with her flared nostrils and manipulative ulterior motives are sure to follow. We as the viewers can see what she’s doing, but Archie can’t. There’s only so many times I can watch him fall for it before the anger sets in. Good thing Betty, Veronica, and Jughead continue to entertain while most of what Archie does is set as the B plot.
Keep watching! Every episode of Riverdale that passes has me more excited for the next one. With character narratives driving each episode and a murder mystery fuelling it, Riverdale is approaching each episode with an ironic tone that both plays up and deconstructs some of the stereotypical teenage drama tropes that so many of these shows rely on and is managing to create something salaciously entertaining in the process.