Riverdale took a breather after we discovered the identity of the Black Hood killer. Or should we say "alleged identity" because who really believes it was the janitor? Anyone? I didn’t think so.
This episode comes with good news and bad news for the season’s second half. The good news: We’ve completely moved on from the Black Hood. Bad news: We’ve completely moved on from the Black Hood.
Jughead (Cole Sprouse) says in the show’s opening, It’s “back to business as usual in Riverdale.” But that’s not 100% true — all of the show’s main characters have veered down much darker paths (hello guns and drug dealing!) and they’re in too deep to go back to drinking milkshakes and playing guitar.
In Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) case, that means taking a bigger role in her parents’ illegal business dealings. The Lodges (Mark Consuelos & Marisol Nichols) are currently in the middle of a dirty deal with Mayor McCoy (Robin Givens). In exchange for Mayor McCoy securing the land around Southside High — so the Lodges can purchase it later — they’ll donate a hefty sum of cash to her reelection campaign.
Veronica is totally aware of the plan, which includes shutting down Southside High because of “toxic” waste from a nonexistent secret meth lab and sending all of Southside’s students (including the Serpents) to Riverdale High.
Veronica’s plan to keep the peace? Create a welcoming committee. It almost works too, except for meddling from the likes of Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Reggie Mantle (Charles Melton).
Cheryl’s reasons for revolting against the Serpents are simple: Her home life is “a nightmare” and she needs school to stay stable. Her mother, Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt), finally took Cheryl's advice to get a job — it’s just not the job Cheryl wanted. Penelope has become a sex worker and she absolutely loves it, though it’s unclear if she enjoys the job or merely torturing Cheryl by any means necessary. In any case, their money troubles have lessened thanks to her mother’s side hustle, but Cheryl hates that her mother is now “a woman of the night.”
So when the serpents show up, Cheryl throws a fit. Archie (K.J. Apa) and Veronica try to shut her down, but Cheryl has a backup plan: blackmail. She admits to Archie that she saw his kiss with Betty (Lili Reinhart) the day they stopped the Black Hood. If Archie doesn't get Veronica to side with Cheryl about sending away the Serpents, then Cheryl plans to spill his big secret.
As Cheryl threatens Archie, she also lets another major secret slip — that Nick St. Clair (Graham Phillips) almost assaulted Veronica when he was in town. Cheryl realizes she made a mistake by sharing the information with Archie (who's known to fly off the handle) and quickly apologizes for betraying Veronica’s confidence. But the information spurs Archie to seek revenge, promising to get Cheryl more “blood money” from Nick.
By episode’s end, Cheryl ends up with a fresh check from the man who tried to rape her, compliments of Archie’s "persuasive" ways. She tells her mother, “I’ve solved all our problems, mommy,” hoping that the cash will stop her mother from doing sex work. Instead, Penelope takes the check, tucks it into her bra, and says, “Why would I stop when I’m having such a good time?”
Let's be honest: Archie’s storyline in this episode is straight up bonkers. One minute, he’s celebrating the “angel donation” of $86,000 that paid off his father’s medical bills. The next he’s talking about starting a band like a regular-schmegular high school student. But before you know it, Archie is an FBI informant, sneaking into prep schools, and beating the shit out of Nick St. Clair.
No, really. If you thought Riverdale was done with crazy Archie plot lines that are equal parts scary and nonsensical, think again.
Archie gets stopped by a strange man in the park. A normal, smarter teen would think “stranger danger,” but Archie is not normal nor very smart. Instead he strikes up conversation with Special Agent Adams (John Behlmann) from the FBI. Should we be worried that he gains Archie’s trust by saying he grew up in Riverdale and shows no real credentials? Or maybe when he claims that Archie, a teen, is in a “unique position” to take down Hiram Lodge and his criminal activity? Or maybe we should worry when Agent Adams says that Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) could also be a part of the criminal activity, but Archie could prove otherwise?
The point is, I trust this “Agent” about as much as I trust Veronica Lodge to turn down a mimosa at breakfast. In other words, not at all. It’s not comforting that his credit on IMDB reads “Actor.” Suspicious much?
