After two lackluster episodes, Riverdale brings us a glorious entry with Chapter Nineteen: Death Proof. In this episode, Riverdale: The Show remembers what it’s about, and lets the girls get on with saving the town, with help from Jughead and Archie. Even FP gets a chance to pitch in, proving once again that he’s the most practical parent in Riverdale.
The episode begins the morning after Jughead’s initiation into the Serpents. He sits on his couch and types while we hear his voice over about how everyone wears a mask in Riverdale, but occasionally the mask slips. When that happens, people scramble to replace it. Toni appears to ask Jughead if he wants breakfast, having spent the night in the trailer.
Betty runs to the Fives Seasons Hotel to check on Nick St Claire, since she gave his name to the Black Hood. She finds him alive and well, if bitter about the inconvenience of having his rape attempt interrupted. Sheriff Keller arrives in Nick’s hotel room moments after Betty. Cheryl has filed a complaint. The sheriff needs to bring Nick and his parents in for questioning.
The Hood calls Betty again once she’s back out on the sidewalk. He uses the lame excuse that he didn’t kill Nick because Nick isn’t from Riverdale. Then he gets all twisty with Betty, suggesting that being forced to name someone or risk having her family killed makes her as much of a psychopath as him. Welcome to Psychological Abuse 101. Always try to convince the person you’re abusing that they’re the sick one who’s making you abuse them.
The Hood tells Betty that he’s seen her true self, so now the real work can begin. Then he hangs up. Betty is left spluttering denials into the phone.
Cheryl spent the night with Veronica after her date rape near miss. Hiram and Hermione have called Penelope over to discuss the situation. Penelope is dismissive, as always when it comes to Cheryl. She’s sure that Cheryl provoked Nick. She says nothing really happened to Cheryl anyway.
Cheryl backs down from her complaint. Veronica protests, saying that Nick tried to do the same thing to her and to other girls. Cheryl is offended, since Veronica didn’t go to the police with her own story, but wants Cheryl to face the stigma of filing attempted rape charges.
Toni and Jughead go out to breakfast. At least they didn’t take playing house as far as her cooking for him. Toni mentions that she’s couch surfing because her uncle keeps locking her out of his house, but they don’t remind us why, if we’ve been told before. Then she says they had a “PG-13 grope session” the night before. And it wasn’t great for her. She cuts Jughead a little slack by conceding that he’s still getting over Betty and she’s not interested in being a rebound. Plus, she’s more into girls.
How does that explain why she chased him, then jumped him, literally the first chance she got after Betty broke up with him? That’s the classic way to become a rebound. Plus, he’d just gotten beaten by about ten guys and broken up with. Did she really think a guy who was depressed and sore all over was going to be at his best for a make out/grope session? Of course his heart wasn’t in it. He probably just couldn’t muster up the energy to say no, and liked the momentary boost to his ego after the rough night.
Toni’s really not as smart as she thinks she is. Or she thought she’d have to pay for a night on Juggie’s couch with some kind of sexual activity, then her ego was bruised when Jughead wasn’t enthusiastic.
Archie joins Betty for her morning walk to Pop’s. She tells him that she’s cleared her head and is done playing the Black Hood’s sick game. She won’t allow him to continue the psychological torture, so she’s not going to respond to his calls, texts, or emails any more. The family Polly is staying with are going to help her quietly disappear to somewhere even safer.
Betty and Archie spot Jughead and Toni having breakfast together, but their phones ring before they can go into the diner. Alice has called a meeting of the kids who were at Nick St Claire’s party, and their parents.
The meeting is mostly a reason for Alice to gloat that Betty didn’t do drugs at Nick’s party and left before things got out of hand. Then Alice riles up the mayor and sheriff to the point of raiding Southside High. Along the way, the adults insult each other, including Hiram calling Alice the Acid Queen and telling her to be careful, because she’s not the only person in the room that knows the story behind Alice’s mug shot. Oh, do tell us more, Hiram. 👼🏼 This is the first time I’ve ever wanted to get to know Hiram better.
The mayor steers the meeting back to business by asking where the jingle jangle came from. Reggie got it from a Southside gang member. Reggie specifically describes the dealer as a “gang member”, then the sheriff asks him if it was a Serpent who goes to Southside High. Reggie responds, “I think so, yeah.” Does anyone outside of the Southside know that the Ghoulies exist? Like the sheriff and mayor, for example? Archie defends the Serpents, but is ignored.
