RECAP: Riverdale S5E18 – Chapter 94: Next to Normal

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This is a rough episode to do my usual recaps for, in that it deals with the very heavy topic of family members grieving for a murdered young adult. My silly jokes about Riverdale feel to me a bit out of place here. Before we start, If you or someone you love is dealing with depression and thinking about hurting yourself, please call these people here now.

The latest episode of Riverdale is the latest in what has become a Riverdale tradition: the musical episode. You might remember when Riverdale took on Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This week sees the cast of Riverdale performing a selection of songs from Next to Normal, which Alice, Betty and Polly took in on Broadway in happier times.  Betty compares her family to the family in Next to Normal. Alice is listening to the cast album on repeat. Alice has hit a new level of despair, dressed in pearls and living in a fantasy world that resembles the world of Archie Comics more than the world of Riverdale. But the record skips, breaking Alice out of her fantasy. In reality, Alice looks dragged through the mud, watching old home movies of Polly with photo albums of her daughters scattered around her.

Next door, Archie asks Veronica “What can we do for them?” which is a question I’ve found myself asking when friends are suffering through grief. To which Veronica gives the best answer: “I think we’re just on standby for whatever they need.” Veronica is already ready to move in with Archie, but logistics get in the way immediately. She wants to stay in the Pembroke and he could see them starting a family together in his house. The main problem with his house though being his three roommates. Come on, Archie! I think Uncle Frank, Eric and Jughead wouldn’t mind having a little more space in the house. Just move into the Pembroke! You can still be a firefighter and live in nice digs.
Toni (Vanessa Morgan) finds out from Weatherbee that Britta (Kyra Leroux) has been living in a janitorial closet at the school. Toni arranges a meeting for Britta to meet with a social worker. She’s been kicked out by her parents. They really don’t approve of her now that she’s come out. Ms. Weiss, the social worker, offers a spot in her foster home while Toni tries to find her something more permanent.
Betty invites Alice out for a riverside hike, but Alice doesn’t want to leave her photo albums of Polly. We get more Next to Normal here. The lyrics to I Miss the Mountains really hit here. It does seem like the Coopers are living this musical.
Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) shows off the renovations she made to Pop’s to her visiting parents. She wants to show off her diner and have dinner with them there tomorrow for Mother’s Day, but her mom won’t hear of it. Rude. Her parents don’t have the same love for Pop’s diner that she does. It’s at that point that she drops the bomb that she’s dating her busboy, Jughead (Cole Sprouse). Jughead is surprised to be called her boyfriend and likes the idea of being her boyfriend for real, but Tabitha isn’t ready for it. That was just a show for her parents, which is weird because neither of them seemed particularly curious if Tabitha was seeing anyone. It’s not like they were using this Mother’s Day dinner to set her off with someone. Tabitha and Jughead’s duet of Perfect For You has me wanting to see Cole Sprouse in something on Broadway.
Alice imagines a more happy life with a still alive Polly playing piano with her and Betty. Apparently, the pino is new because the real Betty is surprised to see it. Archie invited them over for dinner but Alice says she’s cooking Polly’s favorite, meatloaf, “for all of us.” Ruh-roh.
Veronica cooks dinner for Uncle Frank, Jughead, and Archie. It’s easily the nicest meal this house has seen in about a decade. Unfortunately, a fire calls Archie and Uncle Frank away. Thankfully, Jughead is left to take care of things. Though he decides to be Jughead weird and says, “I’m going to eat in the garage.”
Veronica cooks up the nicest meal that the Andrews house has ever seen.
Veronica feels invisible, belting out Superboy and the Invisible Girl to an empty dining room. Next door, Alice’s fantasy family has a Mother’s Day dinner. Alice still sees her fantasy kids when the real Betty talks to her. Betty tells her Charles and Polly aren’t really here, going so far as to take out Polly’s ashes at the table. Betty suggests they go into the city to see a Broadway show, which Alice agrees to.
