Riverdale is all about the tests this week. Tests of loyalty, friendship, love, and strength. Some on purpose, some accidental. Some of the characters pass, some don’t. Betty and Jughead’s loyalties are tested on purpose. Their results are complex, because nothing in Riverdale is ever simple and straight forward.
Except for Alice’s response to slut shaming. Don’t even bother trying to make Alice feel guilty about anything. She’s way ahead of you and You Will Fail. Even the Black Hood can’t hurt Alice.
But we have other things to do before we get to the fun of Alice and her grand entrance.
Betty is on the phone with the Black Hood. He was at the town hall for the mayor’s meeting in the last episode. She asks what he wants, and he tells her that he wants the same things as her: to set Riverdale on a righteous path and cleanse it of sinners. He’ll only kill the people who deserve it, like Polly. He knows where she is, and all about the sin in her womb. If Betty talks to her mystery-loving boyfriend or the police, or tries to warn anyone, he’ll carve Polly like a jack o’ lantern. Betty begs the voice on the phone not to hurt Polly. He says, “Then don’t you deny me, Betty.”
Alice comes into Betty’s bedroom without knocking. Betty hangs up the phone. Alice assumes it was Jughead and starts complaining about him. Living on the South Side has turned Jughead into a bad influence.
Archie has written an apology letter and made an apology video, just like the principal wanted. Fred is happy to have his son back.
Betty and Archie walk to school together so that Betty can tell Archie about the phone calls from the Black Hood. Archie starts looking around for the Hood to be watching them, playing it cool like always. He promises not to let her go through it alone.
Hermione reads aloud from The Riverdale Register. The front page headline says: Northside Teen Stabbed by Southside Serpent. Let’s take a moment to remember that Dilton stabbed himself, and not accidentally. Alice is fear mongering. In an editorial, Alice writes that the Southsiders are a bigger threat than the Black Hood. She also takes a jab at Hiram, writing that the ex-con is out to make himself richer rather than fix the problems of the Southside.
The Lodges are having an open house for the Sodale project in a few days and entertaining some of their biggest potential investors from NYC. The St Claire’s, including Veronica’s old almost-boyfriend, Nick, will be in town. Veronica’s job will be to show him a good time to help convince the family to invest.
Jughead finds out about the newspaper story on the rumble. Sweet Pea gives Jughead the mostly true but kinda biased Serpents version of the story. Oh, and they’re building a pipe bomb to bring the fight back to the Northside. Did I mention that Sweet Pea is the Archie of the Southside? His philosophy is that you should always go for the big, splashy, impulsive action that’s the dumbest thing you could do, long term. Jughead must be wondering how he got stuck between two Archies.
Jughead says that blowing up a building won’t make anything better. Poor, stupid Sweet Pea says that they can’t get any worse. It’s hard to believe that he could say something so dumb, because right now most of them aren’t in jail, despite regularly breaking the law.
It would only take a few competent police officers and a crackdown on drugs and crime on the Southside to put most of them away for years. Dilton may have stabbed himself, but he did it because he knows that Sweet Pea has a knife that he waves around and likes to get in fights. That’s the type of thing that’ll get you thrown into juvie when someone presses charges.
Sweet Pea goes on to tell Jughead that they don’t have to listen to him anyway, since he’s not a real Serpent. Tony backs up Sweet Pea. The Northside dumps on the Southside. FP used to keep Sweet Pea and the others in line. Now that he’s gone, there’s no one to stop them from turning to violence.
Jughead decides that it’s up to him to keep the peace. He puts on his Serpents jacket and goes to the White Worm. Tall Boy says that he has to survive the initiation before he can be a Serpent.
Betty gets another call from the Hood. He knows that Alice is at work because he’s watching her. Hal is at work too, but the Hood isn’t interested in Hal. Alice is a thorn in both the Hood and Betty’s side, so he wants to do something about that. Betty should check her email.
Archie is with Betty. They pull up the file from the Hood. It’s an old newspaper clipping showing a mug shot of a teenaged Alice. The headline reads “Southside Teen Arrested and Released on Bail”. Betty is supposed to publish the article in The Blue and Gold.
Betty and Archie debate whether to publish the mugshot. Betty doesn’t want to hurt her mom, but Archie doesn’t want to upset the Hood. Then the Sheriff says that the handwriting experts found that Alice’s letter and Betty’s letter were written by two different people. Alice goes straight to suggesting that Betty wrote the letter herself, inspired by her criminal Serpent boyfriend. Betty suddenly loses all sympathy for her mother, and all reluctance to publish the mug shot.
Alice stops by Pop’s the next day, and he tells her that he won’t judge her for things that happened years ago. She questions him, and he shows her the front page of the Blue and Gold. Alice asks Betty where she got the mugshot from, since Alice ripped the photo from every public archive years ago. Guess there were a few private ones she didn’t know about. Betty suggests they might have been on the Southside. She tells her mother that she published the photo to get justice for Alice’s holier than thou attitude.
