Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Get ready for wall-to-wall action and rapid scene changes in this penultimate episode! With a bang, this episode picks up immediately where last week’s left off: Cheryl Blossom screaming at the arrival of the Black Hood with an axe on her doorstep. However, she deftly dodges his swings and locks herself in her room upstairs while he ‘here’s Johnny’s his way in… to find the window open and the curtains blowing in the wind. Working his way downstairs and outside, he is narrowly missed by the thud of an arrow, while Cheryl walks out of the shadows with a red hunting cape and her bow. (YES.) She warns him to flee, and smirking, fires into his shoulder when he doesn’t, causing him to comply. Meanwhile, Jughead and FP Jones are carrying a severely injured Fangs Fogarty into the ER with a bullet in his gut, where Dr. Masters intercepts them and they rush Fangs into surgery. Jughead storms off to find his shooter, but FP stops him from doing so and reminds him that part of being a leader is the more difficult tasks, like advising his family — with the whole debacle causing Jug to doubt his leadership skills altogether. Elsewhere, Betty Cooper is still waiting for her dad at town hall when she realizes she’s missed calls from Jughead. She texts him that everything’s fine and lies that she’s just at the Register, before Cheryl calls and warns her that the Black Hood attacked her and is on the run through the woods — and she plans to track him.
Actually at the Riverdale Register, Alice Cooper is working overdrive delegating, getting articles ready for publication, and trying to cover the riot outside, when Betty calls and asks where her dad is. Alice tells her he’s (suspiciously) out reporting on the riots and demands Betty come there where it’s safe. Meanwhile, Archie Andrews is confronting the Bulldogs outside the riot, looking for Reggie Mantle, who bolted after Fangs was shot. He tells them that Reggie wasn’t the shooter — he has tackled him before he could be — but the Southside Serpents saw him with a gun and are out for his head anyway. Kevin Keller and Moose Mason go with Archie to Reggie’s house to find him first. Elsewhere, Fred Andrews finds Veronica Lodge in Archie’s bedroom getting dressed to slip out, when both hear news of the riot at the sheriff’s office and realize Arch is there. They get ready to go collect him, when Andre shows up to take Ronnie home and watch her instead, on her parents’s orders. At The Pembrooke, Hiram is preparing to take Hermione to the Register for an interview with Alice while he ‘heads off and patrols with a deputy’. Hermione — wary since Veronica called him out on his shit last episode — is suspicious of what he might be really doing, but Hiram assures her that he isn’t keeping any secrets from her.
At the hospital, Jughead is getting an update on Fangs’s condition when Sheriff Michael Minetta shows and asks the nurse for an interview with the victim when he’s stable. FP confronts Minetta about his repeated failure to keep the town safe, and he threatens FP in return with a parole violation for ‘harassing an officer’. As this is happening, Jughead slips out behind them. Meanwhile, Reggie, hiding behind a dumpster, frantically calls Hiram (his ringleader) and pleads his innocence, but Mr. Lodge refuses to help him and hangs up. Elsewhere, Veronica has Andre pull over when she spots a dazed Mrs. Klump wandering aimlessly through the carnage with a pistol. In shock, Midge’s mom confesses that she shot — and may have killed — Fangs, who she had believed killed her daughter. As this is happening, Archie calls Jughead and warns him to call off the Serpents, telling him that he knows for a fact that Reggie is innocent. With Archie’s crew coming up blank at Reggie’s house, the two friends agree to meet at the school to try and find him. Back at the Register, Hermione gives an interview to Alice about how she plans to fix this carnage as a mayoral candidate, and, blaming the Black Hood for the riot, offers a bounty of one million dollars on his head — dead or alive. Betty blasts this idea (causing Alice and Hermione to question why she’s so protective of a murderer) when Cheryl calls again and warns that the Black Hood fled in the direction of Betty’s house. Betty leaves to meet him there.
