‘Chapter Sixteen: The Watcher in the Woods’ Review

Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.

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MY BABY SURVIVED. (Emilija Baranac as Midge Klump — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Picking up shortly before last episode left off, a surprisingly muscular Kevin Keller is going for a midnight stroll in the woods, as Jughead Jones narrates a warning about fairytales: good children should never go into the woods alone, lest they stray from the path and encounter a hungry wolf… or a handsome devil. Cue Kevin making out with the latter (or possibly the former?) against a tree as he has used his gaydar to locate another night jogger with the same apparent goal — until gunshots are heard in the distance not too far away, causing the conquest to flee. Kevin, being braver than that noise, runs towards the sounds of the shots, only to find a blood-splattered Midge Klump screaming for help as she stumbles out of her boyfriend Moose Mason’s car. THANK GOD MIDGE SURVIVED. THANK GOD KEVIN’S GETTING A PLOTLINE. THANK GOD FOR RIVERDALE SEASON 2. Meanwhile, at the Pembrooke nicer-than-my-house luxury apartments, Veronica Lodge stops her mother mid-delivery of a café con leche for her father, offering to bring it herself. Hermione refuses, pointing out that Ronnie knows she isn’t allowed in her father’s study, but before this can be debated further Hiram exits the room to intercept his palomitas chirping. Veronica quickly asks her dad the question she was originally going to him for — if she can have her inner circle over to meet him and watch The Machlerette season premiere — which he agrees to, much to his wife’s tacit annoyance.

Later, Archie Andrew is tossin’ around the ol’ pigskin waiting for Bulldogs football practice to start when team captain Reggie Mantle jogs up to tell them all that practice is cancelled; Coach Clayton is at the hospital with Moose and Midge, where Moose was shot multiple times — but survived — shielding his girlfriend from an attacker at Lovers’ Lane. (Dear Riverdale assassin: you have a 25% success rate so far. Give up.) In the Riverdale High halls, an increased police presence for interviews has everyone one edge as Arch joins his pals in the student lounge, where Kevin is recounting his version of what had went down. Archie questions why Kev was even there, and his BFF Betty Cooper raises eyebrows at his suspicious ‘night jogging’ answer. Veronica, however, promptly and non-gracefully changes the topic to less macabre things like The Matchlerette, inviting her friends to watch and meet her dad. The gang agrees, and Archie splits to visit Moose with the Bulldogs while Jug (WHO DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE) remembers he has to get back to Southside High to meet with his peer mentor. In the halls, Betty confronts Kevin about his jogging and he admits he was cruising in Fox Forest, but lied and told his dad he was jogging to get in shape for wrestling. As Cheryl Blossom menacingly lurks in the background, Bets makes him promise he won’t go back until the killer is caught and things are safe again.

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Scout’s honour. (L-R: Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom & Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

In the hospital, Archie and Reggie applaud Moose for saving Midge’s life, and while Reggie jokes about the hot nursing staff Archie confirms the details with him — the shooter was definitely wearing a black hood. Archie asks about his eyes (which he knows are green) and Midge enters (HOLDING A PLUSHIE OF A MOOSE AWHHH) and says that they were dead and blank, like there was no one behind them. Meanwhile, at Southside  High,Jughead is approached as he goes through the metal detector by a pink-haired photographer calling him by his birth name — Forsythe Pendleton Jones III — and introducing herself as Toni Topaz, his peer mentor. (REMEMBER WHEN I TOTALLY SAID SHE SHOULD BE IN THIS SHOW MONTHS AGO? YEAH, YOU DO.) As she gives him a tour and runs down all the ways the school sucks, Jughead inquires about the defunct school paper, the Red & Black. As they pass students taking jingle-jangle — the hot new Riverdale street drug — she shows him to the cafetorium, where she ushers him to sit with the Southside Serpents gang with her, far away from the rival gang, the Ghoulies. Jughead is a bit taken aback that she’s a Serpent and opts to sit alone, pulling his tired ‘lone wolf’ schtick. Before she goes, however, Toni warns him not to let the Ghoulies see he’s alone, or they’ll make him their bitch faster than he can say American History X. (Aside: I find Toni funny and charming, and considering she’s a love interest in the comics I don’t think this will end well for Bughead. SAY IT AIN’T SO. However, if you’re one of those skeezballs harassing Vanessa Morgan over this, reevaluate your life, please.)

