We need to talk about this episode title, because it brings up my biggest issue with this season thus far. The episode is called “Chapter Seventeen: The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” The town that dreaded sundown. Is there a more dramatic way of phrasing that? Spoiler: No, there’s not. And yet every time I want to roll my eyes at the melodrama, this show does one of two things:
- It makes fun of itself.
- It pulls back on the dramatics, which we see at the end of tonight’s hour.
And that leaves me teetering on the edge. On the one hand, I’m really enjoying this season, and on the other, it’s soooo close to being too much. But that’s also part of Riverdale, right? I’ve never felt more confused, so let’s just get into it, shall we?
The episode starts with Jug finally saying the words everyone else is avoiding: “There was a serial killer among us.” Yep, the Black Hood is joining the ranks of Zodiac, the Axeman, and the Phantom Killer…at least as far as Jug is concerned. But the serial killer isn’t the only issue in Riverdale. As the librarian tells him, she’s just as freaked out by the shirtless video Archie and his Red Circle put together.
At this point, the town is on high alert: Shops are closing early, people are adding deadbolts to their doors, and the mayor is calling a town meeting to put people at ease. And then there’s Alice Cooper, who’s doing everything she can to point the finger at the South Side, thereby reasserting that the North Side of Riverdale is far superior. But what she doesn’t know is that one of North Side’s own — Archie Andrews — is currently having target practice in the woods, and he’s a really good shot? (When did this happen? I have some doubts.)
Elsewhere, the parents of Riverdale are reacting to the Red Circle’s video: Hiram plays dumb and supports Hermione when she tells Veronica to break up with Archie; Betty’s parents don’t care because they’re too focused on the fact that Polly just left; and Archie’s dad tells his son to pull the video down. (Archie already did — it’s not his fault it went #viral and now everyone’s sharing it.) And then there’s the Serpents, who decide that Archie’s beautiful red head will serve as their next target. Jug tries to talk them into going after the Black Hood instead, but according to Sweet Pea, the Black Hood is doing their work for them. He’s their hero. A SERIAL KILLER IS THEIR HERO. MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP SITTING WITH THEM, JUG.
While Jug tries to save Archie’s life, Archie is walking down the hallway at school like he’s some kind of god as the music in the background is a rap remix of his video? Honestly, what is happening? It all ends when Ronnie pulls him into a classroom to yell at him for the tape, and it takes Arch about two seconds to reveal that Hiram is the one who gave him the idea. No, he didn’t say to, as Ronnie puts it, “line up a bunch of semi-naked boys straight out of The Lord of the Flies, put them in red ski masks, and deliver some Unabomber-like manifesto.” But Hiram did tell Archie to fight fire with fire, and if that doesn’t translate to shirtless teens, I don’t know what does.
Continuing his downward spiral, Archie is called into the principal’s office, where Principal Weatherbee shuts down the football team until the Red Circle is disbanded. As for Archie, he has a week to issue an apology to the community or his suspension will begin, and it will continue until he’s complied. Archie’s response? He tries to convince the Red Circle to follow him to the South Side, where they’ll force the killer’s hand by showing up on his home turf. Yeah, no, Reggie’s out, and he takes all the guys with him. That leaves Archie alone, something Doiley thinks he wanted all along. Now, Archie gets to face off against the Black Hood mano a mano.
But the Black Hood has other things on his mind than Archie Andrews — namely, Betty Cooper. The Black Hood sends Betty a letter explaining that her speech at the jubilee is the very thing that inspired him. He says he’s doing all of this for her. That’s why he’s enclosed a cipher that he says only she can figure it out. And if she passes his test, she will know the location of his next victim.
Unsure of what to do, Betty tells Kevin everything but decides to keep the letter for herself and just hand the cipher over to the cops (and her mother). That leaves all of Riverdale to try to crack the code. (Next: The Red Circle versus the Southside Serpents)