Elsewhere, Archie and his crew hears Serpents causing havoc outside the school and gear up with bats in case a brawl breaks out, when Ronnie calls and lets him know that she left his house and delivered Mrs. Klump — Fangs’s real shooter — to the police. As she hangs up, she catches her mom (nervously surprised to see her) talking to Sheriff Minetta about the reward, and expresses her disgust. Back at the school, Sweet Pea and his gang are vandalizing the school when they run into Arch and the gang in the common area. Archie tries to reason with Sweet Pea, telling him that Reggie and the Bulldogs were not responsible for Fangs’s shooting, but Sweet Pea doesn’t care, and, blaming the north side for all their problems, prepares to burn down the school. As the two sides square off, Principal Weatherbee busts in through the side door with some teachers and a baseball bat (LOL WHAT WAS HE PLANNING TO DO WITH THAT) and breaks it up. Meanwhile, Betty gets home but doesn’t find her father — but instead a kitchen sink covered in blood. Back at the school, Jughead shows up too late, and Archie tells him that they get kicked out by Weatherbee and the Serpents fled down towards Midge’s house to trash it. Jughead rushes off to intercept them, but the two agree to keep each other updated. As he goes, Archie gets a call from Pop Tate from the apparently as-of-yet unscathed Chock’lit Shoppe, who has Reggie there asking for him.
Later, Betty gets a call from an unknown number as she finishes mopping up the blood (Riverdale’s cell phone bills are off the CHARTS this week) but it’s just FP at Riverdale General Hospital, asking if she’s seen Jug. She tells him she hasn’t, and he also advises her that her dad was just admitted to the ER, bloody and injured. Horrified that all signs are pointing to the idea that Hal Cooper really is the Black Hood, she rushes toward the hospital. Back at The Pembrooke, Veronica is arguing with her mother about Hiram using her million dollars for reward money (though Hermione argues that he isn’t), and she locks herself in her dad’s study to try and find information to get the money back out of the trust, despite Hermione’s pleading and coaxing not to snoop around. Picking open a locked drawer in his desk, Veronica finds a Lodge Industries folder labelled ‘October Surprise’, and gasps in horror of what she finds inside: evidence of Hermione Lodge and Fred Andrews’s affair last year, as well as a drafted article smearing Fred for it. Meanwhile, Archie, Moose and Kevin meet with Reggie at Pop’s, where he tells them Mr. Lodge left him hanging — admitting that he put him up to this as well. This is interrupted by the riot moving directly outside, so Archie calls Jughead to ask him to call off his men. Jughead, however, is ushering the Serpents to the Whyte Wyrm, and Archie realizes in horror that the men outside with barbed baseball bats are, in fact, not Southside Serpents… but members of their much more dangerous rival gang — the Ghoulies — freshly released from jail.
As Kevin and Moose barricade the doors, Archie unsuccessfully tries to call the sheriff’s office before everyone is forced to duck behind tables as the Ghoulies smash up windows. Pop admits that he doesn’t keep a gun, but he did learn *another* trick from the war, and directs Archie to the unused alcohol from Mr. Lodge’s poker night. As Malachai the Ghoulies smash up cars and make the Serpents look wholesome, Archie clambers up on the roof from the interior crawlspace and lights a Molotov cocktail as per Pop’s advice — but a sheriff car shows, scattering the KISS-makeupped thugs… as ex-Sheriff Keller exits with a shotgun, ready to tango. He’s soon joined by Fred Andrews and FP Jones, also working to scare off the gang, and the three hot Riverdale dads come to the rescue by freeing the folks holed up inside Pop’s, all after receiving calls from Jughead warning them. Back at the Wyrm, however, Jug is having less luck with his own — as he scraps with a dissenting Sweet Pea who wants to go out and fight the Ghoulies. Sweet Pea blames him for the shooting of Fangs and the whole Ghoulies dragrace debacle, and Jug further questions his leadership. Meanwhile, Veronica confronts her mother over the October Surprise and she admits she knew about it — but Hiram felt like she, running on ‘law and order’, could recover from it and Fred could not, as his platform is based around family values. Furious, Veronica points out that Hiram always has everyone around him assume the risk and step in the line of fire for his own actions, and Hermione even seems to start to doubt him herself as she blindly defends her husband to her daughter.
