Tonight’s episode of Riverdale, “House of the Devil,” felt similar to last week’s “Tales From the Dark Side” in that they're set ups for the big winter finale coming next week. Tonight’s episode put the characters is place for significant storyline shifts while somehow always being awkward. From a would-be-steamy stage performance by Betty (Lili Reinhart) to a brief-but-not-brief-enough massage Cheryl gives Josie, things got awk tonight.
The episodes opens with Jughead (Cole Sprouse) writing – per usual – in an unusual location: the White Wyrm. Jughead describes that in juxtaposition to the town’s typical macabre atmosphere, #Varchie is quite the opposite. Cue the makeout montage – Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Archie (KJ Apa) are hot and heavy and definitely not letting the Black Hood get their libido down. Laying in front of the fire (when is the fire not burning at the Lodge Residence?!) barely covered with blankets, Archie lets an slip “I Love You” while snuggling with Veronica and no quicker do the words leave his lips than the entire scene slips into an awkward dash for the door as Veronica is unable to say anything back.
Meanwhile, over at Pop’s, Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead are comparing notes about the Riverdale Reaper and the Black Hood and make an eerie connection: The house The Reaper murders took place in back in the '60s was at the edge of Fox Forest, the same house that the Black Hood sent Betty to! There’s most definitely a connection but they can't go to Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) with this news in light of Betty’s recent accusation against him as Black Hood.
The quartet meet up and quickly share the most triumphant news: FP (Skeet Ulrich) is getting out of jail! Jughead waxes over the how’s and why’s of FP getting out of jail, shooting Archie a knowing, guilty look. Betty and Jughead say they’ll be busy with FP getting out of jail and as Veronica and Archie follow up on their lead, there’s a connection between The Reaper and the Black Hood – role reversal! #Varchie awkwardly agrees to step up as lead detectives on this “case” – clearly a welcome distraction from the four letter word hanging over their heads.
Back at school, there's another eerie encounter between Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Josie (Ashleigh Murray) that has me convinced, even more so than when Cheryl was creepy-sketching Josie in last week’s episode, that Cheryl is obsessed with Josie. Alone in the girls’ locker room, Cheryl is quick to observe Josie’s tense neck and dives right into a back massage with the lavender oil she conveniently has on hand. The scene is quickly interrupted (not soon enough) by Mr. Svenson (Cameron McDonald), the janitor. Cheryl is her usual self, abhorring him for entering the women’s locker room, but she clearly is more upset that the massage was cut short.
Back at Lodge Manor, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and Hermione (Marisol Nichols) tell Veronica that they, along with others in the community, have received a letter from the Black Hood. Veronica is worried because her family are actually sinners. In an effort to keep Veronica safe, Hiram and Hermione urge her to bring Archie around more to protect her (trust us – he’s been around Mr. and Mrs. Lodge).
At the Cooper residence, Betty is briefing her mother (Mädchen Amick) on recent events: Jughead is a serpent and FP is getting out of jail – and Alice needs to get over it. Meanwhile, Jughead is at the Whyte Wyrm telling everyone the news that FP is getting out of jail and that it's time the Serpents had a sit-down with Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens), but Tall Boy starts talking smack about Jughead changing the Serpents. Jughead, clearly frustrated by Tall Boys’ continuous dissent, says “I’m sick of you acting like a little bitch” and tells him to stop running his mouth. He's backed by a vote from the rest of the Serpents.
Archie and Veronica, trying to act like everything is normal, are making out when Archie just has to stop so they can talk about “us” and Veronica is in no mood and instead throws herself into the “case.” Later, Veronica asks her parents for advice about the “I love you” situation to which Hiram is all too happy to tell her to forget while Hermione, having a sage moment of parenting, tells Veronica “it’s not about what Archie said, it’s about whether you’re ready to hear it.” Over at the Andrews', Fred is offering some love advice of his own, suggesting Archie give Veronica some time to process.
At the jail, Betty, Jughead, and – surprise, surprise – the former serpent herself, Alice Cooper, arrive to pick up FP from jail. Alice makes a comment about FP possibly being sexual frustrated. My snake-sense is telling me something is about to go down with FP and Alice – and I am not mad about it. Off to Pop’s for a quick post-jail bite to eat where Alice assumes the worst of FP, expecting that he’ll go back to his law-breaking, boozing ways – but FP is ready to turn a new leaf, clearly surprising and – dare I say – delighting Alice Cooper.
