Riverdale Season 2 Episode 21 – TV Review
At multiple points in my notes for this episode I wrote “This episode is too fucking much.”
Which for Riverdale is exactly the right amount.
TL;DR This episode is too fucking much, as every single character deals with life-or-death crises; Betty uncovers the identity of the Black Hood; Archie tries to protect his friends, and fights for his own life; Jughead tries to keep the Serpents alive from a returned Snake Charmer; and the Ghoulies; Veronica finds out Hiram’s callousness knows no bounds; Cheryl saves Toni from a hostage situation; Jughead might be dead.
I’d be inclined to throw a “the CW doesn’t have the balls” on that, but this is Riverdale, and this episode is too fucking much. It could be for real.
Oh, and this episode is so jam packed that I’ll have to split up this plot synopsis, lest it become too fucking much. To put in one paragraph.
So we’ll get right into it where we left off: the Black Hood goes after Cheryl. She thankfully makes a quick escape and injures him with an arrow. She relays this to Betty, who is worried that the Black Hood, who she suspects is her father, might go after Alice. But then news comes that Hal has arrived at the ER, supposedly injured in the riots, but all Betty finds when she arrives is a murdered doctor. The Black Hood then invites her to join him and Alice at home, wherein it’s revealed that the Black Hood is indeed Hal Cooper. His motive is, sadly, pretty bland (blah blah I killed sinners because it’s in my blood also my father and grandfather were also deranged murderers), but Betty and Alice do thwart him and hand him over to be arrested.
Meanwhile, Archie somehow loses Reggie in the police station kerfuffle, but Fangs is brought in to be treated at the hospital. News breaks that Reggie shot Fangs, even though Archie knows it isn’t true, and Archie rallies Kevin and the football players to find Reggie and save him from roving death squads of Serpents. Some minor confrontations with the teen Serpents occur, but they eventually meet up with Reggie at the diner. But shit’s just about to pop off, as the Ghoulies return to town en masse and besiege the diner. Thankfully, Fred, Skeet, and a Sheriff Keller who has found his balls fend them off. Archie and Fred return home, only to be attacked by the Black Hood, and Fred is shot. Again, thankfully, he was wearing a vest he got from Sheriff Keller earlier, but this Black Hood isn’t Hal, as he was next door terrorising Betty and Alice at the time.
Meanwhile, Veronica makes her way back home to safety, but happens upon a dazed Midge’s mother, who confesses to shooting Fangs. She turns her in and returns to Hermione, but not before discovering Hermione has put out a one million dollar bounty on the Black Hood. Veronica angrily assumes this money to be the dough she ransomed from Nick’s parents, so tears through Hiram’s desk, and instead discovers his plans to soon release an article about Fred and Hermione’s affair from last season. This would destroy Fred’s mayoral campaign, but also dumps a ton of mud all over Hermione. Veronica tries to get her mother to open her eyes, but it’s then that Papa Poutine’s vengeful son shows up to kill them to punish Hiram. Hermione wastes his ass, but the lady Lodges are no fans of Hiram when he finally turns up after all is said and done.
Meanwhile, Jughead spends his episode trying to corral the Serpents from doing something stupid. This becomes much harder to do once the Ghoulies show up. But they’re not alone: Penny the Snake Charmer is back (bitches), and has allied with them to drive the Serpents out of town. Also she’s kidnapped Toni but Jughead and MVP of the Episode Cheryl rescue her. Penny then proposes a battle at dawn, which Jughead does his best to refuse. But when Skeet shows up with news that Fangs has died of his injuries, this sets the Serpents alight and they accept the offer. Jughead then has an epiphany that all the chaos of the night has been orchestrated by Hiram Lodge (who stays out of the action all episode like the coward he is), and makes a different offer to him: to sacrifice himself to Penny to avoid any more violence. He submits to Penny, but she cruelly turns things around on him and orders the Ghoulies to beat him to death, while proclaiming she’s going to proceed with the battle, anyway. The episode ends as our heroes rush to the scene, and Skeet walks out of the darkness with a pulverised, unconscious Jughead in his arms.
I told you this episode was too fucking much.
You know, at about the halfway point of the episode Penny turns up to announce she’s taken Toni hostage. I hadn’t checked the time so far while watching the episode because I was completely engrossed, and was stunned when I saw there was more than half left to go.
Say what you will about Riverdale Season 2, and I definitely have, but this episode is an incomparable thrill ride, unlike anything Riverdale has pulled off in its entire run so far. Not even Dynasty in its perfect Alexis-and-onwards stretch has put so much on the table in one serving.
This episode is the Avengers Infinity War of Riverdale. Sure, the story is a hodge-podge of a bunch of things that may or may not have worked from past outings. But it’s all here. It’s not so much a story as a it is an event. And if being an event, like the musical episode was, is what’s working for Riverdale at the moment, then bring it on.
Let’s just hope the denouement of the finale isn’t so frenetic. We need some time to let it soak in, CW.
Why I hate this episode:
Goddammit, Hermione. Even after almost getting killed as part of gangland revenge, she’s still not strong enough to tell Hiram to get fucked. Your own teenage daughter is there doing just that. Speak up, Hermione. You used to be cool. I believe you can be cool again.
