Monday, October 12, 2015

Archie's Weird Mysteries: Attack Of The Killer Spuds

I think I've made it abundantly clear over time that I have a huge appreciation of all things Riverdale.  In fact, the only reason why I haven't done lengthy reviews about  Afterlife With Archie or Archie vs. Sharknado or Archie vs. Predator (yes, these are all real things) is that if I put all of them into individual posts, well, I'd immediately fill up three things on my Top Eleven list for the end of the year.

But man, the Archie's Weird Mysteries show was something absolutely amazing, and I've been itching to get back into reviewing episodes of it.  So, with a simple 10-pack of episodes on one DVD picked up on the cheap from a small store, I'm ready to go.  We're going to see Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Dilton, and the rest of the gang face the unknown.

First episode on the list?

Okay, so it's not as immediately grabbing as "Veronica Lodge: Vampire Hunter" but stick with me, folks, it'll be worth it.

We start with Archie and Jughead over at Jughead's house, where the crown-wearing best friend of Archie is engaged in a "scary movie marathon."  Archie would, naturally, go out and do something, but it appears nothing will dissuade his friend.

However, rather than anything really developing from that in an immediate sense, we jump to the next day where Archie is driving Jughead to the local TV station.  It appears that during the night Jughead (who feels the need to explain that he was "in the zone" when watching movies for twelve hours) managed to win a prize when "the lady from the station," as Jughead puts it, comes on and says that the first person to call in and name all of the movies will get "a prize."

When Jughead arrives, however, he finds that his "prize" is simply a potato that somebody stuck on a cheap pedestal and then shoved party favors into.

Listen, we all know that this potato is going to lead to dark, evil things, but whatever malevolent force is behind this is clearly not taking itself or its job seriously.  You could at least spray paint it gold.  Or put a "#" in front of the "1" so it doesn't look like this is simply a prop from a bad Dr. Seuss production.  Even the party favors are weak and most of them involve someone blowing into them to be effective.  Whatever this evil force is, it's somehow worse at its job than the demon thing from the Paranormal Activity series.

That weird hand thing in the background?  That would make an awesome prize, as would the weird Saturn-like object.  Heck, that potted plant would probably make a better prize.

Also, I'll point out that the woman handing the potato over to Jughead talks like she's either possessed or under some weird thing's thrall, but considering she was just broadcasting at midnight, it's the next day, and she's wearing the same clothes I'm willing to buy that she's just hopped up on No-Doze and waiting for her shift to end.

Orrrrr not.

Make a note of that picture.  We'll be coming back to it in a while.

Evil-Station Lady reports that the prize has been handed over to someone, and in the darkness of the studio, one glowing red eye blinks.

Back at Jughead's house that evening, he's watching yet another monster movie while Archie tries to get him to go to a "big game."  It's not clarified whether it's baseball, football, or, I dunno, women's field hockey, but it is against Springfield, so that should help us narrow down just where Riverdale is, right?

(I just tried to find a clip from the Simpsons movie where they disclose the four states that border Springfield, but I can't find one that doesn't violate a whole bunch of copyright laws, sorry)

Archie lectures Jughead about the dangers of turning into a couch potato (strange to put a lesson about the dangers of watching too much TV on the FIRST episode of a disc filled with episodes), but leaves him be.  That night, the potato strikes.

The potato binds Jughead and does something to make him stop struggling against it, putting him into a daze.  The potato (and this is a sentence I never thought I'd get to type) then seems to "absorb" something from Jughead's body, letting it transform into a duplicate of Jughead.  The potato (or, rather, a tendril?  I'm not sure what's happening now since the only potato we saw before is now a "person") also goes after Hot Dog, because it's not prejudiced to one species.

At the TV station, another red eye glows in the darkness.

The next day, Archie, Dilton, and Betty head to Pop Tate's to meet up with Jughead who is standing in a pot of dirt.  Reggie and Veronica (already there on a burger date, it seems) take advantage of Jughead's weird state to generally mock him, like mean kids do.  With dark circles around his eyes and a vacant stare, the gang suspects that Jughead simply has sleep deprivation, but things get even more out of control when Reggie is about to bite down into a french fry and Jughead immediately dives across the table to stop him.

The gang convinces "Jughead" to go home and get some sleep, but he asks each person there to "keep an eye on his new friends," handing out potatoes to everybody present.

Oh, and Betty and Archie have a date!  He's going over to her house for a movie.  Late at night.  With probable minimal parental supervision.  Archie, you dog.

...yeah, I was always a "Betty" guy.

That night, Betty and Archie are doing the "awkward teen" thing of sitting on opposite ends of the couch, and in what's a pretty cute moment, they're both debating how to indicate to the other that they want things to be, well, "cozier."  Archie wants to put his arm around Betty.  Betty wants Archie to put his arm around her.  Neither one is sure how to get it started.

Betty decides to take it slow, not let on she's anxious to have Archie wrap his arm around her.  She offers him popcorn.

Pictured: Betty's definition of "subtle."
However, the moment Archie takes a piece of popcorn, Betty realizes she's being a tad bit aggressive (nothing wrong with that, Betty) and darts back to her corner of the couch.  Of course, Archie's now pondering "was that a signal" and he's lucky he's not real, or I'd be sorely tempted to deliver unto him a really powerful dope-slap.

The two sit awkwardly for a moment, trying to find the right way to get close to each other, when Betty finally feels something brush her shoulders.  In true teenage girl fashion, she immediately closes her eyes, smiles, and tries to snuggle closer to her darling.

You know those scenes in movies where someone has a dream they're making out with someone beautiful, but they never open their eyes when they wake up because the audience needs to see that it's a chimp kissing them or a dog licking their face or something?

Yeah, I hate those scenes, too.