#Varchie are on the Black Hood = Reaper case and asking Sheriff Keller about missing files. Keller says back then Sheriff Howard was the investigating officer but he’s since passed, so Veronica and Archie call his daughter about her father and the case, she says her father lost his mind over the case and called the house where The Reaper murders took place The Devil’s House.
After being cooped up in “Shank Shaw” jail (I see what you did there, Riverdale!), we see FP back on his bike like he never left only this time with his son in tow for some father and son biker-bonding and it's adorable. Jughead catches FP up on the mess that's unfolded since FP has been away but leaves out the details where Juggie is now in debt to Penny Peabody, (Brit Morgan) The Snake Charmer. FP tells Jughead about how his own father kicked him out and that when he joined the Serpents and after a stint in the army he came home to the Serpents again. (When can we expect to see a flashback of FP in an Army uniform? Give the people what they want!) FP wants Jughead to get out of Riverdale and go to college but Jughead says he wants to stay. FP seems disappointed but doesn’t ever want Jughead to stop writing. (Let’s hear it for the faint attempt at parenting in Riverdale!)
At Pop’s FP has found gainful employment as a waiter – clearly trying to clean up his act post Shank Shaw. Cheryl, clearly put off by FP being out of jail (even though she helped/was forced to testify to get his sentence lessened) knocks her milkshake onto the ground and says “clean that up, the way you did my brother’s blood.” So...she’s clearly not ok. FP quickly cleans it up, seeming to accept his new station in life. Jughead is furious that FP is being treated so demeaningly, so Betty, ever the fixer offers to throw FP a retirement party. Seeing how the last party she threw for a Jones (Juggie’s birthday) went up in flames, can’t wait to see what FP’s Gang Retirement Party will be like!
Betty finds Toni at the Whyte Wyrm and says she wants to watch out for Jughead while he’s on this path with the Serpents and Toni tells her about an old misogynistic ritual the Serpents have called the Snake Dance – and by the way, Betty is looking at the girl dancing on the pole at the Whyte Wyrm – one can only assume we may see a glimpse of Dark Betty before the episode is over.
Trying to get back to normal at the trailer, Jughead is quickly called away from takeover with FP to answer to Penny when she rings. Penny says Jughead has debts to pay but he threatens her that he’ll take it to Mayor McCoy or bring the weight of the Serpents down on Penny since he knows they won’t be happy she’s taken up the Jingle Jangle business. Penny knows Jughead’s weakness though, saying “all snakes have a soft underbelly” in reference to Betty. She knows and is going to exploit his achilles heel: He’d do anything to protect Betty.
In Fox Forest, Veronica and Archie approach the house where the murder took place and believe that Sheriff Howard kept coming back to the house because something about the case didn’t add up. The Reaper killed the Conway family back in the 1960s – but what Archie and Veronica quickly uncover is three sets of initials on a door frame clearly charting 3 children’s growth so while there may have been four bodies recovered from the shooting, the Conway family was a family of five and someone survived The Reaper!
Betty continues to prep for the party and while doing attempts to defend Jughead to her mother, reminding Alice Cooper that she was a Serpent once too. Alice shows up to Pop’s while FP is diligently working to tell him to not let their kids repeat their mistakes. FP: “They weren’t all mistakes.” FP invites Alice to the ‘retirement party,’ seeing as Alice has a lot of old friends on the South Side, but Alice protests, saying Hal would never come. FP quickly retorts “well then leave him...at home.” Quick save by FP, but I think we can all see where this is headed.
Safe in the halls of Riverdale High, our favorite foursome (where is Kevin?) surmises that the Conway child who survived The Reaper grew up to be the Black Hood and now he’s taking revenge on the town. #Bughead take off to plan the party while Veronica and Archie look through yearbooks in hopes that they’ll find the missing child...and just when Archie wants to start talking about “us” again, Veronica finds a familiar face in an old yearbook: Joseph Conway = Mr. Svenson the Janitor! Archie and Veronica take off quick to question him. Mr. Svensonsays he escaped “The Reaper” out a bedroom window but not before he saw his face.
