Riverdale recap: 'Chapter Twenty-One: House of the Devil'
Let’s get this out of the way: This episode has a scene that made me the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been watching this show. And it also had a scene that possibly made me the happiest I’ve ever been watching this show. And then the rest of it was perfectly fine. Can I stop there or do you want to know more? FINE. But I’m not singing, and all my clothes are staying on.
We kick things off by learning that Jughead has way too much knowledge of Veronica and Archie’s sex life, to the point that he knows the many locations where they’ve “made it,” as V says, which leads me to believe that Jug has cameras everywhere and probably is also the Black Hood. (I’m kidding…about the second thing.)
Apparently, the way Archie and Veronica have decided to rebel against the Black Hood is “through carnal defiance.” Because according to Jughead, being a horny teenager is how you become “the opposite of death.” Why though? Because if you’re not careful you might accidentally create a life?
Long story short, Archie and Veronica are having lots of sex, and after one particularly intense time, Archie lets the L word slip, after which things get very awkward and he makes a quick exit. Thankfully, he and Veronica have something new to talk about when FP’s release means Betty and Jughead ask them to take over their investigation into the Riverdale Reaper. The latest update: The house where the murder happened is the same house where the Black Hood once sent Betty. And just like that, Veronica and Archie have plenty to discuss that has nothing to do with love.
Meanwhile, Cheryl is turning into a full-on stalker in the locker room when she pretends like she can SEE the knots in Josie’s back and proceeds to pull out the lavender-scented essential oil that she JUST SO HAPPENED to have in her locker and give her a massage. And then she yells at Janitor Svenson for barging in without knocking. But let’s be honest Cheryl, he’s not the only creep here.
After school, Veronica arrives home to find out that someone — possibly the Black Hood — sent her parents a threatening letter. Considering a dozen households got the same letter, the Lodges aren’t too worried, but just in case, Hermione tells Veronica to keep Archie close because “he’s brawny and devoted to you.” In other words, Hermione is totes fine with Archie dying for her daughter. And I guess so is Veronica, because she wastes no time in inviting him over and dodging the L-word conversation by saying they should focus on the investigation. And the sex. Always the sex.
However, that doesn’t stop both the teens from looking for guidance from their parents, and shockingly, it’s Hermione who gives her daughter the best piece of advice: Perhaps she’s just not ready to hear the “L word” yet.
While all of this is going on, Alice takes Betty and Jug to pick up FP from prison and seemingly tags along solely so she can scar her daughter with her inappropriate question to FP about whether it’s true that men just released from prison are “incredibly sexually frustrated.” (I’m not sure about FP, but I’d say it’s true women married to Hal are incredibly sexually frustrated.)
At Pop’s, FP reveals that he’s now in AA and is done with the Serpent life. He even asks Pop if he can get a job (and he does). This time, FP is on the straight and narrow. And he wants the same for Jug. Although now that Jug has survived the gauntlet, he seems determined to remain a part of the Serpents. But he promises his dad he’ll never stop writing (or creeping on everyone in Riverdale through his secret cameras).
With that, FP starts his new job at Pop’s, and Jughead hates it immediately. His dad used to be a king, and now Cheryl has every opportunity to throw her milkshake on the ground and force him to clean it up. So, never missing a chance to throw a party, Betty suggests they put together a retirement party for FP, which she’s going to use as an opportunity to become “Serpent adjacent.” During her party planning, she asks Toni how to be a part of Jug’s world, and apparently the female equivalent of the gauntlet is a striptease BECAUSE WHY WOULDN’T IT BE?! And this is where things start to go truly wrong…but we’re not there yet.
Just as Jug sits down to have dinner with his dad, Penny calls and claims she needs his help. But he tells her he’s done…even though she threatens Betty.
While all of this is going on, Veronica and Archie are on the case of the Riverdale Reaper, which is to say that they’re on the case of something that happened many years ago. First, they go to Sheriff Keller to ask for the case files, but it seems the sheriff at the time, Sheriff Howard, took them home. And then he died.
