If you would like to read my review of the mid-season finale, click here.
Synopsis: Tensions mount when Jughead and his fellow students from Southside High transfer to Riverdale High; Betty sets out to find her long-lost brother. (IMDB)
Writers: Britta Lundin & Brian E. Paterson
Director: Tim Hunter
Running Time: 45mins
“The Blackboard Jungle” starts off with Jughead catching us up on what’s been going on. The Lodges are up to their regular “business” ventures and Cheryl’s mom is apparently now a lady of the night. With the Black Hood now a seemingly distant memory (I disagree) Riverdale is confronted with a host of new problems. Let’s get into them.
First off is that the Lodges coerced the mayor into shutting down Southside High to help them purchase the land and expand their empire. In doing so, it forces Jughead, Toni and Sweet Pea to become River Vixens. Jughead talks to FP about this, explaining the school was shut down for a meth lab when it was really Jingle Jangle insinuating that something shady is going on. As they try to discuss this more, Betty comes in and explains to Jughead that she’s found her long lost brother (more on that later) and wants his social worker contact to help find him.
The next day at school, the Serpents arrive at Riverdale and after a warm welcome from Archie, Veronica, Josie and Kevin, they are graced with a real welcome from Cheryl and Reggie. As the two different schools try to bond, Principal Weatherbee and Reggie confront the Serpents for tagging the school, which was totally Reggie, and band their jackets from being worn.
At the Worm, the Serpents discuss the laws being put on them at Riverdale and while Sweet Pea and Toni feel comfortable with shedding their skin for a good school, Jughead isn’t so on board. He comes to school in his Serpent jacket and after instigating a fight is suspending for disobeying Weatherbee. He’s confronted by FP about his moody behaviour. Jughead doesn’t want to just idly wait, but FP explains that Serpents hibernate and bide their time. Back at school he finds Sweet Pea and Toni in Riverdale attire, being conformed and given more laws in his absence and Jughead will not stand for this.
Meanwhile Archie can’t catch a break. After finally being rid of the Black Hood (for now) he finds himself in another sticky situation. Fred confronts Archie about his paid medical bill and asks who would’ve known. After name-dropping Veronica, Fred decides to pay the Lodges a visit. Archie asks Veronica about the bill and she explains her family paid it. She hopes he isn’t mad, but he just wants to kiss her.
On his way home from school he is approached by FBI Special Agent Adams who wants his help in taking down Lodge Industries. He explains the coincidence between the St. Clairs dropping out of their deal with the lodges and how Nick was injured shortly after. He blackmails Archie by saying he will include his dad in the criminal activities. When Archie gets home, Fred tells Archie that the Lodges paid for his bill and in return he gave them 20% of his company, which only brings him closer into the cross hairs.
Archie goes to dinner at the Lodges and while they coerce him into helping Veronica keep the students in line, he asks about Nick and the St. Clairs. For the most part they keep their mouths shut and that concerns Archie. At school, Archie is confronted by Cheryl who blackmails Archie to turn Veronica’s opinion of the South Siders or else she will tell her about Archie and Betty’s kiss. He decides to bring up Nick St. Clair and learns about how he did the same thing to Veronica that happened to Cheryl which enrages Archie.
At a meeting with Agent Adams, he wants assurance that Fred will get immunity. He discusses Nick’s assault on Veronica and how the Lodges knew giving them motive, but Archie needs a reason to see Nick. He goes to Cheryl and asks if she wants another check from Nick to give him an alibi. At Nick’s place, he asks for a check with double the money, but presses Nick for how he got injured and in doing so reveals his true purpose: that he knows Nick did something to Veronica. Nick cautions Archie with getting close to the Lodges and to Veronica and Archie snaps.
Veronica comes to Archie asking about a text she got from Nick, but Cheryl intervenes and explains that she sent Archie to see Nick about the money. At Pop’s, Archie explains everything to Veronica: Cheryl was blackmailing him because of the kiss between him and Betty. He explains the situation and the reason behind it, and after letting it sink in, Veronica forgives Archie and applauds his honesty.
And the final storyline of this episode: the arrival of Betty’s long lost brother! Betty comes home from school and, after sneaking around with pepper spray in hand, finds a post-pregnancy Polly packing up some stuff to return to her new cult family at “The Farm.” By the way, the kids are named Juniper and Dagwood. Yep. After asking Jughead for help, Betty talks to a social worker and finds where her brother is living. She brings this information to her parents and while her mom seems open to it, her father, like the shit he is, says it is a bad idea and forces Alice to agree. However, later that night Alice comes to Betty and says she wants to meet him.
The next day, Betty and Alice go to a hostel where they find Charles Smith. They don’t know how to bring it up, but he interrupts saying he knows who they are, he’s even come around the house once, and he wants them to leave. As they get in the car Alice breaks down, regretting a decision she made so long ago. Betty goes to Polly’s room and after rummaging through her stuff she decides to go back and see Charlies, but upon arriving she finds him being stabbed by a large man. She pepper sprays him and helps her brother escape to her house where her parents take care of him.
The episode ends with Cheryl bringing her mom the St. Clair’s money, telling her she can stop her extra-curriculars, but her mom explains she actually quite enjoys it. Jughead has set up a new club at Riverdale as a safe haven for the Serpents to meet during school. Archie goes to Agent Adams and asks for immunity for Veronica as well because he believes she is somehow involved. He then asks Agent Adams if he has been following them since the Black Hood because he wants to know if they got the right guy, but he isn’t so sure. And after the Coopers give Charles a bed, he wakes up and stands in Betty’s room watching her sleep and slowly walks over to her bedside staring creepily.
- Will Jughead’s plan backfire and get the Serpents in more trouble?
- How will Cheryl rebel in protest of her mom’s new job?
- How will the Lodges continue to get their fingers into the businesses of Riverdale?
- Who is Agent Adams? Is he somehow connected to the Black Hood?
- Is the Black Hood really gone?
- Who is Charles Smith?
Overall, this was an alright episode. It feels like a reset for season two as many of the plot-lines of the first half have been replaced with new stories in this exposition-heavy mid-season premiere. While the ideas being presented are intriguing, the episode seemed to rush through a lot of them rather than dig deeper into the motivation behind the characters actions’ and how those actions affected them. In a show that seems to focus on the crime themes surrounding ridiculous vigilante and informant-centric storylines thrust upon Archie, the silver lining is that of the campy teen angst of the budding civil war between two rival schools being forced to now coexist. Hopefully the addition of Betty’s long lost brother falls more in line with other teen dramas rather than another unrealistic mystery theme that would make this show continue its repetitive whodunnit style narrative.
What did you think of “The Blackboard Jungle”? What do you think of the new stories? Let me know in the comments below!