For an episode so focused on the Black Hood and the Red Circle, its anticlimactic plot-points gave us all blue balls.
Now that I’ve decided that Archie is an idiot, it’s literally the lens I see every action he makes through.
I understand for the show that Archie needs to go dark. And while there’s nothing hotter to me than an Archie on the Edge, I really don’t think that anything he does is going to draw the Black Hood out of the shadows. In fact, all he’s succeeded in doing in alienating Veronica, pissing off the Southside Serpent and threatening his academic standing at school. And rightly, he should not be bringing a gun to school. There are times when a show that is filmed months ago uncomfortably bumps against the real world, and that happened a few times with this: calling the Red Circle Neo-Nazis, as well as any mention of guns. Also the rampant scapegoating of an innocent group – a.k.a. the Southside Serpents (WHO ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BLACK HOOD).
While there hasn’t been any good Cheryl Blossom content is now two episodes, this episode did a lot to progress the storylines of Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper. Veronica has gone full Bonnie Parker and Betty is suddenly finding herself at the nexus of the Black Hood mystery.
I can’t really understand the motivation behind the Lodge family, and I’m sure it’s meant to be mysterious but it ends up feeling like lazy storytelling. So Hiram told Archie to form the Red Circle so that he had an excuse to make Veronica break up with him? And he’s evil…because he’s evil? Because he wants to buy up real estate? I don’t get why Hiram would target this bumblefuck town to funnel drugs through real estate? Go for the coasts; go for the big cities! I’m almost mad at his lack of clear ambition.
And Hermione? Now she’s evil too? Or is she just playing Hiram at his own game? Her little soliloquy about blind loyalty rang a little too “people in glass houses” for me; it’s almost as if she’s warning Veronica about Hermione herself. And possibly hinting, though Veronica won’t ever understand, that Hiram is evil and Hermione is keeping her enemy closest.
In the complete opposite of her mother’s warnings, Veronica decides to take up Archie’s Red Circle battle. When Reggie and the others defect because they can’t play football anymore, Veronica turns the Red Circle into the Red Chic-le by turning out t-shirts. Seriously, why is Cheryl doing all of Veronica’s bidding? If I’m right (and I am), Cheryl is doing Veronica’s dirty work and then going into the supply closet and snapping a bunch of pencils.
Veronica eventually fetches Archie’s loaded gun and brings it back to him. Oh! Then the football team shows up with pizza, making it impossible for me not to make a Sausage Party joke. And OH! Lucky that they showed up because the Southside Serpents – the ones that Archie flailed his gun at when he was tagging the Southside with Red Circle graffiti – have shown up to get their revenge.
Luckily Veronica brokers a deal – a brawl in the streets, but sans weapons. It all goes very hot and wet and slow-motion-y until someone flicks out a pocket knife and Veronica SHOOTS A GUN INTO THE SKY.
By the way, the new head of the Southside Serpents looks like an Upside Down version of Jughead Jones. Slightly taller, slightly weirder face, slightly more aggressive.
While Archie is gathering weapons and bolstering the Red Circle, and Veronica is wearing glasses and pearls, Betty receives a package from the Black Hood. Inside is a cipher and a letter to Betty. It appears that his cleansing of Riverdale’s sinners was inspired by Betty’s speech at the end of the first season. If Riverdale ignored their own corruption, cautioned Betty, then things like Jason’s murder could happen again. Or worse.
The Black Hood tells Betty that only she can decipher his code, which will tell of his next killing. Rather than share the letter, Betty just shows her mother, and therefore the chief, the cipher. Everyone, from Toni Topaz to Jughead to Betty to Kevin, take a crack at deciphering it.
I took Forensics in high school (it’s what the dumber kids took to fulfill senior year science) and I learned a bunch of things. One, everyone leaves fingerprints everywhere. Two, it’s pretty easy for handwriting specialists to tell things about you by your writing. And three, ciphers are mad hard to break somethings. I had to break a cipher for my final. So it was not surprising to me that no one can break the cipher. However, at a late night code-breaking session, Betty feels like it’s on the tip of her tongue.
Later, while the parents of Riverdale are at a town meeting, Betty realizes why the codes are so familiar. The Black Hood said only she could break the code, meaning that it’s based off a touchstone of hers. And apparently, when she was a kid, she used to check out an old Nancy Drew book from the library over and over again. Using the book, she cracks the cipher: the next kill will happen where it all “began.” Juggie and Betty interpret that as the gymnasium where Betty gave her speech, and where the parents are all gathered.
It makes sense that his next target would be there; if the Black Hood is dealing with hypocrisy, then a town gathering led by a corrupt mayor and attended by the various hypocrites of Riverdale would be the perfect place to do some sinner-cleansing. Betty and Juggie are so caught up in warning everyone that they don’t consider the weirdness of the fact that the Black Hood knows a childhood tidbit of Betty’s. And if he was at her speech, then it means that the Black Hood has been lodged into Riverdale society for a long time.
I think it’s probably Polly. I would adore a pregnant serial killer.
But I do have one question. In Jughead’s traditional “last scene voiceover,” he says, “So the lovers went back to where it all started” when Veronica and Archie throw the gun into Sweetwater River. That was the starting point of Jason’s murder trajectory. What if that’s the beginning the killer is referring to? So many questions.
Oh! Also the Black Hood called Betty??
Although the episode was well-acted and, the Lodges aside, the motivations for each character was clear, I felt that this episode was entirely anticlimactic. You think the Serpent-Bulldog fight will be bigger, and Dilton Doiley is the only casualty and he’s barely stabbed in the leg. You think the Black Hood will attack, and he doesn’t. He just makes a bunch of teenagers spend time at the library. That’s my dream.
Lastly, did anyone else notice there were several “clouds sped up across a cityscape” interstitials? A new choice, and one that I’m not super into.