Riverdale Season 2 Episode 3: Chapter Sixteen- The Watcher in the Woods Recap

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In this week’s exciting Riverdale news, Moose and Midge are not dead! Despite appearances at the end of episode 2, Midge wasn’t even shot, and Moose seems barely injured. This shooter has to have the worst aim ever, or he’s mostly just trying to scare people. Except for Grundy. He freakin’ hated her.

The other interesting news is that Riverdale is big enough to have a park for Kevin to go cruising for gay midnight anonymous sex in, but not big enough for him to have any other viable options. Grind’em, Riverdale’s Grindr knock off, is too uncertain for Kevin’s tastes. He wants the what-you-see-is-what-you-get visceral certainty that a hook up in the park gives him. I think he’s still working out some issues from Joaquin’s deception.

Jughead reminds us in his opening voiceover that the Big Bad Wolf is real and lurking closer than you could ever imagine. There’s talk of fairy tales, children wandering into the woods, and monsters worse than devils and wolves.

The visuals start with Kevin out jogging in the forest. He runs straight into the lips of a cute guy, who, I can’t help but notice, is the same physical type as his missing boyfriend, Joaquin. They lean against a tree, lips still locked and holding onto each other, to recover.

Before they have a chance to exchange much saliva, or anything else, they hear three gunshots nearby. Faux Joaquin runs away, but Kevin, the Sheriff’s son, goes to investigate. Midge falls out of Moose’s car, screaming for help, and runs into Kevin’s arms.

Veronica is having terrible problems as well. She needs to talk to Daddy about having a little soirée tonight, and Mummy won’t let her near Daddy’s study. It used to be a rule that Ronnie couldn’t go near Daddy’s study, but that was when she was a child. Surely that doesn’t apply now that she’s older, and has such an important matter to discuss. This is time sensitive information!!

Daddy comes out to chat. He agrees to let Ronnie invite her closest friends over to watch the season premiere of The Matchelorlette with her. The study is still off limits to Hermione and Ronnie, though. Guess we know where the crime magic happens.

The high school students pass around information about Midge and Moose’s shooting. Reggie tells the football team that Moose was shot multiple times at Lover’s Lane. Midge wasn’t shot because Moose shielded her with his body. Ethel (!!!!) asks an officer if they’re targeting students? Kevin tells the Scooby Gang that Midge was covered in blood and screaming like a banshee. Jughead notes that the shooter has terrible aim if he was trying to kill Moose and Midge.

Ronnie steers the conversation to more important topics: Her and her favorite TV show. No, actually she means having her friends over to meet her dad, which is only a marginally less offensive reason for diminishing Archie’s dad getting shot, and Moose getting shot about 50 feet from Kevin.

Jughead really isn’t interested in The Matchelorette, but he goes where Betty goes. V pulls out the criminal dad card and convinces them all that they have to go, so that she can get to know the hopefully reformed version of her dad better.

Jughead leaves for prison school South Side High, and Archie leaves to visit Moose with the football team.

Betty asks Kevin about his “night jogging”. Cheryl lurks behind them as they walk and talk. He confesses that he’s cruising for guys. Because she’s worried about his safety, Betty tries to get him use Grind’em instead, but Kevin doesn’t want his “dates” to be able to lie about who they are. He promises Betty that he’ll stop cruising in the woods.

Archie questions Moose about the shooter. Midge comes in and says that his eyes “were blank, like there wasn’t even a person behind them.”

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Toni Topaz, gorgeous young photographer and South Side Serpent, meets Jughead at the high school metal detectors to give him what passes for a tour of South Side High. The school is barely a school. It’s more like a place for the gangs to let their kids hang out and practice gang activities during the day. So, a gang and organized crime training camp. Toni points out kids doing the Jingle Jangle, supplied by the Serpents rival gang, the Ghoulies, and cautions Jughead to stay away from the drug.

When they get to the “cafetorium” Toni points out the Ghoulies side, then starts to take Juggie to the Serpent side. He tells he that he wants to be a lone wolf, brooding and writing his book. She warns him that the Ghoulies will go after him simply because he’s FP Jones’ son. He’ll need friends who have his back in this joint. Jughead insists on sitting alone.

