Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.Warning: If suicide and self-harm is something you have trouble coping with, there is a huge trigger warning for large portions of this episode. Read at your own discretion.
A syrup cask full of drugs. Jason Blossom’s murder at the hands of his father. Clifford Blossom’s suicide by hanging. It’s the ultimate season finale Cliff-hanger– at least, that’s what narrators Jughead Jones punnily quips — because exactly what timeline of events led us to where we are now? Alice Cooper, tagteaming narration duties as she types up her scathing exposé, continues on and tells us that after these events, a narrative quickly emerged: it turns out that the Blossom maple syrup trade was merely a front for a much wider, much more lucrative heroin distribution service stemming out of Montreal (those pesky Canadians), and Cliff was sort of like their copper kingpin. (Remember the thugs that crowbarred up Moose Mason and Andrews Construction’s generator? They were also Québécois — which had previously led to the assumption that the Lodges were involved, as they also did business up there. Everything’s coming up Blossom!) Jason had learned of this dark truth and threatened to expose his father, planning to flee home to do so, but was abducted by a Southside Serpent named Mustang, who was later killed by Clifford after he murdered Jason, making it look like an overdose to cover his tracks. To further mask his scent, Mr. Blossom even planted evidence that implicated his biggest rival, Hiram Lodge, as the mastermind behind everything, and threatened Serpent FP Jones’ son’s life to coerce the gang leader to falsely confess to pulling the trigger. All these events kicked up a lot of dirt in town and revealed a lot of sinister secrets — corruption the mayor Sierra McCoy wants to fully stamp out before the upcoming 75th annual Riverdale Jubilee that this season has half-assedly built to, because damn this town loves its events.
…And that’s where we begin. Sheriff No-First-Name Keller is visiting FP Jones in his holding cell to aid with this charge, noting that the heroin in this city has gotten out of control — and if FP (who was previously reading a Sabrina Teenage Witch comic!) can name some names of Serpents who might be slinging it, he may be able to swing him a lesser stay come sentencing time. With his son watching from the side, Mr. Jones not only reaffirms that he ain’t no snitch, he points out that the Southside Serpents don’t deal in the hard stuff anyway; they’ve got the wrong scapegoat. The sheriff casually threaten-reminds him that if he doesn’t name names he’s likely to get twenty years to life. Meanwhile, Archie Andrews walks into his kitchen to find his dad, Fred, zoning out into the ether, prompting him to ask if he’s okay. Fred sadly remarks how he thought he knew this town, and asks Archie how he’s holding up. Ever-selfless, Arch says he’s fine — he’s more worried about his friends Jughead, Betty and Veronica, who are all still in the thick of it. Speaking of, butler Smithers is helping Hermione Lodge clean and prepare for her now ex-con husband’s Hiram’s return home, while Veronica passively-aggressively drinks her tea and makes cold remarks about not wanting to upset her daddy. Sensing the bitterness in her voice, Hermione reminds her daughter that he’s her father — not the Godfather. Though the charges were cleared, Ronnie’s seen some shit, so damage done. Elsewhere, rounding off our quartet of varying-degrees-of-dysfunctional home lives, Betty Cooper cuts her fingernails into her palms and frustrated-ly rants to Archie during their walk to school about how her family is all back together — her dad Hal’s home after her parents’ temporary separation, her sister Polly’s home after her many messy life affairs, and mom Alice is back to work at Hal’s newspaper the Riverdale Register — all like nothing happened. Archie fails to see the problem here, but Betty is concerned that things are too similar to the way they were before drama struck, and if they don’t start opening up and dealing with what happened, it’ll build up inside and happen again.