The early morning sun is rising when Archie returns home. Veronica decides to surprise him in the shower but walks in on Jughead brushing his teeth and Uncle Frank taking a shower. Whoops. Roommate living, am I right? Maybe send them to the Pembroke? Archie slept at the station. Great for his coworkers, not great for his girlfriend.
Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) lost all her congregants, which Penelope can’t help but rub in her face. What the heck? Don’t they know she perform miracles last week? Cheryl names her God Gaia and her devil Penelope. Cheryl flicks holy water on her while singing Didn’t I See This Movie? Maybe it’s all in my head, but I swear there is a sizzling sound any time the holy water hits Penelope.
Cheryl’s Riverdale church is having attendance issues.
Later at the jewelry store, Reggie thanks Veronica for helping him study for the Series 7. He’s doing well. His five-year plan is the swankiest penthouse in New York City and a job on the stock exchange. Veronica can’t help but think about when those were her plans.
Betty tells Alice about the tickets she bought for them, but fantasy Polly is angry. Where’s her ticket? Fantasy Charles and Polly sing around Alice. Betty tries pulling her out of the fantasy, but Alice doesn’t want to be pulled out of it. Alice blames Betty for Polly’s death, saying Betty drove Polly away. Betty won’t hear any more of this and walks out on her mother.
On his way out of Pop’s, Jughead is stopped by Tabitha’s dad, who calls him over. He tells Jughead Tabitha is going through a phase and calls him a passing fancy, and says she’s out of his league. Excuse me, sir, have you not read his bestselling novel? After he tells Jughead to skip on coming to Mother’s Day dinner, Jughead says he reminds him of Hiram Lodge. Despite growing up here, Tabitha’s dad doesn’t know who that is. It’s funny that Tabitha’s dad is so worked up about this considering they’re not even really a couple.
Veronica asks Archie where he sees himself in five years. He says Riverdale, and asks if that’s a dealbreaker. It’s not, but maybe not saying “with you” after “in Riverdale” is. Archie takes off his shirt because he knows it’s not his brain that keeps Veronica around.
Toni works late trying to find a place for Britta to live. Fangs offers up Cheryl as an option, but Toni says no way. Yeah, Fangs, no way. Cheryl is starting a cult. You don’t hand kids over to that. Haven’t you learned anything over the past few seasons?
Betty starts believing that she is indeed responsible for Polly’s death, but Kevin talks her out of that. I’m glad someone is there for Betty this episode, though Kevin’s advice seems more centered around Betty being there for her mother. Who’s there for Betty?
Jughead is late to dinner, but he didn’t bail. Yeah, Jughead! Jughead and Tabitha share a duet at dinner, and again I find myself wanting to see Cole Sprouse on Broadway. They ditch dinner to dance together in Jughead’s garage turned bedroom at Archie’s house.
Toni pitches the idea of Britta moving in with Cheryl to Cheryl. She’s is surprised Toni would ask, considering their history, and Toni feeds her ego with a lot of loving compliments, which works. Cheryl agrees.
Veronica has a talk with Archie, saying that in her marriage to Chad, she felt muted and fading, and she’s feeling that way now. It turns out moving in together after a week isn’t a great idea. Archie suggests going back to dating and having fun, but instead, Veronica breaks up with him. Veronica, you just spent months working on a divorce to be with Archie, and you’re dropping him this quickly? Maybe it’s time for some time to yourself, Veronica. Who knew the best way for Hiram to break up Veronica and Archie was just to give them everything they wanted for a week?
Betty chucked the record player. She promises Alice that she won’t leave her alone, ever. They’ll carry each other through their grief. Alice apologies for telling Betty that Polly was her fault. Fantasy Polly and Charles hit the road. But Betty and Alice have each other.
What are we calling Toni and Fangs? Tang? Foni?
The final scenes are after Polly’s memorial service. The biggest news to come out of it is Toni tells Fangs she loves him and he responds in kind, followed by a shared kiss. I feel like Britta is going to bear the brunt of this when news reaches Cheryl.  And Veronica moves out of Archie’s house.  They’re also setting up Britta to be some sort of chess prodigy. Someone on the Riverdale writing staff watched Queen’s Gambit and was like “We have this redhead. Let’s do that with her!” The whole cast, including the twins sings at the end of the episode like it’s the closing number of a Broadway show. You almost expect a curtain call.

The post RECAP: Riverdale S5E18 – Chapter 94: Next to Normal appeared first on The Beat.

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