Stop right there! If you’re not caught up yet, check out last episode’s recap here.
Panning up from a grave, we see Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper standing solemnly… before a sobbing Betty kneels down and begs Jughead — at his headstone marked Forsythe Pendleton Jones III — to come back to her… and PSYCHE, he does, as Jughead Jones snaps out of his coma dream. (PREDICTABLE CHEAP SHOT, RIVERDALE.) Massively injured, he weakly calls to his dad, FP, who’s also somewhat injured and sleeping at his bedside. After some catching up, FP tells him of the massive battle between the Southside Serpents and the rival Ghoulies to ‘avenge’ him and Fangs Fogarty (despite Jughead’s deal with the Ghoulies), but ultimately the Serpents lost, though he admits that Fangs didn’t die — the deputy had told them that as a likely ploy of Hiram Lodge’s. Jughead realizes that the entire Riot Night™ was a trap of Hiram’s that they fell into, and FP tells him the harsh news: Sunnyside Trailer Park was largely burned to the ground, and the entirety of the Serpents are either dead, fled, defected to the Ghoulies, or in hiding. Crushed, he tells his son that now that the Southside Serpents are no more, he needs to focus on getting better and being there for Betty after her ordeal — which Jughead had no idea about.
Later cuddling with and consoling Betty in his hospital bed, she tells him not to apologize for it; she never wants to see her dad again. Her primary goals are to care for Jughead and her family, and to stoke for her father’s crimes. In the face of all this, they agree to drop out of the race for student body president. Meanwhile, double-agent Veronica Lodge meets with Archie and Fred Andrews, and drops her mother’s speech itinerary for the next few days, taking the liberty to book Fred in after her. Fred appreciates the help, but doesn’t feel hopeful — the town is soaring with praise for Hermione Lodge and Sheriff Michael Minetta for stopping the riots — but Veronica vows to put her own ambitions as student body president aside to help him win, leaving Archie running alone. This is broken up with a call from Betty, and the gang meets Jug at the hospital, and, after some small talk, Archie tells him about the second Black Hood that attacked his dad at the town hall and their home. Jughead points out that this seems to have a political motive, and the four agree that Veronica’s dad is likely behind it, as he tends to hires others to do his dirty work. They mull over candidates, and decide that to likely a Serpent, Ghoulie or Sheriff Minetta. As Archie, one of the only Black Hood survivors who ever got a good look, has to identify Hal Cooper for the police, he agrees to start his search at the sheriff’s office.
Elsewhere, at Thistlehouse, Cheryl Blossom finishes signing legal documents with Attorney Sierra McCoy, making her Nana Rose her legal guardian. Forgoing protocol, Cheryl happily decides to deliver the letter of separation to her mother herself, as she and Uncle Claudius have been relegated to living in the Blossom Maple Farms barn. As she does, however, she accidentally catches her family having a hush-hush meeting with Hiram Lodge, and they slam the door as she hides to avoid discovery. On the way home, Betty catches a crowd outside her house, with her disheveled mom on the porch in a robe, acting as a deranged ringmaster to the House of the Black Hood out of frustration. Annoyed, Betty ushers the crowd away. The next morning, a quite-lacerated Jughead offers over the phone to miss his first day back at school to be with her, but Betty doesn’t think her mom could handle visitors right now. Meanwhile, Archie meets with Minetta and positively identifies Hal as the Black Hood, but tells him about the second shooter. The sheriff continues to brush this aside as ‘rioting looters’, and Archie frustratedly storms out, calling him out as one of Hiram’s lackeys as he goes.
Elsewhere, Betty meets with Fred Andrews to apologize for her dad’s actions against him. He forgives her, but, crying, she opens up about how she feels like she’s responsible for the murders for not realizing what was in front of her sooner. At school, Moose Mason is also crying, and Kevin Keller walks into the bathroom to find him doing so. Quickly hiding his tears, he tells Kevin that the locker belonging to Midge Klump — his murdered girlfriend — was trashed and looted during the riot, and all her stuff was stolen. Kevin hugs to console Moose… and he kisses him. Initially shocked, Kevin returns the smooch, and the two kiss passionately. Meanwhile, in the school lounge, Reggie Mantle and Josie McCoy announce their withdrawal from the student body race, as Reg doesn’t feel ready after his manipulation by Hiram and Josie wants to focus on her music. This leaves Archie as the sole candidate — oh, yeah, and Ethel Muggs who was explicitly shown to not be running prior to this episode. (BAD RETCONNING, WRITERS. BE ASHAMED.) Elsewhere, in the Swords & Serpents Club, Jughead meets with Toni Topaz and Sweet Pea, and is frustrated to learn that all former Southside High students are now being shipped out of Riverdale High two hours away to Seaside High due to ‘overcrowding’. Jug doesn’t want to fight for a gang that doesn’t exist, but Toni expresses confusion and asks him about the Serpents from the White Wyrm. She takes Jughead to the Wyrm, where he’s grimly shocked to learn that all the now-homeless Serpents have been shacking up as they couldn’t afford to leave town.
