'Riverdale' recap: Beyond the mat

Price Peterson
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This recap of the “Chapter Twenty-Four: The Wrestler” episode of Riverdale contains spoilers.

Of the many micro-traumas that accompany a new relationship, winning over your new crush’s parent is forever one of the most stressful. During a particularly grim period in our nation’s history, Ben Stiller made roughly 12 movies about meeting parents, and they caught on like wildfire. We couldn’t get enough of ’em! Because who can’t relate to that particular kind of stress; parents are scary, especially when you are simply trying to kiss your sweetie and maybe do sex or whatever people do when they are in love, who knows how that works, I don’t. Even a guy as easygoing, overachieving, and just so gosh darn handsome as Archie will crumble in the face of parental rejection, and this week’s episode was all about his quest to win over Veronica’s father. And thankfully their mano a mano mental head-butting involved a very popular and visually exciting sport: competitive rolling-around-in-Lycra!

“Chapter Twenty-Four: The Wrestler” was directed by legendary cult film director Gregg Araki, and for many reasons having to do with both online sex work and also aforementioned tusslin’, it was one of my faves ever. Let’s talk about it!

We began with a sullen outsider pining for his old high school, where bookish geeks and gang members could coexist in peace without the constant threat of jocks jockin’ it up all the time.

Yes, it was true that Jughead had initially really hated South Side High, and even seemed to enroll in it twice, but still. Riverdale High was for squares! And this week most of those squares were seminude!

Riverdale High LOVES a shirtless midwinter basketball PE moment. Great job, boys.

Meanwhile, an annual townwide event honoring one of the town’s founders was showing signs of being problematic. For one thing, the guy had been a military general in a time when the military primarily concerned itself with, like, forcing indigenous people off cliffs or whatever. But even worse, Cheryl Blossom’s great-great-grandfather had been the TRUE founder of the town in that HE had been the one to steal land from the native peoples, and Cheryl wanted credit!

Over at the Cooper household, everyone was still getting used to the newest member of the family, Chic the creepy, gaunt sex worker. Yet in one of the more surprising twists of the season, I’d assumed everyone at the breakfast table understood what it meant when he used words like “clients” and “fantasy entertainment” and the fact that he was hosting said clients in his room at a hostel. But nope! Apparently, the Coopers are too innocent and pure to fully recognize a boy hooker when they see one. And anyway, Mr. Cooper was not thrilled that his wife’s bastard son was sitting in his daughter’s chair, and he did not care to hide it!

We also checked in with this bizarre subplot involving Archie becoming a federal informant. The tall, handsome man in the shadows needed Archie to continue to infiltrate Veronica’s family by any means necessary, and sure enough Archie agreed to do it for almost no reason and with almost no follow-up questions. On the upside, his mission this week was to become besties with Hiram Lodge, and, reader, this would involve more homoerotic imagery than Chic Cooper’s OnlyFans account.

Which, yeah … leave it to Kevin to almost immediately recognize Chic’s face. Pretty soon Betty was directly confronted with the reality of Chic’s profession: webcam boy.

If you look carefully, in his bio under sexual orientation it’s just a smile emoji. How very coy! Anyway, like I said, I thought this revelation was immediately obvious last week and at the breakfast table scene, but nope. Betty was shocked! Still, she tried not to be judgmental and even gave Chic one of her old laptops so that he could get back to his life’s passion while staying in the Cooper household. That’s sisterly love right there.

Jughead, meanwhile, continued his dogged pursuit of bumming everyone out always. In this case, he interviewed Toni’s grandfather for an oral report he was supposed to give on Riverdale history, and he learned of the awful truth behind Riverdale’s founding — it involved the mass murder of Native Americans! But again, why was this a revelation to anybody in town? They realize what continent they live on, right?

And then this stuff began. Reader, it’s hard to know what even to say about it all except that if anyone had ever used the phrase “peak TV” before this episode aired, it was premature.

The gist? Oh, God, who even knows? Basically, Archie decided to join the wrestling team because he wanted to impress Veronica’s dad or something. Truly unclear. Most of this episode was a flurry of boys in singlets rolling around on the ground, and that’s all anyone needs to know.

Not making things any less weird, studly older gentlemen were just standing around watching these teenage boys go at it.

No idea what Sheriff Keller was doing there except lying low from his on-hiatus Black Hood shenanigans, but at least there was a reason for Hiram Lodge to be there: He’d been a champion wrestler back in the day and had nothing else to do?

