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Friday, October 16, 2015

New Archies Reviewed - Episode 7A: Red To The Rescue

It's time for another edition of The New Archies Reviewed.  And while last week's episode made me incredibly frustrated and angry, this week's episode makes me feel all happy and warm inside.  It is easily my favourite episode of the whole series - well, at least the first half of the seventh episode is anyway.

And believe it or not, the star of the show is one that isn't even human.  It's Archie's beloved pup, Red.

It's Episode 7A:  Red To The Rescue!

Now before I go on with the discussion, I promised all the way back in July that I would set the record straight when it comes to the number of pets that Archie owned.

As far as I can tell, Archie has owned three dogs.  The first one just happens to be Spotty, and it's the dog that most Archie comic fans recognize.  Spotty was the beloved pet of Little Archie, and he tagged along with the little red-haired kid everywhere.  Spotty was incredibly loyal, which leads me to believe that poor Spotty crossed the Rainbow Bridge sometime prior to the events of The New Archies.

Recently - in books dated 2013 and later - Archie acquired a new pet named Vegas.  And while some of the newer stories feature Vegas in a sidekick role much like Spotty, if you have read the Afterlife With Archie series, Vegas plays a key role - he sacrifices himself so that Archie can escape the zombie hoard.  I like Vegas, but I need to see more stories with him.

Now, Red...Red is the dog that Archie had during his junior high years, and much like Eugene and Amani, Red just disappears from the scene.  It's too bad too.  I mean, Hot Dog managed to last through all three incarnations of the series (which makes me wonder how old Hot Dog is in the teen years), so why did Red have to disappear?

Whatever the case, Red is the star of this episode, and after Red gets in trouble for eating Jughead's science project, Archie and Jughead are giving Red and Hot Dog a bath.  Betty and Veronica are assisting them.  It's good to know that Veronica holds no hard feelings towards Jughead for bankrupting her during the "Hamburger Helpers" episode.

Ah, but the joyous scene is soon interrupted by Archie's evil neighbour Mrs. Schweckner.  And, right off the bat, you can tell that they've made Mrs. Schweckner to be a 1980s version of Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz right down to the bicycle.  I guess it's no coincidence that Red happens to be the same exact breed of dog that Toto was either.

And sure enough, Mrs. Schweckner hates Red because she claims that Red is terrorizing her cat Muffin to the point where she refuses to go outside.

Oh, man...I can see what the crazy old bat means.  Just look how vicious Red is to Muffin!

Of course, Archie argues the very obvious.  Red and Muffin are BFF's, and Red would never do anything to harm her.  But Mrs. Schweckner is determined to prove that Red is a mad dog and threatens to take Red away from Archie leaving Red to drown himself in the bath sigh in frustration.

Wow...this episode really must have taken a lot of inspiration from the Wizard of Oz!  Muffin escapes Mrs. Schweckner's clutches the same way Toto flees from Miss Gulch.  If a tornado picks up Riverdale Junior High and drops it in Munchkinland, we're in big trouble!

Well, no tornado.  But the skies did seem rather dark outside.  Sure enough, storm clouds gather above Archie's house, and Archie and Jughead are working with Eugene on some sort of infrared sensor camera.  Apparently trash cans are being knocked down all over Archie's neighbourhood, and Mrs. Schweckner is determined to prove that Archie's demon dog is the one responsible.  So, Archie decides to recruit Eugene's help to get proof as he trusts Eugene's brains.  That, plus he doesn't meet Dilton Doiley for another couple of years at least.

The clouds burst open and torrential rains pour all over Riverdale.  And while Archie and Jughead are having a sleepover in Archie's house, something suspicious happens.  Thanks to the flashes of lightning that happen periodically, we can make out the silhouette of a cat and a dog that look a lot like Muffin and Red.  Uh-oh.  This doesn't look good.

Seconds later, the trash cans outside of Archie's house get knocked over, and we can see that cords are attached to each one.  Each time a can falls, the camera takes a photo.  I hope this doesn't mean what I think it means.

The noise is enough to wake up Archie and Jughead, and both of them head outside to see what is going on - well, after Jughead manages to grab enough pancakes to serve 20 customers at the IHOP.  I guess Archie's mom wakes up at 2:30 in the morning to start breakfast.

So, problem #1.  Red has broken free from his chains because Archie is horrible at tying knots (Spoiler Alert: at least in THIS episode, he is).  And problem #2:  The garbage cans are all upset.

Which leads to problem #3.  Mrs. Schweckner must have woken up early from all the commotion and this time she's brought a friend with her - the friendly neighbourhood dog catcher.  And this time, she has a warrant to lock up Red for good after she (probably) embellished a story about how Red has rabies and how he wants to decapitate Muffin with his foaming mouth. 

Archie insists that Red is innocent and that Red and Muffin are pals, but Mrs. Schweckner is determined to find the dog so that she can teach him a thing or two.

Luckily, Archie and Jughead have some allies.  Betty and Veronica have heard about Red being missing and they are offering to help find him.  Now, I must say, this is nothing new for Betty to be helpful, but Veronica is willing to walk in the pouring rain to search for Archie's dog?  Why, I do believe our spoiled rich girl is softening!

After a few minutes of looking, Archie spots something red sticking out of a bush that looks like Red's tail, and all four kids run toward it thinking that they've found him.  Unfortunately, it just happens to be a beat up old chair.  Fortunately, Mrs. Schweckner makes the same mistake, jumps in the bushes, and the chair ejects her out of the bush, bruising her...dignity.

