Welcome to my favorite episode of Riverdale this season. Coming off a week when I was very confused about my feelings surrounding this season and its extreme ways, there’s something about connecting the killer to Betty — and giving the killer a voice — that has grounded things for me. I believe the stakes now. And I also feel like some of my issues with the story are starting to be resolved at this point. But before I say too much…
The episode picks up right where last week left off: Betty’s on the phone with the Black Hood, who reveals he was at the town hall but didn’t hurt anyone because tonight was all about Betty. He tells her that he wants to cleanse Riverdale of its sinners…and that includes Polly. And he knows she’s at the farm. So, with that threat very clearly laid out for Betty, the Hood tells her not to tell the police or Jughead about their conversation. If she does, he’ll kill Polly.
So, working within those guidelines, Betty gets Archie to walk her to school. After all, the Hood said nothing about Archie (who, by the way, wrote Principal Weatherbee an apology letter and disbanded the Red Circle). Betty swears her bestie to secrecy, and Archie vows not to let her go through this alone. That’s why, the next time the Hood calls, Archie is there, in Betty’s room, listening in. This time, the Hood has a request from Betty: She needs to make sure her mother stays out of their way, and in order to do that, Betty has to publish her mom’s old mug shot from her days on the South Side. If she does this and proves her loyalty, Betty will get to ask the Hood one question that he has to answer. Betty’s hesitant at first, but after her mother accuses her of forging the “Black Hood” letter, Betty publishes the mug shot.
Speaking of Alice Cooper, the Lodges aren’t too happy with her latest write-up. It seems their big development on the South Side is running out of capital, so they’ve invited the St. Clair family in from New York to potentially invest. And with them comes Nick St. Clair, Veronica’s “will-they-won’t-they” from the Big Apple. In other words, this is her chance to prove her value to the family company. So, Veronica is the first person to welcome the St. Clair family to Riverdale’s Five Seasons hotel before introducing Nick to her beloved Archie, at which point Nick offers Veronica some cocaine and then proceeds to call her sexy in front of her boyfriend. Because that’s not awkward.
Over on the South Side, Jughead learns that the Serpents are planning to build a pipe bomb and blow up The Register. You know, normal teenager stuff. And when Toni reminds Jug that his father was the one who helped maintain peace between the North and South, Jug gets an idea: He’s ready to join the Serpents for real. That is, if he survives the initiation.
Step 1 of initiation? Jughead gets woken up by a bunch of Serpents in creepy snake masks who are there to…deliver Hot Dog. So far, joining this gang means dogsitting and studying, because step 2 is memorizing the Serpents’ laws and yelling them at a bar. But step 3 is where we break away from the boring: Jug has to retrieve a knife from a rattlesnake cage. Yes, the snake bites him. But considering it’s had its venom glands removed, it’s really just a little blood. So I’m not going to lie, joining the Serpents doesn’t seem that hard. But there’s still one final trial remaining.
We’ll get back to that. First, Betty receives another call from the Black Hood, and she asks him her first question: “The face under the hood, would I recognize it?” He says yes. And now that he feels like they’re friends, he wants Betty to start cutting her other friends out of her life, starting with Veronica.
Before she handles that, Betty heads to Pop’s to meet up with Jug. The two haven’t seen each other in a while, and as both of them sit there keeping secrets from each other, it’s evident they know things aren’t working. Both of them in tears, they talk about how they wish they could run away from all this, but they know they can’t. And for now, that’s all they can say. (Next: Nick St. Clair shows his true colors)
That night, Nick St. Clair throws a party at his hotel room, where pretty much everyone but Betty partakes in a little Jingle Jangle (and Josie and Reggie make out??). As everyone dances in a drugged haze, Betty sees her opportunity and acts: She calls Veronica a privileged, shallow airhead party girl who only hangs out with them because of her circumstances. She tells V that she’s not a real friend, that she’s just using them…”like father, like daughter.” She tops it off by telling Veronica, “You’re a bad person,” before leaving the party in tears. (And believe it or not, the party actually gets worse when Veronica ends the night by fighting Nick off and slapping him in the face when he tries to kiss her.)
As for Betty, she heads straight to a VERY isolated bus station — so isolated I half believe it leads to Halloweentown or something — where the Hood calls her and she gets to ask her second question: “What will make you stop?” He tells her that she can make him stop, as long as she continues to show him her devotion. And that means cutting Jughead out of her life. “He’s not worthy of your love,” he tells her, which sets off alarm bells in my head. Is it just me, or does the Black Hood sound A LOT like Alice Cooper?? I realize Alice isn’t the one on the phone, but she could be pulling the strings! (Could it be Hal in the hood?!)
The next day, Archie finds an emotionally distraught Betty — you know it’s bad when her ponytail morphs into a sloppy bun — at school, and she tells him why she did what she did. She also tells him that Jug is next. But seeing as how the Hood hasn’t killed anyone since they started talking, she doesn’t want to stop. And with that in mind, she asks Archie if he can break up with Jug for her. And because he’s a good friend — I have missed these two! — Archie agrees.
And it turns out it’s not nearly as hard as Archie thought it would be, because when he shows up at Jug’s place, he’s greeted by the Serpents, who have arrived to put Jug through his final trial. Suddenly, Archie is more than happy to tell Jug that Betty doesn’t want to see him anymore. And it’s only fitting that Jughead then goes off to face his final trial, which is being physically beat up right after his emotional beatdown. (Spoiler: He passes and officially becomes a Serpent. He also lands a kiss from Toni!)
Back in the slightly less violent part of town — key word: slightly — the Lodges are putting on their open house, where Alice Cooper shows up despite all the mug shot drama, and based on her outfit, she certainly isn’t shying away from attention. (I’d like you all to take a second and imagine your MOTHER wearing something like Alice’s outfit to a local event. Betty really is the victim this week.)
At the open house, Nick apologizes to Veronica and reveals he’s been in and out of rehab for the past few months. Moments later, he ROOFIES CHERYL. I mean, who IS this guy?!
Thankfully, Veronica and the Pussycats are stealth vigilantes and follow Nick and Cheryl to his hotel room, where they beat the crap out of him. Honestly, if he had a leather jacket, he’d be a Serpent after that beating.
Afterward, everyone gathers around Cheryl, who WILL be pressing charges. Even Betty shows up after the Hood led her to an abandoned house and made her put on a ski mask so she could see that “we’re the same.”
The episode ends with the Hood calling Betty and revealing that he knows that she’s told Archie about their chats, and because of that, he’s going after Polly and everyone she loves…unless she gives him another name. In a moment of panic, she gives him Nick St. Clair’s name. “I told you we were the same,” he says before hanging up.
So at this point, the Black Hood is essentially a tool they’re using to push Betty to her limits and potentially bring out Dark Betty, and NOW I’m on board. I’m also on board with the return of Archie and Betty’s friendship, and you know what? I don’t hate Jug and Toni. For me, after a bit of confusion at the start of the season, this is the episode where it all clicked.