Christmas in Riverdale means romance and a big reveal
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Chapter Twenty-Two: Silent Night, Deadly Night
Credit: Katie Yu/The CW
Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
S2 E9
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Happy holidays, Riverdale fans! This year, the show has decided to gift us with not one, but two kisses, not to mention a lackluster reveal in an otherwise intense episode. I bet you didn’t expect to see that under your tree!

We start at Pop’s, where Archie and Fred have set up shop selling Christmas trees in order to scrape together some more money, and Arch and Jughead get to chat about how both of their romantic relationships totes suck right now. But hey, at least they’re not having nightmares about the Black Hood dressing up as Santa and killing their entire family! Nope, that’s Betty.

While Betty’s nightmares give her anxiety, both Cheryl and Archie are dealing with money problems at home. Fred gets his hospital bill, which comes to a whopping $86,000 total, and Cheryl is having to endure a “hard candy Christmas.” Because hard candy is cheaper than soft candy? I don’t understand this. Also, I love hard candy. This sounds amazing.

That brings us to the secret Santa gift exchange that Kevin organized at the school, where Veronica and Jughead watch as Archie delivers the perfect present to Betty: The Swiss Family Robinson, a.k.a. the read-along record they used to listen to together when they were 5. But their moment is interrupted when Moose and Midge return, which sets Archie off. He can’t see Moose without thinking of the Black Hood and all the pain he’s caused. Betty agrees, and when she notices there’s a new janitor at the school because Mr. Svenson’s been gone for a few days, they both start to worry that they led the Black Hood right to Svenson’s doorstep.

On a mission, Archie and Betty head to the front office, where they find out that Svenson has been out all week with a “cold.” Apparently this isn’t uncommon for him during the holidays. But Archie and Betty still think something’s up.

Before they dig any further, they stop to exchange gifts with their exes. First, Jug and Betty exchange presents and he apologizes for how everything went down. He reiterates that he doesn’t want Betty caught in the crosshairs of his dangerous Serpent existence, but she reminds him that it’s not his decision to make. Betty decides “what I risk and for whom.” Yep, Betty’s grammar is officially sexier than her striptease.

In a classroom, Veronica gives Archie a watch that she had inscribed to say “Mad About My Archikins,” but all it makes Archie think about is how his dad needs money. He tells her about the $86,000 bill, but when Veronica realizes she can no longer comfort him with a hug, he thanks her for the watch and walks away.

With that out of the way, Betty and Archie get back on the case: Together, they head to Mr. Svenson’s super creepy house, which based on this camerawork might be in the Upside Down?? Not surprisingly, no one answers when they knock on the door. It’s another dead end. Or so they think.

When Betty gets back home, her mom tells her that her secret Santa gift is in her room. Spoiler: Her secret Santa is the Black Hood and he sent her Svenson’s finger! Betty invites Archie over just in time for the Black Hood’s call, in which he tells her that they have to find where the town’s primal sin was committed in order to save Mr. Svenson’s life. But when Archie chimes in, the Black Hood hangs up. Their next move? Talking to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. It seems Joseph Conway lived there before he was adopted and became Mr. Svenson.

While all of this is going on, Jug is trying to hide what he believes are drugs from his father’s parole officer, Veronica is pondering why her family is buying bejeweled eggs when people like Fred can’t pay their hospital bills, and Cheryl defies her mother’s orders and spends money they don’t have on a Christmas tree. The very much alive (!!) Nana Rose then says her first line of the season, telling her daughter, “You should’ve drowned them at birth like a basket of kittens.” Yes, she’s talking about her grandchildren. Sweet, right? (Also, what are the odds she’s just the ghost of Nana Rose now?)

One more thing: Veronica breaks into her father’s study and discovers that he bought Pop’s and then lied to her about it. So she decides to call the hospital, pretend to be her mother, and anonymously pay Fred’s medical bill. And when she’s confronted by her parents, she convinces them it’s time for them to tell her everything.

As for Jug’s whole situation, it seems he hid those bags from the parole officer for nothing, because when FP gets home, he reveals that they’re filled with Christmas presents. But that doesn’t mean he and Jug are good. Right now, FP’s trying to fix the situation with Penny, which means being her “dancing monkey” for as long as it takes. Unless of course, Jug steps in.

Rallying the younger Serpents, Jug decides that they need to take Penny out, because if they don’t, she won’t stop until she’s roped every single one of them into her drug deals. And guess what? These kids are killers because they are IN.

