Riverdale: It's not over yet
Buckle your seatbelts, everyone! It’s the season finale of Riverdale and hopefully, we’ll gets answers to the real Archie’s Weird Mysteries that I want solved. At the very least, we should find out if Jughead is really dead after that beating he took last episode.
The episode opens with Betty, Veronica, and Archie visiting Jughead’s grave. The first Archie’s Weird Mystery that needs to be solved is, “Why the hell does Archie wear a letterman jacket to visit a beloved friend’s grave?” Can Archie go one minute without reminding everyone he’s athletic?
But as it turns out, this was just a weird coma dream Jughead is having in the hospital. He’s definitely alive and surprisingly in good shape for someone who got beaten and left for dead by a band of Rolling Stones rejects. Mr. Jughead is here when he wakes up and sadly informs Jughead that although his sacrifice inspired all the Serpents to fight, the Serpents were ultimately defeated by the Ghoulies. The gang has completely collapsed, with some Serpents defecting to the Ghoulies and some just going into hiding.
To make matters worse (or better, depending on how you look at it), Fang is revealed to be alive. The hospital, under orders from Hiram, pretended that he died in order to goad the Serpents into doing a foolish “Let’s do it for Johnny!” moment. Goddamn. I say a lot of terrible things about Hiram, but he’s one brilliant mastermind. Jughead glumly realizes that for all his efforts, he’s just a sixteen year old kid in a beanie against a ruthless mafioso.
Jughead has to put aside his own grief for a moment to help Betty process hers. Betty is still reeling from finding out her dad was the serial killer stalking Riverdale all season. I know this sucks for Betty, but this is a decent resolution for us, the audience, because it was an ass-pull for the writers to claim the lowly janitor did it all. Betty tells Jughead that she doesn’t want to see her dad ever again and wants to focus on helping her mom get through this. Jughead jokes that they must no longer be running for student council president.
Who could focus on the student council elections at a time like this? Veronica also drops out of the race, in order to focus on helping Fred stop her parents from taking over the city. Using her knowledge of Hermione’s publicity trail, Veronica organizes Fred’s campaign to try to coax back the voters. Apparently, despite all of Fred’s hot dad heroics, Hiram got the credit for stopping the riots because he “caught” the second Black Hood. Now here’s another real Archie’s Weird Mystery that needs solving: who’s the Black Hood 2.0 that tried to kill Fred?
Jughead suggests there must be a political motive, which causes Veronica to think that her father is behind it. Jughead proposes that maybe Hiram hired the interim sheriff to assassinate Fred, but as Cheryl discovers, Hiram has a lot more allies in town than they thought.
At the Blossom Manor, Former Mayor McCoy presents Cheryl with the papers that officially make Grandma Blossosm her guardian, so Cheryl is all but emancipated. Cheryl volunteers to take the paperwork to the barn where her mother and Uncle Claudius are currently living.
Cheryl goes to the barn to rub it in their faces and sees them talking to Hiram. Claudius notices someone lurking, but thankfully, Cheryl has lightning fast reflexes. She jumps and hides in a nearby barrel like she’s a goddamn cartoon character.
Cheryl tells Veronica, who confronts Hiram and accuses him of hiring Claudius to be the Black Hood 2.0. Goddamn, do these kids know that they don’t have to confront Hiram every time they think they find dirt on him? Hiram’s just going to deny it and then be aware that they’re on his tail. Hiram just got out of jail; doesn’t he have a parole officer? That’s who they should be talking to about this stuff.
But it’s Riverdale, so all of the local police force is useless, especially now that Hiram controls the department. Archie tries to tell the interim police sheriff about the Black Hood 2.0 but is brushed off, thus continuing the grand Riverdale tradition of shitty police work. Later in the episode, the interim sheriff tells Archie that the Black Hood 2.0 was Tall Boy, the Serpent who tried to betray the gang. Tall Boy died in the riots but was found with a black hood, so that was probably him, right? This (hopefully) closes that case but it does seem like the police department just wants to wrap this up. By now, everyone should know they can only count on Jughead and Betty to solve crimes.
Well, not Betty right now. She cries to Fred that that she’s supposed to be this great detective but she never suspected that her own father was the Black Hood.
At school, the drama continues. Kevin comforts Moose, who’s still heartbroken over Midge’s death. Not sure if this is a “comforting the widow” moment or the start of Koose for season three. Meanwhile, Principal Weatherbee is pissed that the Serpents trashed the school during the riots, so he announces that the Southside High students are going to be bussed two hours away to the high school a couple towns over.
The Serpents are severely struggling here. Most of them are living at the Serpent bar, and Mr. Jughead has relapsed back into alcoholism after getting fired from Pop’s and not being able to do anything about the gang’s collapse. When Jughead comes home, he’s disappointed and frightened to see his dad drunk again. Mr. Jughead announces they’re going to move to Toledo. Jughead refuses.
