The past two episodes have prepared us for this mid-season finale, putting all the pieces in place for a fast paced thrill ride that will have to hold us over until January 17 when Riverdale returns! In tonight’s episode, Christmas has come to Riverdale!! And while comfort and joy would usually be the mood of the season, this episode picks up right where we left off: with heartbreak, drug dealers, and a murderer still on the loose!
Archie (KJ Apa), who is selling Christmas trees in front of Pop’s with his father Fred (Luke Perry), catches up with Jughead (Cole Sprouse) about the recent breakups as well as plans for the holidays. Archie says his Mom is going away on a singles cruise and they agree to see each other at Kevin’s (Casey Cott) Secret Santa - which will undoubtedly be awkward if they’re to exchange with their recent exes!
At the Cooper’s we see Polly (Tiera Skovbye) rushing Betty awake for what seems to be Christmas morning, as Betty comes down the stairs the scene turns terrifying immediately showing Polly, Hal (Lochlyn Munro), and Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) all dead with the Black Hood creepily climbing over the couch as if to get Betty next – but Betty wakes up from the ghoulish nightmare just in time.
Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch), at the Blossom Residence, is presented with the bleak realization, care of mommy dearest Penelope (Nathalie Boltt), that this Christmas will not be filled with tidings and joy because they no longer have positive cash flow coming in – that’s what happens when your Dad uses the family syrup business as a front for a drugs.
In quick succession we learn that Fred Andrews is concerned about his hospital bill that has just come in for $86K, causing Archie to worry. Separately, Betty and Veronica (Camila Mendes) discuss the holidays and the break ups – however Veronica already bought a gift for Archie and insists they’re still friends. At the Jones's trailer, FP (Skeet Ulrich) and Jughead have words as Jughead wants to help his dad with the Penny Peabody (Brit Morgan) situation but FP refuses to allow his son to be a part of the debt owed to Penny.
Back at Riverdale High, the Secret Santa is well underway – Josie (Ashleigh Murray) gifts Veronica a couples massage and Archie gifts Betty a read along Swiss Family Robinson album they used to listen to as kids. When the gifting ends, Moose (Cody Kearsley) and Midge (Emilija Baranac) return, but Archie is consumed with thoughts of the Black Hood at the site of them.
Betty tells Archie about her anxiety nightmares that are making her paranoid when she sees Not-Mr. Svenson (Cameron McDonald) conducting the janitorial duties, Betty quizzes the man on where Mr. Svenson is because of the recently uncovered Mr. Svenson = Joseph Conway situation and goes with Archie to the school Secretary where they learn that Mr. Svenson has been out a few days with a cold. Archie and Betty immediately think there is a connection between Mr. Svenson not being at school and Archie and Veronica’s recent discovery that Mr. Svenson was in fact Joseph Conway the one child who survived the Conway murders back in the 60s.
At the Blue and Gold, Jughead gives Betty a present and apologizes for how the breakup went down but says he doesn’t want Betty caught in the crosshairs of a rather precarious situation he and his father find themselves in. Betty is not here for Jughead’s unilateral decisions about their relationship and tells him it is not his decision to make for her. Betty also has a gift for Jughead – I guess we’ll see what they are later?
Veronica finds Archie and gives him his gift, a beautiful engraved watch with a message clearly inscribed before the breakup. Veronica says she doesn’t want things to be forced between them, and Archie reciprocates by sharing the woes he’s facing with his father medical bills but the sharing doesn’t last long as Archie quickly scurries away from the conversation.
Over at the Whyte Wyrm a surprising tradition is underway, the Serpents are wrapping holiday presents for families on the South Side. FP comes through and calls up Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) to help him and Tall Boy (Scott McNeil) with what looks to be another drug run for Penny Peabody. Jughead protests, again but to not avail.
Betty calls Archie and wants to check in on Mr. Svenson as something is just not sitting right, as Archie leaves the Christmas tree sale, Cheryl strolls in what looks like an attempt to bring back the Christmas cheer her mother tried to dampen.
