Let's get one thing straight before we dive right in, shall we? There is not a single person in this world who watches Riverdale for its stellar plot or compelling dialogue. The show's primary appeal was always KJ Apa doing half-naked push-ups as the neon lights of Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe illuminated his chiseled jawline — and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that!
But if the first episode of Season 3 is anything to go by, this show has officially gone completely bonkers. What once started as a dark and overly-dramatized teen show with extremely hot actors uttering highly realistic lines like "Word of my exploits serving Nick his comeuppance has seeped into the demimonde of mobsters and molls my father used to associate with," puffs of blue-tinted smoke emanating ominously from every corner, and a relatively straightforward murder-mystery plotline has spiraled into a nightmarish parody of itself.
Season 2 of Riverdale provoked quite a bit of criticism for attempting to pack in far too many plotlines — including but not limited to an all-out gang war that almost culminated in Jughead's death, a serial killer called the Black Hood, a truly horrible musical episode where the only redeeming part was Archie's enthusiastic dancing, and whatever the fuck Chic was supposed to be.
Season 3, however, is clearly on track to outpace Season 2 in terms of just how many ridiculous plotlines the writers can cram into one episode. Within the span of 42 minutes, we watched Archie get put on trial for a murder he didn't commit, an undercover recon mission to rescue a dog named Hot Dog, the start of a new gang war, a whole bunch of sex scenes that nobody asked for, and a truly what-the-FUCK ending featuring a creepy goat skeleton and floating babies. Let's unpack, shall we?
First, everyone's favorite ginger stallion is on trial for murder
As we may remember from the last episode, Archie is being framed by evil businessman Hiram Lodge for murder. Archie's own mother is defending him in court, which seems… questionable. "There is nothing to prove that he's anything less than an innocent boy," she earnestly tells the jury. No conflict of interest here, no indeed!
While many things have changed throughout the course of three seasons, one thing has thankfully remained consistent — Archie's mind-blowing stupidity. He makes a series of bafflingly idiotic decisions, like getting a gang tattoo on his arm. Dude, you know that shit is permanent right? Then at the trial, the judge offers him a deal for a lesser sentence if he pleads guilty to the crime of manslaughter. This is obviously a terrible idea, but Archie jumps up and happily exclaims, "I'll take it!" Literally every single person in the world simultaneously groaned. Archie, you fucking IDIOT!
Next, there's a brand new gang war thanks to a mangy mutt named Hot Dog
Oh boy, I love watching a bunch of white people fight each other over valuable suburban turf! In the last episode, the Ghoulies returned to town with a vengeance and somehow failed to murder Jughead, a delicate stringbean of a boy. Not that I want Jughead dead, but — seriously, guys? Is it really that hard to kill someone who weighs at most 150 pounds?
Jughead has obviously forgotten about the time he was nearly beaten to death, and he deploys his foot soldiers for a stealth mission into enemy territory. "Let's bring Hot Dog home!" is an actual line that Cole Sprouse manages to deliver with a straight face. Hot Dog — who I completely forgot about — turns out to be a mangy mutt. So yes, he almost got himself killed over a stupid dog. It's a good thing Cheryl is there for backup. Wielding a bow, she shoots a literal arrow into the Ghoulie leader's shoulder. Katniss Everdeen is TREMBLING!
Then there's the whole Gargoyle King thing, whatever the fuck it is
Dilton Doiley rushes into Jughead's house and says, "We thought it was just a game, a role playing game, but it's not, it's so much more, HE'S REAL." Jughead, who is in close competition with Archie for Biggest Idiot in Riverdale, decides to completely ignore this terrifying message and goes off to Archie's trial.
When he comes back home, Dilton is gone and there's a piece of paper rolled up on the table. On one side, there is a creepy drawing of what appears to be a goat-skeleton figure. On the other side is a map with markings. Jughead — who has been marked for death by the Ghoulies, in case you forgot — goes wandering into the woods alone at night with a flashlight and a compass. Why? Because he's a fucking idiot. There, he discovers the goat-skeleton-monstrosity hanging from a tree with two boys — Dilton and his friend — prostrated in front of it, totally naked with weird shapes carved into their backs and also frothing at the mouth. That's cool, I didn't really want to sleep tonight anyway!
Last but not least, we have to deal with Betty's batshit crazy family
In case you somehow forgot, her father turned out to be a serial killer hell-bent on delivering justice to "sinners" and her "brother" Chic turned out to be a totally random stranger (and also a murderer). If that wasn't terrifying enough, now Betty's mother and sister are members of a goddamn farm-related cult. When they're not sipping oolong milk tea and trying to burn Betty's diaries, they are throwing babies into a fire and watching them levitate.
Great. Just great. That's EXACTLY what this idiotic show needs! Oh, and also Betty is harboring a secret Adderall addiction and fabricated a therapist named "Dr. Glass" to write herself prescriptions. But that's completely brushed aside, because again — GOAT SKELETONS AND FLOATING BABIES. The episode ends with Betty collapsing to the ground and having a seizure. Same, girl, same!
It took a lot of patience, a willingness to suspend reality, and an all-consuming crush on Skeet Ulrich to get through the meandering mess that was Season 2. But after watching the first episode of Season 3, I am already exhausted. Not even the Hot Dads of Riverdale can save me now.