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Introducing: Toni Topaz! (L-R: Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones & Vanessa Morgan as Toni Topaz — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Elsewhere, at the Andrews residence, Archie is trying — with no avail — to convince his dad that these three attacks are related and that they need to buy a gun to protect themselves. (Little does his dad know, he already has a gun. Americans, amirite?) Later, he’s still sulking about it at Ronnie’s and eventually vents to his friends that no one is taking this seriously and the police aren’t helping — they even had to catch Jason Blossom’s killer themselves. (SEASON 1, Y’ALL.) Veronica notes how they used to have a private security detail at their old house at the Cape, and Hiram enters telling everyone announcing that they’re heading for dinner but wanted to meet his daughter’s friends first. He introduces himself one by one before menacingly shaking Archie’s hand with death grip and scarily calmly telling him that he can call him Hiram. Before they leave he offers a bit of advice after overhearing their conversation: police aren’t always the solution, and sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. After providing Arch with MORE BAD ADVICE HE’S BOUND TO TAKE they leave for their table, with Hiram inviting Archie over for dinner sometime. Once he gets home, Archie is lost deep in thought and pulls his gun from a lockbox in the garage to toy with it, before picking up a comic that was concealing it: The Red Circle superhero team. (Fun fact: this is just issue 1 of Archie Comics’ The Mighty Crusaders with the name changed.)

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LAAAME. NEEEERD. (KJ Apa as the hands of Archie Andrews — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

The next morning, Veronica is cleaning out her purse before school when her mom comes into her room, giving her friendly advice about her father: don’t push it. Hermione notes that Ronnie wants everything to change overnight, but she should probably take things slow and probably not have Archie over for dinner. In the Cooper home, Betty drops off a mysterious manila package that was left on their step for her mom before heading to school. Archie, however, is early for school and meeting with the Bulldogs (and Dilton Doiley, for some reason eerily whittling a stick) in an abandoned classroom about his plan: he wants to form a watch group focusing on protecting Riverdale High staff and students. He sets down the ground rules — no weapons, no violence, and if they encounter the threat they hold him and call the sheriff. (Yay! Somewhat smart slash less impulsive than usual rules!) Rejecting Reggie’s predictable ‘watchdogs’ name suggestion, Archie dubs the group the Red Circle, like a NERD. In class in the Southside, Jughead pipes up in a disruptive and inattentive English class to give some intelligent trivia on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, earning glares and trash balls from the other students as the teacher, Mr. Phillips, welcomes him to hell. After class, Jug approaches him to ask about and express interest in the Red & Black, where he was former staff advisor. He notes that he shut the paper down as students lost interest when drugs and gangs case to Southside High, but he’ll check out Jughead’s former work for the Blue & Gold online and reconsider.

Back at Riverdale High, Betty approaches Kevin in the student lounge studying and asks why he never showed at Veronica’s last night, pointedly questioning if he went cruising again. As Cheryl smirkingly overhears yet again, Kevin gets defensive and dismisses it as none of her business before storming out — noting that Betty never asked or needed his permission to see boys, and he doesn’t need hers. Cheryl, like a moth to an argument, takes his seat and asks Betty what the big deal is about a little danger. Offering some actual decent insight, she points out to Betty that Kevin still sees himself as the fat acne-ridden loser he used to be and this is the only way he’s getting validation for his newer smoke-show looks — even if Betty doesn’t approve. Meanwhile, at Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, Veronica gives Archie the deets for the family dinner and relays how important it is to her, asking him to ixnay on talking about his private army for the night. As Betty arrives home to her own parents that night, however, things are less jovial. Her parents, silent and serious, explain that Alice get a letter from the killer, who calls himself the Black Hood, and he wants them to publish his letter in the Riverdale Register — in which he claims responsibility for all three attacks. Betty questions the validity of the letter, and Alice shows the proof… emptying the contents of the envelope to show Fred Andrews’ missing wallet and Mrs. Grundy’s recognizable pink heart sunglasses.

