Can you feel it? We are so close to settling all of Riverdale’s Gargoyle King, Gryphon & Gargoyles-related madness. As with last week’s plot-moving episode, Wednesday’s “The Man In Black” supplies us with so many clues about the Gargoyle King’s identity and, therefore, a way to stop him. There are fizzle rocks, abandoned towns, and cameos by Elvis’ granddaughter aplenty, so let’s get into it.
Yes, Betty Cooper’s (Lili Reinhart) storyline arrives last, but it’s the most important. This is Riverdale — conventions be damned.
Remember last week’s “Manhunter,” when every single “patient” (read: captive) at the Sisters Of Quiet Mercy was painting their personalized nightmare portrait of the Gargoyle King? Well, Betty has realized something is very rotten in Riverdale’s scariest psych ward-orphanage-homophobic hell house and plans to find out what that is. I don’t know when this happened, but Betty has become my favorite character.
That is how we find Elizabeth Cooper lying to the fearsome Sister Woodhouse (Beverley Breuer) about some cursed Rorschach test. While the images obviously reflect a few of Betty’s darkest moments — from the Black Hood saga to the current Gargoyle King nightmare — the teen claims to only see the cheeriest pictures possible. Clever girl.
All of this subterfuge is part of Haunted Nancy Drew’s plan to find evidence of the convent’s wrongdoing and then escaping through that “The Noose Tightens” tunnel. And, Betty’s plan works. While playing the obedient patient, Betty learns the Gargoyle King is taking very scream-y meetings with other girls at the Sisters, undisputed villain Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos) is testing drug-laced fizzle rock candy out on the Sisters’ patients, and Claudius Blossom (Barclay Hope) is somehow involved in this scheme.
In the most alarming turn of events, Betty finds proof Hiram Lodge is personally dictating how patients’ “medicine,” aka the druggy fizzle rocks, are being distributed.
Unfortunately, Betty’s plan to out the many new crimes at the Sisters Of Quiet Mercy is foiled by Ethel Muggs (Shannon Purser), Riverdale’s most unhinged second-string villain. Ethel is now the “queen bee” of the Sisters, the Gargoyle King’s most loyal acolyte, and possessor of the world’s worst vision board. Ethel is the one who tips off Sister Woodhouse about Betty’s escape plan.
When Betty goes to find the door to freedom, she is met with a new brick wall and the Sisters’ cavalry. Two orderlies restrain the teen, pour fizzle rocks down her throat, and wheel her to one of those yell-y summits with the Gargoyle King, who unsurprisingly has an extremely creepy set of chambers in the corner of the facility. The next time we see Betty, she is gray, gaunt, and revealing all the terrifying images she sees on the Rorschach test. The Sisters and the Gargoyle King have won for now.
Jughead & Archie
As we mentioned last week, Betty’s predicament at the Sisters wouldn’t be so awful if Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) were still in Riverdale. But, he’s not. After witnessing the murder of poor, beautiful Joaquin (Rob Raco), the Serpent leader fled town, joining Archie Andrews’ (KJ Apa) plan to outrun Hiram Lodge by hopping trains like one of those hobos Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was obsessed with. The boys eventually end up in Athens, a rural town outside of Riverdale.
The Athens storyline serves two purposes: giving a freshly single Archie a new person to make out with and revealing the scope of Hiram’s villainy. Upon arriving in Athens, the boys meet Laurie Lake (Riley Keough, eldest granddaughter of the true King, Elvis Presley), the owner of a massive, suspicious farm, and give her fake names. Archie, who appears to have a permanent “Kidnap me!” sign on his pack, almost immediately reveals his true identity. After a quick hookup and an even faster rejection, Laurie is banging Archie in the head with a pan and tying him up.
No, she doesn’t have an extremely specific kink.
Rather, the farm girl plans to hand Archie over to none other than Hiram Lodge in exchange for her unseen father and brother. This is where the Athens detour’s two intentions collide.
During Juggie’s wander into town, he learns all the men are gone (they’re forced to work at the titular Man In Black’s prison construction site-fizzle rock manufacturing center), Athens is covered in G&G symbols, and fizzle rock-addled children obsessively play the evil board game. Unsurprisingly, we learn Hiram Lodge, of black suit, black car-loving fame, is the Man In Black. A chatty patient in the Betty chapter later corroborates this fact.
Jughead returns to Murder Farm before Hiram can get his hands on Archie. Once freed, Archie is prepared to straight up kill Hiram, until Jughead talks his best friend out of first degree murder. Instead of committing Man In Black-icide, the boys are on the road again and smartly decide to head to Jughead’s mom’s house. Get ready to meet Gladys (Gina Gershon) and Jellybean “JB” Jones (Trinity Rose Likins).
All hail, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) finally has an Archie-free storyline. The newly heartbroken teen is done with her family’s machinations and moves out of the Lodge penthouse to prove it. Ronnie’s new home is La Bonne Nuit, which is definitely a health code violation.
But, Veronica has bigger problems since the speakeasy, and therefore the actual business of Pop’s, is going under. So she turns to Elio (Julian Haig), the fellow Mob Kid Jr. from “Great Escape,” to partner on a get rich quick gambling scheme, hosted by the Nuit. It works… until Elio starts fleecing Veronica in front of her very eyes.
Elio’s plan, however, fails since Ronnie had been fleecing him the entire time. Ahead of casino night, Hiram tipped his daughter off to Elio’s scheme, so she set her own plot in motion. It involves baiting a mob teen, a plant of a card dealer, lightning fast sleight of hand, and the deed to Pop’s. All that matters is Ronnie wins, Elio is left with nothing, and Reggie (Charles Melton, real-life Camila Mendes boyfriend) is very into the whole thing.
Although Ronnie is proud of her little betrayal, Pop (Alvin Sanders) reminds her that Hiram isn’t a benevolent god. Sheriff Minetta (Henderson Wade) was found dead in a marsh the night prior. Or, at least authorities think it was Minetta. The corpse was decapitated and its hands were sawed off. Yikes.
The most Riverdale of Riverdale quotes: “There’s gotta be something in here we can use — a pitchfork...”
— There is no way Hiram is both the Man In Black and the Gargoyle King. It’s simply too obvious, and Riverdale can’t convince me otherwise. Also, there is no way that man is putting on a costume of sticks and blood — it might ruin his suit.
— Are we ever going to be able to forgive Alice (Mädchen Amick) for subjecting her daughter to “Man In Black’s” many human rights violations?