Welcome to the jungle, Riverdale fans. The darkness of season 3 has officially started to take shape with second episode “Fortune And Men’s Eyes.” And, it looks like we will have two very separate story arcs to marvel at over the coming weeks. In one corner, Archie Andrews’ (KJ Apa) very Shawshank Redemption-style nightmare in juvie. In the other, the very True Detective-style Gargoyle King nightmare that Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) are investigating back home in Riverdale.
So, let’s get down to them.
Archie, Veronica, & Jailhouse Rock
This storyline made me cackle, out loud at least four times. First comes Archie’s repeated attempts to get his bunkmate, the very distant Mad Dog (Eli Goree), to pay attention to him. Then comes Archie’s announcement to a bunch of hardened, shiv-ready gang members that teen football will save their souls (this recap was almost titled “Juvie Night Lights”). That one Ghoulie teen very smartly reminds Archie he hasn’t had time for heavily padded team sports since the age of 9 when he began selling drugs to help his nana out; an afternoon of tossing around the pigskin isn’t going to do much for him.
Still, Archie, sweet, determined Archie, makes every play football.
Yet, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) outdoes her boyfriend on the “No, seriously?” scale when she shows up to juvie with a caravan of Vixens to do a choreographed performance of “Jailhouse Rock” for Archie and his detention mates. Ronnie then outdoes Ronnie when she later appears in juvie wearing a blonde wig and wielding the alias Monica Posh after her dad Hiram (Mark Consuelos in an impeccable suit, no tie) put her on the juvie no fly list. This show!
Despite all the Riverdale-y madness of the juvie storyline, there were also some important beats. Something deeply suspicious is afoot at the Leopold & Loeb Juvenile Detention Center, as evidenced by Mad Dog’s bizarre backstory. He tells Archie he had an entire life — a family who visited him behind bars, a girlfriend named Liz, hope — until he was “tapped.” All of a sudden Mad Dog's visitation list was revoked and he was essentially forced to live out his days alone, at least with many more creature comforts than the other inmates are allowed. Now, Mad Dog explains, he is headed to real prison for 20 years for an unexplained crime (did the warden add Mad Dog’s sentence? We don’t know).
Then… Mad Dog vanishes. Guard captain Golightly (Link Baker) claims Mad Dog was killed in the so-called “riot” Archie “caused” with the football game — it was actually a bloody guard-on-inmate ambush orchestrated by Hiram, who came to Leopold just to see Archie get beaten to a pulp — but Mad Dog wasn’t even there. Where is Mad Dog?
We get our first hint in the final juvie scene of the episode, when the Leopold warden (William MacDonald) “taps” Archie. As the trailer for next week’s episode, “As Above, So Below,” suggests, getting tapped means you’re now a fighter in Leopold & Loeb’s secret boxing ring. In the teaser, Archie is squaring up against another teen. It’s possible Mad Dog actually died during a similar fight, and the death is being blamed on the “riot.”
Betty, Jughead, & The Gargoyle King
Unlike Archie’s Shawshank cosplay, there is absolutely nothing to laugh about when it comes to Betty and Jughead’s deadly mystery. After Jughead found Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) and Ben Button (Moses Thiessen) in the woods last week, unresponsive with blue liquid on their lips, their situation has gone from bad to worse. Dilton is dead and Ben is in a coma. Upon looking at Dilton’s corpse, which is carved with runic symbols, the new Riverdale coroner announces to Bughead, “What we’re looking at here … is the true face of evil.”
To make matters even more dire, one of Dilton’s young Adventure Scout charges — you surely remember Dilton was a troupe leader? — is missing. By the end of the episode, the Adventure Scout has been found practically rabid in Dilton’s secret bunker and Ben has woken up in the hospital, only to calmly tumble himself out of a window.
“We both flipped the coin. [Dilton] was scared to ascend, but I’m not,” Ben eerily tells Betty and Jughead before falling. “We’ll be reunited in the Kingdom. All of us will. It’s all part of his plan.”
Then, Ben plummets to his death. Betty’s painful reaction to Ben’s heartbreaking fall is some of Lili Reinhart’s best acting in Riverdale history.
Clearly, the plan Ben was talking about belongs to the Gargoyle King. We finally get a good look at the fearsome, possibly mystical character earlier in “Men’s Eyes” when Bughead goes to investigate that previously mentioned bunker. Instead of finding a hatch, they come across the Gargoyle King, a massive creature made of sticks and teeth with a bloody maw for a mouth. After Betty’s seizure last week, the teen sleuth isn't sure what she’s seeing is real. But, Jughead assures her, it very much is. So, they run.
Right now, there are three possible explanations for the Gargoyle King’s burgeoning reign of terror. First, there is the one Riverdale has been setting up for two episodes: the game Dilton and Ben became consumed by, Dungeons & Dragons riff Gryphons And Gargoyles. Dilton’s bunker is filled with Gargoyle King-looking G&G paraphernalia, including a coin like the one Ben mentioned before his death. Fellow player Ethel (Shannon Purser) is caught up in a cultish obsession with the game and can no longer tell the difference between G&G and reality.
Yet, the parents of Riverdale also seem to take some responsibility for the darkness lurking in their town’s woods during a late-episode team meeting. Apparently, the group buried something darker-than-dark as teens and the Gargoyle King-related tragedies of late have them convinced that evil is back. Now the Halloween-scheduled, Breakfast Club-inspired flashback episode, where the teen cast will play their adult parents during their high school days, is sounding a lot more necessary and a lot less adorable.
Finally, something is up with new addition Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison), who was creeping in the back of the Riverdale High student lounge when Ethel began seizing after speaking about the Gargoyle King. Is the monster related to The Farm cult, which Evelyn father is in charge of? Is Evelyn somehow the Gargoyle King? Or is this just a coincidence?
Two cults, three possible explanations for a bloody stick monster lurching through the woods, and a battalion of hot parents with a dark secret? Only Riverdale.
The most Riverdale of Riverdale quotes: “Yes, but, Princess Etheline isn’t dating Ben in real life.”
— Ben’s mom mentions her son’s music teacher was murdered. Yes that was a callback to the season 2 premiere, when we learned Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel) had seduced a new teenage student… and then she was promptly murdered by the Black Hood (Lochlyn Munro). That student was Ben.
— Joaquin (Rob Raco) is back! Beautiful Joaquin who immediately demanded Archie stab a man for Serpent protection. Hey, no one’s perfect (and, guess that tattoo wasn’t so useful, was it, F.P.?).
— Speaking of Joaquin, his ex-boyfriend Kevin (Casey Cott) has joined RROTC in hopes of getting closer to hook up buddy Moose (Cody Kearsley)? Or to prove to Moose he’s masculine enough to be with? Or something less sad and regressive? Honestly Kevin’s motivation is unclear, as Riverdale often leaves his characterization.
— Truly why — as Veronica points out — doesn’t her father have anything better to do on weekday than orchestrate, and watch, a guard-sanctioned prison ambush of a 16-year-old boy?
— “Monica Posh” is now the name I will give strange men in bars from now until eternity.
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