Teenage wasteland: ‘Riverdale’ makes Tyler Durden roll over in his grave

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If you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, remember that there is a drug called “Jingle Jangle” in “Riverdale” that the actors must say with a straight face. And that isn’t even the weirdest thing highlighted on Wednesday’s show.

Archie (K.J. Apa) is in solitary confinement for refusing to be the warden’s bitch, but changes his mind when the warden (William MacDonald) takes him to “the pit,” which is just a vague code name for an underground prison boxing ring run by the guards. Apparently the warden has a side job of pitting the young prisoners against each other in “Fight Club”-style matches and selling tickets to the sadistic citizens of Riverdale.

An underground fight club consisting of 15-year-olds? Is there nothing good and pure in this world? The only explanation is that this entire storyline is just an excuse to give Apa’s abs more screen time.

After threatening to nearly end Joaquin’s life, the warden pressures Archie to join his team of fighters, who are — of course —  appropriately named Baby Teeth, Thumper and, a crowd favorite, Peter.

Meanwhile, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) and F.P. Jones (Skeet Ulrich) are seen canoodling in bed, taking after their children, who have found intimate comfort in Dilton’s bunker. Because obviously, privacy is in such short supply for the horny couple that they have to resort to using their dead peer’s hidden bunker.

Equally believably, Veronica (Camila Mendes) has finished building the speak-easy underneath Pop’s Diner and plans to open it up for business — only nonalcoholic drinks, of course — these teenagers may be prone to abusing ridiculously named drugs and covering up murders, but apparently underage drinking just crosses a line.

Unfortunately for Veronica, Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) pays a visit offering “protection” from the Ghoulies, for a small fee, of course. When Veronica turns down her services, Penny retaliates by sending a few boxes of everyone’s favorite Pixy Stix drug, Jingle Jangle, conveniently timed with a surprise inspection by Sheriff Minetta (Henderson Wade), who also tries to hit Veronica up for a “generous donation” to the police department.

Back in prison, Archie is thriving as the new resident Muhammad Ali, winning his fights almost too quickly. This causes the warden to hint that Archie needs to put on more of a show. Archie, being the golden boy he is, refuses to toy with his competition and gets the bright idea to get himself beaten up instead, so he can maintain his Boy Scout honor but still fulfill the warden’s bloodlust.

Is it the smartest plan in the long term? Probably not.

Meanwhile, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) are busy with their investigation of Dilton’s death. For research, Betty joins the new peer-support group of local cult “The Farm” at school, led by none other than Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison). But when she meets the people from The Farm, she gives up her whole charade and accuses everyone of being cult-y.

Subtle, Betty.

Jughead, on the other hand, gets Ethel (Shannon Purser) to play “Griffins and Gargoyles” with him in the bunker, which leads to him having to choose to drink from either of two chalices. It’s literally a 50-50 chance of him drinking cyanide and dying. Even though it’s definitely not worth it, Jughead agrees to it, anyway. This earns Ethel’s trust, and she hands over the game’s “scripture.” But before Betty and Jughead can study the game’s rulebook, Alice and F.P. discover it and angrily throw it into a random fire in slow motion.

Oh, right, all the hot Riverdale parents mysteriously know about this fatal game but refuse to talk about it.

Speaking of hot parents, Veronica realizes that Hiram (Mark Consuelos) is the one behind the attempts at racketeering and, to get back at him, she and #Choni sneak into the Whyte Wyrm to take photos of the hidden Jingle Jangle lab in the basement. Because mob headquarters can easily be infiltrated by three teenage girls. Veronica confronts Hiram with the photos and threatens to send them to the FBI if he doesn’t call off his lackies.

She finishes her blackmailing errands just in time for the opening of the speak-easy, where Josie and Kevin get a few minutes of screen time to remind the audience that this show is, indeed, diverse. (One of Kevin’s only lines in the episode is, “Oh my god, I’m obsessed with that gown.” Is that blatantly stereotyping Kevin as the sassy, gay best friend? You decide.) Hiram visits the diner and Veronica invites him down to the speak-easy to show the business mogul “how a legitimate business is run.”

Our favorite shirtless, incarcerated teen is winning his fights left and right and gaining “favors” for it like in a twisted version of “The Hunger Games.” The warden personally stops by and gives him a bottle of rum as a “token of (his) appreciation,” stating that Archie has “quite a future at the detention center” — words every teenager’s parents want to hear. Once the warden leaves, Archie throws a hissy fit, throwing the bottle at the wall and upturning all of Mad Dog’s old things. In doing so, he finds a book with a tiny little chisel in it — did the guards not check for that?

But the chisel is enough to spur Archie into having his own “Shawshank Redemption.” He tells his fellow fight club teammates that they’re all breaking out of the detention center, somehow managing to give another inspirational sports speech in the process.

Outside of the prison walls, Betty and Jughead don’t need to mourn the burning of the game’s playbook for too long. In between making cyanide cocktails and having seizures, Ethel somehow managed to make hundreds of copies of the game’s handbook and spread them all over the school. Jughead ominously narrates that by next weekend, everyone will be playing the game.

Guess the hot parents of Riverdale’s plan to ignore the problem and hope it would go away didn’t work.

Julie Lim covers television. Contact her at [email protected].