Archie tries to convince Fred that they need a gun. Fred doesn’t know that Archie already has a gun. Fred tells him it’s not the Wild West. No guns in the house.

Later, at Veronica’s house, Archie gets worked up about his dad’s lack of urgency about the shooter. Jughead is enthusiastic about Archie’s passion. Ronnie talks about the private security her family had at a vacation house.

Hiram and Hermione come out to meet the kids as they’re leaving for dinner. Hiram and Jughead start talking, but Veronica cuts them off to introduce Archie. Hiram is subtly hostile with Archie. He tells Archie that the police aren’t always the solution to solving crimes. He invites Archie over for dinner, and tells him he looks forward to learning Archie’s plan to save Riverdale. But no pressure on the 15 year old kid.

Archie sets his plan into action. He gets the football team and other volunteers together to form a watch patrol called The Red Circle. Reggie is full of testosterone and mega enthusiastic. Dilton is in the background, quietly hoping to have a reason to shoot someone.

Jughead’s English class is supposed to read Fahrenheit 451, but none of the other students, except possibly Toni, give a sh*it. Jughead becomes class valedictorian simply by answering one question correctly. He convinces the English teacher, Mr Phillips, to let him revive the school newspaper, The Red and the Black. The teacher just has one condition: Juggie can’t do drugs or take part in gang activities. He can write about them, but the paper will be shut down if he catches Jug trafficking in either.

Betty finds out that Kevin went back to the woods again after all and gets all disapproving and judgey. Kevin tells her that he doesn’t need her approval and walks out. She really just wants him to be safe, but she’s having a hard time making that clear. Even without the shooter, soliciting sex from strangers in a dark park isn’t the safest activity, both health and crime-wise.

Cheryl, who’s continued to eavesdrop on this story, explains to Betty that Kevin used to be an unattractive Pugsley, and now he’s a smoke show, but somewhere inside, he doesn’t believe it. He needs to keep looking for validation and connection in whatever way is available, even if Betty disapproves. Cheryl has decided that she’s now the sex and relationship expert in Riverdale, especially if she can drive a wedge between Betty and Kevin. Cheryl and Kevin keep trying to paint Betty as homophobic, and she’s not.

Ronnie informs Archie that he will be going to dinner at her house in a few days, and he will be impressing her father. No excuses accepted from anyone. She’s testing her dad. Unannounced tests are never a good idea, Ronnie.

Alice receives an anonymous package at the front door. It’s a letter from the shooter, who wants to be called the Black Hood, along with Fred’s wallet and Grundy’s Lolita glasses. He wants the Coopers to publish his letter in the newspaper.

The Coopers turn the letter and stolen items over to the Sheriff. He and the mayor try to stop them from publishing the letter, but it’s too late. They’ve already sent it to the printer for publication in tomorrow’s paper.

The Red Circle members blanket the school and town with flyers telling people to call them if they see anything. The sheriff tries to shut the organization down, but the school principal intervenes and tells him it’s a school sanctioned club. The sheriff unhappily backs down.

Jughead and Toni clean out The Red and the Black’s room. They’re interrupted by some of the Serpents, who are mad that Jughead is snubbing them. They let him know that he won’t be able to use them for favors any more.

Kevin and Moose have a serious talk. Kevin confesses what he’s doing in the woods to Moose. Moose understands why Kevin needs the relief of going there. It’s still not clear to me if Moose is gay and dating Midge as a cover, or bisexual, and just not in love with Midge. He says “Guys like us…guys like you…” to Kevin during their talk, when they’re both being open and honest, which suggests to me that he’s bi. He can relate to Kevin’s struggles, but also has options that Kevin doesn’t. Either that or he’s completely back in the closet, which would be sad and weird, given the way he and Kevin were talking.

Hermione warns Veronica about her father multiple times, but won’t come right out and say that Hiram’s dangerous or what he might do to Archie. Veronica doesn’t like to have her machinations questioned, or her role as spoiled child, so she gets angry at Hermione. Later, Hiram tells Hermione that he can hear everything that’s said in other rooms of the apartment, and warns her against poisoning his relationship with Veronica. He says it in his sinister but not exactly overtly threatening voice, that you know is actually threatening.

