"Chapter 25: The Wicked and the Divine" had a lot going on for Riverdale
. There was the most over-the-top confirmation ceremony ever, the murder of a man named Papa Poutine and a bloody man lying on the floor of the Coopers' kitchen. However, the most noteworthy event, for a large section of fans, was probably the reunion of a certain couple.
After a lot of angst and arguments, Betty and Jughead finally got back together. Regardless of whether this romantic reunion lasts, "The Wicked and the Divine" was a reminder that Riverdale can deliver its best material when Betty and Jughead are working together, not at odds.
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The Best of Bughead
There's a lot of factors that led to Riverdale pulling Jughead and Betty further apart. Some of them were justified and interesting. Most just felt forced and took Jughead down a path of unlikability and aggravation. Riverdale season 2 has been a success on most fronts but it's failed Riverdale's own Holden Caulfield by seemingly misunderstanding the character and why he works. Jughead's different from the other Riverdale gang but that's only interesting when he's interacting with them, not off on his own story.
Therefore, it's important for the character's (and the show's) success to show more of Jughead with Betty. It's not even a romantic thing, although there are plenty of reasons to enjoy Bughead for their romantic chemistry. Riverdale really finds its groove with both characters when they're on-screen together. Betty's relationship with Jughead allows her to tap into her dark side in a healthy non-cam girl way. More importantly though, it brings out the sweetness and compassion in Jughead that's been almost entirely absent in season 2.
Despite what Riverdale season 2 has tried to push, Jughead isn't an intense character. He's a teenager who believes himself to be moody and aggressive, but at his heart he's kind-hearted and sensitive. It's a side of his personality that comes out when he's with Betty (or Archie), but specifically the former. Riverdale doesn't need Betty and Jughead in a relationship but they should be working together. Betty and Jughead are at their most likable and interesting, by far, when they're together.
Bughead Can Be a Beacon
"The Wicked and the Divine" wasn't only a nice example of how Bughead brings out the best in each other. It also served as a reminder of the best days of the show. Riverdale is charging full speed ahead into as much madness and craziness as it can but the old fashioned sleuthing of season 1 is missed.
Riverdale shouldn't revert completely to those (relatively) innocent days, but it should revisit them occasionally. Betty and Jughead working together to solve the mystery of who cut off the head of General Pickens' statue served as proof that there can be old-fashioned sleuthing in the same episode where Alice Cooper evidently murders a man in her own home. Riverdale doesn't need to be about organized crime, serial killers or crazy genius teenage detectives. Those aren't mutually exclusive; Riverdale can do it all.
At their best moments, Bughead is Riverdale in a microcosm. They're moody and melodramatic but there's an overwhelming sense of fun to them. They're soapy but it never crosses the line into truly exhausting. Riverdale, like Bughead, can be emotional without being oppressively serious. It's something the smaller and less successful corners of season 2 (AKA the Black Hood) haven't exactly understood.
But what did you make of the return of Bughead? Do you think Riverdale needs more of them together? What flavor of Riverdale do you prefer? The crazy melodrama or the fun mystery?
(Image courtesy of The CW)