Warning: Spoilers for the Riverdale season 3 premiere, “Labor Day,” ahead.
What a difference a summer makes. One minute you’re hanging by the pool in your stilettos or jumping into leech-infested lakes with your friends, and the next you turn on Riverdale to find redheaded wunderkind Archie Andrews pleading guilty to manslaughter and Betty Cooper’s mom levitating babies over fire. And that’s just in the last 10 minutes of the season three premiere.
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It turns out Riverdale’s merry band of misfits spent their summer in court supporting Archiekins (KJ Apa), who was being tried for a murder that was actually committed by his girlfriend’s father’s henchman. If that weren’t wild enough, his mother (Molly Ringwald) came back to town to act as his…lawyer? My understanding of the law—which admittedly comes from years of binging Law & Order and The Good Wife—leads me to believe that’s not allowed, or is at least frowned upon.
Now that the jury is in deliberations, Archie just wants to spend what may be his last few days of freedom drinking strawberry milkshakes and hanging with his friends at their old swimming hole. Veronica (Camila Mendes) is internally freaking out because a) her dad totally framed her boyfriend for murder and b) her boyfriend is likely going away for murder. But a weekend getaway might be just what Betty (Lili Reinhart) needs. Her mom, Alice (Madchen Amick), has joined a weird farm-cult in an attempt to forget that her husband was a vigilante serial killer. We haven’t been introduced to Alice’s guru Edgar Evernever (gotta love the names on this show) yet, but we know he’s no good because he has her dressing like a hippie and encouraging her to burn Betty’s journals. It stands to reason that this entire town is in need of a therapist. Speaking of therapists, Betty is pretending to have one while forging her own prescriptions.
But it’s not all bad. Jughead (Cole Sprouse) seems to be having a pretty good time as the head of the Serpents. Sure, he’s watching out for his bro, making sure Archie has a Serpent tattoo just in case he needs backup behind bars, but mostly he seems happier than ever. Toni (Vanessa Morgan) and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) are at the “babe” status of their relationship, so it seems like all of our favorite ships are in a good place. We even have two new couples to tweet about: Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) is dating Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) while Kevin (Casey Cott) and Moose (Cody Kearsley) are starting anew.
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Because this is Riverdale, one conflict per episode is not nearly enough. The Goolies are suddenly back, and they’ve kidnapped Hot Dog! Forget Archie for one second and focus on what’s important. The Serpents’ mascot is missing. Jughead rallies his troops and the Jets face off agains the Sharks yet again. Basically nothing happens, except Cheryl literally shoots some guy with an arrow and Penny Peabody makes some veiled threats.
Once that’s taken care of, Archie is due back in court. Before Jughead can meet him there, he’s intercepted by Dilton Doiley (Major Curda). Dilton tells Jughead he’s been playing an intense role-playing game with Ben, but it’s “so much more.” As I do whenever someone mentions Dungeons and Dragons, Jughead brushes him off. Archie pleads guilty even though the jury is deadlocked. He’s off to Juvie and Veronica declares war on Hiram (Marc Consuelos).
That’s when we’re suddenly transported to a different show. Jughead goes searching for Dilton only to find him and Ben (possibly dead) with carvings on their backs at some altar reminiscent of True Detective season one. Betty arrives home to find her mother and sister’s cult around a bonfire, holding Polly’s twins above the flames. Suddenly, they let go and the babies hover in the air, unharmed. Betty faints, as one would, and the episode ends. Guess we have our next mystery…and a way into those Chilling Adventures of Sabrina crossovers we’ve heard so much about.