The St Claire’s are in town, so Veronica has been charming Nick, starting by meeting the family at their hotel. Now the families have had a home cooked meal together at the Lodges. Nick especially loves Hermione’s flan. He wants to move straight on to his favorite kind of dessert, illicit drugs. Veronica and Archie turn him down. Nick finds Veronica’s Pussycat ears and decides he has to find out more. He’s blatantly flirting with her in front of Archie the entire time they talk.
The Black Hood calls Betty again that night. He wants her to cut off her friendship with Veronica, because he wants to have Betty all to himself. The Hood has promised that Betty could ask him one question. She asks if she’d recognize his face. He says yes.
Jughead’s Serpent initiation begins. First, he’s woken up in the middle of the night by masked Serpents dropping off “The Beast”, cute and fluffy gang mascot Hotdog. Jughead is now in charge of Hotdog’s care.
Next, Toni helps him memorize the Serpents’ rules, things like “be kind to others” and “don’t be a dick”. For the actual test, Tall Boy stands about six inches from Jughead’s face and yells questions at him, like he’s a drill sergeant in boot camp. Jughead yells the answers back. He passes that one easily.
The third test ups the ante a bit, as Jughead has to retrieve the knife that’s surrounded by a live rattlesnake being kept in an aquarium in the bar. The snake is about as happy you would expect, so Jughead gets bit. But, surprise! The snake’s venom glands have been removed, so it’s just an annoying puncture wound. Jughead passes again.
Betty and Juggie meet at Pop’s. They share a longing kiss before they sit down. Juggie says that he wanted to make sue Betty was still alive, which startles her, until he says that he thought Alice might have killed her over the mugshot story. Betty asks what happened to his hand, noticing the snakebite. Jughead tells her that Hotdog bit him.
Then they go all Rebel Without a Cause, and start fantasizing about running away together, like Romeo and Juliet, except with a happy ending. The emotion in both actors’ faces and voices is heartbreaking. Knowing that they are lying to each other and slipping away from each other while dreaming of being a great love story makes it even worse. Just rip my heart right out, Riverdale.
Nick St Claire has a party in his hotel room and invites most of the Northside characters. Before long he pulls out the jingle jangle. Veronica turns him down at first, but then he reminds her that she’s supposed to be entertaining him. She caves, and everyone else but Betty follows. Once everyone is wasted, Betty finds a reason to attack Veronica for being shallow and just like her parents. Betty walks out, having done what the Hood asked her to and ended her friendship with Veronica.
Toni stops by the trailer to warn Jughead that the next step of the Serpents initiation is serious. He has to be very committed to joining and sure that it’s worth it. She gets all dramatic and says that he has to be willing to die for the Serpents, because they’ll die for him, while all of his Northside friends will abandon him.
Nick’s party dies after Betty’s outburst, and everyone leaves, except Veronica. Nick comes on to Ronnie and won’t take no for an answer. She has to physically fight him off and slap him before he stops pawing at her. Then he threatens to ruin her family’s business. Date rapist alert!
Betty sits on a street side bench, alone, in the middle of nowhere, waiting to be kidnapped, mugged, or murdered by anyone but the Black Hood. Her phone starts playing Lollipop for the umpteenth time this episode, and she cringes, just like the rest of us.
She answers and tells the Hood that she got rid of Ronnie. She asks him what will make him stop. He says he’ll stop for as long as she pays attention to him. Next he wants her to cut Jughead, the son of the Serpent, out of her life.
Archie confronts Betty at school the next day. She tells him the truth. Archie wants to tell everyone the truth. Betty doesn’t want to stop talking to the Black Hood, because he hasn’t hurt anyone physically since she’s been talking to him. Archie points out how much people are getting hurt emotionally. Betty’s being tortured, and now Jughead’s going to get tortured too. Betty says she’s hoping Archie will tell Jughead that she wants to break up with him.
Betty’s in tears for this whole conversation. She wants Archie to tell Jughead something that will keep him away for a while, but not forever. Archie thinks this is nuts, but, like many guys, he can’t say no to a crying girl.
The guests begin arriving at the Lodge’s Sodale open house. Fred is still subdued and hiding in a corner. Being shot has taken all of the fire out of him.
Hiram and Hal greet each other affectionately and enthusiastically. Where did that come from?? Have they been working together and against the Blossoms all along? Hiram asks about Alice. Hal says that she’s embarrassed about the mugshot, so he’s covering the open house alone.
Just then, Alice makes her entrance, in red, with her neckline cut as low as it can go, and her hemline as high as it can go. And a realistic gold snake necklace around her neck. She tells Hal to shove it as she struts by him. I’ve never loved her more. Nobody puts Alice Cooper in the corner.
Nick finds Veronica and apologizes for assaulting her. He claims to have been in and out of rehab for months. Veronica tries to forgive him. Nick promptly moves on to roofying Cheryl’s drink.
Archie goes over to the trailer to talk to Jughead about Betty. It’s likely that he was going to go easy on Jughead, maybe even sneak a version of the truth in. But then Archie sees Sweet Pea and the other Serpents. He realizes that Jughead is joining the Serpents, even after they’ve attacked the football team. Archie’s view of events might be slightly skewed.