Meanwhile, in the ladies’ washroom, Cheryl approaches Veronica and tells her what she saw, and Veronica later heads home and confronts her dad about it. Always a lie at the ready, Hiram tells her that he’s looking to expand into the maple trade, but even Hermione doesn’t seem to buy it. Veronica accuses him instead of hiring Claudius Blossom as a Black Hood to shoot at Fred, but her parents treat her as if she’s lost her mind. However, Ronnie remarks that it’s possible that he would do something like that before leaving, planting the seed in Hermione’s mind. Veronica and Archie later meet with Betty to try and convince her to come back to school, but she feels she can’t show her face after her father’s menace — admitting she hates him for what he did. They console her, as Jug gets home to his trailer (one of the last few remaining) and finds his dad, having fallen off the wagon, drunk on the couch. He tells Jughead that he’s ‘celebrating’ being fired from Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe, but Jug instead confronts him about lying about the Serpents. He admits it, but said that he did so as they’re skipping town to Toledo to live with Jughead’s mom. Jug refuses to go, but FP won’t take a no for the answer.
Elsewhere, Fred meets with Sierra in the Andrews Construction/campaign headquarters trailer for advice, and she advises him that his best path to victory is the usually untapped ‘disillusioned southsider’ vote. Kevin, who’s helping with the campaign, interrupts with the news that Minetta’s on the line. Meeting in their office, he breaks the news: the police found and killed the second Black Hood in a shootout — a man by the name of Gerald Petite AKA TALL BOY. (Man, this would be so much more effective if it wasn’t handled offscreen.) Back at the Cooper house, Polly (the worst) and her twins are visiting, and she asks if they’ve visited Hal yet to forgive him like they taught at the Farm. While agreeing this is a crazy idea, Alice does decide to visit to gain closure, but Betty refuses. Meanwhile, Veronica is drying her hair in her room when Hermione enters and tells her that she’s right; it is possibly that Hiram would have hired the shooter. Giving her daughter a contingency plan, Hermione tells her that Hiram’s south side plans extend beyond the prison, but he doesn’t own one crucial piece: the Whyte Wyrm. She suggests that Ronnie block him with her own money, which shouldn’t be too hard to get.
Following her mother’s hint, Veronica sits down with her dad and Attorney McCoy in negotiations to get back her million dollars from the trust. As they threaten (see: blackmail) to reveal his secrets — the fake Black Hood attacks, Papa Poutine’s murder, Nick St. Clair’s crippling — unless he releases the funds, he caves… with Hermione proudly and privately watching her daughter through the doorway. Meanwhile, Archie tells Jughead that Tall Boy was the other Hood, and he admits that this is a candidate, and the two express frustration that Minetta covered Hiram’s tracks by killing him. Elsewhere, Cheryl is packing treats to bring to Toni at the Wyrm, when Penelope Blossom storms in with the letter of separation, furious. Cheryl brushes her aside to try and head out, but Penelope sincerely begs her not to go to the White Wyrm tonight. Back at the trailer, Jug vents to Archie about Toledo and Seaside High, but Cheryl busts in and interrupts this, quickly warning them that Hiram hired Minetta to raid the Wyrm tonight and that she’s already called ahead to warn them.
At the bar, Jughead tells them all to take only what they need, as they’ve been offered asylum in the northside. The huge group of Serpents sneaks out the back door under the cover of darkness, as the blaring police sirens circle around the front. The next morning, Fred Andrews is serving up an enormous amount of breakfast to the Serpents he’s hosting, when FP saunters in. Realizing how much work and love and community that has been put into this, he agrees that Toledo can wait. Jughead thanks Archie for his help, and Archie asks Jug for a favour in return: to borrow a large amount of Serpent jackets. Later that day, Principal Waldo Weatherbee exits his office to find both sides of the hall flanked by the entire student body, all clad in Southside Serpent leather jackets. Led by Archie, the students announce their intention to stage a mass walkout if the southsiders are transferred, and, realizing he can’t expel everyone, he orders them all back to class. After this, Veronica pulls Jughead aside and tells him about her father’s plan for the Wyrm, and Jughead tells her about his dad’s firing at his hands. Horrified at this, she switches directions.
