Toni works to save Cheryl while Archie turns the Red Circle into the Dark Circle
Chapter Thirty: The Noose Tightens
Credit: Katie Yu/The CW
S2 E17

This season of Riverdale has been an emotional rollercoaster. It feels like every episode is an experiment where the writers test to see just how much Riverdale they can inject into any given hour. Sometimes it’s far too much, other times it’s not enough, and in the case of tonight’s episode, I’d say they channeled Goldilocks and got it “just right.”

We start with a quick catch-up on what Cheryl’s new life is like. In short, she’s miserable. Her hair is in a ponytail. And her only sanctuary is Sisters of Quiet Mercy’s weekly movie nights where she gets to imagine life outside of these hateful walls. Every other day of the week, she seems to be doing physical labor in the hopes that lifting heavy bags will make her straight? Talk about some sound logic!

Meanwhile, outside of those four walls, high school has turned into a political war zone as Jug and Betty face off against Veronica and Archie AND Josie and Reggie. So far, Reggie and Josie’s campaign slogan seems to be “we’re chill,” and I’m not going to lie, they have the best argument for why they should run the student body.

Then there’s the other political campaign: Fred versus Hermione for mayor. Fred’s campaign? He never went to New York and left Riverdale behind! Also, he never went to prison! (He’s got you there, Hiram.) The campaign is putting the Lodge and Andrews families at odds, and all poor Archie can think to do is ask, “Can’t this be a fair fight?” Once again our poor, sweet, dumb Archie just doesn’t get it.

He does, however, have a ridiculous amount of confidence for a teenager who’s won a few football games in his life. When the Lodges get home to realize Hiram has some unexpected guests — scary mobsters Lenny and Carl — it’s Archie who steps forward as if he’s Hiram’s bodyguard and not a confused prepubescent teen who’s failing math. But Hiram tells his guard dog to step down. He’s got this handled.

That leaves Archie to head home, where his mother asks that Archie stand by his father’s side when he announces his campaign run on Friday. Archie agrees, so you instantly know that will never actually happen. (Spoiler: It doesn’t.) Quickly running back to his owner’s side, Archie gets the update from Hiram on what Carl and Lenny want. It seems they’re a little anxious about Hermione’s mayoral run and the fact that it will undoubtedly bring unwanted attention from the authorities. Hiram has the idea to take the guys out to dinner to calm them down, and Archie wants in. Hiram’s response? “You do always find a way to make yourself useful.” DOES HE?! And proving that Hiram is dumber than Archie, he tells Arch that he’s in.

Elsewhere, Betty and Alice have real problems when the authorities find the dead guy’s car in the swamp. FP tells everyone to lay low and act normal. Why we’re taking advice from someone who’s been to prison, I’m not sure. But rest assured Jughead will go against his father’s advice in about 10 minutes.

After, the Serpents let Jughead know that they’re not going to vote for him for student body president if Betty is his co-president — she is the “turncoats daughter” after all. (Clearly, Sweet Pea is a history geek.) He and Betty then decide that their “normal” is to investigate something when the world tells them they shouldn’t, so they ask Kevin what he knows about the car. Kevin, the world’s most underused weapon (whose hair is obviously full of secrets), tells them that the owner claimed it this morning. So wait, the owner’s not the dead guy?

Nope, it seems Dwayne — AKA Chic’s dealer, AKA the dead guy — was big on borrowing his girlfriend’s car. Her name is Darla, and after Betty serves Chic some realness — “Gee Chic, have you ever actually been helpful in any way to anyone?!” — he decides to give Darla a call, which of course only makes matters worse because, well, Betty was right.

But before we get into that mess, it’s time for Reggie and Archie to arm wrestle for the Bulldogs’ vote. Because SURE. Ultimately, Archie wins the macho contest, after which he heads to Hiram’s dinner. The bad news? Carl and Lenny want 25 percent of the prison project and when Hiram says no, Archie steps up and attempts to give an intimidating speech about not underestimating Hiram, but all it gets out of Carl and Lenny are a couple of hearty laughs. And listen, you all know how I feel about boy toy Archie trying to stand up to these guys. It’s ridiculously insane. BUT what I really won’t stand for is them calling Archie a “zit-faced high school kid.” Archie might be a dumb jock but his skin is FLAWLESS!!!

