In defense of Riverdale’s Barchie twist, and a plea for Season 5 to be the last

Riverdale -- "Chapter Seventy-Four: Wicked Little Town" -- Image Number: RVD417a_0030b -- Pictured: KJ Apa as Archie Andrews -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Riverdale -- "Chapter Seventy-Four: Wicked Little Town" -- Image Number: RVD417a_0030b -- Pictured: KJ Apa as Archie Andrews -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Riverdale’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch musical episode sure gave fans something to be angry about, but is it all so bad? No… but also yes.

Don’t let Riverdale distract you! The latest musical episode, which paid homage to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was a Trojan horse for a controversial and polarizing forbidden romance, and the series pulled off the ultimate con. Okay, yes, we’re matching Riverdale in dramatics, but “Wicked Little Town” found not only the videotapes return with a bloody vengeance, but also romantic intrigue abound between a deadlocked early ship. Naturally, most fans are not on board for the latter.

But was the rapidly ignited push and pull between — spoiler alert! — Betty and Archie really that horrible? We’re playing devil’s advocate to break down why Barchie’s alienating kiss isn’t all the doom and gloom it’s cracked up to be, while also breaking down the breakdown of a guilty pleasure before our very eyes. With Season 5 coming down the pipeline, Riverdale should seriously consider going out on top and ending before another hasty twist drives viewers away for good.

Bughead, Barchie, and why it’s not so bad

There’s a right way for a series to jump ships, and there’s a wrong way. After checking the audience’s temperature, it’s clear that Riverdale chose the wrong way for Betty and Archie to get together. Cheating on their respective long-term significant others to rekindle a dormant flame that never really even flickered in the first place isn’t a redeemable action. Not to mention, it builds what could have been a worthy coupling on deceitful foundation. How do you root for them?

Riverdale Season 4 Episode 17
Riverdale — “Chapter Seventy-Four: Wicked Little Town” — Image Number: RVD417b_0112rc — Pictured (L – R): Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge and Casey Cott as Kevin Keller — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Ah, well, let’s all welcome the messy benches (miss you, The Good Place!) who live for drama to the party. We’ve never looked to Riverdale for any semblance of sense, so let’s not start now. Sure, the series could have pivoted from Bughead to Barchie more gracefully, if not out of respect for the characters but the fans. But it’s just good television, right? It’s juicy! Teen dramas live on this kind of incestuous inter-friend-group romance, and it was only a matter of time for Barchie’s rise.

The painful musical episode

Beyond the Bughead and Barchie of it all, “Wicked Little Town” was an excruciating watch. Admittedly, your friendly Barchie apologist (but noted Bughead endgame advocate) isn’t familiar with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, its songs, or its themes. But the tone, narrative, and overall vibe of Season 4’s musical episode was completely off compared to the execution of Carrie and Heathers the past two seasons. Where the previous musical episodes felt at least a little connected to the story arc in play, this one felt pulled out of thin air for the sake of having a Hedwig episode.

“Wicked Little Town” was like if Glee decided to go dark and very little of it worked. Riverdale has always inspired some cringes and earned them, too. But these cringes weren’t as forgiving this time around. What was going on with The Archies and their Empire Records-esque rooftop performance? Why are we suddenly getting back to the Mr. Honey feud? And the videotapes?

Maybe some context was lost in translation, but things aren’t great when the Barchie jaw-dropper eclipsed the musical episode. Madelaine Petsch slayed “Sugar Daddy,” though, let’s celebrate that.

There’s nowhere to go in Season 5

Ahead of its prom and graduation episodes, Riverdale imploded its two central relationships and, along with them, its core group of friends. Barchie can’t stay secret for long, and once the cat’s out of the bag, nothing will be the same again. Being so, the series has backed the characters into a corner. Unless the powers that be plan on breaking up all four and forcing them into new flings, Bughead vs. Barchie will be a dark cloud hanging over Riverdale’s head for the rest of its run.

A series that once offered an hour of blissfully ridiculous, campy escapism each week has a dangerously low gas tank. The tug of war between ships shouldn’t drag out, and neither should the narrative. Before Riverdale starts running on fumes, which some would argue it already has, The CW should allow the already confirmed Season 5 to jump in time for one last mystery and the much-hyped, ever-elusive endgame. Funnel the budget into Dynasty or In the Dark and set this talented cast free.

Next. Can Riverdale survive without Bughead?. dark

What did you think of Barchie’s kiss? Are you mad about Bughead or in for the Barchie ride? Do you want the series to end next year? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments!

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.