Ethel is walking home alone in the dark with a much cuter outfit and hair style than any she had last season. Someone in a van notices her, and drives by her menacingly. They circle by her repeated times. Archie and Reggie are out on Red Circle patrol, and receive Barb’s Ethel’s frantic call for help. They turn the car around and break speed limits to get to her. She’s hiding in the woods and is safe, just shaken up.

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Betty visits Jughead in the evening at The Red and the Black. He tells her that he’s figured out that the Ghoulies are part of Cliff Blossom’s supply pipeline for hard drugs. He intends to investigate and report on it while he attends South Side High. Betty questions the wisdom of that. Jughead says he thought she liked him reckless. They kiss. Toni walks in the door and interrupts them.

Toni is surprised that Jughead’s girlfriend is so buttoned up. Toni has a lot to learn about people.

Juggie works on the room for a while after the girls leave, then leaves, too, alone. He finds the outside exit chained shut. He’s nervous and goes to find another exit. The Ghoulies jump and beat him.

Kevin goes out for another midnight jog. Cheryl sees him leave, and calls Betty. The two girls find Kevin and confront him. He goes off on Betty, explaining that Betty can explore dating and her sexuality all she wants. All he has is the woods, and she shouldn’t try to take that away from him. It’s an impassioned, heart-tugging speech, which diminishes Betty’s struggle with her mental illness, since they bring up Dark Betty and BDSM, and is also, to some degree, a lie. They told us in the beginning of the episode that he had online options that would be safer. He doesn’t want to use them because they push his Joaquin-injured buttons.

He also accuses Betty of thinking what he’s doing is disgusting, which is not what she said. She said that she wants him to be safe, and specifically recommended an online app that would also be conducive to casual hook ups. It would just allow him to meet men in a safer way. It’s Kevin who thinks what he’s doing is disgusting.

Kevin: You act like we have the same options, but we don’t. You live in this world of pale pink milkshakes and first kisses, and am I going to date Archie or Jughead?

Cheryl: Except for when she’s Dark Betty.

Kevin: Right, right, except for when you’re exploring your BDSM sexuality, which again, you’re allowed to do, but I’m not. Because why? This is what I’ve got Betty. Me. These woods. So please don’t come here and tell me it’s disgusting. If you can’t accept what I do, whatever I do, we’re not really friends.

Kevin is still getting over Joaquin, who was his first love, and hurt him a lot. Betty still has her Serpent boyfriend, and to Kevin’s eyes, their relationship likely looks perfect. He doesn’t acknowledge all of the poisoned pale pink milkshakes of Jason and Polly’s ill-fated romance, or all of the issues Betty has with her parents, Jughead has with his, Jughead’s homelessness, or the separation and class issues Jughead and Betty face now, all of which affect their relationship. They did have a nice first kiss, but so did Joaquin and Kevin. He’s lashing out in his heartbreak, and Cheryl’s egging him on for her own reasons.

How the show will resolve the argument is anyone’s guess. They may continue with the line that it’s always harder to be gay, no matter what the circumstances of someone else’s life. There’s a good chance it is harder for Kevin. We don’t really have enough details of his life to judge the level of homophobia he faces in Riverdale. He does have a very caring father, probably the best parent in town. His home life almost has to be easier than any other kid’s in town, given how accepting the sheriff is, unless the Kellers have a crazy mother stashed in the attic or a murderous mother in prison.

It doesn’t really matter what their home lives and love lives are, though. Betty didn’t deserve that rant. She was only worried about his safety, and she was egged on by Cheryl. She probably wouldn’t have confronted him in the woods otherwise.

She was being a caring friend, and offered another option for him to meet his sexual needs. She wasn’t being insensitive or homophobic. She would have felt the same way if it was a straight friend, and offered the same online option. She’d rather have him alive and mad at her, than dead or seriously injured. Cruising in the woods is just the sort of activity that the Black Hood described in his letter.

Jughead lies to Betty about his injuries from the Ghoulies attack. He tells her that he was in a motorcycle accident, and asks Toni not to tell Betty the truth. Toni says that she warned him about the Ghoulies. She’s glad that at least he’ll take them more seriously now.