Later, Hiram enters the bar, but instead of finding Mr. ‘Hog Eye’ Hoggins, he finds the new owner: his daughter, Veronica Lodge. She makes him a deal, offering to trade him the Whyte Wyrm for Pop’s, as that’s the only safe place that she and her friends have to hang out. Hiram agrees, but barters his own terms in: if this trade happens, she no longer gets any help from him in the form of trusts, credit cards, or an allowance, and she signs over her stake in Lodge Industries to him. Even though she clearly is holding all the cards in this deal, she shakes on these terms. Elsewhere, Betty and Jughead are babysitting Juniper and Dagwood (gag) when Betty questions aloud, starting to cry, if evil can be passed on, as her dad’s family all had ‘the darkness’. Jug reassures her that neither she nor Polly’s twins will be evil, and she believes him. The next day, people file into town hall to vote for the election and Riverdale High to vote for the student election, as Betty bites the bullet and visits her dad in his cell. Apparently being in jail makes you hotter, because Hal now has FP’s slicked back hair and beard stubble, and he argues that Betty visited because she’s so much like him. She instead argues that she’s here to say goodbye to him and her darkness, gaining closure over that chapter of her life. As she smugly waltzes out, Hallibal Lecter shouts threats and insults after her, rattling her none.
Meanwhile, at school, the gang is chillin’ in the student lounge when Weatherbee makes an announcement: Archie Andrews is the new student body president… and that all former Southside High students are now to remain at Riverdale High. To celebrate, the Serpents hold a shindig on the bank of the Sweetwater River — where they were founded — and FP steps up on the makeshift stage for a speech. Addressing the Southside Serpents, he announces his retirement from the gang, officially passing the torch onto his son, Jughead. As his first order of business as Serpent King, Toni Topaz produces a custom red Serpent leather jacket, and Jughead proudly anoints Cheryl as an official new member with it. Elsewhere, Betty breaks the news to her mom that she went to see Hal and now wants to return to school, as Fred and his campaign committee anxiously waits around the phone. They get the call — and Fred, disappointed, tells everyone that Hermione won the mayoral election. At this time, there’s a knock on the door… and Hermione Lodge asks if she can come in. She congratulates Fred on a close race and on a great campaign, and the two shake as he concedes.
Archie, however, takes this opportunity — with all the other Lodges at his house — to pay Hiram a visit. In the Pembrooke study, he coldly congratulates Mr. Lodge on his victory, and pulls a knife. Rounding on him, Archie confronts him for taking advantage of his vulnerability after his dad’s shooting, and tells him what he knows about Tall Boy, Papa Poutine, Penny and the Ghoulies, and Cassidy — the boy he nearly witnessed Andre kill at Shadow Lake. As usual, Hiram denies everything and gaslights him, but Arch vows to prove it and come for him; he’s going to make his bones with Hiram Lodge — before threateningly stabbing the knife into the desk and sauntering out, clearly worrying the composed Mr. Lodge. Later, at Pop’s, Ronnie tells her friends a fun fact about her new acquisition: there’s a disused basement that was once a secret club in the past, and she plans to reopen it as a new spot for southsiders and northsiders alike — with FP Jones managing it. Veronica jokes that her dad, on the other hand, is probably plotting some sort of revenge… and, as Jughead narrates, this joke turned out actually to be true, as we see Hiram meeting in the Wyrm with Sheriff Minetta, Penny Peabody, Claudius and Penelope Blossom, and Malachai of the Ghoulies — each controlling a different part of his growing criminal empire. He announces to the group, without Hermione’s knowledge, that he has taken steps to remove the last roadblock: Archie and his group of friends.
Meanwhile, Polly commends her mother for visiting Hal, and offers her help in the form of a friend from the clearly-a-cult Farm, and Alice, too broken to argue, agrees. Elsewhere, Jughead treats Betty with the fancy suite in the Five Seasons hotel, and during pillow talk he asks her if she’ll be his Serpent Queen — not proposing, but rather if she’ll join the Southside Serpents as co-leader. He gives her time to think on it, as he narrates that the question was overshadowed by the next day’s events. That day, at school, Weatherbee addresses an assembly to rise for the national anthem before Archie is inaugurated as student body president. As the school proudly stands as Josie sings as Archie beams at his friends from the stage, he notices Hiram Lodge smugly watching from the shadows. With much confusion in the crowd, Sheriff Minetta and his deputies storm in and cuff Archie. He asks what they’re doing, and Minetta, reading his rights, loudly tells him that he’s under arrest for the murder of Shadow Lake resident Cassidy Bullock. As he pleads his innocence, Minetta reads him his rights as his friends exchange glances at each other, confused. Desperately looking over the crowd as he’s being escorted out of the gym, he catches Hiram’s gaze — who gives him a nod and a smirk before leaving.
As far as finales go, this one felt a little… lacklustre, didn’t it? Nonetheless, stay tuned to The Game of Nerds for all of your Riverdale fun stuff, trivia, updates and articles! See you next season!