Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Archie's Weird Mysteries: Me! Me! Me!

Veronica Lodge.  Sometimes girlfriend, sometimes nemesis, sometimes enabler, sometimes de-enabler- okay, this sentence is going out of control.  The point I'm attempting to build to is that while Archie is almost always the "nice guy," Jughead is the "lazy, hungry guy," and Betty is the "nice girl," Veronica has a lot more variety to her roles.  In one story she might be attempting to help raise awareness for the needy or an endangered animal, the next story she's having her jet personally fly her a new purse because her other one is ten minutes out of style.  Sometimes she dotes on Archie Andrews, sometimes she and Reggie work together to set him and Betty up for failure.  Then, in the next story line, she and Betty are best friends again.

What I'm trying to say is that in the comics, Veronica is either an amazingly complex character with many layers to her...or is one of the most inconsistent characters ever written.

So, I hope you like her, because you're going to get an awful lot of Veronica in this episode.

Our story opens at Riverdale High, where eternal "nice guy" Archie Andrews is carrying a stack of approximately sixteen books out of the building.  He gets partway to the parking lot when Veronica's voice exclaims, "Archie! The door!"  Archie, apologizing, comes back to open it for her.  It appears Veronica's in full on "lazy rich girl" mode, but hold on, it gets better.

While Betty, Reggie, and Jughead bond over a) critiquing Veronica's behavior and b) joking about how broken Archie is that he just keeps doing whatever she says, we find out that Veronica only has all those books because "taking them home each day is easier than memorizing a locker combination."

Okay, let's address the first thing here.  Archie can't be there every minute of every day.  We've established he hangs out with other people and has other activities, so the idea that Veronica would always have Archie there to carry her books not just to and from her house each day but between classes is insane, even for a show that last episode gave us potato aliens.

Second, she has sixteen books.  When I was in high school we didn't have that many books.  What the heck is Riverdale High trying to teach kids that they need so many books?

Veronica begins massive amounts of whining for the next few minutes, and between complaining that Archie needs to put the top up on his car so her hair doesn't get mussed, her spoon landing on the ground and needing a new one, and the phone being inches out of reach because leaning slightly is for peasants, I say, peasants, well, Veronica becomes by far the most obnoxious character on the show, and is in a strong running to catch up with Orko and Snarf.

Fortunately, Mr. Lodge is watching the whole thing, and he is not amused by his daughter's antics.

First off, I don't think it's ever come up before, but Hiram Lodge there talks like he understudied for Thurston Howell the Third.  Second, I've always liked that Archie Comics has a somewhat contradictory back story when it comes to Hiram.  Sometimes his family were the original founders of Riverdale and he comes from old money, other times he attended public school and earned his money before marrying into even more money.

Here, he's just rich and has a touch of Locust Valley Lockjaw.  Perfect.

Veronica gets a call from Archie to hang out at Pop's, but Hiram interrupts by telling Archie over the phone that Veronica has "chores."  Hiram lectures his daughter on the fact that "one day all this will be yours" and how staying rich is hard work.  It's almost like the more money you have, the more problems you see have. 

So what sort of chore does Veronica Lodge get assigned to teach her that hard work is important?  Balancing her checkbook?  Donating clothes to charity?  Cleaning up the mess from the last party Archie invariably broke something during?

If you guessed "pack exotic artifacts for a museum to pick up and exhibit while the butler supervises her" then man, I just don't even know how your mind works.  You are right, however.

"This room belongs in a museum!" - Hiram Lodge, attempting to be cute.
Meanwhile, at Pop Tate's, Jughead, Reggie, and Betty (really?  Do those three EVER hang out by themselves?) enjoy a few burgers, by which I mean Jughead enjoys a few burgers.  Archie shows up and updates everybody else that Veronica is "still" packing things, which I guess is the script's attempt to let us know that time has passed.  Betty just happens to have a pamphlet about the upcoming exhibit, and something the gang notes is a statue to ... I have no idea how to spell this guy's name, because it's said strangely by Archie.  "Snakebah?"

Anyway, Snakebah is a statue, and the name translates to "granter of wishes," according to Betty.

Personally, I think it translates to "raise the roof!"
This just happens to be the last object Veronica has to pack (naturally), and after Smithers attempts to once again get Veronica to consider other people for a chance, she retorts with "I wish everyone else was just like me."  This causes the statue's eyes to glow and an actual earthquake to tremble the land, but Veronica doesn't notice either because...well, being whiny apparently makes you immune to feeling things?

Later, when Mr. Lodge is looking over the packed boxes with Smithers, the doorbell rings.  Hiram asks Smithers to get it (extremely politely, I might add), and Smithers is quick to retort with a "ooooOOOOoooh, I don't wanna!"

Stay with me, folks, it sounds like this is going to get awful, but it gets fantastic instead.

At Pop Tate's, Veronica's wish is spreading, as Pop Tate, previously happy to serve burgers to eager customers, is now whining about needing to cook and insisting people "cook their own burgers."  Archie decides to call the doctor to come see Pop Tate and steps outside to use the pay phone (remember, this came out in 1999, cell phones weren't HUGE yet).  This means he doesn't see the huge flash of light behind the counter, but he does bump into Veronica.  He leads her in, explaining that things are strange, when this site meets his eyes:

That's right.  Overweight, middle-aged Pop Tate has turned into another Veronica.

This, of course doesn't phase Veronica at all, as she complains about being double parked.

Anyway, Archie now gets to deal with two Veronicas fighting over him and arguing over which one is the "real" Veronica.

