The Grand Illusion is such an appropriate title for this one as we spend most of the episode watching Archie be manipulated by the Blossom clan. Poor Archie, he always takes a while to get it. Cheryl asks him to accompany her to the family tree- tapping ceremony and later her parents put the full court press on- inviting him to their banquet and basically wanting to use his all- American image to temper Cheryl's "erratic" behavior, as her dad puts it. But when he finally sees the light and refuses to play anymore, he makes a dangerous enemy- Cheryl is not one to take rejection lightly.
Spoilers for this episode.
So the first casualty of his foray into Blossom world is his relationship with Val. Although she's initially okay with him helping Cheryl out, she soon changes her mind when he continues to not only do that, but accept gifts from them, including a recommendation to help him get into a summer music program. Wouldn't he rather earn his place, she wonders? And by the time Archie gets that, it's too late. I wondered how long Archie and Val would be together, and I guess that's been answered. This, however, like a lot of things in this episode seemed to happen rather fast- it just felt rushed.
The other thing going on is Polly. Now living with the Blossoms, she's not talking to Betty or her mom, and they're both sick about it. Archie gets a chance to talk to Polly while he's at the Blossom shindig, and initially she tells him that Betty doesn't need to worry. Later she confides in him that she's undercover, as it were- she's convinced the Blossoms had something to do with Jason's death and she plans to find out what. Yeah, that will end well. Oh, and she's going to have twins.
Veronica meanwhile realizes that her father's criminal activities are tearing families apart, including Ethel's. Yes Shannon Purser from Stranger Things reappears. This subplot felt rushed and phoned in, but it accomplishes the goal of getting Veronica to see what her dad has done and decide she doesn't want anything to do with it. And Hermione, wanting to go legit, tells Fred the truth about the land tug of war between Hiram and the Blossoms. So many plot elements were moved forward here, building towards what will no doubt be an explosive finale.
Speaking of the finale, we also get a sense here of a coming together between Betty, Jughead and Alice of all people. Madchen Amick kills it as Alice Cooper, and her quest to destroy the Blossom name as revenge for Polly may be changing into a crusade for truth? At least that's where Betty and Jughead are coming at it from, since they seem to be the only ones actively investigating the Jason murder (seriously, what is the sheriff doing?). And an expose of the Blossom family seems due, since Archie overhears Clifford and Penelope talking about how Clifford had Hiram Lodge sent to prison. Wait til Veronica finds out!
"Word has it that the Blossom board of trustees has descended upon Riverdale like a cabal of vampires," says Alice. I just love these quotes that seem to hint at the paranormal elements that are apparently coming in season two?
"You have to come, I'm wearing viridian." Cheryl informs Arch when he's invited to escort her at the banquet.
Archie and Cheryl? She seemed to want it, although it felt shoehorned in. I mean, we haven't seen an attraction there before, and Cheryl seemed to have a very different reason for it than her parents. Honestly, though, I was wondering if they would go there. Archie decided not to but imagine the drama we would have had!
Veronica mentions her past as an alpha bitch to explain why she tries to help Ethel, which rang true since we got the impression from the first episode that she was maybe a borderline mean girl at one point?
"A storm of chaos named Cheryl Blossom," is how Jughead decribes the coming storm in his ending monologue. And it's pretty creepy when we end with Cheryl using lipstick to smudge out Archie's face in the photo- and then Polly's too. Watch out gang.