This week on Riverdale, everyone tries to come to terms with the reality of the Black Hood, in their own ways. Some stir up trouble for their own purposes, some research serial killers, some go on the hunt, some try to hide, and for some, it’s business as usual. However you look at it, the town is not pulling together to face this crisis. Sides are being formed, lines are being drawn, fingers are being pointed, and clichés are being printed in the town and school papers. 😉 No one will reach the end of the season without having been accused of something, at least once.
During his voice over, Jughead name checks the Zodiac Killer from San Francisco, the Axeman from New Orleans, and the Phantom Killer from Texas. We see him at the library, checking out books on serial killers who fit the same profile as the Black Hood. The librarian brings up Archie’s serial killer faux porn video, starring the football team, shirtless and in red hoods, as another example of the terrible, frightening things happening in Riverdale.
The mayor has called a meeting in the town hall. Everyone in town is taking extra precautions, like putting extra locks on doors and walking in groups. They wonder when they’ll hear from the serial killer next (we see a package labelled “Betty” get put in a mail basket at school) and if Archie will go too far (we see Archie using his gun for target practice).
Hermione and Hiram don’t react well to Archie’s video. Hermione tries to force Veronica to stop dating Archie, but Veronica laughs in her face and walks out. Hiram is thrilled with the chaos that’s consuming the town. It’s likely good camouflage for his less than legal business pursuits and revenge schemes.
Alice cries at the kitchen table and blames Betty for not telling her that Polly was leaving town, which is especially hysterical when you remember all of season 1. Now she NEEDS her girls close to her so that she can keep them safe. Alice’s ability to believe whatever words spew out of her mouth is first class. She finishes the scene with some grade A scenery chewing.
Hal is silent for the whole scene, and the entire episode. The last time Hal stopped talking, he stole the sheriff’s murder board, and we found out that the Coopers are actually Blossoms and part of a generations long family feud. What on earth will he reveal this time? Is he the Black Hood? Or the faux Hood that calls Betty, at any rate?
Fred sits in the half dark and waits to ambush Archie about his video. Archie’s already taken the original down, but has now learned the valuable lesson that the internet is forever.
Fred is shown in silhouette and profile. There are many silhouettes in this episode, and half lit faces, which would generally imply that people are keeping secrets and misunderstanding each other. We are also back to the noir motifs of horizontal bars, frames surrounding characters, and tight, enclosed spaces.
Betty calls Jughead to ask him to meet her for lunch. He turns her down, since he feels like he has to spend some time settling into his new school. Then he notices Sweet Pea, whose name is obviously so ironic that it comes around full circle and stops being ironic again, playing mocking versions of Archie’s video.
Sweet Pea suggests that the latest Serpents initiate earn his stripes by going after Archie. Jughead tries to throw the Serpents off the scent by distracting them, but fails.
Veronica stops Archie in the school hall to give him h*ll for posting his video. Then he gets called to the principal’s office for posting the video and saying the threatening things he said. The principal tells Archie to write a formal apology letter, or he’s off the football team. Plus, the football team is disbanded until further notice.
Archie refuses to apologize. He knows there’s a serious threat out there, and he’d rather devote all of his time to tracking down his father’s shooter. Archie is convinced that he’s the one who needs to end the killer, probably to get over the way the killer humiliated him at Pop’s after Fred was shot.
LOL, like any small town would ever allow the principal to disband the football team during the season over something like that video. The sex abuse scandal was just barely believable. This isn’t.
Kevin finds Betty in the Blue and Gold office, sitting and staring, in a daze. He tells her again that turning him in to his dad wasn’t cool. His dad even told his mom about it. Kevin has a mom?? Kevin has updated his online subscription to RedStateMeet.com, so that all of his cruising will be cybercruising from now on (I chose that spelling of “meet” purposely. The other spelling is gross.)
Betty is unresponsive. Finally, she says that she got a letter from the Black Hood. He’s committing his crimes in her honor.
Betty, your words at the Jubilee inspired me. The town’s sinners must show their contrition. If not, there will be more suffering and bloodshed. Enclosed is a cipher. It details where I will punishing the next sinner. It is a test. Only you may solve it, Betty.
They argue over whether they should give the letter to the sheriff or not. Betty insists on turning over the cipher, but not the letter. Alice publishes it first, of course, so that the whole town can work on cracking the code. Alice is a big believer in crowd sourcing. Sheriff Keller will pass the cipher on to his cryptologist contact in Centerville. Keller is a big believer in turning evidence over to experts, then forgetting it ever existed.
