Welcome to Riverdale’s nightmare before Christmas! Santa brought us what I suspect is a fake Black Hood, two kisses with two different girls for Archie, leadership of the Junior Serpents for Jughead, vanquishing to Greendale for Penny, either a new career for Penelope or a new stepdad for Cheryl,
and a partridge in a pear tree and an actual Christmas nightmare for Betty.
No, I don’t mean her kiss with Archie.
Plus, Santa brought us the brief return of Nana Rose Blossom and a flat-stomached Polly Cooper. Stay safe, ladies!!
It’s very early Christmas morning when Polly, who’s not pregnant, wakes Betty up to come downstairs to see Santa. Betty follows her, only to find that Santa is the Black Hood in a Santa Hood. He’s coming for her, but she backs away from him, and wakes up from her nightmare.
Cheryl is met by indifference from Penelope when it comes to Christmas. Not only is it a Hard Candy Christmas, but Penelope doesn’t even care that she can’t find her dead favorite son’s stocking. On the plus side, Penelope dresses more like an evil character out of Dickens every week. If she doesn’t end up a cannibal, or enticing young women to pull elaborate cons on young men, I’ll be sorely disappointed.
Veronica, on the other hand, is throwing Daddy’s money around like the American Excess Card doesn’t have a credit limit. She has an expensive gift for everyone in her life, no matter the state of the relationship.
It’s Secret Santa time! Kevin, the organizer, put a $20 limit on gifts, but that limit is open to interpretation. Veronica gets a GC for a couples massage from Josie. Archie gives Betty a favorite picture book and matching vinyl record from when they were little.
The party ends when Moose and Midge come back to school for the first time since being shot. Archie and Betty are drawn into an intense discussion in the hall, when they notice there’s a substitute janitor. What if they led the Black Hood to Mr Svenson? The school secretary says that he’s been out sick, but she thinks he’s actually depressed, because it’s the holidays and he doesn’t have a family.
Jughead and Betty exchange gifts in the Blue and Gold office. He apologizes for something about the way he broke up with her, I’m not clear what, since he reiterates, he doesn’t want her in the middle of the Serpents. Betty rightfully tells him that it’s up to her to decide what she wants to expose herself to, not him, but he just walks out.
(I think I understand why Mrs Jones stays in Toledo. Lord save us from men who think they know what’s best for us. It starts with high school friends and ends with reproductive rights or worse.)
Veronica gives Archie his Christmas gift, a watch engraved with “Mad about my Archiekins XO V” on the back. Archie’s obsessing about his dad’s $86,000 hospital bill, and can’t appreciate the gift at that moment. Veronica notices, so Archie explains that money is so tight that they’re selling Christmas trees in Pop’s parking lot for extra cash.
FP’s parole officer makes an unscheduled home visit and house search. Jughead has to think quick, since he’s sure that his dad brought in two duffle bags full of drugs earlier that day. When FP gets home, Jughead has the bags waiting. FP shows him that they are full of gifts for Jughead, Jelly, and Mrs. Jones.
They argue again over Penny the Snake Charmer. FP wants to keep Jughead out of it, even if it costs him the life of every other Serpent. Jughead wants to fix the mess he made. FP doesn’t know how to do that, so he’s Penny’s dancing monkey for the time being.
The Lodges discuss their Christmas gift lists. Hermione is hoping that she saw Hiram sneaking in a Glamergé Egg in a Spiffany’s bag. Veronica has seen the light, and chastises her parents for acting like they’re Russian oligarchs when there are people who can’t pay their medical bills. Preach, sister. Too true.
Hermione compares a social safety net to communism, which just made my level of respect for her plummet about 90%, since I know she remembers being poor. And it would be socialism, in fact, the same kind of socialism that gives us public schools and roads. Veronica explains Fred’s situation. Hermione and Hiram both tell her that no, she’s not adopting Fred and Archie.
Cheryl stops by Pop’s to buy a Christmas tree. Penelope finds her at home with the tree and house beautifully decorated. Cheryl tells Penelope to find a way to get a job to pay for the tree and decorations, even though Penelope has no job skills. Nana Rose tells Penelope that she should have drowned the twins at birth.
