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NOC Recap: ‘Riverdale’ Takes on ‘Next to Normal’ for This Season’s Musical

Riverdale -- “Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal” -- Image Number: RVD518fg_0089r -- Pictured (L-R): Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper and Mӓdchen Amick as Alice Cooper -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Chapter Ninety-Four: Next to Normal” is season 5’s highly anticipated musical episode and it was definitely the most emotional one yet. The series stars KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Mӓdchen Amick, Casey Cott, Mark Consuelos, Charles Melton, Vanessa Morgan, Erinn Westbrook, and Drew Ray Tanner. For the remainder of this recap, we will be getting into heavy spoilers; so only continue reading if you’ve seen episode 5×18.

MOTHER’S DAY IN RIVERDALE — Refusing to accept what’s going on around her, Alice (Mädchen Amick) creates an imaginary musical fantasy world in which the Coopers are one big happy family again. But as her mother continues to spiral, Betty (Lili Reinhart) does her best to pull her back to reality. Meanwhile, Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) ropes Jughead (Cole Sprouse) into a family dinner with her parents, and Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Archie (KJ Apa) make a big decision about their future.

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We start off with the entire Riverdale gang there to support Betty after Polly’s death, giving us interactions that we don’t always get to see on the show between friends. We find out Cheryl is taking care of the twins for a few days and Alice refuses to leave the house. Betty also reveals her mother won’t start listening to the Next to Normal album. She continues tp explain the background of them going to see the show for Mother’s Day as well as what the musical is about for those who aren’t familiar. In all honesty, they could not have picked a more fitting for the Cooper family.

We then move to the first musical number, “Just Another Day,” sang by Alice with an imagined Charles, Polly, and Betty. The record begins skipping and Betty pulls her mother back to reality, but Alice just heads upstairs to take a nap. Veronica and Archie discuss what they can do to help Betty and Alice, but there’s nothing really to do besides be there incase they’re needed. Veronica suggests the couple moves in together, not wanting to waste any more time after spending seven years apart, and Archie immediately agrees. The two discuss which location would work better, either the Pembrooke or Andrews’ residence. Archie mentions how “long term,” his house has more room and they would be able to grow into it. Veronica is all for trying it out and the two share an adorable moment, ready to begin their future.

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Mr. Weatherbee reveals to Toni that the school’s janitor discovered Britta living under Riverdale High’s stairwell. Toni calls a social worker and they speak to Britta about her parents kicking her out. The storyline is a really beautiful thing for the character of Toni as we see her comfort and assure the teen that she’s perfect and there is nothing wrong with her identity. Toni also decides to take on the task of finding Britta a permeant and loving new home. Betty tries to figure out a way to help her mother move on, but Alice is stuck remembering her daughter and their memories together. This also launches us into “I Miss the Mountains.”

Tabitha’s parents visit and she excitedly gives them a tour of everything she’s done since taking over Pop’s. Tabitha then suggests they have dinner there tomorrow night, but her parents immediately shoot down the idea, acting as if the diner isn’t good enough for such an occasion or really anything at all. Tabitha agrees to an Italian restaurant, though she’s clearly annoyed, before inviting Jughead along as her “boyfriend.” Once her parents leave, Jughead questions the new title, but Tabitha tells him that she needs him there as a buffer. Jughead doesn’t hesitate to say that she could always ask him to be her real boyfriend, but apparently they’re already discussed it because Tabitha says that while it’s an “intriguing possibility” to her, the timing isn’t perfect. And just like that, we’re starting Jabitha’s first duet, “Perfect for You.”

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Betty walks in on Alice singing with an imaginary version of her two daughters, playing at the piano, which she just ordered. Betty asks if Alice would like to go over to Archie and Veronica’s for dinner, saying the couple invited them, but Alice naturally rejects it and say she’s cooking Polly’s favorite for all of them. Veronica makes dinner for Archie, Jughead, and Frank, but the firefighters get called to the station, which just seems thrown in since we haven’t acknowledged the firefighter storyline in what feels like more than a few episodes. After they leave, Jughead awkwardly says he’s gonna eat in the garage after a second of silence and again, this would’ve been the perfect opportunity for the two to ACTUALLY interact, but it was still very in character for the duo. Veronica beautifully sings “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” though there is obviously a deeper meaning behind her feelings and the song.

Another musical number goes to the Coopers, this time they sing “It’s Gonna Be Good” as they begin their family dinner. Betty tries to get Alice to realize that Polly and Charles aren’t actually there. She puts Polly’s ashes on the table, trying to use them to give her mother closure before singing a version of “He’s Not Here” and suggesting they go into the city to see a Broadway show together. Alice agrees and its the first time we see a little progress. Meanwhile, in the Andrews’ household, Veronica hears someone showering in the bathroom and assumes its Archie, but is instead met with the sight of Jughead brushing his teeth and Frank in the shower. Definitely could be a little overwhelming to anyone trying to adjust to living in another house.