Meanwhile, the football team, led by Reggie, confronts Archie about his stupidity in making the video and getting them all in trouble. Archie still doesn’t back down. In fact, he wants the team to go walk the streets of the South Side, trying to draw the Black Hood out. Mrs. Cooper, whose judgement is impeccable, at least in Archie’s mind, is sure the Hood is a South Sider.
Reggie and the team refuse, and walk out. Dilton Doiley is left behind. Why is Dilton in the locker room with the football team? Well, he seems to be a member of the Red Circle, but, more importantly, he’s the true serpent in this biblical tale of temptation and revenge taken too far. He’s always lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to want what he’s selling. Dilton is the local illegal arms dealer, the Gunman instead of the Candyman. If he can’t get it for you, he knows how to get it. And he loves to help.
I’m both in love with what they’re doing with the character, and frightened of what will eventually be found in his basement. The actor, Major Curda, is turning in a fantastic performance, with all of Dilton’s silences, pauses, and intense, knowing stares.
Dilton: And then there was one. Which is what you wanted, right? You and the Black Hood, mano a mano, to the death?
Archie: What the hell are you talking about, Doiley?
Dilton: I know you have a certain item in your possession. The Red Circle was just your way to draw the Black Hood out, and now you want to go into his territory. (Archie: Maybe, yeah.) You’re going to need a few things. There’s a place on the edge of town that can help. Go after dark.
Veronica slips into Hiram’s study, looking around like she’s never seen it before. She probably hasn’t. She insinuates that Hiram influenced Archie into becoming more aggressive with the Red Circle, which Hiram denies. She leaves him to make his business calls, with thoughts of how important trust is. Well-played, Veronica.
Toni finds Jughead researching serial killers in the Red and Black office. We really should see the moon in the window and have Somewhere, Out There as the soundtrack, with the montage jumping between Betty and Juggie in their respective school newspaper offices. Instead, this is the obligatory “trouble in paradise” portion of our season, so in an out-of-character move, Jughead ignores Betty’s call to talk serial killers with Toni, and agrees to work with her to crack the cipher instead of his longtime investigative partner, Betty.
Y’all know this is practically cheating, right? Juggie and Betty are mystery-sexuals. Investigations are a sacred activity between them. Plus, you never send your boyfriend or girlfriend directly to voicemail so that you can hang out with another potential romantic partner. You just don’t. Especially when you know serial killers are sending messages directly to their families.
This is the beginning of the character assassination of Jughead for the sake of enlivening the plot. He eventually gets around to apologizing to Betty via text, and saying they’ll talk the next day. Is he avoiding her because of guilt, or because he’s turned into an *sshole? Because her mother just published the cipher that he and Toni are so excited about decrypting. He should want to get the scoop about it from her.
Dilton sent Archie to an army-navy surplus store that’s reminding customers to stock up on survival gear for their upcoming camping trips. Because camping in Riverdale is like camping in the apocalypse. No frou frou campgrounds with indoor plumbing for them.
Archie has to show ID before he can make his purchase. He whips out an ID, with his photo on it, for Wilbur Wilkins, DOB 6/16/95, address- 23 MCKinley Rd, Riverdale. He will, of course, be paying cash for his ammo, holster, and kevlar vest.
Betty stops by Juggie’s trailer at 7:15 the next morning, hoping to catch him before school. She had the librarian set aside all of the library’s books that might help them crack the cipher’s code and wants them to work on it together. She says it a bit stiffly, probably because she knows that she shouldn’t have to say it at all. She shouldn’t have to resort to stalking techniques to talk to her boyfriend.
Jughead breaks the news that he’s already working on the cipher with Toni. Betty’s hurt, and quickly gets an accurate read on the situation. She suggests that she and Jughead work on it with Toni and Kevin at the trailer, like a codebreaking party.
Veronica has decided to be the most supportive girlfriend ever. She thinks the Red Circle needs to expand, not disband, so she’s had t-shirts made for what appears to be the entire student body. She’s also fully assimilated into small town life, since she thinks that handing out t-shirts turns the Red Circle into a movement, with style and panache.
At the trailer party, Betty thinks that the symbols in the cipher look familiar, but she can’t remember where she knows them from. Toni suggests that she might remember if she loosened her pony tail. Wow, claws out straight away.
Then, in true manipulative fashion, Toni claims it was just a joke. She stops short of saying “no offense”. It’s up to Kevin to defend Betty, saying her pony tail is iconic and beyond reproach. Betty shows herself to be the bigger person by saying she’ll try anything, and taking out her pony tail.
The character assassination of Jughead continues, as he says nothing. He looks up in surprise when Toni insults Betty, and laughs when Kevin defends her. The fact that he himself doesn’t defend Betty suggests that he feels he shouldn’t get in between the two girls and needs to treat his relationships with them as equal.
