Riverdale: Unwrapping the hood

Despite the Black Hood’s earlier threat that the “reckoning” is upon Riverdale, the town seems to proceeding with the usual amount of holiday drama, specifically surrounding money.

Archie and his dad are selling Christmas trees in the parking lot of Pop’s to make some extra cash, which they desperately need since Fred’s medical bills have tallied up to $86,000. “Dollars?!” exclaims Archie incredulously when he hears what the bill is. What? Of course, it’s going to be dollars, Archie. Do you think the Riverdale Hospital is charging in pesos now?

The Blossoms are also having a blue Christmas. Mrs. Blossom tells Cheryl that the family is broke, so their Christmas won’t be as luxurious as the ones before. Luckily for Cheryl, the gang’s Secret Santa exchange has a small budget. Archie gifts Betty The Swiss Family Robinson, a read-along record they used to listen to when they were kids that he found in the garage. Betty is pleased with the gift and there’s a look of visible discomfort—sadness? jealousy?—on Veronica’s face when she watches Betty gush over Archie’s present.

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Midge and Moose, who are both apparently perfectly fine after being shot at in the face by the Black Hood, join the mini-holiday party. Archie gets uncomfortable around them and abruptly leaves the group. Betty runs after him and Archie explains that seeing Midge and Moose reminds him of the Black Hood. Betty reveals that she’s been having nightmares about the Black Hood. They both notice that there’s a new janitor at the school and wonder if that by digging into Mr. Svenson and his Conway kid past, the Black Hood now knows where to find Mr. Svenson and has made him the next victim.

After the gift exchange, our recently broken up couples exchange the gifts they bought each other before the break up. Jughead apologizes to Betty for dumping her right after she went out on a limb for him and performed an awkward striptease at his dad’s party, but insists that he doesn’t want her getting dragged down by the Serpents’ activity. Betty shoots back that it’s her decision if she wants to follow Jughead wherever he goes. Meanwhile, Veronica gives Archie the personalized watch she bought him before they broke up, and tells him that she really wants to stay friends. Archie thanks Veronica, but he feels guilty for accepting such an expensive present while his dad has bills to pay. Now Veronica feels guilty for being the only person in her group who has money to spend this holiday season.

She rages at her parents for spending money on Tiffany gifts when there are people in town with real problems. “Since when are you a communist?” scoffs Hermione.

Veronica tells her parents about Fred’s medical bills and asks to pay for them. The Lodges refuse and Veronica gets into a fight with Hiram, which ends with him storming off.

Similarly, it seems like Jughead can’t hold a conversation with his dad without Mr. Jughead storming off. Jughead wants to help fix this Penny Problem, but Mr. Jughead refuses to involve Jughead at all in the budding drug trade. He makes Jughead get involved with the Serpents’ annual Toys for Tots charity drive instead. I’m not kidding.

God, the Serpents are such a weird gang. They get involved with stuff like murders and drug dealing, but then they have boring initiation rites, like making people recite generic bylaws and do some dog sitting, and holiday charity work.

Meanwhile, Archie and Betty team up to do some snooping on Mr. Svenson. They ask the school secretary where he is, and the little old lady reports that Mr. Svenson is out sick so she dropped some soup off at his house, but admits that she didn’t see him. She also adds that Mr. Svenson could be experiencing some holiday depression since he has no family, but that’s too much of a logical explanation for Archie and Betty. They go to his house themselves to investigate, but he’s not there. Betty goes home in defeat, but then Alice tells her that a Secret Santa dropped off another present. Betty opens the gift and to her horror, it’s a severed finger!

She calls over Archie, and together they read the note. It’s from the Black Hood, obviously, because who else would send body parts in the mail? He calls Betty and challenges her to find where Riverdale’s “primal sin was committed.” He also has Mr. Svenson on the line, confirming that Mr. Svenson has been kidnapped.

Goddammit, I hate it when those kids are right.