Archie has a pleasant dinner at the Lodges. Hiram gives him Lodge family label rum in the boys only study, and encourages him to become more aggressive in his fight against the Black Hood. He also warns Archie to stay out of Veronica’s bedroom, and never, ever hurt her.

Polly is scared that the Black Hood will come for her next and decides to get out of town. She checks with the farm that she and Jason planned to run away to. They still have an opening. Polly leaves without saying goodbye to Alice and Hal. Only Betty knows where she’s gone.

Kevin is still in the woods after Betty and Cheryl leave. He approaches a man in a car, who invites him to get in. Kevin considers the offer, but then imagines himself being murdered and runs away.

When Kevin gets home, his father is waiting up for him. Kevin lies to the sheriff about where he’s been, and the sheriff calls him on it. Betty stopped by earlier and told him the truth. He needs to know that Kevin is safe, with everything that’s going on. There are certain things that they don’t talk about, but maybe it’s time that they start. He gives Kevin a reassuring hug.

Veronica announces to her father that she wants to get started in the family business. It’s time that she got her hands dirty. Hiram agrees to let her be in the room where it happens. I hope that she still doesn’t get to go in the d*mn study.

Jughead joins Sweet Pea and Toni at the Serpents table for lunch.

Kevin turns his back on Betty at school.

Archie records a bizarre video full of shirtless, red-masked football players, aimed at the Black Hood. He and the Red Circle vow to hunt the Black Hood down and end him. Hiram watches the video online and smiles with satisfaction.


 

They showed two of the three missing characters that I was asking for last week, Polly and Ethel. Now we need a Joaquin sighting. Kevin’s getting desperate. Joaquin needs to come home to his man soon.

Toni’s description of South Side High: The classrooms don’t have wifi, the bathroom stalls don’t have doors, crawling with the JJ, the cafetorium has clearly demarcated sections for the Ghoulies and the Serpents.

The first two times I watched the episode, I was sure that Hiram erupted into evil laughter after he saw Archie’s video. In that scene, they have him set up as the stereotypical Bond villain, in the spinning leather chair, under the portrait, in the dimly lit room. All he needs is the fluffy cat and the laughter.

I don’t think Dark Betty is a “BDSM side”. I think she has a mental illness and they’ve made that clear in the past, but, whatever. BDSM Betty isn’t something I’m interested in, and I don’t like equating Betty’s potential mental illness with a sadomasochistic alter ego. Not when people, including apparently Cheryl, think BDSM is such a cool choice that they mistake mental illness for it.

Ghoulies=rival gang, street racers, drug dealers, rumors of cannibalism. They are obviously they baby-eating Satanic cult I’ve been expecting to show up. Or they turn the babies into delicious meat pies and sell them in their pie shop.

Toni says the Jingle Jangle is highly addictive and a total gutter drug.

The references came fast and furious in this episode. 😉

This week’s many references are filled with dystopias, vigilantes, the dark side of the Bible (devil, demons, sin), fairy tales that aren’t happy, love stories that end badly and young people who make fatal mistakes because they are too innocent of the world.

Riverdale is a dangerous place, even more dangerous than last season. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing about, wolves in wolves clothing, and wolves who are practically invisible. Don’t Trust Anyone New in Your Life, Riverdale Kids.

At least we got the pregnant girl out of town. Please let her have actually made it to the farm safely. Murdering unborn twins who already have a dead father is just too dark. They’d better not start referencing horror stories where people are killed on the road next week.

Jughead’s voice overs sound like references to Stranger Things, which is about to release season 2 in a few hours, as I write this on 10/26/17. It’s probably no coincidence that Barb’s Ethel’s life is put in jeopardy again in this episode, given the close relationship between Netflix and The CW. He refers to monsters worse than devils, children coming back from the woods having been changed for the worse, and fairy tales with unhappy endings. That definitely sounds like he’s describing the new and improved demogorgon shown in trailers and posters, and the terrible things that have happened to El and Will.

Kevin refers to Midge as a banshee, a reference to a legendary Irish female spirit whose wailing warns that a family member will soon die.

