Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Riverdale: the town that dreaded sundown. (Have you noticed every episode this season is a horror movie title? By golly, I have.) As Jughead Jones narrates through the Black Hood being Riverdale’s own serial killer — making maybe-cool-maybe-cringey comparisons to classics like the Axeman and the Zodiac killer, among others — he checks out books on the subject with unnecessarily attractive librarian Mrs. Paroo to try and gain insight on the inner workings and pattern of the killer. However, he shifts gears to talk about terror — as Mayor Sierra McCoy hangs up posters announcing an emergency town hall meeting to address the concerns seeping into the town, with both the Black Hood and opposing Red Circle on the loose. River Vixens are walking in packs after school, locks are being installed on doors, curfews are in effect for business owners… the town is gripped with fear. Archie Andrews, however, is not — as he ends the montage by taking aim at a Black Hood target with his pistol and hits the bullseye. At the Pembrooke luxury apartments, the Lodge family is more concerned, as they grill their daughter Veronica about her boyfriend’s recent ‘come at me, killerbro’ YouTube video. Ronnie pleads ignorance on Archie’s antics, but begs her daddy to talk some chill into her mother, but Hiram states that he agrees with Hermione on the matter, and the two demand she stop seeing that Andrews boy. As Veronica storms out declaring ‘I’LL DO WHAT I WANT, MOM’, Mr. Lodge can’t help but smirk at all the chaos and confusion in this town. Like a villain would do. Speaking of pleasant parent breakfast chats, Betty Cooper is also sitting her kitchen table, and Mama and Papa Bear Cooper grill her for aiding her big sister Polly in running away from home… again. Betty tries to plead that Polly was just scared of the killer, but Alice’s voice breaks as she admits that she’s even more terrified now that her eldest daughter is out of her sight, and yet she’s always made out to be the monster. (I love when she shows emotion — can we just agree that though the Lodges and Coopers are equally trash, at least Hal and Alice have heart over Hermione and Hiram’s charisma?)
Meanwhile, Archie comes home after his shooting practice to another fun family chat: his dad Fred is angrily watching his provoking video. Without listening to his explanation, he asks his son to take down the video — but he already did, and people keep sharing it anyway. Elsewhere, at Southside High, Betty calls Jughead to ask him to come up to the north side for lunch, but he bails and hangs up in a panic when he notices his Serpent gang pals watching Archie’s video. As Jug approaches, Sweetpea is giving a fella named Fogarty (as in Fangs Fogarty, classic Lil’ Archie antagonist?) instructions to take down ‘that crazy northsider’ to be initiated into the Southside Serpents. Interjecting, Jughead ‘defends’ Archie (okay, he tries to convince them that that’s a lame target) and suggests they go after the Black Hood instead, but the Serpents show their true colours — they view the Hood as a hero, since he’s taking our northsiders who think they’re the problem. Speak of the northern devil, Archie is a minor viral celebrity at Riverdale High with stares and autotune remixes of his speech following him through the halls. This is short-lived, however, as he comes face-to-face with a not-so-sweetly smiling Ronnie. As she pulls him aside into an abandoned classroom and demands answers, he instead grows defensive over her lack of support and accuses her dad — truthfully so — for planting the idea in his head in the first place. Before Veronica can get further clarification, however, this little meet-and-greet is interrupted by Principal Weatherbee, calling Archie to the office from the PA system. Oh, Arch… why do you always have to be the worst?
In the Bees office, Mr. Waldo Weatherbee repeats Archie’s speech from the video verbatim and demands explanation. Archie tries to explain his crazy away as usual, but Weatherbee isn’t buying it; he suspends all football team activity until this Red Circle insanity blows over, and until Arch signs a written apology letter to the community. Archie, thinking back on all of the Hood’s victims, politely declines to do so. Like a fuckboy would do. Meanwhile, Betty is stressing out over a package’s contents — one she had located addressed to her in the Blue & Gold school paper’s offices shortly after hanging up with Jug. As she stares into space, her former GBF Kevin Keller waltzes in and decides it’s time for a confrontation over her outting his cruising to his parents. This is overshadowed by Betty’s concern, and Kevin drops it to take care of his old friend, who reveals she just got a letter from the killer, confessing he was inspired to do this by her ‘Riverdale sucks’ speech at the Jubilee (Season 1 finale y’all!). Furthermore, he also enclosed a Zodiac-ass cipher that only Betty can solve, which reportedly details his next victim’s location. Kevin wants to give his evidence to Sheriff Dad, but Betty — presumably out of shame — refuses, and instead suggests they only being the cipher in. Doing just that, she phones in some tears while showing her mom the cipher, who then predictably turns it over to the sheriff (who questions the absence of a letter, but lets it slide). Also predictably, when Sheriff Keller offers to send this to his cryptologist in Centreville, Alice interjects; she’s already published the cipher in the Riverdale Register with a call for the public to solve it.
