riverdale 5x18, betty and alice cooper

‘Riverdale’ season 5, episode 18 review: ‘Next to Normal’ in every way

Riverdale season 5, episode 18, the musical episode, left us with a song in our hearts and a tear in our eye.

Riverdale’s fourth musical episode took on Broadway’s Next to Normal, which is honestly a perfect descriptor of the episode and the show as a whole. Riverdale is constantly setting normal themes against absolutely ridiculous backdrops, and season 5, episode 18 remained refreshingly grounded while still providing many shocking twists.

The grounding effect was achieved by the Cooper family’s grief, as Betty and Alice grappled with Polly’s death in very different ways. While finally finding Polly’s body seemed to offer Betty at least a small amount of closure, it made Alice cling to her delusions even more tightly.

I loved everything about the Cooper family’s journey in this episode. For a long time now, they’ve badly needed the space to mourn the loss of the “perfectly normal” family we saw in the early days of Riverdale, and the “Next to Normal” episode finally gave that to them.

The musical performances perfectly outlined the family’s trajectory from denial to acceptance, and for that reason, I think this was the best Riverdale musical episode yet. Lili Reinhart and Madchen Amick completely carried the episode, delivering one stunning performance after another. And of course, they were perfectly flanked by Charles and Polly looking roughly a thousand times happier than we’ve ever seen them, which brought a huge smile to my face.

riverdale season 5 episode 18

Admittedly, I usually hate musicals or specials where they try to cram existing songs into a different story. Something about plots and characters developing using words and sentiments that aren’t their own just feels very shallow to me, and I think it’s really hard to pull off in a satisfying way.

There were a couple of times in Riverdale season 5, episode 18 where I was concerned about this, but in the end, taking this with a grain of “this is a Riverdale musical episode,” I think the episode actually carried out all of the plot points quite well.

The first of these moments was with Jughead and Tabitha, or as fans affectionately know them, Jabitha. At the beginning of the episode, I was shocked by how quickly Jughead jumped from zero to “boyfriend,” but after a full season of molasses-slow burn, these two needed to take a leap in either direction, for better or worse.

The catalyst turned out to be Tabitha’s parents, who seemingly disapprove of the choices of their radiant, small-business-owning daughter, who could definitely do a lot worse than a published author! After Veronica finally showed Hiram who the real boss was in the previous episode, it was nice to see that Tabitha was completely unwilling to hear the criticisms of her mother and father in Riverdale season 5, episode 18. However, I would still love to see more appearances from them, if only to help us learn more about Tabitha!

I’m still not sure how I feel about Jabitha. On one hand, they’re very cute, and I’m intrigued to see how they work together and how they affect each other. On the other hand, Riverdale has also been sprinkling more and more Bughead crumbs lately, and that doesn’t quite seem to be over yet.

riverdale seaosn 5 jabitha

I desperately don’t want Tabitha to simply end up being a momentary foil for Bughead, only to be completely tossed aside if and when Betty and Jughead reunite. She’s a great character with so much room to grow, and she has developed such an awesome relationship with both Betty and Jughead. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely curious to see how Betty reacts to this new development.

The second moment of concern for me in Riverdale season 5, episode 18 came when Veronica sang “Superboy and the Invisible Girl,” but again, although it was heartbreaking, I thought the episode did a great job of playing this plot point out.

My initial thought was that Veronica feeling like the “invisible girl” next to Archie came completely out of left field. And yes, it did. But considering Veronica’s empowering previous episode where she crawled out from under the thumbs of both Hiram and Chad, it makes perfect sense that she’s yearning for independence right now. Her light has been dimmed for too long, and she needs to stand alone to let it shine, free from the shadow of anyone else.

That said, I really wish we’d gotten a little more time to see Varchie as an adult couple before they fell apart. There’s definitely a world in which Veronica could remain bright with Archie by her side, but for now, they’ve come to the devastating realization that they just don’t want the same things. Is this a death sentence for Varchie forever? Not necessarily.

While Archie is fairly certain that his future lies in Riverdale and Veronica longs for the luxury of Wall Street, I’m not sure if she yet knows what she wants in the long-run. She hasn’t had much time to figure that out on her own, and she’s made it clear that’s what she needs.

riverdale 5x18, varchie

Of course, Riverdale isn’t being shy about the possibility of Veronica reuniting with Reggie. Truthfully, I would prefer to see some single Veronica stories, but Veronica has never had trouble holding her ground against Reggie, so he could make sense as a rebound for her in Riverdale season 5 if they choose to go there.

There were also some huge developments in Riverdale season 5, episode 18 that happened completely separately from the music. After Britta’s parents kicked her out because of her sexuality, Toni arranged for her to live with Cheryl. However, this wasn’t the Choni reunion some fans were hoping for, because in the end, Toni and Fangs confessed their love for each other!

The two of them are raising a child together, so it’s not exactly a huge leap, but it was still shocking. Again, I’m really not sure how I feel about this one, since I believe Choni and Kangs still have some growing to do that many fans, including myself, are dying to see. Also, I don’t want any future Toni/Fangs drama to shake up Anthony’s life just for the sake of an obstacle for Choni and Kangs. However, like with Jabitha and Betty, I’m intrigued to see where it goes and what happens when Cheryl and Kevin find out.

And with that, all of the Riverdale high school couples are effectively off the table for a while. Veronica and Archie have called it quits, and Jughead, Toni, and Fangs are taken, leaving Betty, Cheryl and Kevin single and presumably ready to mingle. Of course, Cheryl has already been mingling with Miss Marble, so we’ll see if that develops into something deeper now that Toni is out of the picture.

We’re poised for a very interesting Riverdale season 5 finale, and I can’t wait to see what consequences this musical episode has for the show going forward.