I know it’s hard to tell based on what he looks like now, but did you know that Hiram Lodge was once an attractive young man? Who could’ve predicted?

But, yeah, the thrust of this episode was how Hiram did NOT like Archie, and believed him beneath dating his daughter. That made things awkward when he was suddenly wiping the floor with Archie in front of mixed company. But since Archie needed to somehow win the man over, he accepted this abuse throughout the episode. It was a lot to grapple with. Do you get it? ‘Grapple’ is a wrestling word.

Veronica’s main thing in this episode was she was itchin’ to perform with the Pussycats again, and even persuaded Josie to reconstitute her band, albeit with Veronica in those cat ears. But since Josie’s mom didn’t want Josie to perform anymore (for some reason?), she informed her daughter that Veronica had been a sneaky schemer with regard to the Lodge family business. So Josie quit their collaboration. Nobody ever said that the local small-town music industry was easy. This would just have to be yet another riveting anecdote in the world’s most low-stakes Behind the Music episode.

Oh, I love when Cheryl gets woke, and this episode was a doozy for that. While visiting the grave of her founding great-great-grandfather, Cheryl’s proud sex worker mother informed Cheryl that, yes, tons of native peoples were murdered, but that was the tradition back then, so it’s fine. Cheryl did NOT agree. This was a wake-up call that sometimes even your own land-grabbing, robber-baron, militaristic ancestors did not always have the best intentions.

Despite all signs pointing to Archie needing to quit wrestling and focus on the sports he’s actually good at, he persisted. This meant fielding early morning phone calls from Hiram Lodge, who’d taken to “coaching” Archie in a way that verged on stalking and harassment. Ugh, dads.

But, you know, good for Archie for not only sticking with his goal of winning over Hiram, but also for exploring all the different ways one can wear a wrestling singlet. With a shirt, without a shirt. Both ways!

Such touching and admirable perseverance, truly.

Even Chuck Clayton was there. And though he weighed a lot more than Archie, Archie was still assigned to get up close and personal with him. Nobody was mad, except maybe for Archie.

But if you can believe it … and despite only having wrestled for a few days … Archie WON.

But really, more accurately, we all won. Thank you, Riverdale. (I’m being arrested as I type this.)

It was finally time for the weird townwide event honoring the military dude who’d orchestrated a mass murder in Riverdale’s name! But to be frank, nobody seemed overly happy to be there, except maybe Alice Cooper, who was leading Chic around like a new accessory. A chic one.

And I suppose when Josie quit her duet with Veronica, she assumed that Veronica would either not perform, or would at the very least NOT steal the Pussycats name and also rehire the bandmates Josie had fired. But nope! Ladies and gentlemen, Veronica and the Pussycats, everybody!

Unfortunately, her performance was interrupted by a band of local gang members (and Cheryl!) who were now all woke activists. This demonstration was doubly offensive to the assembled citizens because the grounds upon which they stood were set to become the future SoDale, a nicer and more luxurious community than the South Side currently was. But seeing as it would be built on Native American burial ground, maybe just see how that plays out? Didn’t matter, because Hiram took to the mic and told the crowd, “Actually, it’s going to be great,” and everyone was like “oh, cool” and the protest was over. Politics!

Chic confessed to Betty that he’d stalked into her bedroom on his first night because he was puzzled by how a ‘good girl’ like her could want him in her life. She countered that she went and found him because she feels a darkness within her and she hoped that he’d be able to relate. Next thing we knew he was getting out his laptop and showing her illicit things on the Internet. Goatse? 2 Girls 1 Cup? Friends, I have no idea where this is going, but if Betty starts a webcam account, we are in for a treat.

Our final image was that of a vandalized statue of the town’s beloved founder. Had this been the work of local street toughs, or someone else? (It was totally Cheryl, come on.) But it did hint at a brewing conflict between the development-hungry business owners and politicians, and the voices of conscience who refused to be silenced! How very relevant.

“Chapter Twenty-Four: The Wrestler” was another episode dealing with property development, and those are not my favorite episodes. BUT. My brain is still slightly melted from all the high school wrestling and boy hooker subplots, and yes, I realize I deserve whatever sentence the judge will lay on me here, but it’s a new year, everybody. Just being honest about why Riverdale is probably the best thing on television right now. And that is NOT something I’m wrestling with. OK, gotta go.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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