‘Chapter Twenty: Tales from the Darkside’ Review

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

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“People of Riverdale…” (L-R: Robin Givens as Mayor Sierra McCoy, Alvin Sanders as Pop Tate & Martin Cummins as Sheriff Tom Keller — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

GUYS. Format change! Format change! Format change! Instead of Jughead Jones’s weekly narration launching us into this week’s episode, we actually get a unique Blair Witch-esque title scroll, explaining that the following happenings kicked off the series of events now dubbed ‘the Black Hood Murders’, all made more tragic and macabre by the young age of the witnesses, and all starting with a letter affixed to the door of Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe… before showing us just that. As a montage of characters read the evil letter — from Sheriff Keller at the Shoppe, to publisher Alice Cooper clacking away on her keyboard, to terrified readers of her Riverdale Register — we learn that the Black Hood is planning a Axeman-esque scourge, and giving the town 48 hours to prove its purity before the massacre begins. As Betty Cooper and (ex?-)boyfriend Jughead later snuggle in bed, she laments that she finally thought she had beaten the Hood, and how terrible she feels over his murder of the arrested drug-dealing teacher Mr. Phillips, before suspiciously questioning how he would have gotten into the sheriff’s office anyway. However, Jughead interrupts her conspiracy thoughts by receiving a phone call from crooked lawyer Penny Peabody, finally calling in that favour he owes her for the consultation on lessening his dad’s sentence. (REMEMBER WHEN FP SAID TO NOT ANSWER HER CALLS? W2G, JUG.) As they meet at Pop’s, she tells him how his Southside Serpent dad FP was jumped by some rival Ghoulies in the clink for Archie’s botched plan last episode, and how she needs some money to help ‘grease the wheels of justice’ and hopefully get him out of jail — and the infirmary — quicker. To obtain that money, she tells Jug, he’s going to need to be her drug mule for a little ‘pancake mix’ delivery to Greendale — and, frantic with worry, he reluctantly agrees. Pleased, Penny warns him not to linger around Greendale after midnight for safety reasons, and advises him he’s gonna need a bigger vehicle than his motorcycle for the run. This is where our stories split into the interwoven branches that would later prove to be part of the ‘Black Hood Murders’ tree.


Archie & Jughead

As Archie Andrews confusedly questions what Jughead is doing at Riverdale High (before the duo is briefly pushed apart by Cheryl Blossom and Josie McCoy on a mission — but more on that later), Jughead calls in a favour for Arch’s street race faux-pas last episode and says that he needs him and his dad’s truck tonight. Skip to then, as the two, terrified, work together to lift a giant chain-heavy crate out of a shipping container to load into the bed of Fred Andrews’s pickup truck. After driving in stoic silence for a while, Archie pipes up his concern over Jughead’s newfound gangster lifestyle, and wishes for a better life (more akin to an Archie Comic, tbh) in a New York for all of them. This heart-to-heart doesn’t last long, however, as Ol’ Four-Wheels completely blows a tire and the two are forced to pull over on the side of the highway without a spare. As the friends mull over who to get involved by calling for help, their prayers are answered by a deus ex creepina as the freakiest logger-farmer-trucker guy pulls over and suspiciously offers a ride to Greendale for one of them — for a price, of course. Jug hands over his last eighteen dollars and loads the crate of ‘pancake mix’ in, setting off alone with Satan — as Archie, worried about Jughead’s safety, reluctantly stays behind with his dad’s truck to wait for Triple C. Oh, plus the weirdo warns Jug not to look under the tarp in the back of his truck. So that’s a thing.

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BRO DRIVES. (L-R: Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones & KJ Apa as Archie Andrews — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