 

Referenced Works:

Into the Woods- Jughead slips it into his voice over. The Sondheim musical that gives all fairy tales mundane, unhappy real life endings. The woods are scary because your husband might leave you for another woman in there. Sondheim isn’t great with metaphor. When he uses it, it turns into cannibalism. Hmm, is the Ghoulies/cannibalism comment an obscure Sweeney Todd reference? Sweeney Todd would very much fit the themes of this season and episode.

The Bachelorette/Matchelorette- Veronica’s favorite show.

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Carrie- The way Kevin describes the bloody scene of the shooting.

Michael Myers/Halloween movies- Midge says the shooter’s green eyes were blank and looked like the devil’s, just like Michael Myers’ eyes.

Westworld- Toni uses Westworld’s dystopian imagery of malfunctioning, murderous androids to explain why she’s not giving Jughead the full school tour.

The Red and the Black- The South Side High newspaper that Jughead resurrects, but also an 1830 French novel about a lower class young man who tries to climb the social ranks through hard work, talent, deception, and hypocrisy, while letting his love life get in the way of his goals. His ill-fated romantic dalliances and rivalries and his naivité about how the upper classes work end up making him an unwitting pawn who never achieves his desires. It’s a scary reference because it bears some similarities to both Jughead and Archie. In this episode, both are manipulated into positions they didn’t intend to be in by elements from a criminal world they don’t understand. Jughead is also set up for a romantic rivalry, while Archie has an authority figure disapprove of his romance.

Travis Bickle/Taxi Driver- The ultra-violent, suicidal, gun-slinging vigilante from the 1976 Martin Scorsese movie.

Red Circle Comics– Publisher of comics in the Archie comics line that published stories outside the main Archie characters, generally supernatural and superhero stories, including the Black Hood comics.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- Story of a dystopian future where all books and free thought are banned. Books are burned by firemen. Jughead’s English teacher introduces the book in class. It’s clear Jughead has already read it.

The Addams Family- Cheryl refers to Kevin as a former Pugsley while she’s dressed like a modern Morticia

He’s Just Not That Into You- Movie and self-help book, inspired by a line from a Sex and the City episode.

The Room Where It Happens/Hamilton- One of Aaron Burr’s songs. He doesn’t like what he sees in that room. The envy and dislike that he feels for Alexander Hamilton’s easy success and loose morals, while Burr works hard and follows the rules, eventually lead to a deadly duel. Once again, applies to multiple people this episode and season.

We are Legion- Refers to a verse from the Bible: Jesus met a man who was possessed by demons. When Jesus asked the man his name, the man replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Jesus healed the man by sending the demons into a large herd of pigs, who then drowned themselves. The townspeople weren’t thrilled about the loss of thousands of pigs from their food supply in trade for the sanity of one man, and asked Jesus to get out of town, proving that the issue of enhanced people getting in trouble for causing collateral damage is a very old one.

The Black Hood’s letter was also obviously using biblical language, as did Jughead’s opening voice over, with its mention of the Devil.

 

Jughead’s Opening Voice Over-

Every fairytale comes with the same warning: Good children should never go into the woods alone. Stray from the path and who knows what you’ll encounter. A hungry wolf, a handsome devil or maybe something worse.

Jughead’s Closing Voice Over:

Those kids in the fairy tales, who go into the woods? They don’t ever come back the same. They’re always changed in some fundamental way. Sometimes for the better, more often for the worse. That’s the common misconception about fairy tales. They very rarely have a happy ending.

The Black Hood’s Manifesto:

This is the Black Hood. I am the man who shot the adulterer at Pop’s. I killed the child predator in Greendale. I shot the drug and sex addicted teenagers at Lover’s Lane. Riverdale is not innocent. It’s a town of hypocrites, degenerates, and criminals. My rath is the price of your lies. Your secrets, your sins. I will not stop. I cannot be stopped. I am the wolf. You are the flock. This is the bloodletting. You will hear from me again.

[Mild Spoiler] In next week’s promo, Betty reveals that she’s gotten a letter from the Black Hood, telling her that he’s doing it all for her. I have a theory that Betty and Jughead keep getting interrupted when they’re kissing so that Betty has been kept pure and virginal. If the Black Hood were to find out that she’s no longer a virgin, she’d rise to the top of his hit list.

 

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