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Mementos of a killer. (Picture Source — The CW/Netflix)

As Archie and the Red Circle canvas town with flyers for their services, Sheriff Tom Keller (16 episodes in and he finally gets a first name!) reads the Black Hood’s letter to Mayor Sierra McCoy. Finally, a motive seems to be revealed; Fred Andrews is an adulterer, Geraldine Grundy was a child predator and Moose and Midge were doing drugs and having underage sex — the killer is going after ‘sinners’, a la every credible fan theory yet, as he considers himself some sort of vigilante. In the spirit of public safety, Mayor McCoy and Sheriff Keller ask Hal and Alice Cooper not to publish the letter, and ask for a 24-hour publication ban as they the letter as evidence. Alice argues that the public has a right to be warned — and notes that she already has a copy anyway, which has been sent to the printer for tomorrow’s front page. Meanwhile, in the south side Mr. Phillips catches up to Jughead in the hallway and admits that he’s impressed with his work and will reopen the Red & Black on one condition: he can write about drugs and gangs, but he can’t traffic in them. Jughead reopens up the dusty rundown school paper office and hints to Toni that she should come on as his photographer, when a group of Serpents barge in to whisk her away, asking Jughead to hang. When Jughead refuses, Sweet Pea (these gang names I tell ya) gets angry and asks him not to come for help anymore if he’s not going to hang with them, but Toni stands up for him and defends his decision and they bounce. Back at Riverdale High, Sheriff Keller confronts Archie in the school halls (apparently open to anyone at any time) about his militia and tries to put a kibosh on it — but Principal Waldo Weatherbee interrupts, much to Arch’s shock and glee, endorsing the Red Circle as a mere school club and leaving it out of the sheriff’s jurisdiction.

That night, Polly Cooper (hey, the writers finally remembered her this season) busts into the living room and announces she and her twin womb-babies are leaving Riverdale out of fear of the killer, noting that the farm she and Jason were running away to still has room for her. (Another lovely piece of Season Two retconning — that was very explicitly not their plan last season.) Alice and Hal try and talk her out of it, but she’s made up her mind. Meanwhile, at the hospital, Moose groggily thanks a visiting Kevin for saving his life, pointing out that he’s Midge’s personal hero. He admits that the drugs were her idea that night and that while he likes her a lot, she can get a little crazy like that and it makes him question their compatibility. Kevin is off in his own head, however, and admits that he’s disappointed in himself for his decisions lately — lying to his dad, sneaking around in the woods, not caring if it’s dangerous — and questions why he’s behaving this way. Moose provides some insight: men into men don’t have a lot of options in a town Riverdale, so they take what they can get so they don’t have to be alone. Kevin smiles and goes to leave, and Moose desperately begs him to come back and visit any time he wants — alluding to their brief gay fling last season. At the Lodge house, Hermione confronts her daughter as she polishes silverware and cryptically tells her again that she’s playing with fire. Ronnie frustratedly points out that everyone is making an effort to make this family situation work except her, daring her mother to outright say that she thinks Hiram is dangerous. Instead, Hermione scoffs and storms out, as her daughter glares daggers into her back.

