Just like Tabitha, I feel like we’ve traveled to another dimension, because WHAT just happened? This week Riverdale episode, “Angels in America,” took things to a new level, and I’m still sorting out my feelings about it. In general, I enjoyed the recent episodes. I’m weirdly into characters who get superpowers. Something about the show getting even crazier just seems right! But this episode… was a lot. Let’s dig.
This week is all about Percival Pickens (Chris O’Shea) vs. Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook), and it starts when Percival announces plans to run a private railroad through the heart of Riverdale. And given Pop’s central location, well, he seems to think that would be the best location for a train station. Tabitha says no, but when she goes to rally the troops, they don’t seem ready to face Percival yet.
Instead, she returns home, finds that Jug can hear her thoughts – honestly, it took longer than I thought – and Jug suggests they find a way to declare Pop’s a historical landmark. But before they can figure out how to do that, a henchman walks into Pop’s and shoots Tabitha, sending her back in time to December 24, 1944.
The CW Erinn Westbrook in “Riverdale”
There, she plays the role of Teresa as she meets… Jughead? Just kidding, it’s not Jughead! It’s Rafael, his guardian angel. He simply takes Jughead’s form because if she saw his true form, she would go insane. And this is the first strike of this episode for me. Superpowers I can handle, but real angels? I think I’d rather watch another cult leader build a rocket than watch this angel talk about how only the Almighty has all the answers. So not only is this angel barely useful, but he also hands Tabitha a book called The enigma of time travel and tell him to read it. Personally, I’d be pissed if an angel gave me homework / Can’t you just tell me the CliffsNotes, man?!
After Tabitha does her required reading, she decides that just like the explosion triggered powers for Archie, Betty, and Jug, maybe getting shot triggered her time travel powers. But if you’re going to tell me trauma unlocks superpowers in Riverdale, everyone should have about 100 superpowers by now.
Tabitha comes to the conclusion that she needs to find a talisman to help control her powers. But before she can research that, she has to attend a town meeting to decide if Riverdale should become a sunset town, meaning if all black people should leave the city limits at sunset.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Percival Pickens – or whatever he is called in 1944 – who comes up with this terrible idea, and once again Tabitha finds herself fighting him.
That evening, Tabitha meets Tracy (Toni), Flynn (Fangs) and their child on the run from Centerville, where their car has broken down. Centerville is a sunset town, and when their car died, they were seen after curfew. Tabitha agrees to take them in, and when Percival tries to stop them, she must come up with a plan. It’s Christmas Eve and she needs a Christmas miracle, so naturally she turns to the present angel! His project ? Asking Rafael to show them his true form and therefore driving them crazy.
So yeah, it works, and then Percival later shows up in a straitjacket and shoots him again, sending him to April 3, 1968. I swear I’m not making this up.
Upon arriving, Tabitha instantly decides that she must save Martin Luther King Jr. before he is assassinated. And here’s shot two for this episode: I’m fine if you want to derail an episode. Try time travel! But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t have a bonkers episode with angels and time travel, but also try to root it in real history. Watching people cry when they hear that MLK Jr. died moments after an angel drove some people crazy? Maybe Rafael showed me his true form and now I’m crazy, because it just felt right.
But the madness doesn’t stop there! When the mayor declares a state of emergency and ends public gatherings, Percival tells Tabitha that she has until 6 p.m. to clear out Pop’s. So you wanna know what she’s doing? Do you? She calls J. EDGAR HOOVER and tells him she knows all about his secret files!!! (Don’t even get me started on how easily she got it on the phone.) The moral of this episode: Pay attention in history class, kids. You never know when you might use that knowledge to blackmail the FBI Director the next time you’re sent back in time!
Long story short, she wins this round and Percival plants a bomb in Pop’s. The explosion then sends him to 1999, where a gang of white supremacists vandalize Pop’s. But when the kid they catch with the spray paint claims to have no memory of doing it, she knows Percival is behind it. Tabitha breaks into Percival’s “curious objects” shop and discovers things like the Spear of Longinus and, you know, the real Holy Grail.
Then we get this quote from Rafael, who is played by Betty in this setting: “There are men whose hearts are so cold that they burn villages just for the heat.” Don’t tell me angels aren’t wise.
Rafael decides that the Holy Grail must be Tabitha’s talisman because… she looks so much like Jesus? But when she goes to catch him, Percival, dressed as a soldier, attacks her. Luckily, she grabs the spear and informs us all that she fencing in college! I can not.
Percival then reveals that his real name is Legion? Or something like that. He shows us a glimpse of what I assume is his real face and it’s NOT cute. Then when Tabitha goes to stab him, he disappears. So she burns down her shop and goes back to Pop’s for now I’m calling strike 3 of this episode (but it’s really probably strike 10): She’s drinking a Holy Grail milkshake, a bit like Jesus at the Last Last Supper, in order to travel to the present day.
Back in the present, she informs everyone of what she has learned (and her new powers). Well, everyone means Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Cheryl, because apparently Veronica’s lack of powers means she’s out of the inner circle. She informs them all that she traveled to the future and saw the fate of Riverdale, where the restaurant was an empty shell and the sky was full of ash. Now they must prepare to fight Percival.
As for what Tabitha learned on her journey: The Holy Grail wasn’t her talisman and there was no need to put a milkshake in it: “Pop’s was my talisman all along.”
Look, I’m all for Riverdale leaning into the crazy and having fun with how over the top it is. But mixing time travel, angels, the death of MLK Jr., Jesus and lots of racism? I can’t say this one worked for me.