Veronica wants all of the blame put on Nick, since he pushed the jungle jangle onto the kids and tried to rape Cheryl. The sheriff says the kids’ testimony isn’t reliable since jingle jangle stays in the system for 3 days.
Mayor McCoy realizes that Josie took the jingle jangle, too. She’s shocked that Josie would make a mistake like that when Josie’s father has struggled with addiction. The mayor stands up and announces that from now on cleaning up the Southside is her number one priority as mayor, even if it means razing the whole thing to ground, arresting every Serpent, or shutting down the high school. How much do the Ghoulies pay her to forget they exist?
Jughead shows his Mr Phillips, his English teacher and school newspaper advisor, the article he’s written for The Red and Black. It’s about the community that still exists within the poverty, drugs and crime of the Southside in general, and within Southside High, and how it’s worth saving. Phillips praises the article, but then calls Jughead on joining the Serpents when Phillips had made staying away from the gangs a condition of working on the paper.
Their discussion is interrupted by a frantic text from Archie. Jughead steps out to meet Archie in the hall. Archie warns Juggie that the school is about to be raided by the police, who intend to arrest every Serpent they can find. Then Archie drags Jughead out, as the police are arriving with drug-sniffing dogs and shoving Sweet Pea and Toni up against lockers.
Jughead is confused about why Archie would help him, after he seemed to hate Jughead the night before. Archie wants Jughead to talk to Mayor McCoy and tell her that the Ghoulies are the ones dealing the drugs, but Jughead thinks it would be useless, after McCoy just had every Serpent that she could find arrested for no reason at all. McCoy and Keller don’t particularly believe in due process or fact-based justice.
Jughead gets called out to parlez with Tall Boy and the Ghoulies. Thanks to the raid on the high school, the Serpents ranks have dropped so low that they can’t defend their territory. Tall Boy is proposing that they work with the Ghoulies to distribute jingle jangle and he wants Jughead to promote the idea with the younger members. Jughead is emphatically not okay with this idea, but he’s outgunned. Tall Boy is in charge, and he has the Ghoulies to back him up.
Jughead and Archie consult with FP about how to stop the Ghoulies. FP suggests an illegal street race, since the Ghoulies love their souped up vintage cars. If Jughead wins, the Ghoulies will back off.
Kevin and Ronnie discuss Nick’s attempt to force her into sex. Kevin doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t tell her father. Riverdale finally name checks The Godfather in reference to Hiram!! Veronica tells Kevin that her Godfather father wouldn’t put a horse’s head in Mom and Pop St Claire’s bed. He’d put Nick’s bloody head in. She doesn’t want to inspire her father to
more murder. Then she and Kevin are obnoxious to Betty when they know she and Jughead just broke up.
The Hood calls, and Betty answers again, despite what she told Archie earlier. He threatens to kill more people if she doesn’t continue helping him. He wants her to help him find the Sugarman, who is the real source of the drugs and the drug problem in Riverdale. The Sugarman worked with Clifford Blossom. He suggests she start her investigation by talking to Cheryl.
Cheryl remembers her mother using stories of the Sugarman to scare Cheryl and Jason into going to bed. She believes the Sugarman is just a piece of folklore. Later, Cheryl digs out a picture she drew when she was a young child of her, Jason, and the Sugarman. When she shows the drawing to Penelope, Penelope gets angry and denies having any knowledge of the Sugarman.
Next, Betty asks the sheriff about the Sugarman. He explains that the Sugarman, the Mapleman, the Deliveryman- they were all Cliff Blossom. But jingle jangle didn’t hit the streets until after Cliff died, so the new Sugarman could be anyone.
Betty questioned the sheriff at Pop’s where Veronica is sitting nearby and couldn’t help overhearing. She asks if Betty is drafting her next savage take down, so Betty goes over to her and comes clean about her adventures with the Black Hood. Betty ends by saying that she’ll never forgive herself for hurting the people she cares about. She wants to figure out who the Sugarman is, then find a way to turn the tables on the Black Hood. Veronica agrees to help her.
The kids that went to Nick’s party are sent to do community service in the form of picking up used drug paraphernalia and other trash at a local park. Josie and Reggie, who have some amazing chemistry, get some hot banter and looks going between them before Veronica interrupts to get the name of Reggie’s drug dealer.
Veronica uses the dealer’s name to set up a drug buy. She and Betty plan to follow the dealer back to the source of the drugs. Both Veronica and Camila Mendes have a ball going undercover, putting on a skimpy black outfit and spooking the dealer on purpose so he’ll run away.