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On the plus side, the interior decorating is nice. (L-R: Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Tiera Skovbye as Polly Cooper, Lochlan Munroe as Hal Cooper and Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

As Jughead stays up late getting the R&B office ready, Betty pops on down to the south end for a special delivery: a kettle. Jug explains to his girlfriend how he’s hit journalistic paydirt — the hard drugs like jingle-jangle that Clifford Blossom was peddling wasn’t with the help of the Serpents, it was through the Ghoulies — but Betty expresses concerns over dabbling in such dangerousness while going to school here. As this leads to inexplicably making out, Toni Topaz interrupts with a knock on the door. As Jug introduces his two best gals he shows off the new kettle that Betty got them, and Toni pulls out one as well — great minds think alike. MAYBE TOO ALIKE. Back at Casa Lodge, Hermione is getting ready for the dinner when Hiram, menacingly (is everything he does menacing?) zipping her up, warns her that sound carries in this apartment so to never try to poison Veronica against him again. And back at Pop’s, Kevin is kicking off one of his runs and is spotted by Cheryl, who’s texting as she has a shake. Meanwhile meanwhile, Archie and Reggie pack weapons anyway (rule breakers!) as they prepare to patrol in Reg’s car, and meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile Ethel Muggs is walking home, being stalked by a creepy van with the brights on.

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NOT AGAIN, BARB. (Shannon Purser as Ethel Muggs — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

What happens next is a rapidfire cut back and forth and back and forth between scenes, so I’m going to lay them out one at a time. Firstly, Archie and Reggie are scoping out the neighbourhood for crimes when the Red Circle hotline gets a frantic call. As Archie talks down the other party, he directs Reggie to their destination on Hastings Street. However, when they arrive they can’t find Ethel — their caller — anywhere. As the eerie van squeals away and Reggie takes chase with his tire iron, Archie is accosted by a sobbing Ethel, freaking out because this vehicle looped back multiple times while chasing her, but she couldn’t get a good look at the driver. Meanwhile, equally in danger, Kevin is cruising Fox Forest when a twig  snaps and he finds he’s being followed — by Betty, who was tipped off, and Cheryl. Betty confronts Kevin about doing this and his lack of self-respect, and he finally snaps — telling her that they don’t have the same set of options for exploring their love lives and their sexuality, and if she can’t accept what he does and finds it disgusting then they’re not really friends. As he storms back into the woods, we cut back to Jughead, locking up the office in the south side for the night, alone… when he hears a school door slam in the distance and all the lights go dead. As he runs from the shadowy figure taking chase and creepily calling his name in the halls, he finds that every door is chained shut. He turns a corner to try another exit, the unseen assailant catches him — and we watch their shadows as he gets the ever-living shit beaten out of him.

Because Riverdale time runs on a different clock than the rest of the world, the next morning Fred Andrews approaches his son, who is working on Red Circle game plans, to talk to him about the dinner with Hiram Lodge. You know, the one the Lodges were getting dressed up and ready for last night. He trusts that Archie will be respectful, but warns that Mr Lodge is his business partner and the sort of man who will find something to be offended about if he wants to be offended. Before school, Betty is at Jug’s trailer applying some polysporin to his cuts and bruises, scolding him for ‘not wearing a helmet while riding his motorcycle and hitting a pothole’, admitting she was nervous he got jumped by a Ghoulie. Toni, who’s also there, states that the Serpents would never let that happen, and Betty entrusts her to take care of her boyf as she heads to school to clear things up son Kevin. After she leaves, Jughead begs Toni not to tell Betty the truth, and she trusts that he’ll take the Ghoulies more seriously now. Later, Archie is nervously making small-talk at the dinner when Mr. Lodge, bringing up the Red Circle before Archie has a chance not to, offers Archie some signature Lodge rum in his study — forbidding Veronica from coming with (much to her somewhat drunk mother’s mockery.) As Ronnie paces outside trying to eavesdrop, Hiram threateningly tells Archie over UNDERAGE DRINKING that he hopes they can respect each other moving forward, adding that he is never to sneak into her bedroom ever again, and never to ever hurt Veronica in any way. As Archie gulps and nervously agrees, Hiram adds a thought he had about the Red Circle: their response time isn’t fast enough because they’re in the defensive — they need to strike first using the Black Hood’s own weapon: fear. WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT GIVING ARCH BAD IDEAS.