Speak of the literal devil, Hiram calls Pop for an update on his diner, and is frustrated to learn that their opponent Fred helped lead the charge in liberating it from rioters. As they hang up, Pops is confronted by Papa Poutine’s son, Small Fry Boucher — not such a small fry at 6’11” — menacingly asking if he might know where the other party to that phone call lives. Elsewhere, Betty pushes through the packed and frantic hospital and gets her father’s room number… but cautiously pulls back his curtain to instead reveal Doctor Masters, dead and bloody, in the hospital bed. The Black Hood calls her on the bedside phone, teasing that they keep missing each other and Masters was asking too many questions, and threatens that if Betty doesn’t come home he’ll slit her mother’s throat.
Back at the Whyte Wyrm, Jughead hops out of the frying pan as he receives another call — this time from his old friend Penny Peabody. She warns him that she is alone and has Toni Topaz hostage, and if he doesn’t meet her by the docks she’ll mutilate her face. Despite Toni’s shouted protests for him to not come, Jughead agrees to come alone. Meanwhile, Betty shows up at home to find her mother safe and sound and tries to evacuate her, before her dad cheerily comes up from the basement with the old projector to show them old home movies. Betty is horrified into silence, but Hal starts the reel — showing a young Hal being filmed by his mother ‘so they can always remember daddy’s sacrifice’, asking brainwashy probing questions about why ‘what daddy did was right’ by getting rid of the Conway family, and that ‘sinners need to die’. When Alice questions the meaning of this, Hal forcefully yells at her to shut up. In the video, Hal’s mother asks young Hal to convince Joseph Conway to misidentify the killer of his family, reminding him that he will and must do better than his father did.
After the film, Hal demands the stunned Alice take out her recorder for posterity as he tells his story, beginning to bleed through the gauze on his shoulder and his sweater. He starts off by admitting that Great-Grandpappy Blossom never murdered Great-Grandpappy Cooper — it was the other way around, and the Coopers took on that last name to flee persecution and start fresh. Hal tells them that the Conways were murdered because they found out the secret and blackmailed the Coopers, and he had manipulated Joseph Conway/Svenson as a boy and as his pawn as a man. He confesses the ‘darkness’ that he has — that his father and his grandfather had — and points out that Betty has it too, before getting up in her face. As she fights tears, he forced her to say aloud that he’s the Black Hood and list his crimes, though he confesses that he did not shoot up the mayoral debate. Meanwhile, Archie and his dad safely arrive home and Archie goes to lock up when he realizes the back door is open. Rushing to check on his dad, who went upstairs to take a shower, Archie is attacked by a Black Hood. As the two wrestle, he breaks free and points a gun at Arch… before Fred takes him out from behind with a baseball bat. He goes to check on his son, but the Hood rises again and fires at Fred — hitting him in the chest — before fleeing. (WHY ALWAYS SHOOTING MY INNOCENT BABY?) Fred quickly shows that he’s wearing a Kevlar vest as per Keller’s orders, and Arch, content with his dad’s safety, bolts after the hooded man, losing him.
Back at the Coopers, Hal proceeds to tell them how Betty’s speech at the Riverdale Jubilee (that the town will and must do better — the same words his mom had used) reminded him of his promise, and was taken as a ‘sign’ to take up the mantle and purge the town of sinners… and he confesses that he wanted this recorded so the police will understand when they find them. Elsewhere, Jughead shows up at the agreed-upon spot to be wanted by Toni that Penny was lying — she’s not alone; Malachai is here as well. As he threatens Jughead with his taser, deus ex Cheryl saves the day, as Little Red Robin Hood — Jughead’s backup — draws her bow and points it at the Ghoulie. Penny agrees to free Toni (who runs to Cheryl’s side #CHONI) but gives an ultimatum: the Serpents ship out tonight, or there’s a showdown at Pickens Park tomorrow with the Ghoulies for control of the south side. Back at the Pembrooke, Small Fry confronts Andre as Veronica and Hermione argue in the other room. This is broken up by Small Fry kicking in the door and menacingly advancing towards them, saying that he’s going to do the same to them as Hiram did to his father. They flee and barricade themselves in the study, but he kicks that door open too — until Hermione scrambles with Hiram’s hidden gun in his drawer and shoots him four times until he dies.