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At Penelope’s taunting, Cheryl performs “Didn’t I See This Movie?” and we see a glorious moment with her throwing a drink in her mother’s face. Veronica is helping Reggie with his dreams of becoming a licensed stock broker and it’s clear there’s still some unresolved desire on Veronica’s part to live the same dream that was stolen from her in her former marriage to Chad. Alice and Betty are ready to go into the city, but Polly stops Alice from going, both her and Charles singing “I’m Alive” to their mother. Betty then begins “I Am the One,” competing for Alice’s attention. Alice finally does speak up, expressing her hurt over Betty leaving her and blames her for Polly’s death, which is obviously the grief talking.

As Jughead leaves Pop’s, Tabitha’s father wants to talk, although it’s not an actual discussion. The whole thing is very reminiscent of Hiram trying to tell Archie that he’s not good enough for Veronica. Funny enough, Jughead even tells Mr. Tate that he reminds him of Hiram Lodge. When Archie does finally get home, apologizing for missing another dinner, Veronica asks to check in about where he sees himself and them in five years. The redhead hesitates, starting off by saying how he would never want to hold her back from anything, but in his heart he still sees himself in Riverdale. Archie asks her if that’s a deal breaker, but Veronica promises him that it’s not, adding that it’s important they have these honest conversations.

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Toni is struggling to find a place for Britta and Fangs tries to get her to take a break, but she immediately says she can’t. Trying another idea, Fangs suggests Toni speak to Cheryl about taking Britta in. At first, Toni is against the idea, but Fangs manages to convince her and tell her that Cheryl has changed. Betty ends up at the school, finding Kevin and they talk about what’s going on with Alice. The two perform “Make Up Your Mind / Catch Me I’m Falling” together, Kevin also assuring her that Polly’s death wasn’t her fault. Veronica and Toni also get a very small part in the otherwise duet, showing their own struggles.

Tabitha’s parents comment on Jughead’s lateness at dinner, but Tabitha quickly comes to his defense while also addressing their issues with her decision to come to Riverdale. Jughead shows up, grabbing a rose for Tabitha before they begin “Hey #3 / Perfect for You (reprise).” The two share a slow dance in Jughead’s room, finally getting to finish their dance, before they kiss as the duet ends. Toni does visit Cheryl and explains the situation with Britta, asking if Cheryl would let her stay there considering Penelope treated her the same way when they were younger. The redheaded female then comments about how she’s surprised Toni would trust her with this, but Toni expresses how she’s felt Cheryl’s love and knows the huge capacity for love that she has. This scene seems like a beautiful start to rebuilding the lost trust between them and proving to Toni that Cheryl has really changed.

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Veronica finally tells Archie how she is actually feeling about everything, opening up about how she felt in her toxic marriage with Chad. She then says she’s starting to feel the same muted feeling here since she moved in, adding that she also feels like she’s losing herself. Archie immediately apologizes, obviously not wanting to make her feel that way, but Veronica says she thinks they should take a beat to figure out what they’re doing and shouldn’t rush into things. Archie suggests they go back to dating and having fun like they used to, but Veronica points out that while that’s a sweet idea, they’re not in high school anymore.

Betty tells Alice that she took the record player out of the house because Alice doesn’t need it anymore. She promises that she will not leave her mother alone, singing “Why Stay? / A Promise” to Alice, who apologizes for her horrible statement from earlier. She assures her Polly wasn’t her fault and the two then go into “Maybe.” By the end, both Polly and Charles leave and Alice heartbreakingly says all she ever wanted was for them to be a normal family. To finish the scene, they close it with “I’m Alive.” Back at Pop’s, Tabitha talks about Polly’s memorial with Jughead and Kevin. At the end of the scene, Jughead reaches out to hold Tabitha’s hand and it seems they may officially become a couple after the events of this episode.

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Fangs and Toni briefly discuss Britta moving in with Cheryl before the topics shifts completely. Toni tells Fangs she thinks she loves him and Fangs confesses he’s feeling the same way. The scene really seems to come completely out of left field with no actual buildup for the new romance. We enter the final musical sequence next, which is “Light” sung by the entire cast. Alice and Betty share a heartbreaking scene as they look at the picture of the Cooper women on their trip to Broadway, putting it on top of the fireplace. We then go to Toni and Fangs, who end up kissing while Fangs is holding their baby. Archie and Veronica share the next part, a clear longing still there for both of them as Veronica leaves the house. Kevin and Tabitha have their part at Pop’s before Cheryl and Britta continue. The final scene serves as Polly’s funeral, closing the musical number as well as the episode.

New episodes of Riverdale season five will continue airing on Wednesdays at 8PM ET on The CW.

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