In the halls, Archie gets bombarded with another difficult conversation — as Veronica Lodge suggests that, since they’re no longer preoccupied with solving a murder investigation as kids do, they should probably open up to Betty about their pas de deux. Archie demurs, hesitant to rush into it, since last time they kissed Betty decided she hated them both for a week. Veronica snaps back that fine, she’ll tell Betty herself, but before this can turn into an argument, Principal Waldo Weatherbee is on the intercom, summing Archie and Betty to his office. Once there, the friends are approached by Mayor McCoy, who announces her intention to feature the two of them at the Jubilee to mark the town’s founding, as their actions brought peace and justice to the town once more. Archie is invited to perform with her daughter’s band, Josie and the Pussycats, and Betty, as Riverdale’s best and brightest, is invited to give a speech. The teens appreciate the offer, but note that this investigation was primarily Betty’s and Jughead’s — why isn’t he invited? Choosing her words carefully, the mayor remarks that she totally likes Jug and all, but appearances are important and having the son of a jailbird might be confusing to some attendees. Later, in the cafeteria, Betty fills her boyfriend in on the series of events, proudly declaring that she told Mayor McCoy that she finds it unfair and refuses to be a part of it if Jughead won’t be on stage with her. Appreciating the righteous indignation, Jug urges her to do it and notes that Jubilees aren’t his thing anyway. Switching topics, he fills the gang in on the newest update from his dad’s cell and tells them about the sheriff’s offer. Kevin Keller, the ever-supportive son, argues that more and more drugs are hitting the streets, but Jughead points out that there’s no evidence the Serpents are dealing them — and he believes his dad on the matter. This incites a new fire for Betty, who is frustrated that the mayor and sheriff are refusing to publicly acknowledge Clifford Blossom’s guilt and trying to defer and deflect all blame to the Serpents of the South Side, and she vows to write an article — not just for the Blue & Gold school paper, but for the Register — to try and expose this malarkey. Since her best friend is annoyed with people hiding from the truth, Veronica takes this opportunity as a segue and pipes up, with her and Archie finally breaking the news of their semi-dating. Betty appreciates the heads-up, but is sincerely unfazed and gives her blessing, as she’s happily with Jughead now. AWWWHHHH.Elsewhere, at the Blossom syrup barn (God, they don’t pay me enough to write sentences like this), Cheryl mourns her father, while her mother Penelope über-coldly blasts her daughter for crying for a man she hated and complains about Cliff’s fall from status and grace. She attributes this to the ‘Blossom curse’ — started when brother had killed brother decades ago — and she speculates aloud who will succumb to it next: her, or Cheryl. (Nana Rose has been dead on the inside since the ‘90s.) Ignoring her daughter’s tears, she wonders if Clifford had the right idea after all — ‘better the sweet hereafter (episode name, take a shot!) than this awful limbo.’ After the title card, Arch approaches Betty in the B&G editorial office to ensure that she’s really okay with him and Veronica, as she’s not been the most forthcoming with her feelings or mental state in the past. Betty understands his concerns, but reassures Archie that she truly is happy for them, and asks how he feels about her. He tells Betty that he likes Ronnie a lot… but longingly says that a little bit of him always thou– SUBJECT CHANGE as Betty intentionally doesn’t let him finish that sentence, instead dropping a hint by remarking how lucky they both are to have found their true soulmates and that they’re all still such good friends. Elsewhere, Fred Andrews is a leetle bit frustrated busting into the Andrew’s Construction mobile office, and snaps on bookkeeper Hermione to explain who the guys are outside and where the rest of his crew is. Hermione informs him that she’s decided to get rid of the old crew — made up mostly of Southside Serpents — and start with a new crew on the up-and-up; not only is the mayor cracking down on Serpents, her husband will be home soon and she doesn’t want him to be seen indirectly associating with criminals and gangsters after his incarceration. Fred values loyalty, and angrily reminds Hermione that they stood by them when they had no other crew, and that she doesn’t get to make unilateral decisions like that. Hermione pulls a ‘well, aaaaactually…’ and advises him that she and Hiram have talked, and intend to buy him out, but Fred refuses to budge and demands an offer in writing before he’ll even begin to consider it.