"This should be a lot more fun than it's turning out to be."  - Actual quote from Archie Andrews
Can we discuss the fact that not only did Pop Tate's body and personality change, but his clothes reshaped themselves to be tight on a teenage girl's body?  This Snakepah-whatever thing doesn't do anything by halves.

While Jughead and Reggie keep Pop Veronica safely stored away in, well, the storeroom, Betty, Archie, and Veronica decide to investigate this mystery further.  Things aren't any better outside, though I find it interesting that either all the women in town decided to wear yellow dresses that day and all the men wore lavender shirts and jeans, or the character designer got REALLY lazy when he decided to dress up a city of Veronicas.

Veronica spots another "her" about to steal her car, and takes off into the crowd of duplicates, which, let's face it, is probably dumbest thing she could do at this point in time.  She tries to get a Veroni-cop (see what I did there?) to get involved, but the cop simply whines that the thief is too far away and it would involve chasing her and then catching her and then filling out paperwork.    Veronica starts to realize how she acts around others around this point, but it helps that she meets a Veronica mail carrier who complains about lugging a heavy bag of letters around.

The icing on the cake, however, is the Veronica mime.  You read that correctly.  Veronica.  Mime.

Glorious.  Just glorious.
The Veronica mime starts complaining about needing to mime things, wondering why she can't just "tell people what she's doing."  In a moment of comedic gold, the Veronica Mime starts pushing at the air around her while yelling "Look at me, everyone, I'm trapped in a box!"

Then the crowd turns on Veronica for....reasons?  She finds herself running away from a small mob of identical clones of herself, but manages to catch back up with Betty and Archie.  She, again, not being the brightest bulb in the box, laments that just a few hours earlier she was wishing that everybody else would be "just like her."  Betty, being a pretty bright bulb when it doesn't come to snuggling on couches, catches this and asks her to explain.

The trio are able to connect the strange happenings to the statue of Snakebah,  They call the Lodge household to have Hiram get the statue back, but both Hiram and Weatherbee are too busy sitting by the pool with the phone just out of reach.  The three need to go to the museum and find the statue themselves.

Remember how I've been promising this episode gets amazing?  Well, here it is.

Betty reads some more of the pamphlet and notes that the idol used to be kept on a high pedestal surrounded by death traps.   So whoever the Indiana Jones of this world is, he had to bust in and steal the idol from where it was being stored.

The amazing part?  The Museum has faithfully recreated the pedestal the statue used to sit upon, including all of the death traps.  This, in itself, is absolutely fantastic, because nobody seems shocked that a museum, a place that receives public and private funding, would go so far as to risk murdering a visitor who wants to see one of the prized exhibits.

Seriously, Archie, I think we found your next "weird mystery" and it's "what the hell is going on with the museum board of directors?"

At the museum, things start going from bad to worse as Archie takes off down the hallway towards the exhibit.  Betty and Veronica start to follow, but partway down there's another flash of light and Betty starts whining about, well, everything.

Veronica tries to rush ahead to catch up with Archie, but doesn't pay attention to where she's going and runs headfirst into a low stone archway.  Because if a museum is going to equip a place with death traps, it may as well make people crouch to avoid traumatic head injuries.

May I just point out that this is twice in a row that a female lead character has been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head?

Veronica wakes up hoping it was all just a bad dream, and upon seeing Archie stand over her offers her hand to him to help her up.  He turns her down flat, whining that her hands are probably dirty and sweaty.

I know it's a negative trait of Veronica we're dealing with here, but I kind of agree with Archie there.  Sweaty hands are the worst.

Veronica is left on her own to deal with the problem, and instead of trying to do a long, flowing narrative of how she avoids the death traps, I'm just going to show you the things that a MUSEUM, an honest to god MUSEUM that doesn't even charge the people at the front door to come in and see things, built to add "realism" to an exhibit.

First, the giant stone that can crush you upon entering.

Then there's the pressure plate that triggers the deadly darts to shoot out of a wall.

There's the giant column (seen two pictures above) that rolls forward to flatten any intruders.

Finally, there's the giant spiked pit with the rope dangling over it.


Veronica finally gets her hands on the idol, and I have to admit I chuckled some at her attempts to bond with an inanimate object.  "Veronica Lodge here.  We had a moment a few hours ago.  You, me, and the box?"   She manages to reverse the wish, the population of Riverdale returns to normal, and Archie and Betty rush in to make sure Veronica's okay.

I love this little moment towards the end when Veronica starts to walk towards them and then remembers the giant spiked pit's still there.  "Could you help me get across?  ...oh, never mind, I'll do it myself."

Um, Veronica, I know the whole point of the episode was to show you just how needy and whiny and selfish you are, but when it comes to dealing with SPIKED PITS you're allowed to ask for help.  Lesson learned, but NOT in the appropriate manner!

Apparently nobody in town remembers "being" Veronica, and Archie wraps up with the standard "be careful what you wish for" lesson, but it ignores the bigger issue here: THERE IS A STATUE IN THE RIVERDALE MUSEUM THAT GRANTS WISHES.

What's to stop some child from (somehow) avoiding all the deathtraps and wishing that there weren't any adults, or that the world was made of chewing gum, or just their step-brother Toby would vanish and never come back?

I just- I don't even- man.  Why not use that statue for good?  "I wish nothing weird would ever happen in Riverdale again.  I wish doom upon the alien potato people.  I wish all vampires were instantly turned to dust."

Then again, maybe I'm just over thinking this.

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