And that sentiment heralds the end of the relatively normal Riverdale Christmas celebration. Betty arrives home to find Alice in the kitchen manicly baking Polly’s favorite cookie, in case there’s a Christmas miracle and she comes home. Alice sends Betty up to her room to find the Secret Santa gift that appeared at the front door earlier.
The card appears to be typed on a typewriter. It reads: “TO: Betty Cooper FROM: Secret Santa.” Inside is Svenson’s severed finger, and a message which reads: “Enclosed is a finger that belongs to the sinner Joseph Conway. You have one final trespass to unearth. Find the truth, reveal it to the town, and you will perhaps save his life.” Svenson and the Black Hood call just as they finish reading the letter. He tells them to exhume the past.
Archie tells Betty that Joseph lived with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy before he was adopted. They decide to interview the Sisters first.
Veronica is a naughty girl who goes snooping for her presents, and instead finds the deed to Pop’s Diner in her father’s desk drawer. She unilaterally decides that a family that can afford to secretly buy a diner can also secretly pay off her boyfriend’s father’s medical bills, so out comes the American Excess Card.
Jughead is determined to save his father and the Serpents from the evil Snake Charmer, so he gathers the younger Serpents around a steel drum campfire and gives an inspirational speech, with an assist by Toni. Penny can’t be allowed to drag the Serpents down to the level of the Ghoulies.
Archie and Betty question Sister Woodhouse at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. After a blackmail threat from Betty, she talks, but there isn’t much new. Conway/Svenson may have blamed the wrong man. The Sister saw the vigilantes once. The woman with them had white hair with a cherry red stripe- Nana Rose Blossom.
Next question: What turned Nana Rose’s hair white? Really need that story arc on her background.
Archie and Betty visit Nana Rose to ask about her part in the murder of the Riverdale Reaper. No girls were allowed to witness the execution, but she tells them that Polly’s grandfather was there to help bury the Reaper alive. She had a picture of the gang proudly standing under the Devil’s Hand when they were done.
Back in the car, Betty starts spiraling at the thought that her grandfather was a murderer. Maybe the Black Hood is obsessed with her because of her grandfather. Archie reins her back in, and she kisses him. Cheryl watches from her bedroom window as they drive away.
Jughead and friends break into Penny’s lair. The rest of the young Serpents are wearing masks, while Jughead shows his face, a callback to Archie’s Red Circle video. This is the leather/bondage version of the video. They put a hood over Penny’s head and take her to Greendale.
They dump Penny on the ground, alone, while she threatens them and complains about gang loyalty. Jughead tells her that’s not an issue for her anymore, pulls out a knife, and appears to move toward the wrist where she has her mandatory Serpent tattoo, implying he’s going to cut it out of her skin.
Hopefully he doesn’t, because that would be mutilation on the order of the Black Hood’s crimes. It would seem to take Jughead OTT into Ghoulies or Michael Corleone territory. They’re probably headed toward Michael Corleone with Jughead anyway, but so fast?
Hermione and Hiram return home to question Veronica about the new $86,000 charge to their credit card. Veronica explains that she felt they could afford it, and she is one of the owners of the business. The family decide that it’s time for Veronica to learn the full nature of the business, but it means that Veronica will no longer be a sheltered Daddy’s girl.
Once Veronica knows everything (we still don’t 😫), she lays down one ground rule: she won’t be involved in anything illegal. Hermione lives by the words Plausible Deniability. Technically, the family isn’t involved in anything illegal, and they are all on the same page again.
Jughead tells FP that the Junior Serpents drove Penny out of town and are now in charge of enforcement. Jughead makes a slightly chilling speech, during which FP looks like he’s worried he’s created a monster:
Jughead: “I rallied the younger Serpents. We drove her out of Riverdale. And I got my pound of flesh in the process.”
FP: “Are you nuts? She will be back!”