Back at the Wyrm, Sweet Pea is giving an impassioned speech to Cheryl and the returned Serpents about going to war against the Ghoulies for the south side, and when Jug pushes it off as Hiram Lodge’s problem (as he now owns that half of town), Toni joins in and agrees with Mr. Pea. As Jughead and Sweet Pea rumble over this suicide-run, FP breaks it up with bad news — the sheriff’s office just confirmed that Fangs didn’t make it. To honour his memory, FP puts the disagreement to a vote… and the gang votes unanimously for fighting the Ghoulies tomorrow as Jughead glares on. Meanwhile, at the Cooper house, Alice is chiding Hal (against Betty’s cautioning) by calling him a mama’s boy and pointing out the flaw in his logic: he’s a sinner that cheated on his wife, just like Fred Andrews. She finally pushes the right button by revealing her affair with FP, and as he goes to choke her to death Betty beats him over the head with a fire poker, knocking him unconscious. Back at the trailer park, Jughead tries to convince his father of the stupidity of a rumble with the Ghoulies — who he projects outnumber them one hundred to one — and FP screams in frustration and desperation that they voted and there’s no other choice. As FP storms out, Jughead plops down in defeat… before noticing the murder wall next to him. Inspired, he makes a call.
Elsewhere, Hiram answers his phone, and is confronted by Jughead with a realization: Fangs’s arrest, the riots, the Ghoulies and Penny showing up that same night — he was responsible for all of it, because he bought up all the south side properties but couldn’t buy up the Southside Serpents. Mr. Lodge denies this aloud — but, as he meets with Penny — Jughead makes an enticing counter-offer. Later, Hiram comes home to find Andre dead in the lobby. (We hardly knew ye.) In horror, he runs to find his wife and daughter coldly drinking in the dining room, telling him that he can clean up the bodies as they’re his mess. Meanwhile, Hal is arrested by Sheriff Keller(!) as Arch and Fred walk next door to see what all the commotion is about. Betty tells him shamefully that her dad was the Black Hood, and Archie mentions that he attacked him and his dad an hour ago — but Betty, confused, rebuts that’s that’s impossible; her dad was at home with them an hour ago. DUN DUN DUN. As Hal glares from the backseat of the cruiser, Betty gets a call from Jughead telling her that he missed her voice — and he’ll never stop loving her — before hanging up.
As Jughead meets with Penny and the Ghoulies, they reiterate the terms of the deal: Jughead turns himself over and there’s no more Serpent bloodbath. As the thirty Ghoulies surround him, Malachai menacingly points out that Betty’s protection was never part of the deal, and Jughead hits him before all thirty gang members descend in on him, punching and kicking. As he’s pummeled to a pulp, Penny, pulling a switchblade to get ‘her pound of flesh’, shouts over the din that she has decided to not hold up he end of the deal; his sacrifice will be for nothing. Back at the Wyrm, FP and the Serpents are stocking up weapons when Betty calls, worried about Jughead’s cryptic call. Realizing that this was a ‘goodbye’, FP realizes what his son has done and races to Penny’s hideout. Meanwhile, Hiram apologizes to his wife and daughter for the shitshow and tells them how Minetta tagged the bodies as riot victims to avoid questioning, but Veronica coldly confronts him about his ‘October Surprise’ and his cold-hearted willingness to put others that he loves in the line of fire, and for once Hermione seems to agree. Finally, as Betty, Archie, Cheryl and the Serpents meet up in the streets, they see a silhouette emerging from the forest slowly: FP Jones, choking back sobs as he carries a limp and massacred Jughead through the trees — shredded, bloody, and completely motionless.
WHAT!? NO. Will our baby Jug make it after this absolutely cluster-eff of an episode!? Catch Riverdale Wednesday on The CW or Thursday on international Netflix to close off this season, and don’t forget to peep The Game of Nerds for all your other cool fandom fun stuff!