Thursday, October 15, 2015

Archie's Weird Mysteries: Attack Of The 50-Foot Veronica

What else is there to say about Veronica Lodge?  Well, I don't think I've discussed her friendship with Betty that much, but watching this program and thinking back to some of the comics I used to read, I can't help but wonder if the relationship between Betty and Veronica is more than just "friends when convenient" but probably the strongest relationship about of any two characters in Archie Comics history.

This is a friendship that survives multiple backstabbing attempts as both girls attempt to win the heart of Archie, and if I remember correctly, there were multiple instances when the two of them realized that "if anybody is going to get Archie, better one of us than anybody else."  The two really are friends in the truest sense, with both of them constantly hanging out together, traveling together, scheming together, and generally helping each other be complete people.  Betty would probably never take as many risks in life without Veronica encouraging her, and Veronica wouldn't be as grounded and would probably be an even bigger snob without Betty around.

However, that's probably a full essay for another day, so instead let's look at Archie's attempt to do an homage to Allison Hayes' finest work.

The episode opens at Riverdale High, which cleans up pretty well after being attacked by a killer car.  In one of the science labs, Dilton is attempting to explain to Archie the benefits of a science experiment that would grow fruits and vegetables to "hundreds of times" their original size.  Archie, in what I can only conclude was a moment that someone who graduated with a degree in English Literature got to write a script, compares the experiment to H. G. Wells' Food of the Gods, and that single reference makes this my favorite episode of the show by far.

This is only enhanced when Dilton offers to show Archie how his new machine works, and Archie replies, "Give it the gun, Algernon."  Two classic literature references in the first couple of minutes?  Jymn Magon, I hope you wrote tomorrow's script, too.

I mean, granted, Algernon was a lab mouse who dies partway through the story (um, spoilers for a story from 1959?), but at least Archie's trying to sound smart.

Dilton is considerably less impressed at Archie's references.

Dilton gives the vegetables a good blast from his new machine, but nothing happens.  After giving a PG swear, the two teenagers leave to get a burger, unaware that amidst the fruits and vegetables, there was SOME kind of reaction.

"Hi, folks!  I'll be your nightmare tonight!"
At Pop's (possibly the next day, considering it's now daytime), Jughead starts working on an appetizer of a couple dozen burgers,  Since nobody ever sees anything out the windows, he doesn't notice it when a large dog-sized insect peeks in the window to see him eat a burger.  Meanwhile, Archie and Veronica are talking about the plans for Veronica's upcoming pool party, but when Veronica points out she isn't inviting Jughead, Archie turns on her.

By "turns on her," of course, I mean "he jumps to his friend's defense but is quick to change his mind and agree when Veronica points out how Jughead's different from everybody else."  Archie is a terrible, terrible friend, people.

We follow Jughead on his day as he swings by to visit Betty.  She's in the middle of baking a cake, but she winds up getting some baking tips from Jughead (actual helpful tip: watch through the oven instead of opening and closing it to check how baked goods are doing, temperature variations can cause a cake that isn't fully risen to be off).  She pops out to get the frosting from her car (ew?), but finds this waiting outside her front door.

"Would you believe I'm one of the new Pokemon?"

I dunno, I think it's kind of cute.  There's no malice in those blank eyes, nothing to initially indicate any hostility, it's just a large insect who's probably confused and likely scared.

Plus, I'm obligated to post this:

In fact, here's how great this bug is.  Betty screams at the sight of it, not only shattering a glass and a vase, but the oven door shatters.  Jughead points at finger at it and yells for it to "go away," and it does.  In fact, it runs away when Jughead starts to chase it, only really trying to defend itself when Jughead jumps on its back.

Betty tries calling Archie, but he's busy blowing up balloons for Veronica's party.  She tries to explain that "there's a beetle here, and it's really big!"  His response is "Paul McCartney?"

Once Betty explains it's an actual giant beetle, Archie rushes over to investigate, with Veronica hot on his heels because she doesn't trust that "boy crazy blond."  There, they get the full scoop and Archie decides that Dilton's invention needs some investigating as well.

Dilton insists that his machine can't be responsible since it had no effect on the vegetables and fruits, and Veronica, in her brilliance, spends a little time playing with the machine while Archie and Dilton talk.  She reaches out and touches the laser beam Dilton's device emits, and when Archie finally agrees to take her home, he comments that she seems... "taller."

She's grown enough, in fact, that none of her clothes fit her any more.  Archie arrives for a date, and Veronica, convinced that Smithers sent all of her clothes to a cleaner who made them shrink, winds up wearing her father's track suit out.  Again, Archie doesn't notice that Veronica's now a foot taller than him and built like she should play for the WNBA.