He should be establishing that Betty is his girlfriend and he won’t tolerate disrespectful behavior from Toni, or any other Serpent. Instead, he gives Toni leeway to go after him romantically and to bully Betty as an outsider while she and Jughead are the insiders. No healthy relationship is going to survive that for long.
All he had to do was say that he loves Betty’s pony tail, and maybe reach out to run his hand through it. Instead, he changes the subject.
They talk about their attempts to match aspects of the message the different types of code, then move on to profiling the Black Hood. Betty says again that the key to the cipher is literally at the top of her brain. Toni says that the Hood is a white man in his 40s, like every serial killer, ever. (Not actually true.)
Jughead steers the conversation toward more specific information, especially the Hood’s motivations. Betty says that they know that the Hood is obsessed with cleansing the town of sinners and hypocrites, and the victims all have ties to the North Side.
Toni gets defensive. She calls what Betty said fake news and accuses her of saying that the killer was from the South Side, which she didn’t, and demonizing the South Side, which she didn’t. Toni calls the North Siders privileged Nazis, and claims that the South Side drugs are mostly sold to North Side crack heads. We’ve seen North Siders doing drugs, but we’ve also seen that the drugs, like the poverty, violence and gangs, are clearly worse in the South Side. Denying that those issues exist is as bad as demonizing the people who live in those areas. Neither helps clean up the area.
We’ve also been shown that the prejudice runs deep on both sides, just like Toni’s showing us now. She’s reacting to what she expects to hear instead of what Betty is saying. Then she makes a massive leap and accuses Betty of hating the Serpents, plus thinking that the Black Hood is a Serpent. When Betty denies hating the Serpents, Toni reveals what she’s been working toward all night: Jughead’s been lying to Betty about sitting with the Serpents at lunch.
Her work done, Toni decides it’s time to leave, since she’s been attacked by that evil witch, Betty. Kevin also decides it’s time to leave. Jughead lamely decided to try to shut the conversation down when he realized that Toni was about to rat out his secret, but he didn’t try to stop her from attacking Betty.
I really wanted to like Toni, but that was too much prejudice, denial of reality, and straight out manipulation of the situation for my taste. She’s trying to break Betty and Jughead up, and Jughead isn’t fighting her efforts very hard. That whole scene, plus the way Jughead’s been ignoring Betty in favor of Toni, have been humiliating for Betty.
Jughead tries to explain that he only sits with the Serpents for survival reasons, but Betty’s over his sh*t for now. She prioritizes the potential victims of the Black Hood, and focusses on the cipher.
Archie wanders the South Side, tagging structures with huge red circles, cause he’s subtle and creative like that. Sweet Pea, the Archie of the South Side, sees Archie and tries to start a fight. Sweet Pea pulls out his knife, so Archie pulls out his gun. Sweet Pea and his friends run away. Archie figures out that he’d better run, too. We’re veering back into West Side Story territory, again.
Betty and Jughead fall asleep together on the couch and sleep all night. That will restore some of their intimacy, but leave their all important virginity intact. I expect that Betty having sex (not necessarily with Juggie) will be a trigger for the Black Hood to go on a rampage late in the season. The show wants to dangle the possibility of Jughead’s asexuality, but not confirm or deny it, for as long as possible, so he’ll continue to be interrupted or fall asleep.
Archie gets called out of class by the sheriff and principal. Someone reported seeing a redhead that matched Archie’s description waving a gun around on the South Side. They search Archie’s locker and don’t find a gun, but do find Reggie’s ski mask with eye holes. In true authoritarian regime style, Archie is suspended from school as if they’d found a gun, anyway. HE’S OUT OF CONTROL!!!
Fred tells Archie that he’s more afraid of Archie than he is of the man who shot him, because there’s nothing that Fred hates more than having to do some actual parenting. Fred refuses to talk to Archie until Archie is ready to “be honest” with him, even though Archie has just asked to talk about what happened. Because ignoring your child will definitely teach them the best way to respond in a crisis and to handle the ongoing, difficult emotions related to that crisis. Good job, Fred!! 👿
Jughead has been picking up some useful lessons on the South Side, like how you can distract your girlfriend from the ways you’ve been a jerk to her, by getting all patriarchal over her every move. He discovered the letter from the Black Hood in with the books and papers she left at the trailer, and he CAN’T BELIEVE that she wouldn’t tell him about it.
Y’know, like when he spent that entire day not answering her calls. Or the next morning when she had to stalk him to talk to him. Or that evening while he was letting his potential new girlfriend attack and mock her. I felt close enough to him to reveal my darkest secrets, didn’t you?