Archie and Betty walk up to Mr. Svenson’s house but the soup the Secretary had left for him was still on the front porch, they know but nobody's home. Across town, at the trailer, Jughead fields a visit from from Jack Walsh, FP’s parole office.
At the Lodge Residence, Hiram (Mark Consuelos) and Hermione (Marisol Nichols) are bantering about gifts, when Veronica interrupts with musings about throwing money away when Archie and his dad are drowning in medical bills. Veronica asks for their family to cover the bills and in doing so upsets Hiram and he says no and storms off to his study.
Cheryl has spared no expense decking the halls of Thistle House and Penelope is not pleased and asks how they’ll pay for the extravagance to which Cheryl retorts that her mother should go to Hiram Lodge for a job, but unfortunately the only skill she has is being a terrible mother. Grandma Rose says a most horrific anecdote: that Penelope should have drowned the kids at birth like a basket of kittens.
Alice Cooper, looking every bit the respectable housewife without a shred of Serpentry insight, is home icing cookies when Betty walks in and Alice tells her she has a gift from Secret Santa. Betty takes the gift to her room and opens it to find a severed human finger inside! It’s Joseph Conway's (aka Mr. Svenson’s finger) with a note: “Find the truth and reveal it to the town and you’ll perhaps save his life” Archie comes over just as Betty gets a call from the Black Hood: “Exhume the past, find where the primal sin was committed” do this, and she might be able to save Mr. Svenson. Archie says that before Joseph Conway was adopted he stayed with the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, the same place that held Polly last season, and Archie and Betty determine they’ll go there to start their investigation. A new detective duo has emerged!
Veronica is at home in Hiram’s office snooping around and amidst the hidden holiday gifts she finds the deed to Pop’s which Hiram said he only made a donation to and never fessed up to actually buying it. In retaliation for the lies, Veronica takes the family card and pays Fred’s bill in full Hermione Apolonia Lodge.
Back at the trailer, FP enters to see that the Parole officer turned the place upside down. FP had tire to get into the holiday spirit by bringing gifts home for the family but Jughead and FP get into a heated argument again about the Serpents and FP yells at Jughead that they’re trapped, with no leverage for the foreseeable future so they’re stuck as Penny’s dancing monkeys for now.
Jughead gathers the Serpent youth, including Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) and Sweet Pea to rally them to help FP who stands for the best parts of the Serpents, lest we forget this is a gang that hosts toy drives to give back to the community, and drive out Penny Peabody who would rather the Serpents become the next Ghoulies: trafficking drugs through Riverdale.
At The Sisters of Quiet Mercy, Archie and Betty are met with tight lipped nuns but after Betty threatens to expose the Sister’s use of corporal punishment, according to Polly, they learn that Joseph Conway believed he had wrongly identified the man who murdered his family, however it was only after the group of townspeople had killed the man. The nurse said Joseph had a group visit him once, all men except for one women, with white hair with a streak of cherry red. Betty know who that is: Nana Rose Blossom (Barbara Wallace)!
In an effort to take care of the Penny Problem, Jughead shows up at Penny’s with a group of masked serpents and kidnaps Penny, taking her to Greendale. Jughead tells Penny that if she wants to deal drugs and extort people she can do it somewhere else but not on the South Side. Penny says it’s Serpent law, that Jughead cannot hurt her flashing her Serpent tattoo, but Jughead in a dark and twisted fashion tells Penny that the tattoo doesn't make you a Serpent and appears to cut it off her. This is an incredibly, dark scene for a bunch of high schoolers, but this cements Jughead’s path deeper into the serpent world.
The Lodges come home to confront Veronica about the $86K charge to the credit card where she confronts her parents right back about them buying Pop’s. Veronica says she has the right to know what goes on with the family business and after Hiram protests, Hermione says that the time for being daddy’s little girl is over and concedes to tell Veronica the truth.