As they drive along the road to Greendale, creepy guy keeps saying creepy things like comparing Archie to the ghost of Jason Blossom or talking about how the Black Hood is doing God’s righteous work, comparing him to former serial killer ‘the Riverdale Reaper’, and dropping way too many hints that he’s the crazy sunuvabitch himself. Meanwhile, after the tow swaps out his tire, Archie sees an omen in the form of a blood-spattered CGI deer (Idk either, just go with it) and decides to chase after his old pal instead of heading back to Riverdale. As Jug and Beelzebub stop for gas, Jughead gets the urge while pumping to peek under the mysterious tarp when he notices blood and flies pooling around the edges — and pulls it back to reveal a measly dead deer. PHEW. Creeper dude then files outside after paying for gas with Juggie’s last $18 and pulls him along to a diner next door for a late-night bite. As Dusty Springfield’s ‘Spooky’ plays, Creepo, who caught the tarp-peepin’,  reassures Jug somewhat unconvincingly (while menacingly squirting ketchup on his slab of raw beef or whatever the hell) that he’s got his hunting permits and he’s not just some murderin’ sicko, before diving into the gruesome story of the Riverdale Reaper and suggesting that the villain is still out there today — perhaps as the Black Hood himself. As the waitress slaps down the bill, Freaky tells her that Jughead — who wasn’t even eating — will cover it, despite him spending his last dollar on this man’s gas. The two argue and Crazy threatens Jughead, as a sinner, with the Reaper’s blade next, but this is interrupted by Archie — OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR — who busts in at the right moment and offers to cover the bill.

As the friends load their truck back up and shoot glares at the Riverdale Creeper driving off, Jug thanks Arch and checks his clock: eight minutes to midnight. Speeding to Greendale in silence, the friends make it baaaasically in time and lift the crate into the creepy warehouse they were given the address to. (Side note: the crate is addressed to H.P. Lovecraft. This episode has creepy music and overtones all throughout, but that one might be a bit too blatant for me.) They’re approached by weird Russian Village People-looking guy pushing weird Russian Anne Ramsey in a wheelchair, who scolds them for being late and brandishes a gun to make a point, warning for it to not happen again. Jughead tries to tell her this is a one-time deal, but she advises that that’s not what Penny told her: the Serpents are taking over drug deliveries for the Ghoulies with regular deliveries from a regular delivery boy named Jughead Jones. As Arch drives a horrified Jug back to Riverdale, the two sit in Pop’s, defeated, and Jughead thanks Archie again for all his help tonight. Archie avoids Jug’s attempts to make plans to research the Reaper, but urges his friend to find a way out of this gang nonsense, and Jughead promises that he’ll try. Since it’s almost sunup, Arch offers him a ride home — but Jughead instead decides to walk to visit his pop in jail. Waiting, two-way phone in hand. for his dad to enter the holding cell, Jughead looks up in horror as FP enters the room… and looks perfectly fine; no bruising, no scarring, no beating whatsoever. Storming out, Jughead lashes at Penny for lying about his dad’s condition and refuses to do any more jobs, but she points out that he doesn’t have a choice — revealing she filmed him and Archie delivering the crate via hidden cam, and if he refuses to do any more jobs it’s going straight to Sheriff Keller.

 

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BLACKMAIL’D. (Brit Morgan as Penny Peabody — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Josie (& Cheryl)

REWIND as we cut to Josie McCoy (of the Pussycats fame) playing keyboard — recurring motif song ‘Spooky’ — in the school music room after hours, when she’s interrupted by friendly neighbourhood maybe-Swedish janitor Svenson (WITHOUT THE RIDICULOUS MUSTACHE, SO WAY TO BE COMIC-ACCURATE) warning her he’s locking up for the night.  As she rushes home — and hearing eerie footsteps in the hall behind her — she is scolded by her mother, Mayor Sierra McCoy, for staying out and wandering the streets alone after dark, pointing out that the whole reason they moved into the Five Seasons Hotel was for her protection from the Black Hood. (JUST KIDDING, it was because they didn’t want to waste money on another lavish house set for a character they always forget to write in anyway.) The next day, Josie complains to everyone’s favourite frenemy Cheryl Blossom about her mom’s over-stressing, and worries aloud that it’ll cause the polyps on her vocal chords to stress-swell and she’ll lose her voice. On top of that, she feels guilty for recording solo work behind the Pussycats’ back since Cheryl slipped a recording of her to a producer at Shabbey Road Studios. To add to the stress, as she opens her locker she finds a teddy bear with a note saying ‘I’ll be watching you’ — the third time this week someone has broken into her locker and left her a creepy gift. As she practices again between classes, she’s meekly approached by Chuck Clayton — Riverdale’s resident sexual harasser — and asked on a date, which she promptly refuses (MACHETE DON’T DATE) before heading to class.

