After school, Veronica confronts her father in his study and basically talks her way around asking if Hiram manipulated Archie into starting the Red Circle and creating that video. Of course, the answer is yes, but Hiram claims he doesn’t remember what he and Archie talked about. To be fair, Archie is not the most exciting conversationalist, but come on Veronica, you know something’s off here.
And she does. That’s why she decides to support her man by making T-shirts for the Red Circle — a hilarious, oh-so-high-school way to think of supporting a cause — and having the Vixens hand them out. Does this mean the Vixens are part of the Red Circle now? Because I am so down to watch Cheryl fight crime.
Except, when Archie heads to the South Side, he does it on his own — after purchasing some ammo, a holster, and a kevlar vest using a fake I.D. with the name WILBUR WILKINS. (Give that a second to sink in.) He then proceeds to spray-paint red circles all over town until Sweet Pea and some Serpents catch him. But when Sweet Pea pulls a knife, Archie pulls a gun, and WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ARCHIE?! Sweet Pea and his guys run away…for now.
Back in the North Side, Betty, Jug, Toni, and Kevin are having a code-breaking party, because that’s not awkward at all. Things quickly get heated when Toni tells Betty she might be able to recognize the symbols if she loosened her ponytail. Kevin’s response: “Betty’s ponytail is iconic and beyond reproach.” THIS is the Kevin I’ve missed.
But at this point, Betty’s willing to try anything, so she takes down her hair in the hopes that suddenly she’ll be able to crack the cipher. (Am I smarter when my hair is down?!) But when they start going over what they know about the killer and Betty suggests he’s from the South Side, Toni loses her cool and outs Jughead for sitting with the Serpents at lunch. With that, she and Kevin both leave so that Betty can…not yell at Jug? He swears he only sits with the Serpents for survival purposes, but Betty is far too focused on breaking this code to even care. In fact, her mild obsession with solving the code comes back to bite her when she and Jug accidentally fall asleep and she ends up rushing home the next morning and leaving behind a few notebooks. In one of those notebooks is the note the Black Hood wrote her, and Jughead finds it.
When he asks why Betty kept it from him (and everyone), she admits she’s worried that if Archie finds out she inspired the killer, he will blame her for all of this. But when Jug calls her “Nancy Drew meets Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” she remembers something. The letter said only she could solve the code. So she takes Jug to the library to check out one of her favorite books from when she was a kid: The Nancy Drew Secret Code Activity Book.
Back at school, Sheriff Keller and Principal Weatherbee find out that some red-headed kid was waiving a gun around the South Side last night, so they ask to see Archie’s locker. Thankfully, Archie is smart enough not to keep his gun in his locker, but he’s not smart enough to get rid of the ski mask that Reggie wore to his house. Why he kept it, I have no idea. But it gets him barred from school.
In a bit of good news, not ratting Reggie out gets Archie back on good terms with his boys. After Archie calls Veronica and asks her to get his gun for him — he hid it in the back of a toilet at school — she heads to his house to rightfully yell at him as Archie admits that he wants to be the one to kill the Black Hood and that he didn’t wear a ski mask in the video so that he’d become the Hood’s next target. Just then, Reggie and some of the football team knock on the door. They’ve come bearing pizza to say that they want to keep the Red Circle going…and it’s a good thing because Sweet Pea and a group of Serpents just showed up on Archie’s porch.
Long story short, the Serpents are here to fight, and after both sides agree to a “no weapons” rule, they head out into the rain — of course it’s raining — for a good old-fashioned brawl. It doesn’t take long for things to take a turn when one of the Serpents pulls a knife and stabs Dilton in the leg. Thankfully, Veronica’s there and she brought Archie’s gun, which she fires into the air to put an end to things. In the end, something good comes out of the fight: Archie realizes how crazy he’s been, and together, he and Veronica throw his gun into Sweetwater River.
Back at the library, Betty figures out that the Black Hood plans to strike next at the town hall, where Alice Cooper is currently trash-talking the South Side, per usual. She wants to shut down Southside High and use that money to bolster the police force. Of course it’s Fred who speaks up against her, but no decisions are made before Betty pulls the fire alarm to get everybody out. She then decides to hand over the Black Hood’s letter to the cops (and her mother).
As Jug’s voice-over tells us, that night was the turning point: Riverdale would no longer be known as “the town with pep,” but rather “the town that dreaded sundown.” The final shot of the night shows Betty receiving a phone call…from the Black Hood.
Leaving tonight’s episode, I’m no less confused about how I feel about this season. I do like adding the Betty connection to all this, and I’m very happy that Archie realized how ridiculous he’s been, but I still haven’t decided if this all feels just a bit too much. One thing I definitely know: Kevin’s great ponytail line reminded me of how much I missed those fun one-liners — from him and others (Cheryl!). But what did you think? Hit the comments with your thoughts or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.