That leads to them calling Sheriff Howard’s daughter and finding out that her father spent his entire life obsessed with the Conway murders, and he constantly revisited the house where it happened. He called it the devil’s house, and now Archie and Veronica have to pay it a visit. (Next: A striptease)
In all fairness, they don’t HAVE to visit it at night, but it does make it more fun. By reading a newspaper story about the murder, they piece together what happened, and it takes Veronica all of five minutes to discover something Sheriff Howard never solved in his entire life. (Honestly, the cops in this town should be ashamed.) By looking at the height measurements on a doorframe, she realizes that there were three kids in the family…and only two were killed by the Reaper.
In the corner, they find Howard’s files, and in his files is a photo of the Conway family — all five of them. Okay, so maybe Howard knew about the other kid, but if he did, why did he spend so much of his life investigating this? Because by the time Archie and Veronica identify the kid, they get all the answers they could ever need. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Archie and Veronica find out that Joseph Conway, the survivor, changed his name, was adopted by a new family, and attended a local high school. So, they compare the photo they found to old school yearbooks until they find him: It’s Svenson! The janitor! (You know, if you wondered why he kept popping up in episodes lately.)
Archie and Veronica confront Svenson, and he tells them that he saw the man who killed his family. Furthermore, the next day, he identified the man and a group of guys took him and killed him. Or so he says. He claims it was never reported, so no one knew about it. (He at least could’ve told poor Sheriff Howard and given that guy some peace.) And now? Archie tells Veronica that Svenson isn’t the Hood. He doesn’t have the eyes. So that was a dead end…or was it? By episode’s end, Svenson is looking at some photo of a group of men. Could they be the ones who killed the Reaper? Is one of them the Black Hood? Ugh, I feel like I sound like Jughead right now.
Speaking of Jughead, it’s time for FP’s party, where the Cooper women steal the show. Betty lets her hair down! Alice is wearing dark lipstick! And yet, it’s Archie and Veronica who take the stage.
After Veronica realizes she probably can’t say she loves him because she’s never heard her parents say it, he tells her it’s okay — she doesn’t have to say it back. But of course, he’s a teen so he’s hoping that by saying that, she’ll say it back. And when she doesn’t, he’s not happy. And to make things more awkward, they then have to get on stage to sing “Mad World” because that’s a good karaoke song in Riverdale, I guess? (What’s wrong with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”?)
But about halfway through the performance, Veronica storms off stage. Outside, she tells Arch that, for whatever reason, she can’t say it back. And then she gets in a car and heads home. So it seems they just broke up.
AND NOW WE’VE MADE IT TO THE MOST CRINGEWORTHY EVENT OF YOUR LIFE. When Veronica runs out, Betty takes over her karaoke performance. But she doesn’t just sing. Oh no. She starts TAKING OFF HER CLOTHES. And then before you know it, she’s doing a pole dance in lingerie to a room filled with her boyfriend, her mother, her boyfriend’s father, and about 50 other strangers, many of whom are ADULTS. Reminder: Betty is a teen! Also, of all the critiques in the world: “Mad World” is a terrible striptease song.
For some reason, Alice lets her daughter finish her performance, after which FP puts his jacket around her shoulders and escorts her off stage. FP then announces he’s not leaving the Serpents. Actually, he’s NEVER leaving the Serpents. Why? Because Jughead broke his heart when he did the one thing FP asked him not to do — he got into bed with Penny Peabody. So now, FP is in, and Jug is out.
Outside, Jug realizes that his dad was on the right path until he messed it up, and after watching Betty’s traumatizing dance, he can’t ruin her life too. So he breaks up with her.
And now we end with my happy scene: As Jughead’s voice-over talks of “feelings that had long been buried” shaking loose, we see Archie look out his window at the girl next door. And, as Jug says, Archie sees Betty “as if for the very first time.” As they both make eye contact, Archie smiles. (Thank God he didn’t witness that striptease. It would’ve ruined everything.)
So there you have it: Betty’s striptease scarred me, but her final look to Archie almost made up for it. And I find it next to impossible to think about anything else from this hour. (Unless you want to talk about Alice Cooper’s Serpent lipstick. I’m here for that.)