And our friendly neighbourhood dog catcher just laughs, not only revealing his true allegiance, but proving that not even dog catchers like Mrs. Schweckner!

While all this is going on, Eugene is in a darkroom trying to develop the photos taken at Archie and Jughead's place.  Keep in mind that back in 1987, cell phones and digital cameras were not around, so photos had to be processed the old-fashioned way.  And needless to say, we see Eugene try and fail several times to get any clear images.  And THIS is who Archie entrusted to help with the investigation?  Sigh...

Someone else who HAS joined the search for Red is Hot Dog, Jughead's faithful, but dopey four-legged companion.  After all, just as Jughead and Archie are best friends, Red and Hot Dog seem to be pals as well. 

But again, Hot Dog isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the hardware department.  Archie thinks that Hot Dog picked up Red's scent, but really, all Hot Dog does is lead Archie and the gang to a butcher shop where he's almost as much of a celebrity as Lassie. 

And Mrs. Schweckner arrives at the butcher shop just as the butcher prepares to give Hot Dog his daily treat.

See, this is why people HATE you, Mrs. Schweckner.  First you accuse a dog of scaring your cat, and now you steal Hot Dog's lunch?  What are you going to do next, knock off a liquor store?

Soon after, Betty and Veronica have spotted a set of footprints that appear to be from a dog.  But Veronica cleverly deduces that the footprints are too big to match Red's paws.

And as Betty and Veronica follow the trail, they soon discover that the prints belong to Hot Dog, who happens to be running around in a circle, tying up Jughead and Archie in the process.  This prompts Betty to remark that they should stick together if they want to find Red, and Veronica to call Hot Dog a nuisance.  Ah, there's the old Veronica coming back!

Mrs. Schweckner has also found the tracks, and she comes across Betty, Veronica, and Archie, and she is determined to find out where Red and Muffin are.  She notices movement in the bushes, grabs the dog catcher's net, and screams "I GOT HIM!"

Who she's got is Jughead eating a sandwich.  At least Jughead offers her one.

And Eugene continues to wish it were 2015 instead of 1987.  If it were, he wouldn't continue to have so much trouble developing the photos that could clear Red's name.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Schweckner is on her bicycle, and she is determined to find Red so she can skin him for her new fur coat...or to get answers as to where Muffin went.  Or both perhaps.  The dog catcher is trying to warn Mrs. Schweppner that she is approaching a swamp and that it is dangerous to proceed, but the acid-tongued Mrs. Schweppner blasts him, screaming that he has been on the kids side from the moment he joined the investigation - which, you have to admit, he kind of is.

But Mrs. Schweckner's monologue is quickly silenced as she screams and we see mud splashing out of the bushes.  I'm guessing dog catcher was right about the swamp after all.

The sudden noise grabs Hot Dog's attention, and Jughead, Betty, Archie, and Veronica follow Hot Dog down the hill where Jughead sees Mrs. Schweckner's straw hat next to the swamp and makes the remark that she melted.

Wow...this show really DID borrow a lot from the Wizard of Oz, didn't they?  Now I expect flying monkeys to come by and grab all the kids to lock them in a tower.

Instead, the dog catcher grabs a rope and pulls Mrs. Schweckner from Quicksand Swamp before Mrs. Schweckner drowns and the show really has to plan a funeral storyboard.

Back at Eugene's - after what seems like the 16th attempt to get somewhere, Eugene's final photo reveals the truth.  The garbage can vandal is none other than Mrs. Schweckner a raccoon!  The raccoon framed Red for the crime.  Red is completely innocent!  So, this leads to the next mystery.  If Red didn't do the deed, then where did he disappear to?  And what happened to Muffin?

Well, as the sun sets, the kids will soon have their answer.  Archie faintly hears a dog barking in the distance, and Archie runs towards a farm and...

...HOW THE HELL DID THEY GET TO THE FARM?  The show started in the middle of suburban Riverdale!  You mean to tell me that they walked all the way to the boonies in a single DAY?  Wow...that's either sheer will power or stupidity.  Maybe the dog catcher gave them a ride? 

Anyway, the source of the barking is coming from a pile of hay, and after Archie jumps inside to look around, he emerges from the hay with a Cheshire Cat like grin on his face, which causes Mrs. Schweckner to blow a gasket... least until Archie reveals the real reason why Muffin went away.

See, what the show didn't reveal until the end is that Muffin was pregnant and Maury Povich determined that Red was the father... wait.  Let's try that again.

Muffin was pregnant and due to deliver her kittens any day now.  The father of the children took off for Albuquerque months ago, and Red stepped in to be Muffin's Lamaze coach.  That's why Red was so concerned for Muffin, and that's why Muffin and Red left.  Muffin wanted a quiet place away from raccoons upsetting garbage cans, screaming little old ladies on bicycles, and pre-teens who attend junior high to give birth to her babies.

And the last frame of the show is probably one of the sweetest endings that I've ever seen.

Okay, so aside from the Wizard of Oz references, I really loved this episode.  For one, it allowed us to get to know Archie's dog better.  It's nice to see Red having as big a heart as his owner. 

It was also refreshing to see Veronica act less like a brat and more like a human being.  And Reggie was barely in this episode at all.  Perhaps Veronica should stay away from Reggie more often.

Finally, the whole plot itself was sweet and surprisingly realistic for a cartoon series.  Granted, the plot could have easily been used in an episode of "The Littlest Hobo", but I digress.  It's going to be tough to find an episode to beat this one as my favourite of The New Archies.

Coming up next week, Jughead believes that he is cursed.  This ought to be good.

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