“One week after Riverdale High’s absorption of its Southside counterpart, and everything was the same… And nothing was the same.”
Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is right in saying this, because as far as the whole Riverdale High vs. Southsiders thing is concerned, there’s virtually no tension between the teens in this episode. Instead, the tension comes, for the most part, in the interactions between Archie (KJ Apa) and Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).
Indeed, this tension is where the episode gets its title. In order to get on Hiram’s good side, both for the benefit of his relationship with Veronica (Camila Mendes) and to move things along for his new friend Agent Adams (John Behlmann), Archie decides to join the school’s wrestling team. The problem being, Archie has very little experience with wrestling, and is frankly awful at it to start with. And so, ‘The Wrestler’ sees the men in Veronica’s life go mano-a-mano, as both physically and mentally Archie “Gingerbread Man” Andrews takes on Hiram “The Ram” Lodge. One great thing to come out this grudge match is the way in which Hiram takes so many jabs at Archie’s masculinity, as the offhand quips are very funny – almost as funny as the fact that high school wrestling seems to more closely resemble the fights between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’ Diary, than they do WWE.
But, on Archie’s quest to prove Hiram wrong about him, he finds out the real reason why the Lodge patriarch is so against him dating Veronica – the fact that Fred (Luke Perry) slept with Hermione (Marisol Nichols) – and in Hiram’s eyes, because his father slept with another man’s wife, Archie is just as likely to cheat on Veronica. Although, Hiram decides that he is willing to put up with Archie until Veronica gets bored of him – which leads him to utter a phrase which is a little weird and not entirely true, along the lines of “boyfriends come and go, but fathers are forever.” The sentiment behind it is fine, but clearly Hiram has forgotten the big chunk of time when he was in prison and subsequently had nothing to do with his daughter.
And so, as Archie makes his way into Hiram’s inner circle, he offers the young redhead an internship with Lodge Industries, to help him on his way to studying business at college. Or at least to help Archie to gather the information he needs for Agent Adams.
Elsewhere, it’s Pickens Day in Riverdale! A holiday to celebrate Riverdale’s founder, General Pickens, who, as well as founding the town, also slaughtered 400 men, women and children. A real stand-up guy. In a storyline which mirrors some of the USA’s current issues, Jughead interview’s Toni’s (Vanessa Morgan) grandfather – the oldest living Serpent – who reveals some tragic truths about the town’s founding, and the reason the Serpents were established.
As it turns out, Riverdale was originally home to the Uktena tribe, which Toni’s grandfather and his family were a part of. At the time of the founding, one of Cheryl’s (Madelaine Petsch) ancestors paid General Pickens to take the land from the Uktena tribe, which led to the innumerable deaths of the tribesmen. So, Jughead decides to display the Uktena’s story for the town, calling for the end of ‘Pickens Day’, the elimination of his name from the town’s park, and the removal of his statue. Except, as Toni points out, it isn’t Jughead’s story to tell. He may be a Serpent, but he was not a member of the Uktena, and it wasn’t his family, or his race that were murdered in cold blood.
With the opening of this old wound, and tensions rising in the town, the Serpents must take action. This comes in the form of a silent protest at Riverdale’s annual Pickens Day celebrations, where the gang turn up with placards, signs, and duct tape over their mouths, while Toni explains the injustices done to her family. However, all their work seemed to amount to nothing as they came face to face with Hiram Lodge: King of Bullsh*t, and the one man who seems to be able to turn anything into a positive. Though when the General Pickens statue falls victim to vandalism, it seems that the Mayor finally has something to hold against the Serpents – but are they really the ones responsible?
For the Coopers, ‘The Wrestler’ sees them wrestling with the arrival of Chic (Hart Denton) in their household. As Hal (Lochlyn Munro) pressures his newly-found son about his life, and why he arrived at their house bruised and bloody, Chic reveals that the hostel he was living at was also something of a brothel, with clients that left him with scars all over his body. To which Betty (Lili Reinhart) has the ridiculous response of “I have scars too” and references only the nail marks on her palms (which haven’t really been referenced since early in the first season) – he was a young man forced into prostitution with abusive clients, not an angry teenage girl, Betty, it isn’t the same thing.
However, when she finds that Chic is actually a ‘webcam boy’ she becomes somewhat fascinated by the idea that he pretends to be so many different people, and when she confronts him about it, wondering what to do about her own “darkness” (welcome back, Dark Betty) he explains that the webcam work allows him a certain amount of escapism from his life. Weirder than this, is that Betty asks him to show her how to do it, beginning what Jughead calls her “dark education” and what we’ll just start calling “the most ridiculous storyline of Riverdale so far.” Take a cold shower and get back to your schoolwork, Betty.
It seems that the Riverdale writers are throwing all reason out of the window as we venture further into the second half of Season 2. With the teens moving further into dangerous territory, be it working with the FBI, joining forces with their parents in less-than legal business, or even considering moving into sex work, things can only go from bad to worse in Riverdale.