Agent Adams asks Archie to find out why the St. Clair family’s deal with the Lodges fell through and what really happened to Nick St. Clair after he tried to assault Cheryl. It’s not actually legal and kudos to Archiekins for asking, but he still decides to snoop. After the worse spying in the history of espionage during dinner at the Lodge family home, Archie learns about Nick’s “accident.” And when he talks to Cheryl later, he also learns about Veronica’s close call with Nick.
Agent Adams — who meets Archie, a teenage boy, in his soundproof garage (because the band, remember?!) — wants Archie to find out if Nick’s accident was truly accidental. So naturally, Archie puts on a “disguise” (a blazer) and sneaks into Nick’s prep school where he finds the young St. Clair with a cast on both his legs.
Nick happily writes Cheryl a new check and claims his injuries are from a “ski accident,” but he’s smarter than Archie and knows there’s more to this visit than meets the eye. He decides to verbally taunt Archie. In response, Archie punches Nick St. Clair, injured teen predator, again and again until the screen cuts to commercial. It’s strangely satisfying and terrifying — after all, Nick tried to rape Cheryl, but Archie is becoming more violent and unstable with every episode. At this point, he’s pulled a gun on someone, gotten into a knife fight, delivered drugs, and now he’s literally beating people.
Archie is also becoming a better liar. He tells Veronica that the entire Nick St. Clair situation stemmed from finding out about the night Nick tried to hurt her. And Archie admits that he was acting weird — but because Cheryl was blackmailing him.
Anyone could have predicted that Veronica would forgive Archie for his kiss with Betty before tumbling back into bed with him, but few could have predicted that Archie would end the episode by asking Agent Adams to promise immunity for Veronica and his dad in exchange for continued spying on the Lodges.
The Lodges' takeover forces Jughead and the Serpents to head over to Riverdale High — and they kinda love it. After all, as Toni (Vanessa Morgan) and Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) noted, it’s a school with a full computer lab, toilets that flush, and more resources than they ever could have dreamed of at Southside High. But the move forces them to conform.
They’re told to stop wearing their leather Serpent jackets and cover their tattoos, or face suspension. Jughead takes this vendetta personally, and breaks all the rules. It’s his dad F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) who teaches Jughead a valuable lesson: There’s nothing wrong with laying low. So while Jughead may want to rebel and fight the principal on forcing them to wear those hideous Riverdale school uniforms, he instead creates the “Swords & Serpents” club. It’s billed as a “Dungeons and Dragons” extra-curricular fantasy club, but really it’s just a place for the Serpents to slither.
“We’re not shedding our skins,” Jughead announces to his gang, which has been reduced to khaki pants and mock turtlenecks. “We’re lying low in the grass.”
Strangely enough, this line made me wonder if the Black Hood is doing the same, because even Archie doesn’t think they got the right guy (or at least, he tells Agent Adams as much).
Betty is not looking for a murderer anymore, but there’s still trouble in the Cooper house. Her sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye) pops by with an announcement: She had her twins! Oh, you’re never going to see them and she’s not staying with her family, but hey, at least we know she’s still alive.
Betty is forced to tell her parents the news and it’s pretty sad to watch her normally tough mother Alice (Mädchen Amick) deflate on-screen. But if there’s one thing we know about Betty, she always has a backup plan. And this time, it's her long lost brother.
Oh, you didn’t know she had a long-lost brother? Well, she does. And his name is Charles/Chic (Hart Denton). Surprise!
Betty and Alice decide to seek out Chic without telling dad, because the family that hides secrets from each other, stays together, right? But the first meeting goes poorly. Chic is living a pretty rough life and seems to hate Alice for putting him up for adoption.
But here’s the thing: You can tell Betty Cooper you never want to see her again, that you hate her guts, but she WILL COME BACK AND FIND YOU DAMNIT. It’s just her way. Naturally, she heads back to the cheap motel where they found Chic earlier and this time he’s in a fight with a much larger man.
Betty saves the day, thanks to a can of pepper spray, and rushes a bleeding Chic to the Cooper home where the entire family (sans Polly) gathers around him with medical supplies, like an episode of ER.
At first, Chic seems sweet and grateful, thanking Alice for her hospitality. But in the middle of the night, he finds his way to Betty’s room. Standing over her in the dark, his face slowly morphs into something terrifying. It’s hard to tell if he simply hates his sister for getting the love, affection, and comfort that he never did or if there’s something more sinister at play. In any case, Betty Cooper just brought a strange man into her house and it’s not going to end well.
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