That night, they put on their Serpent masks — well, except for Jug because he’s too big and bad to need to hide his face — and take Penny out to Greendale, where they pull a Lion King and tell her to run away and never return to Riverdale. But she’s not buying the act. So, to prove just how serious they are, Jug uses his pocketknife to remove the Serpent tattoo from her arm. JUG JUST ESSENTIALLY SKINNED SOMEONE, GUYS. And when he later tells FP, the guy is not exactly a proud father. But Jug makes sure FP knows that Jug is proud of being a Serpent. This is who he is now. That’s probably why he doesn’t go visit Betty even after she gives him a freakin’ typewriter for Christmas. (Next: The Black Hood is revealed…)

Speaking of Betty, she and Archie visit the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where Betty threatens to reveal all the terrible things that Polly told her about how they run the place. In exchange, the Sister tells them all about how a group of Riverdale citizens killed the man that Joseph Conway claimed murdered his family. Only, it was the wrong man. Joseph Conway later realized he’d sentenced an innocent man to death. Later, during Joseph’s stay with the Sisters, a group of people came to visit — some men and one woman. The nun says the woman had white hair “save for a cherry red stripe.” THAT’S NANA ROSE BLOSSOM. (Her first episode back and she’s got a big important story line!)

Betty and Archie head straight to Cheryl’s house to ask her about the murder, but she claims no girls were allowed to come along. As for the man they killed, Nana Rose turns all dark and creepy as she seems to revel in telling them how they buried him alive. And as for where it all went down, she tells Betty to ask her grandfather, a fact that sets Betty off.

In a car with Archie, Betty can’t fathom the idea that her grandfather had a hand in killing an innocent man. She knows that they kept her grandfather’s old pictures at her house, but right now, she’s more focused on the fact that the Black Hood could’ve chosen her as a target because of what her grandfather did. To calm Betty down, Archie tries to give her a pep talk about how he needs her if he has any hope of ending this with the Black Hood. And getting swept up in the moment, she leans in and kisses him. Then it’s immediately back to work.

They head to Betty’s house until they find a photo of a group of men standing around a fresh grave. (It’s the same one Mr. Svenson was looking at last week.) Using the photo, they figure out the location of the grave and head out. They call Sheriff Keller on the way before they get to the park and discover a grave marked for Mr. Svenson, then dig it up only to find an empty coffin. And that’s when the Black Hood arrives.

Holding a gun to Betty’s head, the Black Hood tells Archie to get into the coffin and proceeds to force Betty to start to bury him. Thankfully, the Black Hood gets distracted by the police sirens and Betty’s able to hit him with the shovel and free Archie. The Black Hood then takes off, with Betty and Archie (who now has the Hood’s gun) hot on his tail.

They chase him to a bridge where the Hood tries to jump, but Sheriff Keller shows up and shoots him before he can. Just like that, the Hood is dead. As for his identity, well, it’s Mr. Svenson. And yes, he did cut off his own finger.

Before Veronica meets up with Archie, Betty, and Jug at Pop’s, she tells her family that she’s “in” for the family business, but only on the grounds that she never does anything illegal and Fred’s medical bills stay paid. They seem to agree, though her mother’s love of “plausible deniability” points to the fact that V will inevitably be involved in some illegal goings on.

At Pop’s, they discuss Svenson’s motives, which Betty seems to think were about balancing the scale. After killing an innocent man, he targeted sinners to somehow make things even? We’ll go with it for now.

The next morning, it’s Christmas, and Veronica gets a present from Archie: a locket with both their pictures inside. That gift spurs her to head over to his house and finally say those three words: She loves Archie. And with that, they kiss. But who’s taking pictures of them?

And then there’s Betty, left to burn everything related to her Black Hood search…except for the Hood she got in Sheriff Keller’s office. Something tells her that, as Jug puts it, “This isn’t over.”

All in all, this was a solid episode. I like what they’re doing with the tone of the show, and the tension works, but the Black Hood reveal was lame. Make it someone we know and care about! I mean, I don’t even care about Betty’s dad that much, but at least that would’ve been someone I know a bit more about than the JANITOR. I think the whole “whodunnit” tone works for this show, but it needs to have a bigger payoff. Also, who’s ready for some real love triangle action with Archie kissing both Betty and Veronica in one episode?! We only have to wait until 2018…

Episode Recaps

Chapter Thirteen: The Sweet Hereafter
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