Archie almost gets overpowered by a potato (again, a sentence I never expected to say) but manages to free Betty and the two head over to Jughead's house to find out what's going on.  They find Jughead and Hot Dog wrapped in "potato tendrils" and in a zombie-like state on the couch.  Jughead has a look of bliss on his face, Hot Dog looks....a bit more annoyed at the world.

Betty gets started by the "other" Jughead, trips backward over a vine, and knocks herself unconscious  as she hits the ground.   Archie confronts ...I need a general name for duplicates.  Jugtato?  That works.  Archie confronts Jugtato and gets the spiel about how Jugtato used to be a "lowly potato" until he was freed by the "great potato."  Strangely, this isn't the worst religious pitch I've ever heard anybody toss out there.  They all share the "great potato's" thoughts, and as Jughead explains that soon "potatoes will rule the world," we cut away to various inhabitants of Riverdale as the potato tendrils start to make their presence known.  Pop Tate's cleaning his kitchen when a nearby bag of potatoes starts to send feelers towards him.  Dilton's working in his lab, Veronica's lying on her bed, and Reggie....was apparently just hanging out in his kitchen, waiting to get tied up.

Reggie, you didn't even try to fight back.  You just tucked your arms behind your back and went with it.  Shame on you.
Apparently the potatoes keep their captives happy...somehow.   It just puts them into a state of mental numbness that keeps getting compared over and over again to being "in the zone" and "watching a lot of TV."  This show's about as subtle with its message as Betty is with hers to Archie.

Archie witnesses a potato take the form of Betty, and then Jughead throws a potato right at Archie.  Archie, being the brilliant mystery solver he is, catches the potato and stares at it as if he doesn't know what it's going to do next.  It, naturally, immediately sprouts and tries to take him over, but Archie proves he's stronger than a mere spud and makes a break for it.

After finding that the rest of the gang is already taken over at Pop Tate's- I have to interject here and interrupt myself.  I love the fact that Archie immediately says upon entering Pop Tate's, "Listen, everyone, we've got to hide from the potatoes!"

That's just gold.

Anyway, everybody else is already taken over.  Everybody, that is, except for the smartest boy in Riverdale.  Dilton apparently noticed some weird stuff happening with microwave transmissions in the area, and was able to escape being captured by his own potato.  Dilton also advises Archie that he already tried the police station, and "you don't want to go there."

Archie puts two and two together and realizes that everything connects back to the TV station, and the two last remaining humans in Riverdale head off in Archie's car.  The station, however, is packed full of potato vines, but Dilton states that all they need to do is interrupt the transmission from the broadcast tower's microwave dish.

But because logic has no place in Riverdale, the doors to the station swing open and Jugtato, Bettato, Regtato, Verontato, Random Womantato and Poptat- Pop Tatetat- Tatetat-... the potato Pop Tate (man, I did not predict having trouble with that name when I thought up that descriptor) emerge.

How did zombies that walk get ahead of two guys driving a car?  And why is it only THOSE characters?  Well....because drawing other people is hard and shut up, this show didn't have a huge budget or supply of character sheets?

Where was I?  Oh, after running around some, Archie and Dilton manage to get to the broadcast tower.  They start to scale it, but Dilton's lack of athletic ability lets him get caught by Bettato and Verontato, who pull him down to the ground in, if they survive this, will probably be a really awkward moment for the class nerd.

"Girls, please, whatever you do, don't use your bodies to hold me down!"
It doesn't get any better when Bettato and Verontato pin Dilton's arms down and then literally gag him with a potato.

In an indication that "violence is frowned on" in this series, there are two moments when Archie manages to kick enemies off of the tower.  First, he knocks Jugtato off, but he lands on Regtato just a few rungs down who keeps him from landing with a splat.  Second, Archie knocks Regtato loose, but he just drops a few rungs and then catches himself again.

Archie does manage to shut off the dish, and all of the potato zombies immediately revert to their original "basic potato" status.   Across Riverdale, the populace wakes up to find themselves bound in potato vines, and immediately work to start freeing themselves.

And then, folks, things get weird.

You're not hallucinating.  That's a potato-themed spaceship.  The great potato, it turns out, is not happy, and is apparently strong enough that when he uses his tendrils to grab hold of the microwave dish tower, he's able to bend it in half as he tries to get at Archie.  Fortunately, Dilton's back in the game, and he advises Archie to turn the microwave dish up all the way, in his words, "turning it into a microwave oven."  The great potato gets blasted with microwave energy, apparently dying, and the ship takes off into the night sky.

Nobody asks any questions about the damaged microwave transmitter or how everybody woke up bound like some weird Japanese thing was going to happen, but as Archie closes up the story, he states that apparently produce suppliers nationwide are stumped that nobody in Riverdale ever orders potatoes any more.  Oh, and Jughead doesn't watch as much television any more.

So, two questions immediately come to mind.  One, was there originally a different prize for the winner of the contest?  The woman who announced the contest was just the normal TV broadcaster, not her potato double.  The potato prize appears to have been a last minute swap, because taking over the world with "have someone win a horror movie marathon contest" sounds like a really stupid way to do things.  If there was another prize, what was it?  Did Jughead get it?

Second, does everybody in Riverdale just assume "weird stuff happens sometimes" and deals with it?  With vampires and ghosts and now potato aliens running around, Riverdale seems to be up there with Sunnydale in terms of "man, this local populace doesn't notice ANYTHING."  Either that, or everybody knows that Archie's "weird mystery" articles are actually about strange things that happen, and for some reason the city hasn't become the #1 location in the country for people being trained in how to deal with strange supernatural threats.

Or maybe I'm just over thinking it.

Come back next time as we check out Archie's next weird mystery, and if you're a Veronica fan, don't worry, she takes center stage again in this one.

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