In this season’s musical episode, Alice and Betty grapple with their grief over losing Polly.
On Riverdale Season 5 Episode 18, Alice creates a world where her family is all together and happy, to escape the grief of losing Polly. Meanwhile, Betty tries to support her mother while navigating her own pain.
In the past Riverdale’s musical episodes have been cheesy fun, usually set towards the end of the season as one last hurrah of entertainment before everything starts to go crazy as the season wraps up. This season’s musical episode, however, is so much more. This year’s musical is Next to Normal, a musical that focuses on a grieving mother who is grappling with hallucinations of her late son, and the effect her mental state has on her and her family.
Naturally, Riverdale’s take on the musical follows Alice, as she creates her own little world, in which Polly is still alive, Charles is still around, and they’re all one big happy family, as a way to escape her grief. It’s a heartbreaking and harrowing look into the mind of Alice, as we’ve only seen bits and pieces of how she’s handling everything.
Sure it’s been obvious from the get-go that Alice isn’t fairing well (not that anyone can blame her), we’ve seen her wash down pills with wine, and passed out on the couch with a glass next to her. But we never knew just how far gone she truly was until this episode.
The first musical number, titled “Just Another Day”, is a seemingly perky one, with Alice twirling around with her children one morning. However it’s brought to a crashing halt when Betty snaps Alice out of it, and we find that Alice is listening to the musical’s soundtrack on a loop and imagining herself in a world where none of the pain she’s endured ever happened.
There’s one scene in particular that I would like to talk about and it’s close to the end of the episode. Throughout it we see Alice engaging in hallucinations of Charles and Polly, the latter of whom looks like her season 1 counterpart. However, in a harrowing scene, in which Betty and Alice sing “Maybe”, we watch as Polly comes down the stairs, dressed in the same clothes she went missing in and smiles at Alice as she walks out the front door.
I didn’t realize until after, when sitting with the episode for a moment, just how heartbreaking that scene truly was. That was Alice finally accepting all that’s happened and choosing to let go and heal. It’s subtle yet so poignant, and it gives me chills. It’s a scene that will stick with me, and one I won’t soon forget.
We’ve spent 5 seasons seeing just how deeply Alice loves her children, (even if she may not always show it in the most healthy of ways), and how far she would go to protect them. So seeing her come to accept that she ultimately couldn’t save or protect Polly, is gut-wrenching, and Madchen Amick plays it so damn well.
There is so much care and heart put into Alice’s character in this episode, it almost felt as though I was going through this grief with her, or that I was experiencing it too. Mental health isn’t always portrayed the best in media, so I have to hand it to Amick for portraying it with so much knowledge and sensitivity. She gives a very raw and beautiful performance and one that I will not soon forget.
Betty and Alice
Just as much as Alice was processing her emotions and grief, Betty was doing the same, albeit in a more subdued way as she opted to put her mother first. We haven’t gotten to see much of Betty’s process of dealing with Polly’s death, sure she’s had moments, but for the most part, she’s been out tirelessly searching for Polly and trying to solve her disappearance.
We’ve been told throughout the series how close Polly and Betty were, and yet as teenagers, it seemed they were always being pulled apart by something or someone. So seeing her finally showcase how it’s all affected her is long overdue and so hard to watch, especially since we know she’s been trying to keep it together for Alice and the twins.
But, in a touching scene with Kevin, he tells her she and Alice need to lean on each other to get through this, and thus brings on what is possibly the best and most poignant storyline, scenes and performances this episode, and maybe the season as a whole.
I always love when Lili Reinhart and Madchen Amick have scenes together, their off-screen friendship shines through the screen and helps to elevate even the most ordinary of storylines. So you can just imagine what it’s like when they team up for an emotional one. The two moved me to tears or near tears, in nearly every scene they shared.
Betty tells Alice throughout the episode that she can’t let go, that she needs her here because she can’t get through this on her own. But yet Alice is so stuck in her head, that she believes Polly and Charles need her more, which is so heartbreaking when you know that, ultimately, there’s nothing she can do for Polly. She can’t save her, and that’s something that Betty has to tearfully point out.
It’s one of my favourite moments of the episode, and it leads into that hauntingly beautiful scene I talked about earlier. Betty and Alice both take such different journey’s this episode, but come together in the end for a stunning yet sad crescendo as they say their final goodbye to Polly, and lay her to rest.
They’ve been through so much, especially with one another, over the seasons; so seeing them come together at the end and lean on each other to get through something that feels so impossible, is beautiful, and a big moment in their relationship. There are not enough words to convey just how much I loved them together, this was truly their episode and their time to shine and they knocked it out of the park. Bravo.
What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy this take on the season’s requisite musical episode? What was your favourite moment? Let us know in the comments or share with and follow us on Twitter!
Riverdale airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on the CW!