After Hiram tells Archie he’s a “good boy” — as if you needed further proof that he sees him as a dog — Arch returns home to find Jughead helping his father with his campaign announcement. And yeah, it’s awkward.

Speaking of awkward, let’s get back to the whole “Chic calls Darla” thing. Once again proving he’s useless (and/or evil), Chic brings Darla into the Cooper house, where she promptly demands $10,000 in exchange for her silence. Of course, the bank is already closed so that means the Cooper family is about to enjoy a full night of zero sleep and about a million board games until Betty can hit up the bank in the morning. That’s right, they’re sending a teen to withdraw $10,000 from her parents’ joint checking account, because any bank in its right might would let THAT happen. (Next: Toni and Veronica rescue Cheryl)

But this is Riverdale, so of course Betty gets the money. But when her mom calls her and tells her not to come home because it seems Chic’s ex-hostile manager has joined the party, Betty has to think fast. “I know what to do!” she probably says to herself. “I’ll call my 120-pound teenage boyfriend. He and his fellow teens can show up at my house, bust down my door, pull out their switchblades and save the day!!!” And that’s exactly what happens. It’s heinous. I laughed out loud when Jug kicked down that door. But also, I loved it.

Alice then promptly kicks Chic out of the house before apologizing to the Serpent teens who saved the day. From now on, she promises to be proud of where she came from, and just to prove it, she stops washing her hair, throws on a darker shade of lipstick and heads to visit FP, who welcomes her inside and then…tosses his gum outside?! So they’re having sex, right?! MORE OF THIS, PLEASE.

As for what ends up happening with Hiram and his favorite puppy, Archie and Veronica come home from school to discover a man in a black hood — but is it the Black Hood? — attacking André. Acting fast, Archie chases down the assailant and discovers that Adams is now working for Carl and Lenny. (But he’s not the Black Hood, right?)

Regardless, Hiram needs to come up with a plan. At this point, he’s essentially unprotected and as much comfort as Hiram gets out of Archie offering to sit in his lobby with a bat in hand, they need a better plan. For now, that plan is for Archie to serve as Veronica’s personal escort to and from school every day. My only question: Who will protect the lobby?!

As for the long-term plan, Archie has an idea, and yes, it does involve once again using teens to intimidate grown mobsters. But this time, they won’t be shirtless members of the Red Circle…they’ll be masked member of the Dark Circle!! (So they’re very scary to anyone who’s trying to to look tired and/or age!) Together, the Dark Circle members — AKA the guys on the football team — blow up Carl and Lenny’s car and tell them to get out of Riverdale.

Archie then returns home where his mother is disappointed in him for missing his dad’s big speech. “Who are you, Archie,” she asks without knowing the HALF of it. And then, from a disappointed parent to a proud (but really manipulative) one, Hiram gifts Archie with a new car, a gesture that seems nice but is actually a way to tell Archie that he’s now Veronica’s driver.

And that brings us back to the Cheryl of it all: After Toni updates Veronica and Josie about the whole “boarding school” lie, the three of them head to Cheryl’s house to confront Penelope. But Penelope is not messing around, so she shows Josie one of the MANY drawings Cheryl did of the two of them during her obsession that really shouldn’t have been glazed over the way it was. And not surprisingly, Josie gets creeped out enough to leave the operation, though Toni is happy to stick around.

Together with Veronica, a helpful phone call from the immortal Nana Rose, and a hot tip from the keeper of Riverdale’s secrets — Kevin knows that the Sisters of Quiet Mercy does conversion therapy — they decide to break Cheryl out. Thanks to MORE of Kevin’s knowledge, they learn about the tunnels that run to the main living space, so once Veronica changes into her sexy sleuthing clothes, she and Toni leave Kevin standing guard as they enter the tunnels.

Once inside the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, Toni finds Cheryl at movie night, where the two take a moment in this high-pressure situation to make out in front of the video projector because love and good lighting waits for no one!!! Then Veronica busts in with my favorite line of the episode, “There are a bunch of nuns coming, we have to go!”

Together, they escape through the tunnels, and thankfully, Cheryl’s back just in time to star in Carrie the Musical. Because, as she puts it, “This school’s gonna burn.”

So to sum things up: Kevin knows everything! Teens in masks defeated gangsters! Cheryl escaped from a group of scary nuns! Honestly, what more could you want from an episode of Riverdale?!

Episode Recaps

Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
  • TV Show
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  • TV-14
  • Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
  • The CW
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