Jughead and Archie are at the Ghoulies drug basement, challenging them to the drag race FP suggested, when one of the Ghoulies drags Betty and Veronica in. The Scooby Gang is back together on a caper!!!! Everyone says everyone’s name!!
The Ghoulies are tough negotiators when it comes to the race. If Jughead wins, the Ghoulies will quit dealing at Southside High and the Serpents will remain autonomous. If the Ghoulies win, the Serpents fold, and the Ghoulies can absorb the Serpents, and rule the high school. They’ll also get the White Worm and Sunnyside Trailer Park, Jughead’s home.
Nick and Cheryl have a confrontation at Pop’s. Cheryl decides that she wants to press charges after all, but Nick informs her that he’s paid off her mother and the deal includes a nondisclosure agreement. He also gloats that the Lodges are still accepting investment money from his parents. Cheryl is completely humiliated.
I have a hard time believing that Cheryl would act the way she did in this scene in front of Nick. She kept her armor up through the loss of both her brother and her father. Sure, she’d be shaken up inside, but she’d never allow Nick to see her that way after the first night. The Cheryl we met in season 1 would hold her head up high, stay as cold as ice like her mama taught her, and match Nick jab for jab, not beg to be taken seriously.
Just like season 1 Betty wouldn’t cry and beg the Black Hood to be nicer to her. The traditional season 2 Berlantiverse weakening of the female characters is going strong on this show.
Betty and Jughead talk while Betty enhances Reggie’s car so that Jughead can win the street race. They begin to work through their issues, though for right now they mostly express their frustrations and make it obvious that they still care deeply about each other. Betty assures Jughead that she broke up with him to try to protect him. He tells her that by breaking up with him, especially via Archie, she did the one thing that could hurt him.
Cheryl finds the check that Penelope took from the St Claires. Penelope continues to belittle Cheryl and defend every awful person that comes up. Cheryl eventually gets to the point of crying and begging her mother to defend her and do what’s best for her for once.
Archie and Veronica are in bed together when she gets a call from Cheryl letting her know that her parents are still working with the St Claires. She gets dressed and runs right home to tell her parents that Nick tried to assault her as well. Hiram visibly expands with rage. Hermione promises that they won’t take any more money from Nick’s family.
Everyone gathers for the drag race. Veronica tells Archie to come back to her in one piece. Then they make out.
Betty says to Jughead: “Before you get in the car, I need you to know, I never stopped loving you, Jug. I’m not sure I can. Also, remember, don’t ride the clutch, and don’t let it slip between gear shifts, okay?”
Jughead looks at her and says, “You’re an enigma, Cooper.” Then he walks as close to her as possible without knocking her down, almost going in for the kiss.
Toni is about to take her place as the ceremonial flag girl to start the race, but Cheryl shoos her away, saying she was born for this moment. And she was. She’s iconic.
Jughead holds his own in the race, but the Ghoulies keep ramming his car, trying to force him off the road. As they approach the narrow bridge that they need to cross, the two cars are neck and neck. Archie throws on the parking brake so that Jughead loses, ostensibly because he thinks they’ll be forced off the bridge. As soon as the Ghoulies cross the bridge, the sheriff’s lights and siren come on. He’s waiting there to arrest the Ghoulies for street racing. Archie and Jughead race back to the starting line to warn everyone to get out.
Jughead is furious with Archie. He’s only temporarily solved the problem. It could get much worse later, when the Ghoulies get out of jail, and blame Jughead and Archie. Tall Boy already blames them.
Penelope is waiting for Cheryl by the fire. She gives Cheryl a bit of truth at last. The Sugarman was a story she made up to try to make the truth of their existence a little easier. There were many Sugarmen over the years. When Cliff decided that it was time to groom Jason to take over the business, he insisted that Jason meet the Sugarman. That was the beginning of the series of events that led to Jason’s death. Penelope throws the check from the St Claires into the fire.
Betty gets a phone call from Cheryl. She gives Betty the name of the current Sugarman. Now Betty has to decide what to do with the information.
Later that evening, she hears from the Black Hood. He wants to know the identity of the Sugarman. Betty doesn’t bother to give him the name, because she’s already given it to the police and printed it in the Blue and Gold. She’s taking control of their game now. She found out who killed Jason, and she found out who the Sugarman is. She can find the Black Hood. Can he feel her breathing down his neck? He hangs up the phone.
