The latest episode of Riverdale, flashback heavy “The Midnight Club,” may technically be about revealing the Gryphons & Gargoyles origin story. But, “Chapter Thirty-Nine” was clearly more interested in clarifying many of the questions we’ve had about the adults of Riverdale and their complex romantic pasts. Well, that and everyone’s fan-freaking-tastic 1990s styling choices.
You know, mysteries like, why would Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) ever choose bland man-slash-murderer Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro) when she has such explosive chemistry with FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich). Or, how did the love triangle between good guy Fred Andrews (Luke Perry), Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols), and relentless mob boss Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) end up the way it did?
Well, “The Midnight Club” reveals all that couple-y nonsense — and the current reign of vaguely supernatural terror plaguing Riverdale — can be traced back to a month of detention in the early 1990s, some unlikely friendships, a lot of drugs, and the murder of the nerd from The Breakfast Club… I mean Principal Featherhead (played by Breakfast Club star Anthony Michael Hall).
We enter the pre-flashback portion of “Midnight Club” with Riverdale in peak panic over Gryphons & Gargoyles. Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) finally turns to her mother and demands to know how she and FP are involved with the game. Finally, Alice relents and spins the tale of the Midnight Club, a group made up of every single major teen character’s parents.
Please, do not try to figure out how every single Riverdale parent is the same age and then had children at the precise same time, therefore leading to that entire pack of offspring entering the same class at Riverdale High in 2018. This is Riverdale — not the meticulously crafted Big Little Lies finale.
So back in 1990-something, Alice Smith (played by Reinhart here), FP Jones (Cole Sprouse here), Fred Andrews (KJ Apa here), Hermione Gomez (Camila Mendes here), Penelope Blossom (usually Nathalie Boltt, but Madelaine Petsch here), and Sierra McCoy (usually Robin Givens, but Ashleigh Murray here) end up in detention. The boys for streaking, the girls for either being a part of an epic slap fight or standing around as accidental witnesses.
The only detail that really matters is the detention streak arrives at the exact time Alice learns she is pregnant with FP’s baby. FP, big jock on campus, has left their “casual” hookup relationship for some random River Vixen. Only Alice, Hermione, and Sierra know the full story.
One day of detention blossoms into four when Hermione and Penelope get into a new slap fest over the greatest disturbing twist in all of Riverdale: Penelope Blossom is a Blossom. A few years earlier, the Blossom family picked up an 8-year-old orphan Penelope from the horrific Sisters Of Quiet Mercy. Young Penelope would live as the family’s daughter… until she was old enough to become the loyal life partner of eldest son Clifford (played as an adult by Barclay Hope, as a boy by Jaden Oehr).
Penelope’s Blossom’s life is hell! But, we learn, each of our six major players have their own hellish issues to contend with, from Fred’s dying dad to Sierra’s racist romance problem (she and Tom Keller have been in love forever! And their parents won’t let them be together because “differences, if you catch my drift).
So, when someone unearths Gryphons & Gargoyles during a detention session, everyone is down to escape their problems for a while. Who wouldn’t rather be a sorceress than a terrified teen hiding her pregnancy? Quickly, everyone becomes obsessed with the escape of the game and the freedom it provides them. It also opens up the chance for some weird romantic pairings: Hermione and a wildly charismatic FP, and Alice and Fred. The former never even kiss; the latter make out and then never speak of it again.
Despite those unexpected moments, Fredmione and Falice end up coupled up and sporting elaborate G&G costumes. What adorable nerds. Unfortunately, the sixsome’s blissful game play turns dark when they join forces with the surprise other group of G&G players, which is led by none other than teen drug dealer Hiram Lodge (Michael Consuelos playing his dad Mark Consuelos’ younger self).
Soon enough, the entire group is invited to an “Ascension Party” by the Gargoyle King. As we eventually learn, neither game master — Penelope and Dilton Doiley’s dad Daryl (played by the late Dilton himself, Daniel Davis Yang) — set up the fully stocked party or sent out the invitations. Some nefarious puppet mastery is afoot.
We quickly realize just how dangerous the party is as the group descends into fizzle rock-induced druggy madness. While Alice secretly refused to partake due to her pregnancy, everyone else becomes a “monster,” as present-day Alice says. But, a bigger monster is lurking in RHS during the party: the Gargoyle King. When a sober Alice stumbles out of a bathroom stall, she sees two chalices filled with blue liquid. One of them, as we can already guess, is poisoned. She leaves without drinking out of either cup, only to find the Gargoyle King, in all his bonkers bloody costumed glory, dramatically posed in a hallway.
Alice flees, but not before seeing Principal Featherhead enter the building. The next morning, she learns the educator has gone missing. A week later, everyone finds out Principal Featherhead has been murdered. His lips are covered with the blue liquid from the bathroom chalices Alice saw, and the door hiding his body has been carved with Gryphons & Gargoyles symbols.
Immediately, the G&G group splinters, terrified that someone among them could actually be a murderer, and that they could all be implicated in Featherhead’s death. With the fantasy of G&G officially dead, buried, and its physical parts scattered or destroyed throughout town, everyone embraces their safest destinies. We’ve all seen how terribly that turned out. In a heartbreaking move, pregnant Alice ditches her Serpent duds and delightful bad girl attitude for forced girl-next-door vibes and a jock named Hal.
That is the story of The Midnight Club. These details satisfy a relentlessly curious Betty in the present day. She leaves home excited to bring all of her new information to Jughead (Cole Sprouse), who is hanging out in their shared Bughead Sex Bunker™️. The only problem is, Jughead and the entire Teen Serpent Gang has fallen down the G&G rabbit hole.
“I’m a level three, and it’s only a matter of time until I ascend — and I get to meet him,” Jughead stammers about the Gargoyle King. Oh. No.
The most Riverdale of Riverdale quotes: “I was groomed to first be Clifford’s sister. Then, eventually, his life companion.”
- Lili Reinhart should petition for her Alice Smith beauty lewk to become Betty’s daily aesthetic. She looks amazing here (and did her own makeup!).
- KJ Apa’s flawless Luke Perry impression will sustain me through the rest of 2018.
Looking for more theories, recaps, and insider info on all things TV? Join our Facebook group, Binge Club. The community is a space for you to share articles, discuss last night’s episode of your favorite show, or ask questions! Join here.