Svenson/Conway says the so-called Reaper was a con man preacher passing through town (as one did back in the '60s) and that he told a group of men what happened and they took the con man away and killed him. No news yet on who these men were, but Archie confirms that Mr. Svenson is not the Black Hood because Archie has “looked into the Black Hood’s eyes."
At Chateau Lodge, Veronica admits to Hermione she’s thrown herself into a side project to avoid the “I love you” conversation. Veronica, trying to normalize why she cannot say ‘I love you’ says “You and Daddy never say it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say it once.” And as she says it, Veronica is clearly realizing something significant while looking at a sheepish Hermione, a look I don’t think we’ve seen on her yet.
The Whyte Wyrm is on and popping for the FP Retirement Party. Jughead is with Archie who says he’s going to clear the air with Veronica and that tonight is going to be a good night (we know this show too well...the night is doomed!) Betty walks in, hair down (!), gets a loving look from Jughead while her mother, Alice Cooper, rolls in beside her looking the part of South Side Serpent, with a leather jacket and Taylor-Swift Reputation-era hair. Alice saddles up to the bar like she never left and is slamming tequila shots, while she offers Betty a Shirley Temple (there you are Mama Cooper!).
Archie approaches Veronica and says that when he said “I love you” it was about him and what he was feeling in that moment and Veronica shouldn’t feel pressure to say it back right now, and Veronica appreciates his understanding but it's very clear Archie wanted her to say it back. In a strange turn, Archie signed himself and Veronica up to sing the “song from Donnie Darko” (aka: “Mad World.” While on stage, the vibe is clearly VERY off, not just for the couple but also for the retirement party, and Veronica runs off stage followed by Archie while boo’s hiss from the Serpents in the crowd – but lo and behold, Betty picks up the mic and begins what we can only assume is the Snake Dance?!
What takes place is a very slow, attempt-at-sultry strip down as Betty undresses to just a lace one-piece outfit while “Mad World” keeps playing as she maneuvers around a pole. In what seems to be Betty’s attempt to become more a part of Jughead’s new world, the innocence and purity that he loves about her and wants to protect is shedding like a snakeskin and the sadness it brings him is all over his face. Alice is heartbroken watching Betty and when she's done FP quickly cover’s Betty with his Jacket and ushers Betty off of the stage.
FP begins a speech thanking everyone for coming to the party and goes over his history with the serpents – recounting how he has been with the Serpents since he was younger than Jughead and that the Serpents were there for him when his own family turned their backs on him, which seems like news to Jughead. And what was supposed to a retirement speech quickly turns into a diatribe against the police, concluding that FP is back with the Serpents and he’s not going to abide by the law: He’s a Serpent!
Jughead is shocked by the speech and more so when FP tells Jughead that he knows Jughead is in trouble with the Snake Charmer and the debt he owes. FP says “I’m in, you’re out” referring to his re-commitment to the Serpents “It’s my problem now...You broke my heart, Jughead” and kisses Jughead’s forehead, a scene inspired by The Godfather II. The disappointment and shame Jughead is feeling right now is palpable.
Outside the Whyte Wyrm, Veronica tearfully tells Archie she can’t say ‘I love you’ and that she’s sorry she can’t let herself go there with him and drives away. Across the parking lot, Jughead, perhaps channeling his own shame, grills Betty “why would you do that?!” Betty tells Juggie that she wants to be a part of his world but Jughead tells her he’s dragging everyone down and pushes her away, not wanting her to get truly hurt in the crossfire, he says he doesn’t want to destroy her and tells Betty to “please go home.”
An old, but familiar scene unfolds as Lewis Capaldi croons “oh my lord, I need you by my side” Archie is back home in his room when he spots Betty through the window and we’re left wondering as the episode ends: Perhaps their two broken hearts might finally find a way to each other now that Jughead and Veronica have cleared the path?
So just, no Kevin (Casey Cott) in this episode?
Can someone please tell me how it’s possible to have a retirement party from a gang?
At the end of the episode, Janitor Svenson was looking at an image of what looked to be about 5 men. Who are they? Are they related to the men that killed conman preacher aka The Reaper?
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