But, he’s the man. He has a right to know EVERYTHING about her movements and life. Women have no right to privacy, b*tch. Jughead, on the other hand, had very good reasons for all of his decisions, and Betty should not dare question that, or the entire internet will explode with labelling her the worst girlfriend EVAH!!11!!
So we don’t go there.
Instead, she bursts into tears, and claims that she didn’t tell him because she knows that she’ll be blamed for inspiring the Black Hood. (Probably accurate. Adam was unable to resist Eve’s evil influence, and to this day men are able to use that defense in court. Betty likely used some sort of coded message in her Jubilee speech that we didn’t know about. She’s probably a demon in disguise.) Jughead insists she narrow the potential blamers down to just Archie, despite Jughead’s experiences in season 1, when the entire town erroneously blamed him for Jason Blossom’s murder because he played with matches once when he was 9.
Juggie says that Betty is Betty Cooper, like Nancy Drew meets Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Hearing him mention Nancy Drew stimulates Betty’s memory enough so that she remembers what’s been tickling the edges of her mind all episode.
They forget about their own issues and rush to the library. When Betty was a kid she used to check out The Nancy Drew Secret-Code Activity Book all the time. Sure enough, the Black Hood’s cipher comes from there.
Betty decodes the message. It reads, “I will strike next where it all began.” They realize that it all began at the town hall, with Betty’s speech at the Jubilee.
Hermione has a completely unironic talk with Veronica about avoiding following your dubious man with blind loyalty. Veronica takes it as food for thought. Later, Archie asks Veronica to retrieve his gun from a toilet tank in one of the boys rooms at school. There are just so many things wrong with that sentence. Veronica’s blind loyalty is definitely tested.
She retrieves it, but tells Archie that she threw the gun into the river. Reggie and the team show up at Archie’s house to restart the Red Circle. The cipher has gotten them thinking again, and Archie showed his loyalty by not turning in Reggie for the hood in his locker.
It’s just in time, because Sweet Pea and the teenage Serpents, who really need a theme song, have figured out where Archie lives. The usual posturing and threats ensue, until a rumble and rules are agreed on.
The mayor and sheriff are holding a meeting at town hall to discuss concerns about the Black Hood. Alice turns it into an argument about North vs South Siders. Fred tries to calm things down, but he’s unsuccessful. Hiram and Hermione talk between themselves about whether or not Fred will ruin their plans.
Alice wants to shut down South Side High and use the money to hire more cops. No word on where she’d send all of the students. Maybe she wants to combine high schools. That would be fun.
Betty and Jughead rush into the town hall. They try to stop the meeting, but the adults don’t take them seriously. Betty pulls the fire alarm. The building empties out.
The North and South Side teenage boys fight out on the edge of town, no weapons allowed. Dilton pulls out a knife and stabs himself in the leg. Veronica pulls out Archie’s gun and fires it into the air to end the fight.
The Serpents run away, Reggie takes Dilton to the hospital, and the North Siders believe that a Serpent stabbed Dilton. Veronica patches up Archie, then they dump the gun in the river for real.
Betty shares the letter from the Black Hood with the sheriff and her parents. Once she’s alone in her room, Betty gets a phone call from the Black Hood.
Sweet Pea and the Teenage Serpents not only need a theme song, they need a van and a lair. They already have the dog, though we don’t see him much. Jughead can be the Velma type, Toni is the Daphne type, Sweet Pea is the Shaggy type, even though he thinks he’s Fred, and Betty is Fred.
Veronica accuses Archie of lining up the football players like they are straight out of Lord of the Flies.
Toni throws out the title Beware the Zodiac, and the names of several more serial killers, including Aileen Wuornos, one of the few female serial killers.
Let’s hope that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was just another passing serial killer reference, and not a template for the show.
“And then there was one” is a reference to Agatha Christie’s mystery novel And Then There Were None, one of the best-selling novels of all time. The novel begins with a famous nursery rhyme, 10 Little Indians/Soldiers, in which each Indian/soldier dies a different way, until none are left. The deaths in the book are related to each death in the rhyme, so that the nursery rhyme ends up being full of clues to solve and predict the murders.
The Black Hood’s crimes can also be matched up with the rhyme. Fred went out to dine, and choked on his own blood. Grundy overslept because she’d died and no one found her until she’d missed obligations. Moose and Midge were travelling in a car, and were on a drug “trip”.
That means that the next crime should involve cutting, knifing, or dismemberment. That makes it doubly interesting that Dilton knifed himself during the rumble. Was he trying to turn the rumble into a giant knife fight? Is he assisting the Black Hood, or has he figured out the pattern?
Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.