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BY YIMINY. (Cameron McDonald as Mr. Svenson — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Complaining in bio about what happened, Josie gets a little snappy with Cheryl about pushing studio time — but Cheryl apologizes and expresses her desire to help Josie’s career blossom as a ‘thank you’ for beating up her would-be rapist. Later, as Josie emerges from the locker room after a eucalyptus steam to help her throat, she bumps into Valerie Brown and Melody Valentine — the other Pussycats — waiting around the corner for her and clearly not happy. Telling her that someone slipped a note in their lockers advising them of her deceit, they blast her for hiding this from them and, storming out, urge her to go continue to go solo — because as of right now, she’s on her own. Sneaking out of the school at night, Josie hears the footsteps following her again, and screams… as she runs head-on into Chuck. Scared and upset, Josie goes against her best interests and asks him for a ride home. Of course, ‘a ride home’ involves a stop at Pop Tate’s first for shakes, where Chuck admits that he doesn’t have a great track record as a human being but he has been trying to change — attending church, taking art classes to be a comic book artist (LIKE THE COMIC VERSION OF CHUCK!!!), which is all corroborated by Pop Tate, who saw Chuck there. Sincere and sweet, Chuck reassures Josie he really is trying to be better — before leading her into a Pulp Fiction dance right in the middle of the diner. This cute moment is broken up, however, by a very angry Mayor McCoy and Sheriff Keller, who demand Josie home ASAP and order Chuck to stay away from her.

Back at the hotel, Mayor McCoy blasts her daughter for her recent behaviour, and reveals that she has been receiving death threats against herself… and against Josie. The sheriff asks Josie if she’s received anything suspicious or threatening, and Josie — either forgetting or lying — says that she hasn’t. The next day at school, Josie fills Cheryl in on everything that she found out, but Cheryl, while comforting, is more concerned about her date with Chuck. Cheryl loudly mentions that she believes Chuck has been stalking her and putting shit in her locker (catching a very suspicious Svenson’s attention), but Josie gives Chuck the benefit of the doubt, truly believing he’s turning a new leaf, as they head to the music room to practice. However, another gift is waiting for Jo: a well-drawn sketch of herself stating that ‘if I can’t have you no one can’… and a gift-wrapped pig’s heart. Storming out of the room (and pushing Archie and Jughead aside as they do — remember, I did say we would come back to this later), Cheryl and Josie confront Chuck in the student lounge about the notes and creepy gifts he’s been leaving. Chuck is legitimately confused, but Svenson (STILL SUSPICIOUS OF U BRO) steps in, and asks Josie if these allegations are true; is Chuck the one responsible? Unsure, but being egged on by Cheryl, Josie admits that Chuck is the culprit, and Svenson drags the poor hurt and confused sap down to Principal Weatherbee’s office. Later, at the hotel, Sheriff Keller tells Josie that he spoke with Chuck and he’ll be staying away from her from now on, but expresses doubt that Chuck was the one responsible after extensive questioning and searching — despite Mayor McCoy’s adamant stance on him. The next day, Josie is practicing again when the Black Hood comes up behind her and promptly slashes her throat. WAIT, WHAT!? Just kidding bro it’s just a dream, but Josie wakes up gasping without a voice. Meanwhile, Cheryl, listening to Josie’s song through headphones and smirking to herself, is sketching an eerily well-down drawing of her and Josie together. WHAT GAME ARE YOU PLAYING GIRL?

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To catch a predator… or not? (L-R: Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy, Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom & Jordan Calloway as Chuck Clayton — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Betty & Veronica

REWIND AGAIN as we’re back with Betty and Jug in bed snuggling before his call from the Snake Charmer. (Have you noticed his Serpent tattoo has a little crown? Cute.) As he gets up, she thinks to herself, again, how suspicious it is that the Black Hood found his way into the sheriff’s locked office. The next day at class, she and BFF Veronica Lodge are walking the halls of Riverdale High with GBFF Kevin Keller, who is concerned that the town is turning against his dad since the murders, and worried that his dad is starting to lose his sanity over this Black Hood stuff — not sleeping or eating, and sneaking out late at night. Later, as B & V chill in the library and discuss Kevin’s problems, Betty finally gets ready to present her crackpot theory — but Veronica says it’s so obvious already. Both shocked they’re on the same page, Betty blurts out her theory — that the sheriff is the Black Hood — while Veronica blurts out hers — that he’s having an affair. As they both scrounge for evidence to support their theories, Veronica notes that Kevin doesn’t need groundless suspicions right now, but she will find a way to prove her intuition correct. Later, as Ronnie plans a sleepover at Kev’s place, Betty sits down with the sheriff for an alleged follow-up piece about the Sugarman Mr. Phillips and how he could’ve been murdered in his cell. This is clearly a sore spot for Sheriff Keller, but he shows Betty all the evidence he’s put together as to how the break-in occurred… but Betty is still not convinced.