Archie and Betty realize all this has to do with the Conway murders, and they remember that Mr. Svenson spent some time with the Sisters of Mercy convent before he was adopted. They go to the creepy convent, but the nuns don’t start talking until Betty threatens to do a hard hitting expose if they don’t cooperate. The nun tells them that while Mr. Svenson was at the convent, he admitted that maybe he pointed to the wrong guy and caused the mob to kill an innocent person. The mob did come by to visit him, but the only person the nun can remember is a woman with a red streak in her white hair.

There’s only one person in town who matches that description: Grandma Blossom!

Archie and Betty head over to Chez Blossom, where Cheryl has gone ahead and splurged on a Christmas tree, much to Mrs. Blossom’s anger. She claims Cheryl is ruining their finances, but come on, that tree is at most a hundred bucks. Surely, there’s enough syrup money to cover that. Anyway, Grandma Blossom is senile and doesn’t remember much, but she does remember burying the guy alive. She tells Betty to ask her grandfather where it all went down, because he has pictures.

Betty is horrified that her own grandfather might have killed an innocent man, and worries that’s the reason the Black Hood has been targeting her. Archie gives Betty a pep talk and tells her that she can end this thing with the Black Hood. Grateful, Betty kisses him and unlike in the pilot episode, Archie kisses her back. But there’s no time for a “What are we?” talk! The kids go looking through Betty’s old family photos for clues.

Meanwhile, Jughead can’t let go of the Penny Problem, especially when his dad’s parole officer comes by to check in on him. He rallies the other Serpents and tells them that they can’t allow themselves to be controlled by Penny. The gang agrees, and they kidnap Penny and drop her off in Greendale. Jughead tells Penny to never return to Riverdale. She scoffs and points to the Serpent tattoo on her arm and reminds Jughead that so long as she has it, the other Serpents can’t hurt her. Turns out Jughead has a loophole to get around that. With a switchblade, he carves the tattoo out of Penny’s arm.

Holy shit. That’s actually kind of bad-ass. I didn’t think Jughead had it in him. I know, I know. This is a dark path for a 16 year old to go down, but this was awesome. Mr. Jughead, of course, does not think this was a good thing, but Jughead tells his dad that he’s proud to be a Serpent and he’s not going to stop being one.

Speaking of dark paths for teenagers, Veronica is also heading down one, but hers is less bad-ass. She goes snooping into her father’s study and finds that her family bought Pop’s diner.

She also pays for Fred’s medical bills under her mother’s name, which of course is discovered by Hiram and Hermione. They yell at her, she yells back about the secret land holdings, and finally, Hermione says that it’s time Veronica be more integrated in the family business. We don’t get to hear the exact details, but Veronica says she’s in under two conditions: Fred’s medical bills stay paid, and she never does anything illegal. Hermione tells Veronica that she’ll soon learn the two most valuable words in the English language: plausible deniability.

Meanwhile, Archie and Betty find a picture of Betty’s grandfather standing with a bunch of men in front of a gnarly tree with a noticeable bump in the dirt in front. They conclude that this must be the photo taken after they buried the innocent man, and figure out where the tree is. They call Sheriff Keller to meet them there and then head over alone.

At the park, they find the spot marked and they dig it up, but only find an empty coffin. The Black Hood appears and orders Archie at gunpoint to get into the coffin. Then he orders Betty to bury Archie alive. The police arrive and Betty uses the shovel to knock the gun out of the Black Hood’s hands. She frees Archie and the two pursue the Black Hood, with Archie carrying the dropped gun. They corner the Black Hood at a bridge, just before the Black Hood is about to jump. Sheriff Keller shoots the Black Hood and he dies. Sheriff Keller approaches the body to unmask it.

Finally, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Archie can finally get closure over his dad’s attempted murder, the whole town can rest easy knowing there’s no longer a killer on the loose, and Betty can stop meddling in other peoples’ business. So who is the Black Hood?

