Pep Talk: Riverdale Episode 301, "Labor Day"

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Riverdale 301 Labor Day

There's so much jaw-dropping suspension of disbelief in this premiere episode of RIVERDALE's third season, you'd almost think it was based on a comic book.

Archie (KJ APA) has been on trial all summer long for a murder he did not commit. Of course, he was there when it happened, he told nobody about it, and he knew who did it, but other than that he was innocent. And sure, he really did organize two vigilante gangs and physically assault an injured, bedridden teenager, but at heart he's just the boy next door.

Archie's defense lawyer really has his back on this one. She's his mother, Mary Andrews (MOLLY RINGWALD). Normally I'd have thought a lawyer would have to recuse herself from representing a close family member, but I'll confess I could be wrong on that, since I'm not a lawyer but just a casual viewer of proceedings. And she puts up a pretty good defense, too, given all the rational arguments made by the prosecution.

As the jury is sequestered to deliberate over the Labor Day holiday, Archie has a weekend to spend with his family and friends, and he doesn't want to waste a second on it trying to prove his innocence. But what to do, what to do? Fortunately, Cheryl Blossom (MADELAINE PETSCH) makes her usual grand entrance to announce she has just got back from a three-month road trip with her girlfriend, Toni Topaz (VANESSA MORGAN), and is planning an end-of-summer pool party. We're reminded at the beginning of the episode by our omniscient narrator, Jughead (COLE SPROUSE), that they are preparing to enter their junior year of high school, so I almost questioned what two sophomores were doing traveling the country without adult supervision, but this is RIVERDALE after all and such questions only further highlight that parents only complicate the stories being told here.

While it would seem that the crux of this episode is the impending sentencing, involving Veronica (CAMILA MENDES) making an attempt at jury tampering and Jughead trying not to start another gang war with the Goolies when trying to rescue Hot Dog, the setup for the season's "big bad" involves Betty Cooper (LILI REINHART) and the rest of the Cooper family -- her mother Alice (MADCHEN AMICK), her sister Polly (TIERA SKOVBYE), and Polly's twin babies. Polly has convinced Alice to meet with the people at "the farm" who helped Polly, and sure enough Alice is now a full-fledged cult member, digging into Betty's diaries and trying to drag her along into her healing. Thing is, Betty isn't doing much better herself, since she's been illegally obtaining medication she doesn't need. Perhaps this medication explains the hallucinatory scene later in the Cooper back yard, involving fire, babies, and something that could only be explained as supernatural.

Or maybe there's something truly supernatural at play in Riverdale. Dilton Doiley (MAJOR CURDA) has made a discovery that an online role-playing character, The Gargoyle King, is apparently real, and his entreaties lead Jughead to discover an occult blood ritual going on in the woods to the southeast of town.

Will RIVERDALE be the springboard for the SABRINA series? Or will it be its own occult-based show? Or is the entire thing a clever hoax being perpetrated for purposes as yet unknown? I have no answers, but now I'm compelled to watch further just to find out.

Whatever it is, the RIVERDALE teens will have to face life without Archie. He's going to be tied up for the next two years.

4.0 / 5.0