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Peep Ronnie’s cute outfit tho. (L-R: Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge & Casey Cott as Kevin Keller — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

Later, at their slumber party, Kevin is explaining his D&D-esque game to Veronica and boring her senseless when she is saved by a call from Betty, and excuses herself to get a drink. As the two scold split-screen scold each other for their investigative tactics, Betty asks Ronnie to at least make herself useful and look for Black Hood clues. As the office is locked, she reluctantly tries the basement — where she hears Tom Keller grunting. Turning the corner, she finds him shirtless and sweaty as he lifts weights, and quickly asks for a drink to seem less suspicious. As the muscly Keller treats her to a diet soda, Veronica, trying to collect evidence but coming across extremely American Beauty, notes how hard it must be to be so stressed and aware from his wife, who is stationed in Bahrain. Before things get too weird, though, Kevin dorkily and cluelessly interrupts with a glass of milk. CUTE. That night, Veronica is woken up by Sheriff Keller sneaking out, which she later tells Betty about at Pop’s. Betty thinks this confirms her theory, however, as a southside jingle-jangle addict was found dead by the tracks (though the official cause of death was train accident). Veronica reassures Betty that finding evidence and creating evidence to match your narrative are not the same thing, and urges her to hold off until she finds something concrete — which she agrees to.

As Sheriff Keller later leaves his house (to our motif song ‘Spooky’) to go to work, Bets sneaks through the bushes and enters the house via hidden spare key like any sane normal person would do. Busting into his office with a bobby pin, Betty finds the most suspicious murder board ever — pages and pages of pictures of victims — labelled ‘SINNERS’ –, wanted posters, deadly sins definitions and news articles surrounding the Black Hood. Terrified, she searches the drawers and comes across the very thing she feared — a black hood with the eyes cut out… and Sheriff Keller standing right behind her. Later, as he has a sitdown with Betty and her dad Hal Cooper at the station, he forgives Betty for accusing him of being the Black Hood and admits that he can see why it looked suspicious. However, he provides an explanation for the hood (it was Reggie’s which he had confiscated from Archie) and also provides an alibi for every night the attacks had taken place via his logbook, promising not to tell Kevin about this and risk breaking his heart. Betty, still wanting to get to the bottom of this, conscripts Ronnie into staking out his place that very night (GIRL NEVER LEARNS HER LESSON, I TELLS YA) and following him as he sneaks out — all the way to the Shady Palm Motel with a black duffel bag. Concerned that that’s his kill kit and the victim is waiting for him, Betty quickly snaps some pics before the two rush to save the day — but instead see the door answered by a scantily-clad Mayor Sierra McCoy, who promptly kisses Tom on the lips before seductively dragging him back inside the room.

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IIIII SHAGGED THE SHERIIIIIIFFFFFF (L-R: Martin Cummins as Sheriff Tom Keller & Robin Givens as Mayor Sierra McCoy — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)

As the girls reel in shock in Pop’s Diner over what they just witnessed, Veronica points out that she was technically right, but would have never guessed who the other woman was. Noting that Riverdale’s list of sinners is rapidly expanding, they resolve to never let Kevin know what they saw; just let him think his dad’s a good guy. A few booths over, Cheryl consoles a voiceless Josie and offers her a soothing tea to fix her swollen vocal chords. A few booths over from that, our storylines are caught up again — as Archie offers Jughead a ride home and he declines in favour of visiting his dad at the jail. As Jug heads out the door, Pop Tate receives a call on the Shoppe phone — from the Black Hood himself. True to the title scroll’s words, Pop announces to the diner that Riverdale has failed his test… and now the massacre begins.

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“The reckoning is upon us.” (Alvin Sanders as Pop Tate — Picture Source: The CW/Netflix)


Why can’t Riverdale do more stylistic episodes like this? Well, we all know what’s coming up next: the Black Hood Murders. Check out who lives or dies on Riverdale every Wednesday at 8/9c on The CW, internationally on Netflix or for free on The CW app!

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Author: Jordan

@jordanrolufs on Twitter!

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