Hypothetically, Wednesday night’s Riverdale episode, “The Stranger,” is about our Riverteens preparing for the SATs. It is a very normal plot point for a series revolving around four high school juniors and their friends. However, “The Stranger,” merely glances at the pressures of standardized test taking before turning its attention to the return of a serial killer dad (welcome back, Hal Cooper, you weirdo), the shooting of another dad, and the rise of a third dad as the town sheriff. Riverdale loves its coterie of hot dads.
Between all the dad drama, there’s also a major breakup, the theft of Betty Cooper’s (Lili Reinhart) college fund by Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), and an official Gargoyle King identity reveal. It’s enough to make your fake animal demon head spin.
So, let’s get down to the most bonkers moments of the episode and try to unravel them. They’re in no particular order, because Riverdale excels in the chaos.
Someone Finally Shoots Hiram
Ding, dong the Man In Black is (nearly) dead! A big portion of “The Stranger” is dedicated to Hiram Lodge’s (Mark Consuelos) increasingly unhinged attempts to control Riverdale. At the top of the episode, he mustache twirls his way through denying bearing any ill-will towards Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) or Archie Andrews (KJ Apa). You know, the boy he had beaten to near-death and the boy he had imprisoned, driven from town, and almost murdered multiple times, respectively.
Then, Hiram tells his wife Hermione (Marisol Nichols) — the technical mayor of Riverdale, never forget — she has to make his suspicious, drug-dealing business partner Claudius Blossom (Barclay Hope) the new sheriff. No one has filled the vacant position since Hiram had the last sheriff brutally murdered “gangland style,” as his daughter Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) put it.
It seems Hiram’s grabs at power have simply gone too far. The mobster is shot by an unseen individual while bragging on the phone to Hermione about his impeccable criminal forethought. The irony is obvious. By the end of the episode, Hiram is in critical condition and on the verge of death.
It is suggested Hermione was involved in the shooting, as she meets with FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich) while her husband is dying. They agree to announce FP will take over the sheriff reins, which seems like a plan they’ve been forming for quite a while. Did Hermione put a hit on her own husband?
The Varchie-Veggie Rivalry Begins (And Ends?)
Last week, Veggie certainly seemed like the future. Then, Archie returns to Riverdale in “The Stranger” and is knocking boots with Ronnie before the Riverdale title card even pops up.
After Archie and Ronnie’s speedy makeup session, Veronica tells Reggie (Charles Melton) whatever they had is over now that her Archiekins is back home. A key part of Ronnie’s strategy is making sure Archie doesn’t learn his girlfriend and his close friend had sex while he was dying in the forests of Canada. Reggie messes this strategy up within seconds, and accidentally spills the beans to Archie. Still, Varchie drags on when Archie forgives a tear-stricken and apologetic Veronica. They recognize their relationship is broken, but decide to have sex for what might be the last time. These two.
The next day, Varchie crumbles forever in the wake of Hiram’s shooting. Archie — who returned to Riverdale in the throws of PTSD and general rage — runs out of the SATs and promptly disappears. During that questionably MIA period, Hiram was shot. Veronica is forced to ask Archie if he committed the crime, proving once and for all these are two people who fundamentally can’t trust each other anymore. Archie storms out after “asking,” but really announcing, “It’s over.”
In between all of this Varchie drama, Reggie continues to check in on Veronica, even though he knows she picked Archie. That’s why the last time we see Veronica, she’s embracing Reggie, who shows up to the hospital with flowers and a very cute balloon. Veggie rises.
Archie Andrews: Definite Superhero
Archie Andrews was attacked by a bear, died, and came back to life. However, he was able to easily walk back home to Riverdale from Canada and take part in strenuous, repeated sexual activity. After a bear ripped a large portion of his chest out. Archie is so powerful, he doesn’t even have a scar where his biggest wounds were. Instead he has a few stray marks around his shoulder.
Although Archie apparently has the regenerative powers of Wolverine, his internal world is falling apart. He suffers painful Hiram-related flashbacks while watching Ronnie sing and can’t stop punching things. Archie has also gotten rid of all the “childlike” memorabilia in his room and has turned the space into a cell-like cave. Riverdale goes so far as to suggest its leading man might be heading towards an alcohol abuse problem in coming episodes since Archie is now hiding a fifth of dark liquor in his desk.
Sweet Pea & Fangs Kill The Gargoyle King
After all that, the Gargoyle King is disgraced Serpent Tall Boy (Scott McNeil), who was also Hiram’s Black Hood and the person who shot Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) in the season 1 finale. Tall Boy disappeared when his Black Hood identity was revealed and, apparently, Hiram created a new villainous persona for him. Essentially, Hiram was just using the Gargoyle King figure to amp up local fear factor and paranoia. So, the Gargoyle King isn’t some malevolent, omniscient Big Bad — he’s just another Hiram Lodge puppet. That means all of the Gryphons & Gargoyles mania in Riverdale was also orchestrated by Hiram for his town-owning plot.
Somehow, this all makes sense. Way to stick the landing, Riverdale.
Following the big Gargoyle King reveal, things go sideways for Tall Boy, whom the Teen Serpents kidnap. While under pseudo arrest in The Dilton Doiley Bunker For G&G And Sex, Tall Boy rushes a terrified Fangs (Drew Ray Tanner), who responds by fatally shooting his would-be assailant. Of all the people on Riverdale, Fangs and Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor) are the ones who kill the Gargoyle King — and by accident no less.
This is now an especially big problem for the Teen Serpents since former Serpent leader FP just became sheriff.
Choni Is Snubbed
While Fangs has been welcomed back into the Serpent-y fold with open arms despite his misdeeds, cat burglars Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan) are completely missing from this episode and their gang. Now that is the real crime, Riverdale.