After a season of ups and downs, Riverdale has done it: It just delivered the best finale in the show’s three seasons. We finally got some answers (though I still have questions), Hal is dead, the Gargoyle King has been revealed, and can we talk about that cliffhanger?! Actually, let’s talk about it all!
The hour starts with Toni telling Penelope Blossom all about Edgar harvesting organs. I have no idea why she thought Penelope was the best person to tell because Penelope is the best person for literally nothing aside from poison. Penelope, staying true to who she is, knocks Toni out and heads straight to the Farm. The good news? She stops Edgar from … STEALING BETTY’S BRAIN?! WHAT IS THIS?! The bad news? She tells Edgar that she wants to make a deal: He’s selling organs and for some reason, she wants to buy in bulk? WHO. IS. THIS. WOMAN.
While Jughead is trying to track Kurtz’s movements, including his visits to the Maple Club, Edgar is telling his followers that the ascension will happen tonight. Alice is suspicious when Edgar says Betty escaped, but she can’t get in touch with her daughter. Then there’s Veronica, who’s now co-owner of everything Hiram used to own with her mother, including her speakeasy.
Everything comes to a halt when Jug, Archie, Betty, and Veronica all get invitations to a dinner (complete with fancy clothes) from the Gargoyle King. Betty — with her brain still intact — is the last to join the party, which is being hosted by Penelope Blossom at the Blossom Hunting Lodge on the grounds of Thornhill. Sure, at this point I’d believe that the Blossoms have 10 homes and something terrible happens at each of them.
It seems Penelope “bought” Betty from Edgar which is a problematic statement if I’ve ever heard one. And cue Sister Woodhouse’s entrance! If you thought this nun had more to say, you were right! It seems she was Penelope’s mentor back when she was an orphan. Sister Woodhouse taught Penelope all about poison. In other words, Sister Woodhouse is the one who murdered her fellow nuns. And now, Penelope is ready to bring in her final two dinner guests: The Black Hood and the Gargoyle King.
“No masks at the dinner table,” Penelope tells them. “Take them off.” Hal does as he’s told and no one is surprised. But before the King takes off his mask, Penelope gives Jug one final chance to guess. He knows it’s not Jason — even though his corpse is missing — so he figures it must be the other corpse not accounted for, someone who was last seen by the Black Hood. Just then, the Gargoyle King removes his mask and it’s a red-headed Chic!
Why does he have red hair? Because Penelope has deluded herself into thinking he’s Jason? This family is too much. Also, Chic is far too short to be the King, for what it’s worth.
Long story short, Hal never murdered Chic. Instead, Chic pledged his life to Hal in service of his mission. Hal’s mission, however, was really Penelope’s mission. It seems that during her affair with Hal, Penelope “cultivated” Hal’s murderous impulses to take revenge on the town that allowed her to be sold as a child bride to the Blossoms (and when she puts it that way, this town kind of had it coming). And when Hal was arrested, Chic continued the mission.
If you remember, Penelope was the one who introduced G&G to the Midnight Club back in the day — though they never say who the King was back then — so she simply had to reintroduce it this year. Chic then spread it to Ben Button and so on. And now, she wants the “Midnight Children” to play one final round to reveal their true nature and prove they are as dark-hearted as the town that birthed them. And when they lose, she’ll kill them. (Aren’t you glad she wore her sexiest dress for this murderous occasion?)
The task is simple: The four of them simply have to make it through the woods, partake in their final quests, and survive the night. But here’s where I’d like to talk about some very unfair woman stuff. Betty and Veronica are having to run through the woods in huge gowns and what I assume are heels!! This is some BS.
Back at the Farm, Alice asks Edgar about the “harvesting” rumors she’s been hearing and just as he’s about to fess up, Cheryl comes storming into his office yelling about what he did to her brother. So … I guess we found Jason’s corpse? Next thing we know, Alice is breaking Cheryl out of the Farm and asking her to take Juniper with her. Alice has to stay to help Polly but she asks Cheryl to find Betty and save her. Alice then returns to ascension night.
Speaking of Betty, she’s at the start of the quest, and Archie is up first. Remember how he fought a bear earlier this season? Well, now he gets to fight an enormous man dressed like a bear because there’s nothing quite like an incredibly strange full-circle moment! Archie wins (and maybe commits murder?) before they move on to Veronica’s task … which unfairly is also a task for Betty? Again, this game is misogynistic and I’m not having it.