Meanwhile, Archie is meeting with Josie McCoy (and her sick-ass blue braids) to go over the Jubilee performance and show her a new song he wrote about his friends. Josie is impressed, but points out that they can’t perform it; her mom already pre-approved their song choice, and the Jubilee is for the whole town — not just for his friends. Our other Jubilee appointee is also riding the ‘it’s great, but–’ rejection train at the Register, as Alice Cooper politely tells her daughter that her scathing accusatory pro-Serpent article is her best yet, but she’s also not going to publish it — noting that Betty is too close to the situation and it might create the perception of bias. Betty vents that her mom is just as bad as the rest of the town, but Hal jumps on board as well, revealing that the whole town is in an snake-free furore and there’s been many reports of gang members being attacked. They point out that, true or otherwise, people are getting hurt over this perception of events; everyone needs a scapegoat, and they don’t want their daughter dragging herself onto the losing side. Elsewhere, Veronica run into the locker room late for River Vixen cheer practice, and apologises to Cheryl, who is quietly sitting by herself. Stating that this past week’s events have really put things into perspective, Cheryl hands a shocked Ronnie her HBIC (presumably standing for ‘head bitch in charge’?) uniform and names her new captain of the Vixens, before distantly smiling and remarking hat she’s fine. Did anyone else get a chill down their spine, watching Cheryl calmly and sweetly ‘putting her business in order?’ I’m getting ominous vibes, guys.Apparently V feels the same way, as she meets in B’s bedroom after school to describing the chilling event. Betty notes that the whole town seems to be upside-down, and utters Sabrina’s tagline: something wicked this way comes. Ack! The girls continue with BFF girltalk, with Betty showing Veronica that she’s released her contentious article via the Blue & Gold, and Veronica also ensuring that Bets is cool with her and Archie, as Polly catches them from the doorway and reminisces about her pre-preg life. Knowing it’s against her mother’s wishes, Betty invites her sister to return to school — because what mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her. HASHTAG HONESTY, ya hypocrite. Meanwhile, Arch and roomie Jug get home from school to find Fred standing in the dining room with a lady, whom he promptly introduces as Mrs. Weiss — Jughead’s Social Services caseworker. With FP in jail and Jug’s mom out-of-state (and disinterested), she stopped by to make sure he’s getting taken care of. Archie fails to see the problem here, as Fred has previously offered to let Jughead stay here, but quickly learns that an undisclosed DUI and financial flow difficulties have knocked him out of the running. Weiss tells Jughead that the paperwork is already filed; unless there’s a drastic change in his dad’s case within the week, he will be taken in by a foster family in the Southside and be forced to transfer schools. Not wanting to see his friend go to the bad-kid haven Southside High, Archie rushes to the jail to confront FP about his options and urges him to make a drastic change in his case and take the deal. FP is gutted about his son’s predicament but still refuses to name names, maintaining that the Serpents are innocent and that he isn’t going to throw his crew under the bus, even if that means life in prison for aiding in the cover-up of the murder. Besides, what kind of television drama would it be if the most obvious solution panned out immediately? He reminds Archie that Jug is a tough kid and can handle it, but he’s got a darkness in him and will try to pull away from everyone that he cares about — but that as long he has his friends watching his back, he will ultimately be okay. Contrasting that alleged ‘darkness’ perfectly, Jughead sits alone in the cafeteria of Riverdale High, taking a huge and long-awaited bite of a cheeseburger, his Archie Comics counterpart’s favourite food/thing. Yes, this is the kind of thing we classic fans get excited over. He’s quickly joined by Veronica, who mentions that Betty has been babysitting Polly on her first day back at school. (This seemingly normal exchange spawned the realisation that these two have never had a solo scene together, and despite them being friends with each other’s friends, have never been exactly close or shared any moments.) Veronica mentions how the two of them have a lot in common — both with dating each other’s best friends, and the whole prison/dad angle. This moment is quickly interrupted by Cheryl, who sweetly apologises to Jughead for pummelling him last episode, and she gives him her iconic spider brooch that she’d worn much of the season, indicating that he could pawn it for quite a lot of income. Increasingly concerned, Ronnie asks Cheryl what’s going on with her, but before she can answer — and she totally was going to open up, so thanks a lot — she’s interrupted by Kevin, who urgently summons the two interested parties to Betty’s locker with the words ‘come quick, it’s bad.’ Now, I’ve been a strong advocate of ‘give Kevin more to do than just being a messenger boy’ this season, and I’m disappointed that not only has he not once shown any ounce of emotion toward his first boyfriend’s betrayal and departure, he hasn’t even acknowledged him. Writers, please do better with Kevin Keller next season. As the three friends rush out of the caf (leaving Cheryl high and dry), they intercept Archie and drag him along. Across Betty’s locker are pages of her articles — with ‘ GO TO HELL SERPENT SLUT’ scrawled across it in
