It's the Black Hood versus the Red Circle as the murder mystery heats up
Chapter Sixteen: The Watcher in the Woods
Credit: Bettina Strauss /The CW
Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
S2 E3
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According to Jughead, every fairy tale comes with the warning that “good children should never go into the woods alone,” which I’d argue isn’t entirely true. Some fairy tales don’t even have woods! But sure, I get what he’s saying. And considering that Kevin is the best man-child Riverdale has to offer, it’s worrisome that he’s spending his nights wandering through the woods looking for a hookup. But what’s more worrisome is that during said hookup, he hears gunshots.

Remember where we left off last week? Our local murderer was shooting Moose and Midge, and now we find out who died. Spoiler: No one! It seems Moose shielded Midge with his body, and Kevin showed up in just enough time to help save Moose’s life. In other words…

Good children in the woods: 1
Creepy killer: 0 (Well, not really; he did kill Grundy, but in this case…)

After Kevin catches everyone up on what happened — namely, his new hobby of “night jogging” (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) — Veronica invites the gang over to her place to watch the season premiere of The Machlorette, a.k.a. an excuse for them to meet her father. They all accept her rose and go on about their days, which for Betty means tracking down Kevin and telling him to just go on Grindr. Did she say Grind’em? Is that Riverdale’s version? Long story short, Betty hates that Kev was cruising Fox Forest, and she makes him promise not to do it again until the shooter is caught. More on that in a bit.

First, we find Jug at his new Serpent-filled school, where there’s no WiFi, no doors on bathroom stalls, no school paper, and a whole lot of jingle jangle being passed around. (You pick which of those is the worst thing.) There’s also some Serpent rival gang called the Ghoulies and, you know, a few cannibals, because that’s just what every high school needs. Taking Jug through all of this is Toni Topaz, a Serpent and an altogether pretty cool chick. She warns him that he’ll want to side with the Serpents for protection, but Jug is pretty dedicated to this whole “loner” thing, and to prove it, he actually puts forth effort and — gasp! — answers a question in class before asking his teacher, Mr. Phillips, to consider reopening the school paper, The Black and Red, which was apparently killed when “drugs and gangs came to Southside High.”

Speaking of drugs and gangs, everyone meets up at Veronica’s to meet Hiram, who’s naturally most interested in “the boy who’s captured my daughter’s heart.” Hiram, having listened in on Archie’s latest rant, understands the frustration with Sheriff Keller and tells the young, impressionable, and clearly not always bright man in front of him how “sometimes we need to take matters into our own hands.” Well played, Hiram. I see right through your games. (Sadly, no one else does.) Hiram then invites Archie to dinner next week before telling him, “I look forward to seeing what you come up with to save Riverdale.”

So, what does Archie come up with? Well, thanks to the fact that he decided to hide his gun in a box of comics, he comes up with the Red Circle, a group of jocks from school who form a watch group and serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for police. They’re not vigilantes, Archie tells them. They’re “watchdogs.” And they’re protecting their own. (Read: They’re playing right into Hiram’s hand. Whatever that hand is.)

While Archie assembles his private army, Mrs. Cooper gets a delivery from the killer. He’s calling himself the Black Hood, and he sends her a letter to publish in the paper. (He also sends Fred’s wallet and Ms. Grundy’s glasses to prove he is who he says he is.) In the letter, which the Coopers take to the sheriff, he takes credit for shooting the “adulterer,” killing the “child predator” and shooting the “drug- and sex-addicted teenagers at Lover’s Lane.” So clearly, this guy has a mission. He continues, claiming that Riverdale is not innocent — no duh, guy, we all saw season 1 — and that “my wrath is the price of your lies.” He finishes things up by saying he can’t be stopped and other macho male nonsense, but Sheriff Keller and the mayor agree: The paper shouldn’t print this. But of course, Mrs. C already has it printing for tomorrow’s front page. Isn’t she just the best?

At the very least, her decision gets Polly to make one of her own. Yep, Polly’s in this episode! And now she’s decided to move to the farm where she and Jason were originally going to live. After all, her mother is now baiting a killer who’s targeting sinners, and as she puts it, “I’m an unwed mother carrying my cousin’s babies. I am the poster child for sin.” She’s not wrong, and by episode’s end, she leaves without so much as a goodbye…for her parents. She says goodbye to Betty, obviously. (Next: Archie has dinner with the Lodge family)

Over at the hospital, Moose thanks Kevin for saving his life and Kevin admits that no matter how dangerous it might be, he can’t seem to stop himself from going into the woods. As a gay man, he doesn’t have a lot of options in Riverdale, but Moose at least invites him to come back and talk anytime.

But for now, he’s headed back to the woods, and when Cheryl sees him, she calls Betty for an intervention. The two of them catch up with Kevin so Betty can tell him he should have “more respect” for himself, but he finally tells her the truth: They don’t have the same set of options. All Kevin has is these woods, and if she can’t accept what he does, they’re not really friends.

While all of this is happening, Archie and Reggie are patrolling town and making themselves semi-useful when a creepy van starts following Ethel and they show up. But really, they should’ve been helping Jug. After convincing Mr. Phillips to reopen the paper, he stays late working on a story about the Ghoulies selling hard drugs, because that seems safe. And by the end of the night, he gets beaten up. (Yep, that checks out.)

The next day he lies to Betty and says it was a motorcycle crash, and suddenly I’m sensing a love triangle with Toni, who of course knows the truth. But the question is: Did the Ghoulies do this? Jug has a strange look on his face.

In another equally dangerous situation, Archie has dinner with the Lodge family, and Hiram invites him to have some rum in his forbidden study. First, he lays down some rules:

  1. “No more sneaking into my daughter’s bedroom, ever.”
  2. “Never, ever hurt Veronica.”

Then Hiram continues his all-too-easy Archie manipulation by telling him that sometimes, defending yourself isn’t enough. Hiram thinks the Red Circle needs to strike back. If the Black Hood is using fear as a weapon, they should too.

And apparently, what scares Archie is a bunch of shirtless dudes in ski masks, because that’s who he’s surrounded by in the video message he makes for the Black Hood. “Riverdale is a lot stronger than you, and we’re not afraid,” the redhead in a sea of red masks says. “We’re called the Red Circle and we’re coming for you. We will find you, we will hunt you, and we will end you.” (This would feel a lot more threatening coming from Liam Neeson.) Meanwhile, Hiram leans back and smirks as he stares at the creepy painting of his daughter he has hanging above his desk.

In a bit of good news, Kevin has a scary encounter in the woods that drives him back home, where his father has been talking to Betty and seems ready to talk about all the things they don’t typically talk about, so maybe their father-son relationship can grow from all this madness.

Ridiculous shirtless video aside, I liked this hour. I could still use more Cheryl, but I think this hour was the best use of the thriller vibe thus far. Plus, I really like Toni. What did you think? Hit the comments with your thoughts or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.

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Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
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