Maureen Lee Lenker here, filling in for regular Riverdale recapper (say that three times fast) Sam Highfill. And I’m sorry to report that I hate Archie’s boxing obsession just as much as my esteemed EW colleague.
Somehow there is more boxing than ever this week (Sam, did you know something I didn’t?). To the degree that there might be more shirtlessness in this single episode of Riverdale than has ever appeared in the series in total, which is really saying something.
So, let’s start with that asinine boxing plot no one asked for. Archie’s mom, Mary, is home for a spell while Fred is out of town (last week was Luke Perry’s final scene on the show). And this is our official plea for Molly Ringwald to join the show more regularly now that Perry is no longer with us.
It’s her turn to dispense wisdom — which is in essence, STOP BOXING. See Archie, even your mom asks this of you. As Archie’s new manager (because she knows so much about professional boxing), Veronica has an application for a Regional Classic fight — it just needs his parents’ signature. Oh, and also, Veronica wants to update Archie’s gym because it’s a little too Southside for her tastes and she has the money to invest (read: cash to burn). Because apparently La Bonne Nuit and Pop’s have been raking in cash post paying off Hiram and Gladys – mmmkay, sure.
Archie’s request for his mom to sign the application form is met with a lecture about boxing being more brutal than football, which prompts him to reveal he’s been considering going pro. NO, ARCHIE, SAY IT AIN’T SO.
Archie forges his mom’s signature. But his mom is also one of the only supportive parents in Riverdale and calls in an old college friend who is now a recruiter for the Naval Academy. Mary wants Archie to consider boxing in college with a scholarship, rather than going pro. But the five years of mandatory military service post-graduation would cut into Archie’s prime boxing years — so he’s not thrilled with the idea. Still, he hates to disappoint his mom and agrees to an exhibition match with Fangs to show off his skills.
Naturally, Archie’s tournament gets moved, which means he has to agree to do both that fight and his exhibition the same night. And oh yeah, he’s six pounds over his weight class and only has a week to lose it. Cue the only good thing this boxing storyline has ever produced — an “Eye of the Tiger” training montage with Archie and Mad Dog. I know, I can’t believe this show is real either.
After his first fight, which he loses, Archie is hurting — and Veronica wants him to cancel the second one. Because oh yeah, it’s A REALLY STUPID IDEA. She tries to tell his mom he’s not feeling well, but he insists and makes a fool of himself, tripping on the ropes and passing out before the fight even begins.
Like the non-emotionally crippled parent she is, Mary tends to Archie and they have a good old-fashioned Andrews family heart-to-heart. Archie is still set on going pro, but she wants him to consider his future beyond being 17. Later though, she relents and says she wants to support his dreams. No, Mary, don’t do it! Lay down the law and make him quit! Oh, and she’s going to stay in Riverdale a little longer while Fred’s away (sob).
Meanwhile back at the former Cooper residence, Jughead and Jellybean are adjusting to life without Gladys. But Jellybean is really more concerned with why she can’t keep playing Gryphons and Gargoyles — she has a final quest, to find the Gargoyle King’s Gospel.
FP, who is still sheriff despite robbing Pop’s last week, calls Jug and tells him to come down to Junkyard Steve’s. There he’s found a burned-out school bus, which apparently became the new home base of the Gargoyles. While searching it, Jug finds a book that literally says “The Gospel of the Gargoyle King” on the cover (you don’t think that’s maybe too easy Jug?) and stashes it without showing his dad.
Which brings us to Betty, who is understandably freaking out about her dad’s accident. But it’s not grief for her dear departed father; no, it’s fear that this was all a grand escape plot. She’s determined to see his body with her own eyes and drives to the scene of the crash with Veronica. FP insists no one survived. There were five inmates and a driver, and that’s the number of charred heads they found. But Betty’s not convinced.
She goes to the Farm to warn Alice that Hal might be on the loose again, but Alice wants her to stop indulging in delusions. Betty is perturbed to see her mom got a tattoo — guess she never knew about her Serpent Ink on her thigh?! Instead of an engagement ring, Edgar got her a tattoo. Aww, how romantic….
Betty is going full conspiracy theory on the accident, telling Jughead her father used her and this transfer request to escape. She’s so worried that she’s back to target practice at the shooting range. But it seems she need not worry — Dr. Curdle Jr. calls to tell her the DNA on a hand they found matched her father’s DNA and fingerprints.
Still, she’s back on the girl detective track with her best crime-solving partner, Jughead. Jughead tells her about the gospel and starts reading from it, compelled by its mystical descriptions. Betty reminds him the Gargoyle King is flesh and blood, which means he too can die. In short, she won’t rest until this is done.
Bughead goes to the coroner to assess Kurtz’s body, and they note that he has the same symbols tattooed on his back that others had carved into them. They go to a tattoo parlor for answers, and the guy tells them Kurtz simply showed him a photo of the design and paid cash. Just like the first guy a year ago. It turns out a man, who wouldn’t allow his picture to be taken, requested the same tattoo – Betty immediately asks if he was a sandy-haired, blue-eyed, weirdly magnetic man, just like our favorite cult leader.