Hiram and Hermione share “everything” with Veronica, unfortunately we the audience didn't get to hear any of it, but V says she’s all in but that the ground rules are she refuses to do anything illegal. Hermione tells her the two words to live by: Plausible Deniability. Hermione and Hiram agree to cover Fred’s medical bills as well saying they’ll need him for what comes next. After all of the lies her parents have told her is it possible that Veronica is agreeing to be on the inside with her parents to see how the business works and figure out how to take them down??
Betty and Archie go to question Nana Rose about killing the man Joseph Conway said killed his family. Nana Rose in her dream sequence like monologue says “the men” told her to stay at home while they took care of the bad man and that they gave him a proper burial, as in they buried him alive! She tells Betty to ask her grandfather about it because he was there and that there’s a picture of them standing under the devil’s hand. Betty says the pictures would be at her house but is very upset over the fact that her grandfather may have killed someone and wonders if that’s why the Black Hood is targeting her. Archie says tonight is the night they stop the Black Hood but that he needs Betty, who is spiraling a bit over the news of her grandfather, to be in it with him and in the heat of the moment they kiss! I repeat: Archie and Betty kissed!
At the trailer, Jughead tells FP that he rallied the younger Serpents to drive Penny out of town. FP isn’t convinced but Jughead says he got his pound of flesh. Jughead tells his father no matter what, he is still a Serpent and he’s proud of it and what he became while his father was in jail and he won’t let FP take that away from him.
Betty and Archie are at Betty’s house searching through old photos, looking for THE photo, and they find it and know the Devil’s Hand is a tree at the park and set off to find it. On the way they call Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins). When they arrive at the tree there’s a freshly dug grave and headstone that reads: Here lies sinners.
Archie and Betty dig to reveal an empty wooden coffin just as confusion crosses their faces the Black Hood appears and instructs Archie at gunpoint to get inside the coffin and Betty to bury Archie alive! Slowly Betty begins trying to reason with the Black Hood, in the distance sirens draw near and distract the Black Hood, but that’s all Betty needs! She whacks him upside the head with the shovel and gets Archie out of the coffin and then they take off after the Black Hood.
The Black Hood is running, but Archie is fast and knocks the Black Hood, and scrambles for the gun. Archie, with the gun and tells the Black Hood not to jump off the bridge and in a tense moment it looks like Archie is going to shoot the Black Hood, when the gun shot it’s Sheriff Keller’s who fires the fatal shot. The trio close in on the Black Hood and remove his hood to reveal...Mr. Svenson, missing finger and all!
Recapping the ordeal at Pop’s, the core four review notes. Archie tells Veronica she was right about Mr. Svenson being the Black Hood and Betty muses that maybe Mr. Svenson thought he could atone for his mistake by targeting sinners - although she doesn't sound too convinced. Jughead says it’s all starting to feel like the last scene in American Psycho.
Outside of Pop’s, Josie and Kevin sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” as we check in one last time on our favorite sons and daughters of Riverdale enjoying their Christmas mornings as the mid-season finale comes to a close.
Cheryl is surprised to see her mother making out on the couch with one of the men from the Christmas Tree shop outside of Pop’s. Jughead opens Betty’s gift: a vintage underwood “the typewriter of champions” but rather than thank her in person as FP suggests, Jughead says he’ll call or text. Betty is at home and opens Jughead’s gift of a Book with sentimental value.
Veronica opens a gift from Archie which Hermione says he dropped off earlier and turns out to be a heart shaped locket with both their faces in it. So naturally Veronica is compelled to show up on Archie’s doorstep with mistletoe and says that Archie is filled with good and she needs him in her life and finally says i love you back! And all would be well and good except for the fact that we then see Veronica and Archie through the lens of a camera – someone is watching them.
And as Jughead narrates the close of the episode and observes that yet another mystery concludes, wrapped in a bow just in time for Christmas, Betty is clearly still haunted by this mystery and she knows it’s not over.
-Was the Black Hood really Mr. Svenson? It seems to be wrapped up in to neat of a bow?
-Could the Black Hood have made Mr. Svenson go to the grave and when he was running away from Archie and Betty he was really running for his life?
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