Riverdale Season 2 Episode 9 – TV Review
Let’s just forget that whole striptease thing. Because it’s Christmas!
And also the Black Hood is revealed and it’s super weak.
But it’s Christmas!
TL;DR Betty and Archie discover the Black Hood actually is the Janitor; and some more sinister secrets of Riverdale’s past; Jughead deals with the Snake Charmer to prove he’s still a committed Serpent (ugh); Veronica and Archie try to move past their relationship troubles; Cheryl drops her Josie-stalking.
I assume this is Riverdale’s Christmas gift to me.
So it’s time to really nail down this Black Hood mystery, and this calls for a Betty and Archie team-up when Janitor goes missing, and the Black Hood sends a severed finger as a taunt to Betty. The investigation reveals the man whom the Riverdale vigilantes killed was in fact not the Riverdale Reaper, and was just an innocent nobody. Betty and Archie find out via Nanna Rose Blossom that Betty’s grandfather was one of the murderous vigilantes, and they track down the place where the innocent man was buried alive. The Black Hood shows up and tries to do the same thing to Archie, but our heroes wriggle free and chase him to a climactic bridge finale. Archie’s itchy trigger finger rears its head, but Sheriff arrives in time to shoot the Black Hood to death before he can get away, and we find out it was actually Janitor all along, apparently on some quest to right his childhood wrong by popping off sinners. Um, cool? Meanwhile, Jughead spends his episode pestering Skeet to let him help him with his Snake Charmer-imposed burden, but is rebuffed. So he rallies Toni and the younger Serpents to kidnap Snake Charmer, dump her in Greendale, and cut her fucking Serpent tattoo off her arm to excommunicate her. Jesus. Meanwhile, Veronica butts heads with her parents when she wants to help Fred pay off an $86,000 hospital bill (from when he got shot, remember?). So when she finds out they secretly bought Pop’s diner, she fraudulently pays it off using Hermione’s credit card, and harangues her parents into letting her be more involved in their business dealings. She also goes to Archie at the end of the episode to say “I Love You, Too,” which I’m guessing will become a little awkward after she finds out Betty and Archie kissed this episode. And Cheryl jettisons her lingering subplot with Josie to instead slapfight with her mother about how poor they are. And then Penelope sleeps with some random Christmas tree salesman.
Because it’s Christmas!
Despite this episode’s main plots both being huge disappointments (the underwhelming Black Hood reveal and Jughead’s continued Serpent involvement), I still didn’t hate it.
The magic of Riverdale combined with the magic of Christmas is too good to pass up.
Plus, Riverdale is far too smart to have the Janitor be the true Black Hood. I believe it about as much as I believe Kylo Ren’s explanation for Rey’s parents.
Why I hate this episode:
But with a full twenty-two episode season on the horizon, what if this is the true ending of the Black Hood mystery? Could the intelligence and whimsy of Riverdale be slowly draining away? Say it isn’t so.
And while we’re apparently wrapping up storylines, could we please drop the Jughead being a Serpent stuff? Last episode gave us the perfect out, with Skeet assuming Jughead’s duties and imploring him to drop it all. But then this episode Jughead pesters and begs and pleads with Skeet about how much he wants to be a good Serpent and lend a hand. Could you, like, not?
For someone who came down on Archie for executing a shortsighted plan, Jughead does the exact same thing with the Snake Charmer. Sure, cutting her tattoo off was pretty gnarly. But tattoo or no, she’s got the brains and the resources to enact retribution. If you’re going to be a dumbass, Jug, at least try not to also be a hypocrite.
Cheryl’s subplot doesn’t seem to really mean anything. A couple of scenes establish that the Blossoms are broke and Penelope is incensed that Cheryl would needlessly spend money on Christmas decorations. But then the conclusion of their time this episode is Cheryl walking in on Penelope gettin’ some strange. Unless we find out she’s hookin’, how does that relate to what came before it?
Oh, and to affirm my concerns that Riverdale is losing its smarts and becoming as obtuse as other teen shows, we don’t get to see Veronica’s conversation with her parents. Unless all they were telling her was what we already know about them buying Pop’s diner and the drive-in land. But it’s implied that there’s more at play, so I doubt it. I consistently praised Riverdale all last season about how it would eschew the typical teen soap trappings of obstructively withholding information to manufacture empty drama. But it looks like that may be over.
But it’s not all bad:
I’m glad Hermione and Hiram chose to suck it up and suffer Veronica’s fraudulent credit card payment for Fred’s hospital bill. Use your nefarious powers for good, V. Instead of evil.
I also came to the overdue realisation that in pretty much every scene of Hermione this season, she’s had a glass of wine in her hand. I see myself in her.
The push and pull of just how much Veronica aligns with her parents is a welcome inclusion of their subplot. Yes, we want to see the rise of Dark Veronica. But Riverdale is keeping some its brain cells around by not making that an arbitrary, overnight decision. The best manifestation of this in the episode is when Veronica negatively compares Hiram to Fred as a father. Hiram’s fuming is delicious.
I was pretty checked out of everything Jughead this week, but I’d like my admiration for the directness of his plan for the Snake Charmer to be registered. Fucking gouge that tattoo off of her, dude. You went for it.
Betty and Jughead’s relationship isn’t positioned as hopefully as Archie and Veronica’s this episode, so congrats on resisting the snapback, Riverdale. And even in Archie and Veronica’s case, the Betty/Archie kiss is still dangling over them. And given that Cheryl witnessed it, I doubt it will stay secret for long.
Betty and Archie do a lot of legwork for the plot, but the climax includes some choice Riverdale moments. In more proof that maybe Riverdale isn’t dumbing down, once they’ve got the location of the vigilante murder, Betty says she will call the Sheriff on the way. When the Black Hood has them at gunpoint and is making Betty bury Archie alive, it’s the arrival of the sirens that distracts him. And Betty immediately capitalises by smacking him in the face with the shovel. Nice.
Our heroes give chase, and we get a slight reprise of Archie’s anguished fury for what happened to Fred as he holds the gun to the Black Hood, trembling. It was a powerful reminder.
Early in the episode, the Scooby Gang (plus Cheryl, Josie, and Reggie) have a Secret Santa gift exchange. It’s wholesome. Moose also returns in a weirdly quick cameo, so the Kevin/Moose shippers out there got their Christmas present, too.
Nanna Rose Blossom’s involvement in the vigilante murder is largely unimportant. But way to use your established minor characters, Riverdale.
Even if the Janitor is indeed the Black Hood, I get the feeling that this whole saga could in fact be the starting point of a greater mystery involving Riverdale’s sins and conspiracies (the focus on the shadiness and injustice of the vigilante murder is at the forefront of the episode). I can’t imagine Riverdale would really have fucked up this badly.
Oh, and the episode indeed does indicate it’s developing something new. Archie and Veronica’s lip-locking reunion is photographed by someone. And Betty goes ahead and burns all of her Black Hood letters and research. But after chucking the hood into the fire, she quickly reneges and reaches in to retrieve it.