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After last week’s celebration of everything film noir, Riverdale went back to the closest it can get to normal this season. No more Archie vs. Hiram, no more angsty runaways, just underground drug smuggling rings and parents actively endangering their kids as petty revenge. You know, typical high school stuff. Seriously though, it really feels like a reset for the show. An intentional lowering of stakes. It’s just what the series needed.Riverdale has spent the last season and a half trying to top itself at every turn. Season One really was a showstopper, and the show has spent the last two seasons getting bigger, more ridiculous and more expensive in an effort to outdo itself. As fun as it’s often been, that’s not sustainable. It needed to get things back to teen drama levels. That way, the shocks that are coming can have the impact they’re going for.It’s some good teen drama too. Kevin and Josie’s parents are getting married, and they’re having the afterparty in Veronica’s speakeasy. Kevin wants Moose to be his date, which would function as their first time in public as a couple. It would mean Moose coming out to his dad, something he’s not entirely comfortable doing. Moose’s dad is just a bit homophobic. Cheryl takes this as her own personal crusade and reads a blind item in the morning announcements. Everyone knows who she’s talking about though, meaning she basically outed Moose to his dad before he was ready. That’s a real crappy thing to do to someone.Casey Cott as Kevin and Cody Kearsley as Moose — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CWI like how much this episode focuses on the relationships between Kevin and Moose, and Cheryl and Toni. These relationships and characters have seen a criminally small amount of screen time, and it’s about time their stories got fleshed out even a little. It’s the first time Cheryl and Toni are treated like a real couple with issues of their own. Everyone’s trying to get into college, and the stress of that is taking a toll. First Cheryl finds out that the college she planned on attending suddenly stopped considering legacy candidates. She smells her mother all over that decision, and yeah. Penelope is completely upfront about undermining her daughter’s future. God, the parents on this show are the worst, and I love it so much.All this starts to put a strain on her relationship with Toni. First, there’s the thoughtless outing of Moose. Toni has her own painful history of being unwillingly outed to family, and she knows how dangerous that can be for someone. Toni’s also concerned that, as much as Cheryl has rejected the seedier aspects of her family, she’s still dead set on going to their hyper-exclusive legacy school. A place that’s unlikely to accept someone like Toni. A really promising aspect of this episode is that Cheryl gets a full and complete arc with character growth. She recognizes where she messed up and takes steps to make things better. After she and Toni threaten her mom and get her to ask the school to consider legacy students again, Cheryl realizes her application makes her a shoe-in for admission even without an rare one-on-one interview. Instead, she cedes her time to Toni, allowing her a shot at getting into this prestigious school she’d never have had otherwise. She also forms a new all-girl gang to make up for getting them kicked out of the Serpents. That should lead to some fun ridiculousness in the future.Casey Cott as Kevin and Cody Kearsley as Moose — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CWAs for Moose and Kevin, at first it seems like his outing wasn’t too big a deal. His dad’s initial reaction wasn’t as harsh as he feared, and he and Kevin plan to finally have sex in the secret bunker. (Sidenote: I love that Cheryl thought to warn him to bring his own sheets. After everything we’ve seen and heard this season, there’s no way that cot is sanitary.) Unfortunately, it turns out he’s not as understanding as he pretended to be. In a legitimately surprising twist, Kevin and Moose’s story tied into the plot the parents were facing this episode. As two members of the original “Griffins and Gargoyles” group were getting married, they all received mysterious messages beckoning them to return to the school at night for a new session. When they arrive, they find it was a diversion. They quickly deduce that whoever sent the message wanted to make sure their kids were left alone.Everyone gets a call from their parents at the very moment when they’re all about to bone. Man, that’s gotta be a mood killer. The only ones who can’t answer their phones are the ones who met up for an illicit candlelit tryst in the bunker. And that’s just who the Gargoyle gang (or this iteration of it, anyway) is after. Fortuntaely, Kevin told just enough of his friends where they’d be that they were able to relay that information to their parents. Sheriff FP shows up just in time to unmask these gargoyles. It turns out it’s Moose’s dad and the rest of the ROTC kids. They were trying to scare Moose straight. It turns out that’s exactly what was done to Moose’s dad at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy when he started developing feelings for Kevin’s dad. It’s a cycle of both love and horrific abuse. So another week, another red herring Gargoyle King busted. Jughead and FP both make it clear that this mystery isn’t over yet. It will have to be put on hold, though.Martin Cummins as Tom Keller and Robin Givens as Sierra McCoy — Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CWAnother thing this resetting of stakes allows is for Riverdale to set up the rest of the season’s plot while still telling a fun, if slightly smaller scale story. There’s still plenty of Riverdale silliness here, but it’s not so big as to distract from the foundation the episode is laying out. After Veronica and Reggie burned Hiram’s fizzle rocks supply last week, Hermione is forcing them to pay the buyer back. Not sure why that’s they’re responsibility when she’s the one who made the ill-advised deal, but whatever. It’s Riverdale, parents are trash. They engage in a small heist of Reggie’s dad’s dealership, in which Reggie gets shot and breaks a security ink pack all over the money. They meet the buyer anyway, hoping to strike a deal. The buyer is surprisingly amenable, but there’s a twist. It’s Jughead’s mom, Gladys. Even more interesting, she’s moving back to Riverdale permanently. Turns out, she’s been training Jellybean in the finer arts of manipulation. With her dad, the Sheriff, wrapped around her finger, they basically run the entire town.Having Jughead’s mom emerge as a potential new villain is an interesting twist, and I’m excited to see where the show goes with it. Riverdale feels so full of possibility now that all the stakes have been reset to early Season One levels. There’s still wild, comically outrageous crime drama happening in this town, but for now, it’s back in the background. We got an episode focused on the teen drama that grounds the show. It’s an important ingredient that hasn’t gotten enough love this past season and a half. It gives us a baseline so it matters when the plot truly goes off the rails.Skeet Ulrich as FP Jones and Madchen Amick as Alice Cooper — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CWEven Archie is back to his lovable dumb self, and it’s so refreshing. No more angsty, brooding feuds. No more talks of making bones and carrying guns. Just a kid who loves music and kissing girls. This time, it’s Josie, which I gotta admit is actually pretty cute. As long as his dumb ass doesn’t hold her back. I still don’t entirely trust him after how he treated Val back in Season One. We’ll know for sure soon enough when the show returns in three weeks. In setting up for the wild crime drama that’s sure to come, Riverdale reset the clock a bit. That’s an exciting place for the show to be. I just wish it didn’t end with Moose leaving town. Sure, it’s better than falling into the trope of outright killing him, but come on. Can’t this show have a gay relationship that doesn’t end sadly?Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CWPreviously on Riverdale:Riverdale Season 3 Episode 11 RecapRiverdale Season 3 Episode 10 RecapRiverdale Season 3 Episode 9 Recap Stay on target ‘Riverdale’ Season 4 Trailer Toasts to a Mysterious Senior YearSDCC 2019: ‘Riverdale’ Cast Spills Details on Core ‘Mystery’ for Season 4