The revelation of Hal as the Black Hood was satisfying because it was a sensible conclusion to the mystery. But his motive rant left a lot to be desired. Part of me thought it was cute when he turned that “grandpa Blossom killed grandpa Cooper” story around (Cooper actually killed Blossom), but the reasoning about how their bloodline is tainted with darkness or whatever was pretty lame. Dark Betty was juicy because it was mysterious. For us to be told that she simply hails from a family of serial killers is weird, and I don’t like it.
Also the retrofitting of the original murder of the Conway family to be about how they knew that grandpa Cooper was a murderer and blackmailed him so then he killed them to put an end to it, but also they were sinners and needed to be punished, and then also child Hal was coached by his mother (who didn’t have the tainted blood in her because that came from his father, so…?) to manipulate child Janitor into saying it was that innocent guy story was exhausting. It was a lot of work for very little payoff, because, again, the motive really is “because tainted blood.” Maybe it’s building to something else for Betty?
Why don’t the Ghoulies or the Serpents have guns?
Fangs’ death happening offscreen was pretty anticlimactic.
Oh, and I’m not Josie’s biggest fan, but in the Infinity War of Riverdale episodes, it seems pretty rough that she didn’t get a look-in. Just a quick scene of her and her mum holing up in their mansion while the town riots would have been enough.
But it’s not all bad:
They simply didn’t have the room. They really didn’t. Every single second of this episode propels things forward; there’s not a moment to lose. And thank God for that.
There’s so much in this episode that’s good, and I’ve already bored you with an overwrought plot synopsis, so I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. But we’ve got to first hand it to Cheryl. I had genuine concerns that the Black Hood might get her. But that bitch not only goes straight to her bow and arrow, but she also uses the time to put on a boss red hunting jacket, too. She shoots the Black Hood, calls Betty to fill her in, and then gives chase to him through the woods.
Yes, the continuation of Cheryl’s subplot this episode being her hunt of the Black Hood through the woods between Thistle House and town was genius. No other character could have pulled it off. Forget Oliver Queen, here’s a real hero.
I also first thought when she showed up to help Jughead rescue Toni from Penny that she had coincidentally popped up there from out of the woods (upon reflection, I think Jughead had called her in for help), and I involuntarily said a “yass, queen” out loud to my TV. I told you I was engrossed.
Circling back around for a moment to when Cheryl immediately called Betty, this actually became a running theme for the episode. Whenever a character learned something important, they instantly got on their phone and called the relevant character to pass that info on to. So not only is Riverdale back to being exciting, but we’re also reminded of one of the hallmarks of Season 1’s quality: characters actually talking to each other.
The only major exception to this is when Betty goes to face the Black Hood alone. Because he told her he would kill Alice if she called anyone, so that’s fair. And while Hal’s motive rant was underwhelming, I was living for Alice’s solution to hers and Betty’s hostage situation: emasculate and berate Hal for being a failure, even as a serial killer, to stall him enough for Betty to grab a fireplace shovel and knock him out. Extra points when Alice then took the shovel and delivered another blow, herself. Yes. Bitch.
In other “yes, bitch/yass, queen” moments (I’m partial to either), Hermione proves her value for the first time in a long time when she wastes the fuck out of Small Fry, Papa Poutine’s hulking son. She goes straight to that hidden pistol and unloads without hesitation. If only she had the same gumption when dealing with her husband.
Veronica seems to have now fully purged herself of the miasma of Hiram Lodge oppression, as she openly defies him and tells Hermione to do the same right in front of him. She also shows her own heroic worth when she turns in Midge’s mum. Because it’s the right thing to do.
The heroism doesn’t stop there, though. Fred also gets a couple of moments to shine. I’ll give my first shout out to when he dives in front of a bullet from the fake Black Hood to protect Archie. That vest kind of undercuts the impact of the gesture, but I don’t want a dead Fred, so I’ll take it. And for that second or two before the vest reveal, I was very upset.
His other moment is one he shares with Skeet and Sheriff Keller, who roll up to the diner to spook away the Ghoulies (Archie’s Molotov cocktail approach could have worked. We’ll never know, now). I was literally writing in my notes “yes hot daddies” when Kevin came out with the second best line of the episode: “Hot Riverdale dads to the rescue.” I mean, it’s awkward that one of those dads is Kevin’s own dad. But he’s not wrong.
Veronica snags herself the best line of the episode in a fair response to Hermione’s bounty announcement: “Are you and Dad trying to turn Riverdale into Gotham City?” Well, the colour palette is right for the Schumacher versions.
I’ve mentioned before that the Ghoulie boss better have his sex robe on if he were to return. And he doesn’t. But he does have on a completely ridiculous open shirt ensemble and crazy eye makeup. And I’ll settle for that.
Reggie calls Hiram for help early in the episode when he’s on the run from the Serpents, and Hiram smiles while fobbing him off. I think Hiram could have been a better villain if he’d enjoyed himself a bit more, you know?
Penny’s return as an even more morally bankrupt bitch dragon felt right at home in this rollercoaster of an episode. Even the mostly arbitrary kidnapping of Toni was a win because she was the one selling it.
Where she truly made her mark, though, was her decision to renege on the deal Jughead had brokered with Hiram (which I think was to just be her slave or something) to instead order the Ghoulies to murder him, and then go ahead with her plan to have the battle at dawn with the Serpents. She even orders them to carve off his Serpent tattoo, like Jughead did to her. Vicious.
Oh, but vicious enough to actually kill off Jughead? Show us what you’re made of, CW.