Jughead wants to fight for the Serpents, but Hiram is moving fast to completely crush them. Hermione privately informs Veronica of Hiram’s plan to buy out the Serpent bar so he can control all the set pieces in Riverdale. Veronica is all, “Ronnie no likey” and when she hears Jughead’s dad got fired from Pop’s, she works with Former Mayor McCoy to threaten Hiram into giving back the million-dollar ransom so she can buy the Serpent bar before he does. She pays one million dollars—in cash!—for the bar. I bet the owner would have taken five grand and called it a day. We never see the Serpent Bar owner, but I imagine he’s on his way out of town, in search of a place with a decent police force because now he’s got money and he needs to keep it protected.
Veronica meets her dad at the bar and offers to trade it in exchange for ownership of Pop’s diner. Hiram agrees, but his terms are that Veronica will be cut off from her credit cards and will no longer be a shareholder of Lodge Industries.
Luckily, Veronica agrees to the terms and the kids get their diner back. But now it means Hiram is moving into phase two of his “Destroy the South Side” plan: he’s ordered a raid at the bar to arrest the remaining Serpents. Cheryl only finds out about this when Penelope, in her yearly moment of kindness, stops Cheryl from going to the Serpent Bar to visit Toni and explains about the raid. Cheryl alerts Jughead and he and Archie sneak the Serpents out of the bar over to Archie’s house. Mr. Jughead shows up in the morning to see that Fred has opened his home to the Serpents and becomes hopeful that maybe the Serpents can stay in Riverdale. Riding on that sentiment, Archie asks to borrow the Serpent jackets for a protest at school against Weatherbee’s decision.
Archie makes everyone wear Serpent jackets as a sign of solidarity and tells Weatherbee that the students will stage a walkout if he transfers the South Side kids. Weather initially threatens to expel everyone who does so but Archie wins him over. “You’re not the kind of man who discriminates,” he says.
Nevertheless, Weatherbee agrees to let the South Side students remain. Hurrah!
Betty is not present at this victory because she’s still angsting about her dad. She doesn’t want to go to school and face all the people her dad hurt. She’s also carrying a lot of anger towards Hal, but Polly, who’s returned from San Francisco for a guest spot, spouts some California hippie dippie nonsense about forgiveness. She wants to visit Hal in jail to tell him that the family forgives him.
Betty refuses to see her dad but Alice thinks it might be good for closure. I gotta say “Poor Alice” in this episode. There are rubberneckers camped outside Casa Cooper and she’s clearly distraught and reeling from finding out that her husband, in addition to being a boring killjoy who was way beneath her league, was a serial killer. Later, Polly suggests Alice talk to someone at the farm Polly was at who could do some good “healing” for her. In her grief, Alice agrees and Polly gets an evil look in her eye. Goddammit, Polly. You joined a cult, didn’t you?
I hope Alice comes to her senses by season three. You’d think this family would have learned their lesson about letting in any old stranger off the street.
As she babysits her niece and nephew, Betty frets to Jughead that she worries Hal’s serial killer nature is genetic and it’s being passed down to her, Juniper, and Jagwood.
Jughead assures Betty that even if she has “darkness” in her (AKA traditional teenage angst), she’s not an evil person. This gives Betty the strength to confront Hal in jail. There’s no guard posted nearby, which further demonstrates Riverdale’s incompetence. This town is about to build a prison and they can’t even be bothered to station an officer by a confessed serial killer?
Hal is creepy and weird, telling Betty that she’s just like him, but Betty channels Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth and tells him, “You have no power over me.” And with that, Betty walks out the jail angst-free and returns to school as normal. I guess there’s no need for therapists in Riverdale.
In school and in town, it’s election day! Reggie and Josie announce that they’re also dropping out of the race so the only person left is Ethel, but somehow Archie wins the student body election. Poor Ethel. I’m not even sure how she lost. She was the only one actively campaigning and Archie was Veronica’s running mate so technically he was running for vice president. I don’t know how Ethel puts up with this crap.
While one Andrews man won his election, the other lost. Hermione visits Casa Andrews and informs Fred that he lost by 200 votes. Wait, how does she know that and Fred doesn’t? Fred should demand a recount but instead he takes the loss like a good sport. Archie is less so and confronts Hiram at the Lodge Penthouse. Archie confronts Hiram for manipulating him all season and vows to end him. He reminds Hiram that he knows he had Andre kill the burglars from the cabin and he’s going to use that info to bring Hiram down. Again, these kids need to learn how to keep their cards close to their chest.
The Serpents also vow to keep fighting. Mr. Jughead gathers the gang and announces that he’s retiring and transferring leadership to Jughead. He presents Jughead with a new red leather Serpent jacket but this is actually for Cheryl, who’s now an official member of the gang.