Getting deep into the weeds, Betty spirals thinking Edgar must be the man with the tattoo. The timing aligns with when the Farm first came to town. Not to mention, her mom just got a tattoo. Because getting tattoos is inherently suspicious — even though Archie and Jughead both have them. K, Betty. Jughead isn’t convinced because Edgar wasn’t in Riverdale during the time of the Midnight Club and Ascension Night. But Alice gave testimony about the Midnight Club, so it’s possible he took on the Gargoyle King persona, namely because they’re both “really, really creepy.” I’ve heard worse arguments.
Betty and Jughead waste no time going to confront Edgar while he’s preaching to his followers. She demands he take off his shirt. See what I mean about all the shirtlessness? And Edgar answers Betty’s gargoyle thirst — but there are no runic symbols on his back. So, either he does a lot of hard to reach make-up work every morning — or he’s not the mysterious blond man who got the tattoo.
The centerpiece of the episode comes with the purest of high school rituals, the junior prom. Yes, that’s right, in between running street gangs, investigating serial killers, and running businesses, these kids still have time for prom. Betty asks Jughead; Cheryl and Toni are running for co-prom queen (because as Cheryl says, “no other actions make sense”); and Archie and Veronica decide to go as “friends.” Sure.
Cheryl’s dreams of Prom Queen are quickly dashed when Evelyn informs her campaigning for it is forbidden because it goes against the Farm’s strictures of equality. Cheryl pushes back, insisting she wants both. So, Edgar gives her a strict talking to, which boils down to forcing her to choose between seeing Jason and continuing to run for Prom Queen. She can’t stand the idea of losing these visits with her dead brother, so she relents. But by episode’s end, it’s clear the gleam is off the penny when it comes to Choni and the Farm. How fitting that the only thing that could talk Cheryl out of joining a cult is her own opportunities for faint praise and self-aggrandizement.
The prom is also where Jughead and Betty devise a plot to capture the Gargoyle King once and for all. They will invoke a ritual from his gospel, crowning Betty the Gryphon (a.k.a. Prom) Queen and draw him out. First, they have to change the prom theme from Fire and Ice to one more in line with Gryphons and Gargoyles. Because apparently, in Riverdale, people go in themed costume to prom. I’m sorry, has anyone ever done this? Prom is all about the dress, the matching cummerbund, the awkward photos – who wears a costume to prom?!
Anyway, the Pretty Poisons and the Serpents will block the entrance to the gym as the Prom Queen ceremony begins, trapping the King inside. But nothing goes as planned — though at least we can stand by the constant of Jug wearing his beanie, even to prom. Betty fixes the prom queen vote and goes to dance with Jughead for a spell.
Veronica and Archie are also dancing when she drops a bomb of her own. Pop revealed to her that Hiram gave her a fake deed, and he still owns the diner and La Bonne Nuit. So, she and Archie are going to pretend they don’t know this and manipulate Hiram into digging his own grave. Together, they’ll take down Hiram for good. (Until Veronica decides she’s still daddy’s girl yet again, let’s be real). So, Varchie is endgame once again, yes? These two are never gonna stay “just friends” for long.
Meanwhile, Betty and Jughead’s plan quickly goes off the rails. She gets a note from a masked prom guest — it tells her to go to the place where the first Ascension Night was held. She has to come alone and tell no one.
She does as told and returns to the girls’ bathroom, the scene cutting between her and Alice’s own experiences on Ascension Night. The bathroom is once again bathed in red light and scrawled with Tom Riddle worthy messages reading “Flip for your Fate.” Betty refuses to drink from the goblets and returns to the hallway where she sees the Gargoyle King.
She approaches him and draws her gun, but someone tackles her and pulls the gun on her. It’s – what no one asked for — THE BLACK HOOD. With a hook for a hand. Because Hal totally just chopped off his own hand as part of an elaborate escape plan. Am I the only one with serious Black Hood fatigue? Like, really, one masked serial killer isn’t enough for the season? Though the one good thing is that the Black Hood’s signature masked attire makes this entire sequence a nod to 1980 slasher flick Prom Night.
Anyway, the Black Hood gives chase, and he and Betty fight throughout Riverdale High’s corridors and locker rooms. He menacingly scrapes his hook down some lockers; Betty takes him down for a minute with a hockey stick. There are bodies strewn about the school, including one that looks suspiciously like Evelyn. Betty manages to lock herself inside the janitor’s closet (site of Principal Featherhead’s demise all those years ago) and tries to call 911 before being terrified by a headless corpse. Suddenly though, the Black Hood is gone and Jughead is outside.
She falls out of the closet, sobbing, and tells him the grim truth. That the gospel was all a set-up to get her alone with her dad again. It’s possible even that the Hood and the Gargoyle King are now working together.
Betty feels compelled to warn Alice and goes to her at the Farm, telling her the sad story of Prom Night. She reveals to Alice she told Hal all about her engagement to Edgar, which makes her think the Black Hood is coming for Alice next. Edgar urges Betty to stay at the Farm where they’ll protect both her and Alice — and she agrees. Just like that. What convinced you, Betty? It was seeing Edgar without his shirt, wasn’t it? I get it.
Though whether she’ll be drinking the Farm Koolaid, we’ll just have to wait and see.