It’s Mr. Svenson, the janitor.

Yep. All the clues about the Black Hood being someone Betty would recognize and someone the victims were familiar with pointed right to the lowly janitor. If you’re disappointed or confused about this reveal, you’re not alone. The kids get together at Pop’s to discuss the Black Hood’s identity. Archie kicks himself for not recognizing Mr. Svenson when he had the chance. If he just spoke up one episode earlier, none of this would have happened.

The gang agrees that Mr. Svenon’s motive doesn’t make much sense, but as the janitor, he would have been able to see Mrs. Grundy preying on underage boys and Midge and Moose buying drugs. We still don’t know why he tried to kill Fred, but I don’t know, maybe Fred littered once or stuck a penny in the door.

With the mystery solved, the Riverdale teens can get back to their holiday cheer! Betty gets a signed copy of Beloved by Toni Morrison from Jughead, and he gets a vintage typewriter from her. Mr. Jughead suggest that Jughead thank Betty for the gift in person, but Jughead mumbles how he’ll call or text later. Does he want to get back together and is too shy to make a move, or is he just interested in being friends? Or is he just a classic Millennial who prefers text?

In contrast, Veronica is ready and willing to get back with Archie. After she receives a locket from him, she goes to his house and points to the mistletoe she hung above the door. They kiss and Veronica tells Archie that she loves him. They kiss again, as a mysterious person in the distance takes pictures of them.

Meanwhile, Betty burns all of her mementos from the Black Hood investigation, but gets a dark look in her eye. Jughead’s narration promises that this isn’t over…

So is there a second Black Hood? Or will Betty continue his dark legacy?

Also, Cheryl comes downstairs Christmas morning and finds her mom just hooked up with some dude dressed as Santa Claus. Hey, maybe Cheryl will get everything on her wishlist this year, after all!

The Real Archie’s Weird Mysteries I Want Solved:

  • This info about Mr. Svenson spending some time at the convent before he was adopted was just thrown in here in this episode right? I don’t remember anything about this turning up in Archie and Veronica’s investigation.
  • Why Mr. Svenson? I really feel like that was a bit of a random twist, unlike last season’s reveal that Mr. Blossom was the one who killed Jason. There, Mr. Blossom clearly had motive and opportunity. I can see here how Mr. Svenson would have opportunity to commit his crimes, but why operate under the guise of a religious fanatic? And really, how didn’t Archie recognize him? Unless there turns out to be a second Black Hood, I’m going to vote this mystery as a waste of time.
  • How do y’all think Veronica will react if she finds out Archie and Betty kissed? Granted, they were on a break and Archie seems happy to be with Veronica, but this love triangle seems ready to start.

Did Jughead Get a Burger?

No, he did not. Come on, writers! It’s Christmas! Let the kid have a burger!

Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

TV Show: Riverdale

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  • I never expected to see Jughead Jones carve someone’s tattoo off with a switchblade so kudos to Riverdale for continual surprises.

    I feel there must be a second Black Hood, since they even toss out that theory briefly in talking with Sheriff Keller, I think. I’m assuming Svenson was the body double while the real killer is waiting elsewhere since yeah, why would Svenson shoot Fred. Did he even have the same green eyes?

    Mostly I’m hoping the loose threads make sense when the whole season wraps up and it’s not just bad writing with a weak payoff halfway through.

  • Greenhornet

    No, I’m not going to rant, there’s just too much. This series is trying too hard.

    OK, one point. The Blossoms are broke. Why? They still have the syrup business and they could have sold the land the mansion was on and don’t they have stocks, bonds and bank accounts like REAL rich people? But since they are now “broke”, Cheryl can be a “good girl” (As per Hollywood logic) while Veronica will become the “rich slut” character.

    Susan, this series is crazy but I just can’t stay away; your reviews leave me wanting more. Thank you very much and Merry Christmas.