Riverdale Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: "The Watcher In The Woods"

Photo: Courtesy of The CW.
Let’s be honest: last week's Riverdale felt a little dull. Sure, the kids saved Pop’s Diner, but not much else happened. This week, we finally got some plot development — including a name and motive for our masked serial killer.
Maybe the most welcoming change to this week’s episode was that it spent a great deal of time focusing on Kevin (Casey Cott), someone who sits on the peripheral of the show’s central quartet. The episode opened with Kevin going for a run in Fox Forest, but we quickly learn that it’s just a pretense for a hookup with an unknown guy in the woods.
The makeout session doesn’t last long. Gunshots ring out, drawing attention to Moose (Cody Kearsley) and Midge (Emilija Baranac), who were just attacked by the masked killer while doing Jingle Jangle (or “JJ” as they call it in Southside). Midge screams and runs from the car while covered in blood, in what Kevin later describes as “full-on Carrie.”
Surprisingly, both Moose and Midge live. Let’s not dwell on how absurd that is, despite Moose being shot at point blank. Even Jughead (Cole Sprouse) makes a crack at the killer’s “terrible aim” after Reggie (Charles Melton) tells them about the shooting.
Archie (K.J. Apa) heads to the hospital with Reggie and asks Moose about the incident. Moose can’t remember much about his attacker, except for his eyes. You guessed it — they were green! Midge also notes, rather dramatically, that “he had the devil’s eyes.” (This will not be the last Biblical reference in this episode, so brace yourself.)
Meanwhile, Betty (Lili Reinhart) is worried about Kevin’s safety — after all, there is a murderer on the loose. She urges Kevin to stay out of the woods at night and find a new way to meet guys. Kevin agrees, but it’s obviously a lie.
In the Lodge house, it’s all about building that daddy-daughter relationship. Veronica (Camila Mendes) asks if Hiram (Mark Consuelos) will meet her friends. He agrees, but Hermione (Marisol Nichols) warns Veronica that things are not always what they appear to be with daddy dearest. At one point she even says “stop being so thirsty, Veronica.” Way harsh, mom.
But when the gang shows up, Hiram takes a particular liking to Archie. He also tells him that sometimes “the police aren’t the solution,” which is very bad advice for a kid who’s already bought a gun.
On the other side of the tracks, Jughead is adjusting to life at Southside High School. Luckily, he has a guide: Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). She’s got unicorn hair and gives the best two-minute inside scoop I’ve seen since Janis Ian in Mean Girls. She quickly shows Jughead the ropes, warning him about the Ghoulies, a rival gang, and Jingle Jangle, which seems to be dealt right out in the open at Southside High.
But Toni also asks Juggie if he’s Team Serpents, given his family history. Despite being a legacy, Jug once again declines membership, saying, “I self-identify as a loner” and adding that he rather “finish my book and brood.” Of course he would.
Toni warns him that being alone makes him vulnerable, but he’s too busy trying to sweet-talk a teacher into letting him join the defunct Southside newspaper. It’s there that Toni and Jughead start to develop a friendship — and it’s hinted that something more than friendship may develop. When Betty drops by for a visit, their kiss is interrupted by Toni, who says she expected Betty to be more of a “Winona Ryder from Beetlejuice.” The girls both brought Jughead coffeemakers, highlighting how they're almost mirror images of each other — Toni seems to be everything “Dark Betty” wants to be IRL.
But Betty Cooper has bigger fish to fry. For starters, her mother Alice (Mädchen Amick) receives a mysterious package with Fred Andrews’ wallet and Ms. Grundy’s heart-shaped sunglasses, as well as a letter from the killer, who identifies himself as “The Black Hood.”
He admits to shooting “the adulterer” and “the drug and sex addicted teenagers.” He says that Riverdale’s secrets are their sins, adding, “I am the wolf, you are the flock. This is the bloodletting.”
Archie doesn’t take this well. He joins up with his football teammates, most notably Reggie, to start a watch group that looks a lot like the jock version of Dumbledore’s Army. They call themselves “The Red Circle” but the sheriff calls them vigilantes. Either way, they help save Ethel Muggs (Shannon Purser) from The Black Hood after she calls for help.
But the biggest moment of the night comes from Kevin. Betty won’t stop pestering him about going out into the woods. At one point, Cheryl even teams up with Betty to confront him in Fox Forest and warn him about how dangerous it is out there. But Kevin isn’t having it.
He calls out Betty for her straight privileged “pale pink” world filled with “milkshakes and first kisses.” (It might be the most accurate and thorough dragging we’ve ever seen on the show.) And it makes sense: As we learn during a conversation with Moose, being a gay teen in Riverdale is pretty awful. You basically live your life closeted and the woods is the one place where you can be yourself.
Later, when Kevin heads back into the woods and meets a strange man in a car, he imagines getting stabbed. It takes that scary vision for him to realize how much he's really risking. He quickly runs off when the guy becomes angry. And when Kevin gets home, his dad (Martin Cummins) Sheriff Keller, confronts him about his late night rendezvous. Turns out Betty told his dad everything. On the one hand, it leads to them having an open conversation about his sexuality and safety. On the other, Betty betrayed his trust — and their friendship is going to suffer for it.
Speaking of suffering, Jughead catches a beating one evening at Southside. We assume it’s the Ghoulies, but in this town, who really knows? He tells Betty it was a bike accident and Toni lies for him. The next day, he joins the Southside Serpents for lunch at their table since there’s safety in numbers. Count it as one more compromise he’s made despite claims that he’ll never join their gang.
If you didn’t think Hiram Lodge was scary, think again. He basically threatens Hermione before Archie comes over for dinner. Kudos to Marisol Nichols’ acting in scenes with Consuelos. She seems genuinely terrified of her own husband, begging the question: What is he truly capable of?
Hiram offers Archie a drink in his private study, much to Veronica’s dismay since she’s never allowed inside. Aside from the fact that he’s giving rum to a teenager, the scene is pretty chilling. Hiram knows all about Archie’s late night visits to his daughter’s bedroom, proving his omnipresence in Riverdale. He also pushes for Archie’s Red Circle to fight fire with fire when it comes to The Black Hood. But why?
The episode ends with Polly Cooper (Tiera Skovbye) leaving town — after only two minutes or so of screen time— scared that she’s next on the Black Hood’s list of sinners (hello, teen pregnancy!).
The final scene shows Archie and his Red Circle gang recording a message for the killer. Most of the boys are topless and wearing Lucha Libre-style red masks. Archie is the only one who shows his face — unafraid and vengeful — promising the Black Hood that they will hunt him down.
What’s scarier than Archie and group of teen boys taking the law into their own hands while a sin-obsessed killer is on the loose? Hiram Lodge smiling about it, like it’s all part of a larger plan. In any case, it doesn’t bode well. As Jughead warns, there’s rarely a happy ending in Riverdale.
Other gossip:
Can we talk about the fact that F.P.’s real name is Forsythe Jones?
Do they only use firelight in the Lodge house? Do they not own lamps? Sure, it’s ominous and makes their skin glow, but it seems super inconvenient.
“The Matchlorette” sounds like it’s even more ridiculous than “The Bachelorette” — and we want to know how we can see an episode.
“Grind’Em” is the new “Grindr”?
Polly (in a very Blair Waldorf headband) wins points for best line of the night: “I am the poster child for sin.”
Are we supposed to believe that Veronica, a girl with a servant, polishes knives before dinner parties? And in pearls?
Please note that while describing Kevin’s glow-up, Cheryl refers to him as a “smoke-show.”
That creepy portrait of Veronica over Hiram’s fireplace will haunt our dreams.
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