After warning the gang and following the clues and their intuition to Sweetwater River, the teens find Cheryl in the middle of the frozen body of water, gorilla-pounding the ice with all the gusto she can musto. Rushing to stop her, the gang realises the ice isn’t strong enough to carry them all, and call to Cheryl from a distance. Standing up, she faces them, and, managing a sobbing smile, quickly sinks into the frozen river as the ice beneath her gives way. Ignoring the thinness of the ice now, the gang screams and rushes to the spot where she fell, only to find that the current has taken her and she’s drifted too far away from the initial hole to be able to be pulled out. As they spread out and clear the snow off the ice to try and catch a glimpse of her red locks, Arch spots her a few feet away from where she fell and frantically begins punching the ice with all his might to break her free, bloodying and breaking his hand in the process. Under the ice, a semi-conscious drowning Cheryl hallucinates Jason’s zombified corpse floating in front of her, reaching her way — and she silently screams, losing most of her remaining air in the process. Seeing her thrash about, Archie begins to pound the ice harder and finally breaks a Cheryl-sized hole, just big enough to drag her limp, unconscious body to safety. As Betty, Jughead and Veronica watch helplessly, Archie attempts CPR on an immobile Cheryl Blossom… and she chokes up a lungful of water, coming to. Freezing cold, and none more than Cheryl, the gang makes their way back to dry land, with Archie carrying Cheryl to keep her warm. Later, at the Pembrooke, Veronica brings her frenemy hot chocolate (with a splash of peppermint liqueur) to help her warm up, but she’s interrupted by an annoyed Hermione, who wants to know what a Blossom is doing in her apartment. Veronica privately and conservatively tells her that Cheryl had an accident and needed help and a safe place, but Cheryl overhears and sheepishly suggests that she’ll leave as soon as she dries off. Hermione is more than happy with Cheryl leaving, and goes to drive her daughter to the Jubilee, but, calling her mother Lady Macbeth, Veronica coldly notes she has a ride with Archie and storms out.Meanwhile, Betty has apparently changed her mind on the Jubilee and is getting ready to headline it in her room (complete with Covergirl Lashy mascara ‘cuz product placement), when her mom approaches her, and, sensing something wrong, assures her daughter that her speech will go over well. Betty isn’t worried about that, however, and opens up to her mom about her concerns regarding Jughead’s new life, and how they might grow apart with things so different for him. As she sobs out of fear for the future, her mom holds and comforts her. Elsewhere, in the dressing room before the Jubilee, Veronica approaches Archie as he attempts to practice guitar with his casted-up hand, and he reassures her that he once successfully played a season of football with worse. Noticing she’s a little distant he asks what’s up, and Veronica recalls Archie wistfully looking at Betty and Jughead back at Southside. Archie knows what she is thinking, but reaffirms that he was just thinking about his future with Veronica — he wants to be that guy for her. (Side note: I don’t even think Archie himself believed this, but nice try.) Grateful that it wasn’t anything dramatic like, oh, I don’t know, having feelings for Betty or anything totally ridiculous like that, Veronica kisses him — only to be interrupted by Josie and the Pussycats, who announce that they heard about what happened at the river and they’ve reconsidered their song choice, out of respect for him. (Also, kudos to keyboardist Valerie Brown for being so civil to her ex and performing with him without reservations.) As the 75th Annual Jubilee kicks off, Mayor McCoy introduces her daughter’s band as they play alongside local hero, Archie Andrews. However, to her mother’s micromanaging dismay, Josie announces there’s been a change of song plans, and hands the mic to Archie to take lead, as she joins Val, Melody Valentine (and, for some reason, one-time temp replacement member Ronnie?) on backing vocals. As Arch sings about friendship and love, Jughead visits his dad in his cell and tells him that he respects his decision to stay silent, and reaffirms that he’ll be okay — he’s been managing the foster life and school transfer well enough so far. Before he goes, FP admits that while he’s not guilty, he’s not innocent either — and he’s going to have to answer for what he did when this comes to trial. He asks Jughead to make sure that, even if they don’t need him right now, he’ll be there for his mom and kid sister Jellybean, and Jug assures him that he’ll do his best. There is no doubt in FP’s mind that he’ll do just that.