Shown: Archie Andrews, just now figuring out that something is wrong.
At Betty's place the next day (who, for some reason, still insists on always bending at the waist when she's around Archie), the redheaded sleuth finally manages to figure out that both the beetle and Veronica's growth spurt are connected to Dilton's machine.  Oh, and he also observes that "animal control caught the giant beetle yesterday."


Dilton agrees that it's possible his machine only works on "creatures" and not on anything else (, someone please explain that science?), and they rush over to Veronica's pool party.  Once there, the top priority is to immediately talk about the food and how it's too bad that Jughead wasn't invited for being too different.

Then Veronica shows up.

I'm not sure what the most amazing part of that screenshot is.  A giant Veronica, the fact that the blond woman in the green swimsuit couldn't care less about a giant Veronica, or WHAT THE HECK is wrong with the legs of that girl on the left?

Veronica causes a small tidal wave when she jumps in the pool, but she suffers another growth spurt, making her makeshift swimsuit no longer be adequate for proper coverage.

She grabs the tent to shape into a toga as quickly as she can, but let me show a few images from the crowd scene as this is happening.

Okay, a few things here.

First off, it's pretty obvious that everybody at that pool party just got a full view of a giant, naked Veronica.  Just look at the smiles on Dilton and the two guys in the first picture.  Look at the shock on Archie's face.

Second, look at Betty.  Somehow she's upset at Veronica that she's being this giant exhibitionist instead of being worried for her friend's well being.  I take back everything I said about their friendship being the best in town.

Third, look at the girl in the hat in the second picture.  I think we found the first real gay character in Archie history.  Sorry, Kevin Keller.

Veronica starts to freak out, and when Archie tries to tell her that people are reacting strangely because she's "different" than she used to be (Archie, master of the understatement), she responds by picking Archie up and throwing him several hundred feet away.  Again, this doesn't kill Archie and barely injures him.

Veronica flips out completely, jumping her way into Riverdale and storming through the town.  Trash cans get stomped on, lamp posts get turned into pretzels ( that possible?), and signs get destroyed as she goes on her rampage.  Archie and Dilton rush back to the lab to try to figure out how to get Veronica back to normal as she starts tearing apart a designer clothing store.

Veronica starts ripping apart clothes ("If I can't wear a size 7, nobody can!") but then collapses into tears as the full emotional impact of everything hits her.  This is when Jughead shows up, complete with umbrella, and he says what might be my favorite line in this episode: "Hey, easy on the tears!  I may not be Gene Kelly, but I could try dancing in this downpour if you want me to!"

Jughead, never change.

Jughead manages to talk Veronica down from her blind panic, but I think it's worth pointing out that animal control caught a giant beetle the same day it shows up.  No cops have shown up to investigate reports of a giant woman tearing apart clothing boutiques.

After a rather well-written and well-performed conversation between the giant Veronica and Jughead about how they're now both the "oddballs" of society, they agree to work together to figure out a solution.  Veronica wants to be normal again, and Jughead doesn't want anybody else around who can eat more burgers than him.

I did particularly enjoy one moment between the two characters:

"I'm a freak!"

"No, you're Veronica Lodge.  In a size 107 dress."

Jughead and Veronica are able to figure out that Dilton's ray probably had something to do with her size increase, and they meet up with our other two protagonists back at the high school.  With Jughead's "outside the box" thinking, Dilton comes up with a way to shrink Veronica, and it becomes a race against time as the authorities finally decide to show up.

So, how does Riverdale handle mysteries that don't solve themselves in a few hours?

Could one of my readers who knows more about the military help me out with a question?  Didn't the military stop using muzzle brakes on tanks in modern times because the new types of ammo have a shell that comes off of the round as it exits, and those can cause spectacular failure in the equipment if it hits the muzzle brake wrong?  Did Riverdale get all of its tanks from World War 2 surplus?

Oh, right, I almost forgot.  They're sending TANKS to deal with the giant daughter of the richest man in Riverdale?

Dilton whips up a shrinking ray in record time and gives Veronica a blast with it.  Naturally, there's a delay where they wonder if it will work, and then Veronica shrinks back down to her normal size, surrounded by tent tarp.  When the police show up, they immediately confront the obviously naked teenager surrounded by what the "giant woman" was wearing, and in a moment that makes me reconsider my approval of this episode, the lead officer asks "Did you see a giant woman come by here?"

I can suspend disbelief pretty far, but I don't think "She went that-a-way" should work here.
The cops leave a clearly naked teenage girl behind instead of ordering her to go put some clothes on or ANYTHING,

Veronica invites Jughead to her pool party the following week, the gang manages to shrink the giant beetle down to normal size (...wait, didn't animal control have it?), and everything goes back to normal.  That is, until Veronica starts showing off her newest favorite fashion.

...y'know what?  It works on her.
Tomorrow's episode is going to have to work pretty hard to top this one.  B-movie references, classic literature, Gene Kelly references, and it's the first episode where someone didn't get knocked out from a blow to the head!

No comments: