Riverdale has earned a reputation for being wonderfully weird and over the top, though Season has mostly ebbed towards the Season 1 approach of being more down to earth. While the aliens plot is Riverdale weird at its worst, Season 5 Episode 10 is Riverdale weird at its best.
The episode opens with Jughead and Tabitha Tate, who appear to have formed a romantic relationship of sorts. Although this development isn’t unexpected, it is nice to have a change from the five seasons of Betty/Jughead. Tabitha Tate is easily one of the best parts of this season of Riverdale and Erinn Westbrook is just what the cast needed, absolutely killing every scene she’s in. Jughead proposes doing shrooms to help him write his book — this is the kind of insanity that works as a precursor to the insanity of the rest of the episode.
Veronica’s plot revolves around her husband, Chad, who appears to be staying around much longer than last episode implied. Although the Archie/Veronica pairing is rather boring at this point in the show and the reconciliation feels unearned, it appears Veronica’s marriage is something that won’t dissolve as easily.
Chad is a unique villain for the show because it appears he actually does care for Veronica, he just goes about it in a toxic, manipulative kind of way. Usually, Riverdale villains are mustache-twirling villains who don’t have any real attachment to the characters. He manipulated Veronica into staying, refusing to sign the divorce papers and leaving her with a big mess on her hands to solve both financially and emotionally. It opens the door for some really unique plots for Veronica and, of course, Chad’s downfall.
Betty once again gets the most interesting plot of the episode — and also the most insane one. After the prison break, Chic and Charles Cooper return and it’s Riverdale weird at its best. They make Alice Cooper officiate a wedding between them and, as it turns out, Charles knew Betty’s FBI buddy from his days in the academy. The episode’s name “Pincushion Man” comes from this interaction as Charles calls Betty’s FBI friend the “pincushion man” and instructs “the youngest” to stab him.
There’s actually somewhat of a nice moment amongst the chaos and wackiness here, when Betty tells Charles to let her be the one who stabs him instead of the youngest, who just happens to be Betty’s niece. During the graduation episode, Betty made a speech about how she and her friends have seen so much darkness over the years, but hopefully, the younger generation would not live as they did. Her plea to Charles in this episode touches on that, asking for her niece to have a chance at a normal life without losing her innocence. It’s a good moment for Betty, one that feels like a natural point for her character now that she’s become so traumatized.
After stabbing her friend, Betty throws the knife at Chic and Alice shoots Charles — it’s the Riverdale weirdness at its absolute best. Penelope Blossom continues the wonderful weirdness with her lines and her interaction with Cheryl — and from the previews, it appears she’ll be here to stay next episode too. Archie’s also fist fighting some escapee prisoners in the school while this is going on, by the way. This entire sequence is exactly the kind of stupid weirdness that makes Riverdale so fun in the first place and it’s far preferable to the aliens subplot.
If the show wants to commit to doing something over the top and outlandish, it needs more of “Pincusion Man” and less of the last two episodes.
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