Riverdale continues down its subversive, mysterious, American teen angst-y reimagining of the Archie Comics universe, and the deeper we get into the details, the more scandalous it becomes. Episode 4, “The Last Picture Show,” doesn’t disappoint in any of the previous categories by a long shot – in fact, things get even weirder and more bizarre.
After Archie can’t find a way to lie properly to his best friend Betty, she and Veronica decide to do some sleuthing of their own. They discover that Grundy’s got a gun – and that Grundy isn’t even her real name. There may be a good reason behind the deception (assuming she’s telling the truth about her past), but one sin doesn’t forgive another. Alice Cooper runs her out of town, and not because a teacher is preying on underage boys, but because she wants her daughter to see Archie as the devil.
Meanwhile, Jughead Jones – the Tumblr teen sad boy we all wish we were – is trying to save the Twilight drive-in movie theater, and not just because he loves the nostalgic authenticity of reel-to-reel more than anyone else. At the end of the episode, it’s revealed that Jughead has actually been living at the Twilight, and its closure has rendered him homeless. Hermione Lodge has taken over the day to day operations of her husband Hiram’s business endeavors, which include paying off the Southside Serpents (run by Juggie’s father) to drive down the property value so that the land can be bought and developed. It’s pretty twisted stuff.
But who are the Southside Serpents? Surely if a biker gang full of drug dealers, thieves, and miscreants causing havoc around Riverdale existed, they would’ve made an appearance in the source material at some point. Well, you’re right, and wrong. One of the things that The CW’s Riverdale is best at is taking things that appeared in a variant iteration of the comics, and flipping them on their head to serve this more dangerous, dark, and moody small town vibe that the show has been oozing out of its pores since the very first opening scene.
Grundy was an old woman, and then a young woman stole her name to escape her abusive husband. Moose is now a young jock hiding his sexual identity to escape the scrutiny and discrimination from his peers. Chuck, who was the comic book artist token friend, became a sexual aggressor, slut-shaming girls at Riverdale High left and right. But the Southside Serpents very well may be the most amazing repurposing of the Archie Comics source material in the entire show, and could easily make a run for the best in any comic book related television show on air at this very moment.
The Southside Serpents were born from the comic book series Little Archie, which first hit shelves everywhere way back in 1956. Apparently, the entire premise for the book was born during a poker game between MLJ Comic’s John Goldwater and some other comic book publishers. Goldwater was receiving some ribbing for making his entire line of story arcs across books about America’s favorite teenager (obviously they’d never heard the sage old adage, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”).
And thus, Little Archie was born. The comic strip was written and drawn by Bob Bolling and it featured mostly all of the same characters that are present in most Archie related stories – just much younger than they usually are. Archie and the gang are in elementary school, while Ms. Grundy and Weatherbee are still teacher and principal, respectively, to the exuberant youths. Most of the content of these stories was designed to serve up some educational vale to the young people that would be reading them.
Whenever the Riverdale High crew had to face off against another group of teenagers in a battle of wits or will in the original series, the opposition would always came from a neighboring town’s school, Central High. Instead of going the obvious route, and probably for some sort of moral dramatic affect, Bolling switched it up and created the Southside Serpents. They were a group of surly-looking kids from the southern district of Riverdale, who clearly were not as nice as Archie and his friends, because that’s the way these things go. They can be seen competing in contests of athletic prowess and physical strength like relay races, or games of America’s favorite pastime: baseball. These rugrats didn’t have motorbikes or tattoos, but they did have matching sweaters with snakes on them. Cute!
Riverdale has given The Southside Serpents a whole new life in the latest episode. And with the way that the show ended, we’re sure to see a lot more of the gang as the season progresses, since there are three separate characters who have some very direct ties to members of the biker outfit. The Adventures of Little Archie came to an end in 1983 after 180 issues of fun – but The Southside Serpents will live on, immortalized in teenage drama live action.
Riverdale airs Thursdays @9pm on The CW.
Images via The Pride of Walvis Bay.