Finishing up his song about love (AND STARING RIGHT AT BETTY AS HE DOES, THAT PLAYER), Archie passes off the microphone during raucous applause to his next-door neighbour, as she takes the stand for her speech. Starting off formally enough, Betty thanks the mayor for inviting her to the event — and then, emboldened by the sudden arrival of her ‘Jubilees aren’t my thing’ boyfriend at the back of the auditorium, jumps into her remarks questioning what Riverdale truly is all about. She comes to the conclusion that Riverdale is the people: Archie Andrews, Kevin Keller, Veronica Lodge… even FP and Jughead Jones, who the town was quick to crucify. Making the mayor and everyone else supremely uncomfortable, Betty launches into a tirade shaming the town for their behaviour as of late, reminding them that Clifford Blossom was Riverdale too. Passionately, she urges the townsfolk to reconsider their actions, their secrets and their lies, and urges them to do better as a community. This is met with an uncomfortable dead silence; silence that is only broken by Jughead’s lone clapping… followed by a building roaring round of applause as the rest of the audience (sans Mayor Salty McCoy) joins in, giving her a standing ovation. After the event, Hermione approaches Fred in the lobby and asks him about the status of the offer. While he appreciates the Lodge generosity, he’s not selling — even despite the warnings that it’s in his best interest to get out before Hiram gets in. Watching their parents’ disagreement, Veronica and Archie decide to kick out and head to Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe with Betty and Jughead for some well-earned milkshakes. As they toast each other and the saving of the town, Jug tells us through narration that for a moment, the four of them felt safe and invincible in those four walls in the booth at Pop’s. Elsewhere, less safely, Penelope Blossom comes home to Thornhill, and, after calling for her daughter, eventually finds her in the den, holding a candelabra. Questioning the mysterious smell, Cheryl informs her mother that it’s gasoline; they only way they can purify themselves from this drug money is to truly start over. To Penelope’s horror, she throws the candle down and lights the mansion ablaze.Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty arrive at the now-abandoned Jones trailer, freshly cleaned by Jughead, as he refuses to give up hope that his dad will get out. Betty reiterates her intention to continue to fight for FP, and, taking off his iconic hat, Jughead remarks that that’s why he loves her. A little taken aback by this milestone declaration, Betty smiles and assures Jughead that she loves him too, as they make out to Imagine Dragons’ Believer. Likewise, Archie and Veronica quietly sneak into the Pembrooke, and, after confirming that Hermione is soundly passed out from her evening-drinking and her Valium, begin to strip as they make out. SEX MONTAGE. I feel filthy for writing this, but Jughead has Betty on the kitchen counter as they begin to undress, but their lovemaking is interrupted by a mysterious knock on the door. Assuming it to be Betty’s mom because of course she would totally do that, Juggie quickly redresses to get the door — only to find a small posse of Serpents awaiting him. As a white sheepdog (confirmed to be Jughead’s comic canine companion Hot Dog!!!!!) barks, the gangsters tell Jughead that they appreciates his dad’s silence, and he can rest assured that they’ve got his back. Handing him a Southside Serpents leather jacket, they tell him that he’s one of them — but only if he wants to be. Smirking, and as a horrified Betty secretly watches from the doorway, he slides on the jacket, accepting their invitation and making the WORST CHOICE EVER. Sex ruined. Elsewhere, the Blossoms watch their home burn from the lawn, as Penelope pummels a cathartic Cheryl for her part in this (and presumably for leaving Nana Rose inside, ‘cuz where the hell is she?).
The next morning, Archie gets up and dresses without informing Veronica, and she playfully wakes up, calling him a scoundrel. He lets her know that his dad asked to meet for breakfast, and he only ever does that when it’s an important conversation. Cavalierly accepting that he’s probably in trouble for not coming home, he and Veronica kiss goodbye and promise to meet up later. Arriving at Pop’s, Archie spies Fred sitting alone, having just placed his order (and Archie’s usual) with Pop Tate. As his dad, clearly correctly presuming what went on last night, smirks and calls him Casanova, Archie goes to wash his hands before they eat. However, when he starts to hear shouting from the dining area, he rushes back out to find Pop being held at gunpoint by a masked man, demanding he open the safe. As a terrified Fred shakes his head, tacitly warning his son not to intervene, the thug throws Pop down to the ground and points his gun at Mr. Andrews, who has just stood up from his chair to try and assist. As Archie dives in front of his dad, the gunman panics and fires — as we cut to the exterior of Pop’s, watching the masked man flee as Jughead’s narration kicks in, calling this the moment Riverdale’s innocence died, in an attack that was far from random. Inside, Pop runs for help… as Archie tries to staunch the gunshot wound on his dad’s abdomen, bleeding out on the restaurant floor as his lips move wordlessly.Well, Jesus. What a finale, but FRED, NO. Riverdale, if you kill the only pure soul in town… DAD TALKS, GUYS. DAD TALKS.
What do we do now that Riverdale’s done for the season? Wait patiently for Sabrina to show up next time? Well, you can re-watch it on Netflix, of course, as it’s going live today — May 18th, 2017! In the meantime, also keep watching this space for all your Riverdale updates, theories and more, all on The Game of Nerds!