There are six chalices in front of them. Veronica has to choose her closest friend — Betty — to play a game of spin the bottle, knowing that one of the chalices has been poisoned. Except they have to spin the bottle until they drink from all the chalices, so someone is definitely going to die … it’s just a question of who. It comes down to one final chalice, and it’s Betty’s turn to drink, but Veronica grabs the cup and downs it before Betty can. Just like that, Penelope shows up and congratulates Veronica on proving her loyalty. As for the cups, they were all poisoned, but it’s slow-acting and if they make it through the next quests, they’ll find the antidote.
So with a literal clock on Veronica and Betty’s lives, Archie decides that NOW is the right time for a heart-to-heart. THERE WON’T BE A WOMAN FOR YOU TO LOVE IF YOU STOP MOVING, ARCHIE!! Archie tells Veronica that he loves her and she says she loves him too, so don’t bother asking me why she got back with Reggie last week. But then, something truly amazing happens. Archie tells her “none of us dies tonight.” NONE OF US DIES! THAT IS PROPER GRAMMAR! Guys, is Archie smart now!?
That brings us to Jug’s challenge, where he has to physically fight Chic. Why are all the men’s tasks so physical? Anyway, Jug wins, but the poison is starting to set in.
Speaking of poison, Toni has rallied the Pretty Poisons and the Serpents to go rescue Cheryl, but Cheryl beats them to it. She shows up just in time to deliver Juniper and get the lowdown from Nana, who informs them that their friends are in danger. Together, the Serpents and Poisons head out to save the day!
Back on the hunt, it’s time for Betty’s quest. She’s handed a gun with one bullet in it, and then Hal walks out from the shadows. He pulls a gun on his daughter and tells her that she either has to kill him — at which point she can get to the antidote — or he will kill her and all her friends. Betty does shoot him, but it’s not a kill shot. “I will never be like you,” Betty tells her dad, but Penelope is done with Hal. She shows up and finishes the job herself, killing Hal in front of Betty.
Archie, who I think is indeed smart now, manages to grab the antidote before Penelope sends all of her Gargoyles after them. Archie, Veronica, Jug, and Betty start running, and I’m not sure how long they run for but now the sun is coming up? Do these kids have some insane endurance?! (And reminder: The women are doing it in heels!)
The Poisons and Serpents are waiting on them and are able to fight off the rest of the Gargoyles while Veronica and Betty take the antidote. Cheryl then tells Betty about Alice saving the day and they all rush to the Farm to return the favor. But when they get there, all they find is a devastated Kevin. Apparently, they had to leave someone behind to explain what happened, but all he says is that “the worthy ascended” and Alice and Polly are gone.
With that, Chic heads to jail, Hal is dead, and Penelope manages to escape. Riverdale is okay(ish) again, and apparently, Cheryl is choosing to use her time to hang out with Jason’s corpse?! Seriously, THIS FAMILY.
From inside prison, Hiram manages to plant evidence and get Hermione arrested for conspiring to kill him, and it seems he’s already planning his big move against his daughter. (Whoever thought to put him in his OWN prison should go to prison for stupidity.)
At El Royale, which Archie now owns, he asks Mad Dog to help him turn it into a community center where kids can stay off the streets. Then there’s Betty, who finds out that her mom has been working as an FBI informant this entire time!!! She’s been trying to help them take down the Farm!!! Talk about a twist. And the FBI agent who tells her this information just so happens to be Charles, her actual half-brother. He’s also Jughead’s half-brother, so that’s not weird…
The fearsome foursome then ends things at Pop’s, where they vow to be done with death cults and murder mysteries so that they can have the best senior year ever. Just as they raise their milkshakes to that, we get a glimpse of the future. It’s spring break senior year, and Archie is shirtless, covered in blood, and standing next to a fire holding Jug’s beanie. Betty and Veronica are standing next to him, both in their underwear, both covered in blood. Betty’s explaining that they have to burn their clothes, including Jug’s beanie. Then they will rinse off in the swimming hole and never speak of this night again. They will finish senior year, graduate, and go their separate ways. That’s the only way they won’t get caught. Then, Archie tosses Jug’s beanie on the fire.
As we return to present day, the four of them vow to be “friends forever,” and Archie struggles to drink out of a straw so perhaps he’s back to his old self. And that’s where we leave things, with a handful of answers, hopefully a fresh start from these mysteries, and arguably the best cliffhanger the show’s ever done. I wasn’t always a fan of season 3, but that is a great way to end it. (But really, what did Penelope do with all those organs?)