Archie pulls an Anita in West Side Story, and makes the story worse out of anger. He tells Jughead to stay away from Betty. She doesn’t want to see him any more. She’s wanted to break up with him for weeks. She’s been agonizing over how to do it.
Jughead doesn’t want to believe Archie, but as Archie keeps talking, he begins to. Betty was acting strange the day before, and they have been distant from each other lately.
Archie leaves, and it’s time for Jughead’s final initiation test. He has to go through the gauntlet. He walks between two rows of Serpents as they beat him, finishing in front of Sweet Pea, who punches him in the face while wearing brass knuckles. Jughead makes it through, and ends up standing. He passes the test.
Nick charms Cheryl as she drinks her drugged champagne. Once she can hardly walk, he puts his arm around her and leads her to his room.
The Pussycats are singing “Out Tonight” from Rent and notice what Nick’s dong to Cheryl. They finish up the song, then follow. By the time they get up to the room, Cheryl’s nearly unconscious on the bed, and Nick is undressing, preparing to rape her. The girls grab him and beat him up, while Josie takes care of Cheryl.
Betty gets another call from the Black Hood. He tells Betty to go to an abandoned house on the edge of town if she wants to know who he is. She goes, alone, because she’s lost her mind.
When she gets there, the Hood calls again and points her toward a gift on the floor. It’s a ski mask, exactly like his. He tells her to put it on and look in the mirror. He says that they’re the same. She runs out of the house, leaving the mask behind.
Archie calls Betty as she’s walking home. Betty rushes to Cheryl’s side as she’s dealing with her attempted rape.
Jughead has a new Serpent tattoo on his upper arm. Toni helps him take care of his injuries. She says that he’ll have a hard time hiding the tattoo from Betty. Jughead tells her that it’s a nonissue now. Toni leans right on in for the kiss, and Jughead, the freakin’ traitor, is waiting for it. He could’ve at least talked to Betty to make sure Archie was telling the truth, but I guess he trusts Pureheart the Powerful implicitly now.
The Black Hood calls Betty again once she gets back home. He’ll kill everyone in her family unless she gives him the name of another sinner to kill. After some back and forth, she gives him the name Nick St. Claire. Then he tries to tell her that his completely voluntary choices to kill, torture, gravely wound, and stalk people are exactly the same as her being manipulated and blackmailed into giving him Nick St Claire’s name. Those things aren’t even remotely the same.
The show wants us to buy into the premise that Betty’s dark side has been revealed by her naming Nick St Claire. The only thing that was revealed was that she responds to psychological torture and abuse like a normal person. Now she’ll have the psychological scars that go with being an abuse survivor, including having her abuser tell her that she’s the guilty one.
When you’re in a terrible situation, and an impossible choice is forced on you, you make the choice that allows the most people to survive. People don’t get to make you feel guilty or call you dark afterwards for the things criminals forced on you.
Alice is acting like a wicked stepmother over the letters from the Hood. He was supposed to be obsessed with her, not Betty! She’s the beautiful and exciting one! Betty has to be making it up! Next she’ll start talking to her mirrors.
Toni calls Jughead “Juggie” after he gets bit by the snake. He startles a little and gives her a strange look. She realizes that she hasn’t usurped Betty’s position quite yet.
Betty needs to join the Serpents eventually, if Jughead’s going to stay an active member. She’s a legacy too, after all. Maybe Toni treats Betty with such disdain because of Alice’s defection, along with trying to steal Betty’s boyfriend and manipulate Juggie into the gang.
I have a hard time believing that Betty would give in to the Black Hood’s demands so completely, without also trying to investigate him at the same time, at the very least. All of the weepiness in this episode was also uncharacteristic for Betty.
And Jughead is generally very loyal. What’s with him throwing Betty over as soon as she’s out of arms’ reach for a few days, for the hot girl who’s throwing herself at him? Why was it so hard for Jughead and Betty to find a few minutes for each other?Neither seem to be working after school, so they should have time in the evenings. They could have homework dates, if nothing else. The show is acting like they live an hour apart in this small town. I’m not impressed with the Bughead or Archie storylines for this or the last episode.
The shot when Jughead stops at the entrance to the diner and says Betty’s name before sitting down is an homage to something, but I can’t figure out what.
Thank goodness the Pussycats are out of those tacky cat costumes. And they’re singing a song from Rent (Out Tonight) at an event to celebrate gentrifying the low income area of town- was Josie making a political statement? Somebody was. Maybe Val chose the song.
It’s interesting that there’s no discussion of the added tension in the Southside caused by the Sodale construction. It’s express purpose is to get rid of low income neighborhoods and replace them with rich, gentrified neighborhoods. Hundreds, possibly eventually thousands, of people will lose their homes, and there won’t be any place in Riverdale that they can afford to live. They’ll either become homeless or leave town. The town doesn’t seem to have a plan in place to replace any of the low income housing that’s being lost. They’re trying to push the poor out of town, and make them another town’s problem.
It doesn’t usually work that way. Penny Peabody will eventually sue the town. In addition to increased homelessness, the injustice and extreme stress will incite anger and violence. Property crime, especially theft, will increase as people try to pay the higher rents in the new places they’re forced to move. Drug use and gangs will spread to other parts of town.