Jughead is dead
For most of “Tangerine,” it appears the biggest developments in Jughead Jones’ (Cole Sprouse) story are relatively tame (at least against the viking funerals and rum wars of his pals). Then Riverdale unveils the final image of the 2019 fall finale: Jughead’s bludgeoned corpse. Jughead is in fact dead, as Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) announces to Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). The girls look shocked.
However, Betty is holding a rock the precise size of her collapsed boyfriend’s forehead wound. Archie asks what Betty did. She — like the rest of us — has no idea. We’re left wondering if Betty killed her boyfriend.
Luckily, the next two sections explain how Riverdale arrived at this deeply disturbing place.
Psychopaths continue to obsess over Betty
Alice (Mädchen Amick) scares Betty awake at the top of “Tangerine.” We quickly learn Betty’s sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye), who is in a mental health facility, disfigured a nurse during a fugue state. The nurse was named Betty. A few scenes later, Alice nearly stabs Betty to death with a kitchen knife. Betty eventually figures out both assaults occurred after each Smith-Cooper woman received a phone call. Alice and Polly have been hypnotized.
Betty figures out the caller is Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison), the most annoying Edgar Evernever (Chad Michael Murray) loyalist. When Betty visits Evelyn in prison, the Farmie explains the very precarious mind control at work. Back during Alice and Betty’s stay at The Farm, Edgar decided to plant metaphorical anti-Betty ticking time bombs in the women’s heads. When Alice and Betty hear the phrase “Tangerine, Tangerine, Tangerine,” they mentally “become” Betty, Evelyn says, and attempt to destroy the nearest Betty in an effort to kill “Dark Betty.”
This is a wildly convoluted scheme that begs many questions. Chief among them is why Edgar was so obsessed with a teen girl in the first place. This plot becomes even murkier when Riverdale claims Betty has the same dangerous architecture built into her psyche. She was only in The Farm for about an hour. How could Edgar have wormed his way into her brain so thoroughly?
Well, Riverdale drops the possibility this isn’t an Edgar plan at all. Charles is the one who uses the code word on Betty to see if she has also been hypnotized. Betty seems fine until she slides in a hallucination upon arriving home. She decides the core of her “Dark Betty” problem — a smart season 1 piece of symbolism ruined by all of this literalism — began when her serial killer dad Hal (Lochlyn Munro) made her kill Caramel the Cat about a decade ago.
Betty decides the only way to fix her Dark Betty problem is to hypnotize herself, return to the memory, and stop Young Betty (Hannah Bos) from killing Caramel. Again, it’s Charles supervising this trip down memory lane. Betty wakes up from her hypnosis convinced she “killed” her dark impulse and is cured. Later that night, she tests the “Tangerine “ trick on herself to confirm. When Alice checks on Betty that night, Betty says everything is fine.
The cracked mirror on Betty’s vanity says otherwise.
While Edge is supposedly to blame for all of this psychological terror, it seems far more likely Charles is the culprit. His rendezvous with Chic (Hart Denton) in “Hereditary” is still unexplained, he has easy prolonged access to all the Smith-Cooper women, and could easily convince Evelyn to lie for a chance to destroy Betty, her greatest nemesis. Charles Cooper may just be the biggest bad of Riverdale season 4.
The Baxter Brothers mystery, solved
This half of Riverdale season 4 has been preoccupied by Jughead’s belief that the wealthy Francis Dupont (Malcolm Stewart) stole his grandpa’s great work — tThe Baxter Brothers book series — and killed a handful of people to keep that secret hidden. Juggie finally tracks Forsythe The First (Timothy Webber) down to ask if his suspicions are true.
Forsythe I sets Jughead straight. Yes, Dupont did take the Baxter Brothers. But he didn’t ruin the Joneses to do it. Instead, Forsythe was failing out of school and only had his manuscript to show for it. Dupont bought The Baxter Brothers from Forsythe for $5,000 and built the series from there. Forsythe then grew bitter after seeing the wild success his brain child became.
Forsythe left his family to protect them from his increasing violence and alcohol abuse.
Now confident Dupont isn’t a murderer and cheat, Jughead is happy to accept Dupont’s offer to become the next Baxter Brother ghost writer. Jughead is even inducted into the Quill & Skull society. Things are good for Forsythe Pendleton Jones III. If only he weren’t months away from his own murder.
The Dilton Doiley Memorial Sex Bunker & G&G Dungeon returns
Cheryl uses poison gas to flush out the person who has been trying to gaslight her into madness. Of course, it is her mother, Penelople (Nathalie Boltt). Cheryl asks her mother why she has hated her since birth. We never get a complete answer, but it is nice to see Cheryl pursue this kind of mother-daughter closure following Betty and Alice’s similar therapy session last week.
Now that Cheryl is convinced her mother is simply a black-hearted monster — she did kill multiple Blossom family members and attempted to murder Riverdale’s Core Four — she chooses to mete out her own kind of justice. The last we see of Penelople, she has been confined to the season 3 sex buker. It is a fair punishment befitting one of Riverdale’s worst villains.
Jason is laid to rest, at last
The murder of Jason Blossom has always been the original sin of Riverdale. “Tangerine” suggests the series may be ready to move on from that darkness by truly letting go of Jason. Cheryl sets up a viking funeral for her brother on Sweetwater River. It’s the last place she saw him alive, the place his body was first found, and the place she nearly died by suicide. This is the ultimate cleansing for Cheryl, who lights Jason’s funeral boat/pyre herself.
Archie and Jughead then push it out into the water, hopefully sending away some of the hanging tragedy that has beset their town with pep for four seasons.
Archie fights to one of Rocketman’s most underrated songs
See you next year (and next decade), Riverfriends!