This season of Riverdale is essentially a very long, fascinating tumble down a rabbit hole of Alice In Wonderland proportions for our heroes. The only problem is, these journeys couldn’t be more separate. Last week, there were two different sagas playing out in the deadly burg of Riverdale. This week, with “As Above, So Below,” there are three. Star Lili Reinhart wasn’t kidding during New York Comic Con earlier this month when she told a pack of reporters, “This season you see Riverdale for the town that it is and the scope of the town is so much bigger than you thought.”
So, let’s get down to all the moving (blood-stained) parts of Riverdale.
Betty, Jughead, The Gargoyle King & The Farm
The Gargoyle King is real. Like he’s a real physical being who can stand in plain sight in hospital rooms. We know this because “Below” wraps with poor Ethel Muggs (Shannon Purser) bowing in her hospital bed to her “king,” as she lovingly says. The camera whips around to reveal the Gargoyle King is standing in front of the teen, raising his arms as creepy music plays. It seems fairly obvious there is someone underneath all of those sticks and animal bones.
Which, dear Riverdale fans, means that whoever the Gargoyle King actually is carried all of that nonsense to the hospital, walked into Ethel’s room (her bed is covered by sheeting so she wouldn’t see him), put it all on as she waited for his entrance, and then lorded over this teenager. That is both terrifying and hilarious to think about in a logistical sense.
Now that we’ve gotten to the most important moment of the Gargoyle King saga this week, let’s figure out what led us here. Ethel returns to Riverdale High after her latest seizure. It’s worth noting Ethel has been having multiple seizures, every day, since beginning to play “G&G” as she insists on calling Gryphons & Gargoyles. The person most interested in Ethel’s return is Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison), the suspicious daughter of The Farm “king” Edgar Evernever. Evelyn was in the room for both Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Ethel’s on-camera seizures.
Evelyn is legitimately very unsettling — and is now trying to bring The Farm to RHS — but it’s unlikely she or her dad could be the Gargoyle King. Like with the Mr. Svenson (Cameron McDonald) antics of last year, all Farm intrigue feels like a Gargoyle-related red herring. Yet, that doesn’t mean Betty shouldn’t worry about the cult, as Alice (Mädchen Amick) went and told the group all of the Cooper family’s shared felony-level crimes. And, even more rudely, Alice spilled about Betty’s flirtation with a camgirl career.
The realization of Alice’s betrayal leads to Betty nearly seizing again and again in the presence of Evelyn. Hm.
While Betty figures out if the farm has a connection to the Gargoyle King — and therefore the suicides of Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) and Ben Button (Moses Thiessen) — Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) plays his first game of D&D with Ethel, who arrives to the bunker-set game in full princess regalia. To quote my father, Ethel is a trip. In order to win the G&G rule book, which is possibly the only way to crack the suicide case, Ethel makes Jug drink from one of two chalices. This is how both Dilton and Ben died. Jughead picks the right cup, and Ethel willfully chugs the one filled with poison when Jughead isn’t paying attention. Hence, Ethel’s end-of-episode hospitalization. Jughead flees Dilton’s G&G bunker with a dying Ethel and the rule book.
The Betty-Jughead plot culminates in F.P (Skeet Ulrich) and Alice finding Jughead’s copy of the rule book. Both parents melt down over the book, and F.P. throws it into a fire in hopes of saving his son and Betty from the game. Obviously, as Betty realizes by episode’s end, Bughead’s parents once played G&G. That’s why they’re terrified of the book. Despite F.P. seemingly destroying the single copy of G&G’s rule book, Jughead returns to school the next morning to learn every single RHS student found a copy in their locker that morning. And, that’s exactly what the Gargoyle King wanted, as Ethel babbles in the hospital.
Also, Betty and Jughead are now almost exclusively knocking boots in the late Dilton Doiley’s ghastly as hell bunker. Yes, Betty, this is ghouslish.
Veronica, Reggie, & La Bonne Nuit
Y’all, Veronica Lodge’s (Camila Mendes) art deco speakeasy is open! It’s called La Bonne Nuit and it only serves mocktails! Which is very funny! Local very bored villain and father Hiram (Mark Consuelos, now carrying a fedora everywhere) sends two of his minions to Pop’s to shake down his daughter ahead of her big opening night. She responds by breaking into Hiram’s own nightclub, former Serpent headquarters The White Wyrm, with unrivaled Riverdale power couple Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) for some counter surveillance.
The trio takes photos of Hiram’s booming Jingle Jangle lab. Veronica then shows the photos to Hiram and threatens to send the images to the FBI. She demands he stop his shake-down and give her $10,000 every week forever. He agrees? Probably? Hiram doesn’t exactly respond, but does show up at La Bonne Nuit during opening night to give Veronica the obviously haunted portrait he has of her, which usually hangs in his home office.
Then he hangs out at the club for a bit before slipping out. Was Hiram’s visit nefarious or truly fatherly? It would be nice to say the answer is the former — Hiram does genuinely seem proud of Ronnie’s entrepreneurial side — but he also nearly had Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) murdered in a prison guard bloodbath last week. So let’s assume Hiram’s visit set in motion some devilish grand scheme, and that painting is probably involved.
Archie & Shawshank Redemption
By the end of “As Above, So Below” Archie is basically living the major beats of Shawshank Redemption. To the point that the last words we hear out of his mouth are, “We’re escaping. Somehow. We’re gonna get the hell out of here.” And he said it after finding a rock hammer, Andrew Dufresne’s (Tim Robbins) tunnel creator of choice.
Before this Shawshank-y moment, Archie spends the episode in solitary confinement for, at minimum, three whole weeks, before relenting and agreeing to his warden’s (William MacDonald) demand to join his underground, for-profit teen prisoner boxing ring. Archie meets his fellow boxing serfs and one of them is named Baby Teeth because Riverdale has never heard a normal name in its life. Archie is wildly good at boxing, but hates hurting people. Hence the escape plan.
Honestly, it’s just a lot of shirtless angst. But, no one’s complaining.
The most Riverdale of Riverdale quotes: Instead of a quote, it's a reaction this week: Jughead being down to drink poison in the ghoulish sex bunker he squats in sometimes with his girlfriend, but acting like having to kiss Ethel is the biggest burden in history.
— Our three cackle-worthy Riverdale moments this week: The camera going from F.P and Alice canoodling in bed to Jughead and Betty canoodling in the exact same position; Ronnie, Cheryl, and Toni’s heads sticking out from random walls during their Scooby Doo cosplay in the White Wyrm; and Archie trying to do motivational speaking for his fellow doomed teen boxing serfs.
— Penny Peabody is an adult woman with a law degree who has nothing better to do than terrorize a teen girl over her mocktail-slinging speakeasy. Maybe Penny and her boss Hiram, he of 16-year-old boy Archie arch nemesis fame, need to plan some lunch dates? Find a hobby to share?
— The warden says “Mister Andrews” exactly how Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) growls “Mister Anderson” at Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. I cannot unhear this and now neither can you.
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