What? No hazing rituals? No babysitting a dog? No reciting of silly rules and codes? No embarrassing striptease? I suppose the justification is that Cheryl has already proven herself to be awesome. Plus, she does look dope in that jacket.
The kids celebrate at Pop’s, and Veronica announces that as the new owner, she’ll open a speakeasy in the back that will be open to North and South Siders. She asks Jughead to ask his dad to run it, so Mr. Jughead can have a job again. Jughead also asks Betty to be his “Serpent queen” and she’s delighted to be an official part of the Serpent gang. She didn’t strip in front of her boyfriend’s dad to the Donnie Darko soundtrack for nothing!
The teens wonder what Hiram is doing at the moment and Veronica jokes that he’s probably gathering his Legion of Doom. As it turns out, she’s right. Hiram meets with his Legion, which consists of Penelope, the Ghoulies, Penny the Serpent Lawyer, the interim sheriff, and Claudius. They discuss their evil plans for season three: Claudius will smuggle drugs through the prison, Penny and the Ghoulies will deal the drugs, and Penelope will run a brothel. Hiram also announces that he’s taking steps to “dissolve the glue” that holds the Archie gang together.
The first step: framing Archie for the murder of the burglar. The Riverdale cops interrupt Archie’s induction ceremony and arrest him in front of his friends and classmates. As he’s taken away, Archie finally realizes what a big mistake he made and what an uphill battle he’s facing when Hiram controls the mayoral office, the cops, and half the town.
On the bright side, it looks like Ethel will get to be student body president, after all.
Final Thoughts, and Predictions for Season Three:
Aside from that half-assed, fakeout reveal of Mr. Svenson as the Black Hood, Riverdale had a pretty strong sophomore season. I still strongly dislike that the writers decided to make the Lodges an overtly Mafia-esque crime family since the attempts to add in Mafia tropes—referring to the Lodge servants as “capos,” Archie promising to “make [his] bones,” referring to Hiram’s criminal associates as “families”—came off as campy and ridiculous. I mean, they really named one of the crime lord characters “Papa Poutine”? They named the illicit drug in town “jingle jangle”?
In fairness, a large part of Riverdale‘s appeal is its ability to sell its campiest aspects with a straight face. What other TV show could have dumb teenagers solve crime better than the local police force? What other show could have a main character start not one, but two vigilante groups and get taken as a serious threat? What other show could have a teenage girl perform a striptease to “Mad World” in front of her mother, her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s father, and her boyfriend’s father’s gang associates like it’s not a big deal? This is the second reference to the Betty striptease scene, but I seriously still cannot get over the WTF-ery of that episode. Normally, this over-the-top, nonsensical storytelling would turn me off to a show but with Riverdale, I wanted to tune in to see what was going to happen next.
But Riverdale isn’t just throwing a bunch of plot elements on screen and leaving the audience to make sense of it. Okay, maybe it is sometimes (remember that bizarre “Horror Stories of Riverdale” episode?), but Riverdale always takes the time to make sure that the audience is invested in its characters. With the exception of Archie (who remains as bland and boring as ever), Riverdale really stepped up its characterizations this season. Veronica had a great arc where she was trying to balance her family loyalty with her newfound moral compass and Jughead went from being a self-proclaimed weirdo and loner to a confident leader of a gang. I’m not impressed with the Dark!Betty storyline, but Cheryl’s storylines this season really knocked it out of the park. They did a great job of taking Cheryl from a bitchy, vain mean girl and revealing the insecure, damaged person underneath. I’m really happy we saw more of Cheryl than snappy, slightly bizarre one-liners and got to see her cry, fight back against her awful mother, take control of her life, and fall in love.
The show has also set up some really juicy storylines for next season. As Archie awaits his day in court, we can already see that Hermione is beginning to doubt her position as a supporting player in Hiram’s schemes and I predict that she’ll turn against him and help the teens begin to take him down. Unfortunately for Alice, it seems that her storyline for next season is to be taken advantage of by whatever quack doctor Polly brings in from the farm, after she’s already suffered so much emotional turmoil over the reveal that her long-lost son wasn’t really her son and that her husband was an violent killer.
As for the teens, Betty and Jughead will probably have some minor clashes as Jughead takes on full-time leadership of the Serpents and Betty may disagree with his methods. Veronica’s speakeasy will probably be sabotaged by her father and Cheryl and Toni will hopefully have more lovey-dovey scenes and enjoy their relationship.
Archie will keep being Archie: that is, being dumb and possessing great abs.
I won’t be recapping Riverdale for Agony Booth in the fall, but I want to thank everyone for reading these recaps and for all their lovely comments and theories about the show. I hope you all still keep watching and enjoy a burger for Jughead and me!