Jughead: “She won’t! I was very persuasive. And even if she does, we will take care of it. You and me and the other Serpents. In unity there is strength. That’s the 6th law. While you were in jail, I recited that every day. I live by that. You want to take my jacket? You want to relegate me to Toys for Tots? Fine. But I’m still a Serpent, Dad. And this, this life that you wanted to protect me from? I’m proud of this. I’m proud of who I am. You can’t take that away from me.”
Betty and Archie look through her Grandpa Louis’ old photos. They find a copy of the same photo that Svenson was looking at last episode, with several men standing over a fresh grave in Pickens Park. They race off to check the gravesite, with a call to Sheriff Keller on the way (for once).
When they find the grave, it looks freshly dug again, and has two shovels stood in it. They dig out the grave, and find an empty coffin at the bottom. The Black Hood appears, forces Archie into the coffin, then forces Betty to bury him. Betty shovels dirt and tells him that they figured out Svenson/Conway’s secret sin. She hears police sirens, and hits the Hood in the head with her shovel.
While she’s helping Archie out of the grave, the Black Hood runs away. They catch up to him at the bridge, where he’s about to jump. He hesitates when Archie yells, but then starts to climb again. Sheriff Keller finds them and shoots the Black Hood dead. When he takes off the hood, Conway/Svenson is revealed, missing a finger. He apparently amputated his own finger.
Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead meet at Pops to discuss, with Archie and Betty still covered in dirt. Jughead interrupts to say that it’s enough that they’re all alive. Beyond that, he’s out of insight and inspiration. Josie and Kevin serenade customers outside with the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
Cheryl comes downstairs Christmas morning to find Penelope in a compromising position on the couch with one of Santa’s helpers. Is he a new beau? He looks like he might be the guy who sold Cheryl the Christmas tree? Is Penelope working off the debt? Has Penelope found that she has job skills after all?
Betty gave Jughead a vintage typewriter. He gave her a signed first edition of Beloved. Archie gave Veronica a locket with their pictures inside. Archie and Fred talk to Mary on her singles cruise in the Bahamas, then Ronnie comes to the door to see Archie. The events of the episode have worn her down and she can finally say “I love you” to him. They get back together.
They kiss under mistletoe on Archie’s porch as someone secretly takes photos of them.
Betty burns her evidence and notes related to the Black Hood case, but pulls the hood that he gave her back out of the fire. Jughead’s voiceover says that something inside her told her that this isn’t over.
I’m convinced Mary Andrews left Fred because she realized that she’s a lesbian.
Yes, Fred has health insurance. Since he’s self-employed, his coverage will be spotty, but even with the best health insurance, major and chronic illnesses are common causes of bankruptcy in the US. The patient is still left to pay large deductibles, copays and uncovered expenses, such as name brand drugs, that they often had no choice about (other than use them or die), just like Fred.
Maybe Jughead scars up the Serpent tattoo instead of removing it?
If there is a goddess, Penny Peabody will return to Riverdale as the leader of a pack of werewolves. Sabrina may be going to live on Planet Netflix, but I believe that multiverse crossovers will still be possible, since she will share the same creator gods. It’s never too soon to establish that Greendale is supernatural, not just spooky.
The Serpents are the best thing that ever happened to the Southside, when they aren’t busy dealing drugs or vandalizing property for Hiram Lodge. This week, they make sure all of the kids and elderly people are taken care of for Christmas, just like the Hells Angels.
They made sure to show us close ups of both the Black Hood and Svenson in the Previously On. NOT THE SAME PERSON.
Keller was very quick to shoot Svenson dead. Svenson could have been coerced into the part he played at the park and the bridge, if the real Black Hood threatened Betty or Archie. If the Black Hood (whether it’s Keller or another) blackmailed Svenson and others into sharing information to fill in the gaps in his own knowledge, that would explain his near omnipotence.
There could also be more than one Black Hood. They’ve shown us the photo of the gang that killed the supposed Riverdale Reaper twice now. The mantle could be rotating through that group of people or their sons, plus Svenson. It would make sense for each of them to be from a different walk of life, a group of boys who made a pact as children, and vowed to keep it even as they developed separate lives.
My top three suspects are still Keller, Hal and Tall Boy.
DenofGeek has a good post on the Black Hood this week.