For those who read the Archie comics, Riverdale is a bizarre sort of gothic soap opera, taking the sunniest of comics and looking at them through a dark glass. When friends of mine ask if they should start with Season 2 this year, I say the same thing: "Jughead dates Betty." It's shorthand for how surreal a version of the world it is. And yet, this season looks to take Jughead down a completely different path altogether, as fans were asking by episode's end is Jughead a Serpent?
Last season, Jughead's father, known as FP Jones (short for Forsythe Pendleton Jones Jr.), was revealed to be a member of the Southside Serpents, a rough and tumble biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks. Played by Skeet Ulrich, he brought a sense of danger to the life of our bizarrely cleaned up and non-misogynistic version of Jughead.
But now it seems like Jughead's fate is tied inexorably to his father's. At the end of last season, he was moved to a foster family, one where he would have to go to school at Southside High. His father told him the gang will always be there for him. And he got to try on the jacket.
As Betty said to Jughead (whose real name, by the way, is Forsythe Pendleton Jones III) "It fit you like a second skin." To be honest, the whole lifestyle does. The jacket is just the beginning. When Jughead tossed the covering off the motorbike and flew down to the hospital, it was like he'd been traveling like that his whole life.
The trailer life suits him. He's a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, whose intellectualism might be able to pull him out... if his social life once he starts at Southside High doesn't pull him down first.
Betty's not the only one to see that this is the life Jughead belongs in, even if he's going some place she can't follow. FP is bound and determined his son understand what this life is, and how much it is a part of him.
At the beginning of the episode, when Jughead first gets the notion that Fred's shooting could be the work of someone out for revenge, his instinct is to run to his father and use those underground connections to find out what the underbelly of town knows.
But FP isn't going to let his son make these sorts of demands and not get his hands dirty in the reality of the interrogation. He brings the "loudmouth" they picked up talking trash about Fred's shooting and beat up him in Jughead's trailer. Of course the guy was innocent, that's the point. You can't ask the Serpents to crack a few heads for you, and not be very aware of what you just requested.
It's a lesson Jughead will have to internalize going forward. Part of him doesn't want to be a serpent. He wants to be someone of Riverdale, someone who's of the same social class as Archie, Betty and.. OK, well maybe not Veronica, but you get the idea. But he can't code switch between them without knowing the truth of each life.
Jughead may not stay a Serpent forever, but before he can make that choice for himself, he has to learn what that life is. He has to live it before he can reject it. This season, it seems like he's going to get his chance, whether he likes it or not.
Can he and Betty survive it? Now that's another story altogether. At least it seems like Betty is willing to let him go do his thing. If you love something, set it free.