Another week of Riverdale, another splintering storyline that plays out like True Detective went back to high school after dropping as much acid as possible. While last week’s fantastic episode clicked because each of our teen heroes was a spoke in one dizzying plot, Wednesday night’s “Manhunter” throws Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes), Betty (Lili Reinhart), and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) to the four corners of the wind. Everything is so strained that one of Riverdale’s central couples ends the episode by breaking up.
Let’s figure out how TV’s sexiest Scooby Doo gang finds themselves sobbing and scattered across the Riverdale chess board.
Earlier this year, I read a fan theory somewhere that suspected Betty would be institutionalized by the close of season 3. After all, isolating one member of the core four has become the traditional way of wrapping a Riverdale season (first, Jughead was sent to Southside High, then Archie was arrested for murder). Well, that theorizer was very right and very wrong.
We’re at just the sixth episode of the season, and Betty has now been locked up in the hell house that is the Quiet Sisters Of Mercy by her own mom, Alice (Mädchen Amick). And everyone in the torture facility is painting extremely detailed Gargoyle King portraits. Betty, who has already toiled through some of Riverdale’s cruelest torments, is in trouble.
Before Betty suffers the worst betrayal of season 3 so far, she spends “Manhunter” interrogating the Hot Parents Of Riverdale over their personal involvement with Gryphons & Gargoyles since there’s a late Warden Norton (William MacDonald)-RHS during Midnight Club era connection (he led RROTC back in the day).
Instead of truth, Betty finds a bucket of lies, served to her by “Auntie Blossom,” Penelope (Nathalie Boltt). Cheryl’s (Madelaine Petsch) mom claims Daryl Doiley (played as a teen by Major Curda) is the one who poisoned the cups back in the Midnight Club days, confessed as much to Penelope years later, revealed he was in love with her, and, when she refused him, died by suicide using carbon monoxide poisoning. However, autopsy results confirm Daryl was poisoned and his murder was hidden by the so-called “suicide.” Both Alice and Tom Keller (Martin Cummins) had a part in the cover-up.
Once Betty gets all of these clues, the Gargoyle King shows up in her house to terrorize her. He even brings some extra red lights for dramatic effect. In Betty’s room, someone has laid out a fake grave for her and her mom. The Gargoyle King means business! Then FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich) pulls a Billy Loomis and shows up at this exact horrifying moment, climbing through Betty’s bedroom window. Bizarrely, he doesn’t seem to notice the fake crimson lightning outside or the set of bones on Betty’s bed. Hmm.
By morning, Alice sends Betty to the Sisters, claiming Edgar Evernever, the cultish leader of The Farm, has decided that is what’s safest for the youngest Cooper girl. Hmmm.
Usually, we wouldn’t have to worry about Betty being trapped at the Sisters for long since Jughead would notice his girlfriend is missing and track her down like a bloodhound. Unfortunately, Jughead is busy preparing to ride the rails with his best friend (more on that in a second).
Before Jughead has to ask questions like, “You ever hop a train before?,” like some kind of weathered 1930s hobo, he is busy for most of “Manhunter” chasing the only Gargoyle King lead he has: Joaquin (Rob Raco). You see, at the close of last week’s episode, Jughead saw the Gargoyle King in the middle of the forest. As we learn in this episode, the King has a coterie of disciples, aka “the Gargoyle Gang.”
Jughead believes Joaquin is a member of the Gargoyle Gang. By the mid-point of the episode, Joaquin confirms as much, but refuses to spill any details about his scary new gang. All he can say is that the brand Archie received from the late Warden Norton means “sacrifice,” and a man in the black suit is the Gargoyle King (the suggestion is Hiram Lodge is the man in question, but that’s way too obvious). The next time we see Joaquin — beautiful, beautiful Joaquin — he’s dead. His forehead bares the “sacrifice” symbol.
The sight sends Jughead spinning. No wonder he’s ready to leave Riverdale for a few days.
Speaking of leaving Riverdale, the Archie Andrews Parade Of Guilt continues in “Mindhunter” to truly tragic ends. After learning the only witnesses to the murder of Cassidy Bullick (Harrison MacDonald), the crime an innocent Archie confessed to, are hiding out in a mine at Shadow Lake, Archie becomes fixated on finding them. Once Archie escapes the bunker with Kevin’s (Casey Cott) help for an genuinely good reason — getting an infected stab wound cleaned up — the boys head to Shadow Lake.
Unfortunately, they’re too late. Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) had already dispatched Sheriff Minetta (Henderson Wade) to the mines to eliminate the witnesses, to whom he paid $10,000 each falsely accuse Archie of murder. By the time Archie and Kevin arrive on the scene, two of the three boys have been shot to death. The third is slowly dying. He later dies in the hospital.
Archie is exhausted by all the casualties in Hiram’s exceedingly strange, expensive war against him. So, Archie does the last thing he can do at this point: break up with Veronica and leave Riverdale. While Varchie has always felt a little lukewarm, their breakup conversation over a pay-phone, where Archie tells Veronica her father will never stop destroying lives if their relationship continues, is actually painful. Countless beautiful tears are shed as these two star-crossed teens accept their upsetting fate.
With that, Jughead joins Archie for a trek into the great unknown.
Besides a breakup for the Tumblr ages, Ronnie’s major contribution to this episode is finding the recording of Sheriff Minetta coercing Cassidy Bullock’s friends into lying about Archie. With one fell swoop, Veronica gets Archie acquitted of all the felony charges against him. How there are no new charges against him for a massive prison break, we’ll never know,
Someone just give Veronica a storyline, any storyline, that doesn’t revolve around Archie Andrews.
The most Riverdale of Riverdale quotes: “Someone let you out of your cage, I see.”
— The number of unarmed Riverdale teens who confront suspected adult criminal masterminds solo in murder-perfect secluded environments is astounding.
— The odds of Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope) being the Gargoyle King have gone up. Not only is Penelope hiding something major, but Hiram mentioned the supposedly dead drug kingpin’s name as a possible Gargoyle King suspect. What a subtle way to bring Cliff back into our Riverdale consciousness.
— Archie and Veronica and Betty and Jughead have now had sex on the same molting cot in Dilton Doiley’s (Curda, again) rusted forest bunker, and this fact has ruined my life.
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