If you ever wondered when Riverdale would go full noir, the answer is: Right freakin’ now. From Jughead’s typewriter to Veronica’s hat, this episode was giving all the noir vibes as secret after secret was revealed.
Jughead’s opening voiceover claims that Riverdale used to be a “safe, decent, innocent place,” but if the recent flashbacks have taught us anything, that was never true. But I suppose now more than ever it’s a “town of lost souls.” For once, I’ll let Jug’s overdramatic voiceover go because it works with the noir theme of the hour. (If only the episode had been in black-and-white!)
First lies first, Jug tells FP — who, again, is the new SHERIFF because that’s legal and fine — that he made Tall Boy leave town. Fun fact: Tall Boy’s dead body is under the bed that FP is sitting on for this entire chat. So we can safely say that FP is the worst sheriff ever because that is not a small body, and there’s no way it doesn’t smell. And yet, as terrible as he is as a sheriff, he’s still a pretty great dad when he calls Jughead out on his lie and simply tells him to come up with a new one.
From a good dad to a terrible one, Hal is talking to Betty as she tries to figure out the details of Claudius’ death, as if anyone actually cared about Claudius. Betty is convinced that Penelope has been poisoning people and making it look like suicide for years … but how does she catch her?
With Betty on a case, Jughead gets one of his own: Veronica pays him to find out who shot her father, so naturally, he starts by questioning Hermione. But not only does Hermione have an alibi, she also points the finger at someone else: Hiram’s mistress (played by Kelly Ripa). As she tells Jug, “You do know how volatile blondes can be.” (Is that Riverdale’s version of “blondes have more fun”?)
It doesn’t take long for Betty and Jughead’s cases to collide — sort of. Betty takes a break from her investigation to help Jug track down Hiram’s mistress at the Five Seasons. But instead, what they find is The Maple Club, a brothel that specializes in female domination that’s run by, you guessed it, Penelope. And of course, Penelope has an alibi for Claudius’ death. But it’s not Claudius’ death that Betty’s focused on. She has the coroner pull the autopsy for Clifford, and it seems the man died from pufferfish poisoning long before he hanged himself. (Can you imagine a more embarrassing way to die than PUFFERFISH POISONING?! The least cool fish in the world ended your life, dude. Talk about humiliating.)
When Betty confronts Penelope, she all but admits to her crimes, but she points out that she’s only ever killed bad men. It seems Claudius was running a Fizzle Rocks operation at the maple factory and dumping the runoff into Sweetwater River. That runoff is what was causing seizures (but only in young women?). Furthermore, Penelope knows that Betty handed Chic over to the Hood, so if Betty shares her secret, she’ll return the favor. (Next: Who shot Hiram?)
From one stalemate to another, Jughead figures out who shot Hiram. It seems Hiram’s mistress works as a health and sanitation inspector, and she falsified a report about Riverdale’s water supply. And when Sweet Pea leads Jug to a cabin up north where Hermione is having an affair with the very not-dead Sheriff Minetta, things fall into place. Hermione wants Minetta to finish Hiram and frame it on FP, and when Jug warns his dad, FP confesses to being the one who shot Hiram in the first place, though at Hermione’s request. (He also admittedly wanted revenge for what happened to Jug on Riot Night.)
So Jug comes up with a plan to solve both his problems: FP sets up an on-camera interview with Alice and announces that they caught Hiram’s shooter. It was Tall Boy, who got violent during the arrest and was killed. And that leaves Jug and Hermione in a stalemate for now. But that’s not Hermione’s only problem.
With the mob world looking to act on the Lodge family while Hiram’s down, Veronica takes it upon herself to put up a strong front. After she collects her father’s payments, she takes a look at the books, and that’s when she realizes that her mother ordered the quarantine. But Hermione claims it was a distraction so that Hiram could shut down his drug empire. And when he didn’t, well she got FP to shoot him, but Veronica doesn’t know that. Together, Veronica and Hermione agree to sell the prison, drugs and all.
Only, Veronica changes her mind. She and Reggie break into the prison and burn the drugs instead, which leaves Hermione with a very angry (and mysterious) new buyer. That’s a problem Hermione can face in the future. For now, she takes care of something else: She kills Sheriff Minetta seeing as how he’s no longer any use to her.
While all of this is going down, Archie discovers that he’s not only too dumb for college, but he’s too dumb for manual labor. After one day of working for his father, he gets in a physical fight with his boss!!! There is no saving this kid. He’s too dumb for literally any job. And so, he decides to get drunk.
It’s Josie who gives Archie a wake-up call — otherwise known as a cold shower — and helps him realize that he needs to face one final demon. So, he goes to visit Hiram in the hospital … with a gun in his hand. Remember when he was SO mad at Veronica for asking if he’d shot Hiram? Well now, he’s going to SHOOT HIRAM!!!
But when Minetta shows up to finish the job, Arch has a change of heart and shoots Minetta’s arm — which obviously doesn’t kill him because Hermione does that — and scares him off. Arch then tells Veronica that he no longer hates her father. Ummmm okay sure. Honestly, Archie’s probably too dumb to realize what he feels. Once Hiram’s awake, he and Archie agree to a truce, and unfortunately, they only shake on it (as opposed to wrestling it out).
As for what’s next for Archie, he’s going to start boxing with Mr. Keller — potentially an even hotter alternative than wrestling with Hiram? — and “jamming” with Josie. Because there isn’t a problem that jamming can’t solve.
And that brings us to the end of the hour. As for Veronica, she tells Jughead that she doesn’t want to know who shot her father. She told Hiram it was Tall Boy, and she’s going to leave it at that. As she puts it, “Forget it, Jughead. It’s Riverdale.” That it is. And I will say that this show is best when it really gives into an idea, and overall, I’m a fan of the over-the-top noir vibe of the hour. Again, the Archie story was the weakest for me, but the rest of it worked (especially Veronica’s hat).
- Riverdale redeems bumpy season with a note-perfect musical episode: EW review
- Riverdale EP Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on that midseason finale cliffhanger
- Riverdale‘s Gina Gershon talks FP-Gladys relationship: ‘She’s still in love with him’