Toni’s back at school. She tells Jughead that some of the Serpents think he’s cool for challenging the Ghoulies and winning, while others are angry because they believe he made a deal with the cops. Just then, the police escort Jughead’s teacher and school newspaper advisor, Mr Phillips, out of the school in cuffs. He’s the Sugarman.
Fred takes some painkillers and asks Archie how things are going with Jughead. Archie says they’re in a fight because Archie tried to help and it backfired. Fred says they’ll work it out. He, of course, doesn’t ask for specifics so that he could offer more specific advice. He’s busy with his opioid addiction and can’t be bothered. FP is a more involved father from jail.
The Lodges get a call telling them that the St Claires were in a car accident. They were run off the road. Nick will recover from his injuries, but it will take months. They all look smugly satisfied. Veronica says, “Karma’s a bitch.” Hiram and Hermione are proud of the way that their mafia princess is finally growing up.
Bughead are finally one again. They’re shown studying on Jughead’s couch, instead of lying in bed or making out like Veronica and Archie usually are.
Mr Phillips/the Sugarman is trying to sleep in his cell when the Black Hood appears outside the cell, points his gun at the Sugarman, and fires.
Whoever the Black Hood is, he can get into the town prison in the middle of the night, without setting off any alarms. That seems like a major clue.
Will the “PG-13 grope session come back to haunt Jughead and Betty? I can see Toni giving Bughead a couple of weeks to get cozy again, then mentioning it to Betty. She’d say something derogatory in passing about Jughead’s make out technique to let Betty know that it had undeniably happened, then pretend she thought Betty already knew. Toni really hates Northsiders, and especially Betty, maybe because she’s Alice’s daughter. Or maybe she wants Betty for herself. Tough call. If Jughead turns out to be asexual, Toni might have a chance.
Hiram refers to Acid Queen Alice. The Acid Queen is a character from The Who’s rock opera Tommy, about a boy who becomes deaf, mute and blind from the trauma of watching his father’s murder. His mother and stepfather try out various cures, including the Acid Queen’s hallucinogenic drugs and sex.
Just what is Hiram suggesting here? Did Hal see his grandfather’s murder? Was she the bad girl who brought him out of his shell? Hal still doesn’t talk much. That’s been a plot point from the beginning. Alice having saved Hal in some way would explain why he doesn’t leave her when she’s so awful to him. He might feel like he needs her, or he’ll relapse.
When Betty visits her at Thistle House, Cheryl says to Betty, “I see right through you, Invisible Woman.” It’s an Invisible Man (by HG Wells) reference, referring to the fact that no one is noticing that Betty is in trouble, and suggesting that the Black Hood is someone easily overlooked. The Sugarman was in their midst, but blended in. The Hood is likely doing the same thing.
Cheryl also refers to folk/horror movie monsters Sandman and Krampus. She’s lounging outside looking very similar to Lolita. If her mother is going to insist that she brings things like attempted rape on herself, she might as well play the part to perfection. This show loves a good Lolita reference, having used it multiple times with Grundy, as well.
Penelope is clearly considering going full on supervillain, since she’s now wearing one black, bedazzled leather glove 99% of the time, and eating fussy foods like boiled eggs in egg cups that she has to open with little egg hammers. If that doesn’t say Bond villain, I don’t know what does.
We also get references to two drug addiction movies from the 80s, Drugstore Cowboy and Less than Zero. A young person dies from drug use in each film. Foreshadowing?
The Ghoulies may be out of commission for now, but in their minds they won that race and should add the high school, the White Worm, and the trailer park to their territory. Archie screwed Jughead over in the long term with that move. Jughead’s going to face a turf war over his home by the end of the season.
Hopefully FP will be out of prison by the time the Ghoulies resurface as a threat. Wasn’t he supposed to be released quickly after being sentenced to Time Served, since Cheryl kinda sorta perjured herself by mostly telling the truth at his hearing?
Cheryl gets all of the best references this week. She calls Toni Cha-Cha at the start of the race, which is a reference to Grease. The musical included a drag race.
This week continued the references to Rebel Without a Cause, which also has a drag race. In that movie, the race is a game of chicken, and the tough guy ends up driving over a cliff and dying, causing his gang to come after the good guys later in the film. In this episode, the Ghoulies had the symbolic death of being imprisoned instead of a physical death. The Scooby Gang will be blamed, just like James Dean and his friends in the movie.