Elsewhere, football team captain Reggie Mantle is having a fit at Archie in the locker rooms for the team’s suspension, regretting ever making the video and begging Archie to sign the apology. Arch again refuses, and states that his new plan is to head to the south side — where he presumes the Hood lives, based on his northern victims and Mrs. Cooper’s theory editorials — and make their presence known to lure him out. Reggie is not down for this and quits the Red Circle, and the other football players follow suit and storm out… except for a creepy Dilton Doiley, lurking in the shadows with a menacing apple. He calls Archie out on his 1v1 death-wish against the killer, but nonetheless offers to help — in addition to initially providing him his pistol, he gives him the address to a place that will help him get ‘a few more things’ if he goes after dark. And speaking of after dark, Veronica enters her father’s study (milestone!) where he’s drinking Lodge signature rum and doing paperwork, and she asks him what he and Archie had talked about in here when he was over for dinner. Hiram lies and tells her he doesn’t remember, and doesn’t even flinch at her barrage of loaded questioning about the Red Circle and the possibility of him inspiring it. He denies any recollection of any of this and shoos her away so he can call his trust account, while Veronica makes a snide non-clever double entendre about trust.
In the editorial offices for the Red & Black (what clever school paper names this show has), Jughead is listening to music while making his notes on serial killers when he interrupted by paper photographer Toni Topaz. She makes a knowledgeable comment about the books he’s reading, revealing herself as a true crime junkie too. As they speculate on the killer, she asks his help in cracking the published cipher — as he blatantly ignores a call from his girlfriend Betty. NO. Later, as Betty is up late WORKING ON THE CIPHER ALONE, she ignores the apology text from him in response. #itshappening, #nothanks. Meanwhile, Archie is heading out his front door to Dilton’s place when he’s stopped by Veronica, who gives him a big smack on the lips as way of apology for not supporting him earlier. She admits that she trusts her father has been a snake, and she wants the Red Circle to expand with her help, even after he tells her they implodes earlier today. He appreciates the late support, but really does have to leave — as he heads to a weird military surplus store in a shady part of town. Providing them a list of the gear he needs and a fake ID (Wilbur Wilkins, an old redheaded Katy Keene character!), Archie pays in cash for the ammo, holster and Kevlar vest, telling the clerk he’s going hunting. Clap Archie clap has clap lost clap it clap.
The next morning, Betty wakes up Jughead in his dad’s live-in trailer, and tells him all about the cryptogram and cipher business that she has books set aside for at the library so they can get started. Jug shamefully admits that he decided to crack it with Toni instead, already having started last night. Betty is a bit frazzled and clearly a twinge jealous at this, but suggests the four of them — Kevin inclusive — work on it together. At Riverdale High, however, Veronica stops Archie in the halls and shows him her supportive surprise — Red Circle target T-shirts she had designed and printed up last night, and has had the River Vixens cheer squad distribute to the entire school, much to Archie’s surprise and possible concern. Later that night at Jug’s trailer, the code-breaking party is making no headway besides Betty vaguely recognizing the symbols. Toni makes a (probably?) innocent joking remark about Betty loosening her ponytail, which is immediately taken as a dire insult by everyone in the room, raising tension and a quick rebuke from Kevin, but Betty obliges anyway. The team runs down the motive and the trigger that started these killing — causing Betty and Kevin to bite their tongues and exchange looks — and they come to the conclusion, much to Toni’s disgust, that the killer is trying to cleanse the north side of sinners. Toni snaps at the constant assumption that the south side of town is evil, and urges Betty to admit that she thinks the Black Hood is a Southside Serpent, inadvertently letting slip that Jughead lies to her about sitting with them at lunch time. Kevin and Toni bounce from the ensuing awkwardness, and Betty ignores Jughead’s apology and gets to work cracking the code.
Meanwhile, Archie is marching through Serpent territory in the south side, spray-painting a giant red circle on every surface he can find. This obviously and understandably pisses off the Serpents — including Sweetpea and Fogarty — as he’s just traipsing about tagging their turf. Archie tries to go on his merry way, which builds up to good ol’ SP flicking out a switchblade and threatening to stab Arch. Too bad you messed with the wrong bud, bud — ‘cuz Archie pulls his pistol and points it at his face to counter-threaten him and scare him off… which works, as he heads back to his peapod or wherever the fuck he came from. Elsewhere, Juggie and Betty wake up snuggling on the couch to Betty missing calls and worried her mom’s going to skin her alive for not coming home on time. WAY TO SOLVE THE CIPHER, GUYS. The next day, in science class, Weatherbee and the sheriff interrupt Dr. Phylum’s no doubt tantalizing lesson to call Archie into the hall. Ronnie immediately stands up and takes responsibility for the shirts, but they assure her that isn’t what this is about. Pulling Arch aside, they tell him they’ve received reports of a redhead waving a gun in the south side. He denies this with a flimsy alibi, but nonetheless, despite his protests, they have to search his locker for weapons or contraband. Sheriff Keller finds no gun (whew!) but does find a certain interesting black hood with the eyes cut out.