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Meetin’ the ‘rents. (L-R: Mark Consuelos as Hiram Lodge, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge & KJ Apa as Archie Andrews — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Meanwhile, Betty tearfully wishes her big sister goodbye as Polly runs away from home without telling her parents (AGAIN), before calling Kevin, because apparently she did not do a good job of patching shit up at school. As he doesn’t answer and she gives up and knocks on his door, Kevin is off in the woods again, prowling up on a car parked with the lights on. As he approaches the passenger side window and mutually flirts with the driver — a shady type with his hat pulled low over his eyes — he’s offered a ‘ride’ home. As Kevin obliges and crawls into the passenger side, he’s promptly stabbed in the gut. What!?!?!? Just kidding. That’s just a cruel ‘in Kevin’s imagination’ sequence, as Kev decides that that’s too dangerous for even him and passes, as the driver hurls insults after him as he jogs away. Returning home he makes sure to quietly pull the door shut behind him — but it’s no use, because his sheriff dad is sitting up at the kitchen table waiting for him. Kevin tells him he was only out late because Betty had some friends over, but he calls his bluff; she was over earlier looking for him, and they had a talk about what Kevin’s been doing. As he gets up and gets in his face, Sheriff Keller demands that he know he’s safe at all times, before telling him that he knows there’s certain things that they don’t talk about… but maybe it’s time they start trying. As the father and son choke up and embrace, he assures Kevin that it’ll be okay. Y’know, as Sheriff Keller can be frustratingly unhelpful or even detrimental half the time, it’s easy to forget that he’s just genuinely a good guy — kudos to this touching scene for giving us more depth on the Kellers than we’ve had yet.

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Dad talks! (L-R: Casey Cott as Kevin Keller & Martin Cummins as Sheriff Tom Keller — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

The next morning, Veronica smiles sweetly at her daddy over breakfast for as long as it takes for him to acknowledge her, when she then asks for a more active role in Lodge Industries — to take a peek behind the curtain, unless there’s any reason why she shouldn’t. Unwilling to admit guilt or shadiness, Hiram agrees, and Veronica shoots a smug look at her mother as she’ll finally be allowed in the mysterious study. As Jughead narrates about how the kids in fairytales never come back the same, he sits with the Sweet Pea, Toni and the Serpents at lunchtime at school — and as Kevin glares at Betty and slams his locker and storms off as she approaches, Jug notes that fairytales rarely have happy endings. And speaking of happy endings, Archie’s got the entire football team in his gara— scratch that, that’s a terrible segue. As Archie ensures Dilton is recording, he — surrounded by the Bulldogs, mostly shirtless to show off their abs and all wearing red hoods with the eyes cut out — introduces the gang as the Red Circle and issues a threat to the Black Hood as he leans in close: they will find him, they will hunt him and they will end him. Somehow, this seems like a stupid tactic, given that Archie himself is not wearing a hood or anything to hide his face. Presumably trying to get him killed and everything working according to plan, Hiram Lodge smirks to himself as he watches this video on YouTube in his study, his portrait of his daughter watching over his shoulder— the painting he keeps there to ‘keep him honest’.

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Don’t you hate grainy YouTube quality? (KJ Apa as Archie Andrews — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

This can’t end well. Will the Black Hood take more victims, or will the Red Circle stop him first? Has this become a superhero show? Check Riverdale every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. on The CW, on Netflix internationally the following Thursday, or on The CW app for free! Don’t forget to head back to The Game of Nerds for all your fandom news and fun stuff!

 

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Author: Jordan

@jordanrolufs on Twitter!

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