Later, at home, Archie tries to explain to his dad that his suspension from school property is unfair — the hood was Reggie’s from a prank — but Fred doesn’t know what to say anymore, because right now his son’s behaviour scares him more than the man who shot him. He has to leave for the town hall meeting, but assures they will discuss this further when he’s home. Meanwhile, Hermione approaches her daughter in her bedroom and gives her a little lecture on the differences between loyalty and blind loyalty, asking if Ronnie will wear that t-shirt to Archie’s eventual inevitable trial for reckless endangerment. Elsewhere, as a thunderstorm rages outside, Jughead is at the Cooper house returning some of Betty’s forgotten school books when he reveals she also dropped something else — her letter from the Black Hood. Jug is hurt that she didn’t tell him, but more importantly thinks it’s extremely stupid that she’s been sitting on this. Betty admits that she’s ashamed of what he wrote about her inspiring him, and she’s scared that Archie in particular, unstable as he is, will blame her for the terror gripping the town. Jug reassures his girlfriend that she’s one of the good guys — comparing her to Nancy Drew meets Lisbeth Salander — which turns on a lightbulb in her mind, and, if her theory is correct, she may know how to crack the cipher that was made specifically for her.
Meanwhile, Veronica is breaking into the school at night — on the request of her boyfriend — as she pulls a ziplocked gun from a rancid toilet tank. Back at his place, she commends him for at least being smart enough to not keep it in his locker, but she scolds him for keeping more dangerous secrets and demands answers. Archie finally snaps and admits that the gun isn’t for protection; he wants the Hood dead and he wants to be the one to pull the trigger, which explains his dumbass actions as of late. Veronica argues how stupid this plan is and the obvious careless criminal and/or kamikaze aspect of it all, regretting ever supporting him and informing him she tossed his gun into Sweetwater River. This spat is interrupted by a banging on the door — as Reggie, flanked by the rest of the former Red Circle, wait in the rain with an armful of pizzas. Over a slice, Reg expresses gratitude for Arch not turning him in over his hood, and says that the team talked it over and will reform the Circle if Archie will take them… and not a moment too soon, as Sweetpea and his goons ride up to Archie’s doorstep with an evil look in their eye. As they gear up to brawl, Veronica, who doesn’t want this at all, at least sets some ground rules — like no weapons — or she’ll call the sheriff to referee.
Elsewhere, Betty is leading Jug through the library and explaining about her childhood obsession with a Nancy Drew cipher code book that she had entirely forgotten about. As they crack the code, they learn that the location of his next attack will be the town hall. Meanwhile, in that very place, the mayor and the sheriff are leading the emergency town meeting and explaining the new measures they’re going to be enacting, when Alice Cooper interrupts and starts blaming the southerners for everything, rallying against them with scattered agreement and suggesting to close down Southside High to start. Juxtaposed over her speech about south side violence and division, Ronnie nervously paces Archie’s house as the Bulldogs and the Serpents exit onto opposite sides of Sweetwater Bridge in the pouring rain and stare each other down, ready to scrap. Fred Andrews interjects into Alice’s speech, accusing her anti-south editorials and rhetoric of being the real dividing factor in this town. As the two adults respectfully debate their points, Archie is out there doing the opposite — throwing punches and elbows in an all-out brawl.
As Hermione and Hiram privately discuss how Fred is becoming a meddling problem in their plans and plot out how to use his clout in their favour (!!!), Betty and Jug rush into the town hall shouting about their solved cipher and that this is the next target — before the power conveniently cuts out. Mayor McCoy urges calm and to stay in their seats, but Betty pulls a fire alarm and they all file out. Wait, what!? Everyone saw her pull it. It’s pouring rain outside. How does this make any sense? As the fight rages on outside, Sweetpea breaks their one rule and shoves his switchblade into Dilton before turning on Archie and kicking his face in. This is promptly interrupted by a gunshot… as Veronica, cowl and all, fires a warning shot from Archie’s pistol in the air to break up the fight. As the Serpents flee, Reggie helps an injured Dilton into his car — blade still jutting from his leg — and drives him in a panic to the hospital, making him promise to lie that he was jumped for no reason.
Later, at Betty’s house, Alice demands an explanation, and she finally shamefully produces the letter to hand over to her parents, the sheriff and the mayor. Elsewhere, Ronnie is tending Archie’s wounds in his bedroom with disinfectant, and he admits that he took things too far and his latest actions have been messed up and out of control. He thanks Veronica for saving his life and Dilton’s, and when she apologizes for lying about tossing the gun he thanks her for that too; he’s afraid of what he might’ve done if he had it tonight. She reassures(?) him that he’s not a killer and he wouldn’t have done anything with it anyway, before the two start making out and riding up her skirt to get freakay. Veronica hits the pause button, however, because there’s one thing she wants to do first. As Jughead narrates about this shift in the tone of Riverdale (again?), Archie and Veronica head to Sweetwater Bridge again, and Archie — and thank god for it — tosses the gun over the handrail into the deep end. Meanwhile, Betty is chillin’ on her bed when she gets a phone call from an unknown number — and a pitch-shifted voice introduces himself as the Black Hood.
Fun fact: if you play with the pitch, this voice sounds suspiciously like Mark Consuelos… the actor of Hiram Lodge. Uh-oh. Where’s this gonna lead? Check out Riverdale every Wednesday evening on The CW, or on international Netflix and The CW app!