If this show has one more episode with this little Cheryl, a boycott may be in order. Okay, that’s a lie; much like Betty’s ponytail, “Riverdale” is iconic, not to mention the fact that this reviewer would be out of a job. But this blatant disrespect for the greatest character of our generation is completely unacceptable. Other than this glaring problem, however, “Chapter 17: The Town That Dreaded Sundown” added another layer to our serial killer mystery and, in true “Riverdale” fashion, had some delightfully bizarre moments.
Okay, big things first. It turns out the Black Hood was inspired to cleanse the town by Betty’s speech at the jubilee, and he informs her in a letter that he’s doing all this murdering for her. The Black Hood also sends a cipher that he says only Betty can figure out, and that it will reveal the location of his next attack. Betty decides to keep the letter a secret from the sheriff because she’s worried Archie — and everyone else — will blame her for the presence of the killer, and she only turns over the cipher.
Theory: This guy could be Betty’s biological brother who was given up for adoption, and now he’s back with a vengeance. It’s unlikely, but someone to play Betty’s brother has been cast for this season, and while he doesn’t have green eyes, there are always colored contacts. They’ll fit in perfectly with Archie’s glaringly fake red hair.
Anyway, the attempts to solve the cipher lead to some more trouble in paradise for Bughead. Betty feels like Jughead is blowing her off for Toni Topaz, and when all three decide to try to crack the code together, along with Kevin, Toni Topaz has the audacity to criticize the tightness of Betty’s ponytail. It was borderline criminal, but at least it led to this amazing line from Kevin: “Betty’s ponytail is iconic and beyond reproach.” Kevin and Cheryl need their own spinoff show together.
Later, Betty realizes that the key to the cipher is in a book she used to check out of the library all the time, “The Nancy Drew Secret Code Activity Book” (How does the Black Hood know this?), and figures out that the Black Hood plans to strike at the town hall meeting that’s in process. At the meeting, tensions rise as Betty’s mom leads the attack on the South Side, saying Southside High should close and they should use the money to help the police force. Fred Andrews argues back, but Betty runs in and pulls the fire alarm before any resolution. She also ultimately decides to trust the adults (although with their track record on this show, that might not be the best idea) and hands over the letter to her mom and the sheriff.
It should be noted that during the meeting, Hiram was sitting very smugly and making little comments to Hermione about how he’s pleased with the chaos. All through the episode, Hiram would just pop up at the end of a scene and say something super shady. Hey “Riverdale,” you’re being too subtle here, are we supposed to be suspicious of Hiram or something?
All right, let’s just get to all this Archie madness now. Guys, trying to run a teen militia can be stressful. His Red Circle video has gone #viral, and it gets him into trouble at school, where he is told to disband the group. The video also catches the eyes of the Serpents over at Southside High. They inform Jughead that the Black Hood is their hero because he’s only attacking people on the North Side, and so Archie is their enemy and they want Jughead to take him down as a form of initiation. This seems like a great group of friends you’ve found there, Jug. Maybe you should go back to hanging out with Maddie and London at the Tipton.
The football team decides to listen to the principal and quit the Red Circle, but Archie’s not ready to give up. He and Veronica start a t-shirt campaign with the River Vixens, despite Veronica’s parents’ urges for her to break up with him (even though Hiram was the one who gave Archie this dumb idea anyway).
After some target practice in the woods, Archie purchases ammo and a holster using a fake ID and goes to the South Side, spray painting red circles on the sides of buildings until he gets confronted by the Serpents that Jughead had been with earlier. One pulls a small knife on Archie, and he responds by pulling HIS GUN. Archie, what are you doing? Remember the days when he was a kid who loved football and singing and was just trying to have it all?
The principal and the sheriff find out a redhead pulled a gun on some people, and Archie gets suspended from school. Luckily, they don’t find his gun, which he apparently has hidden in a plastic bag in a school toilet.
Back at his house, Veronica tries to express why it is not acceptable that Archie is to stash guns in toilets and plan to take out the Black Hood on his own. Then, Reggie and the team come over to rejoin the Red Circle, but this is closely followed by the arrival of the same Serpents from before. They’re ready to fight, this time with no weapons.
This leads to an epic battle in the rain that is so ridiculous, only “Riverdale” could pull it off. Obviously a Serpent ends up pulling a knife and stabs poor Dilton Doiley in the leg. Just then, a gun shot rings out, and there’s Veronica standing like Wonder Woman with the gun pointed at the sky. Everyone scatters immediately, and the Riverdale Rain Battle (TM) is over.
At least this all concludes with Archie realizing how completely insane he’s been acting and, with encouragement from Veronica, he drops his gun into Sweetwater River. Hopefully this means goodbye to teen militia Archie and hello again to “Troy Bolton” Archie. He is much more pleasant and less obsessed with guns.
There were no deaths this week, but we got a pretty good cliffhanger when Betty gets a call from the Black Hood himself. What he wants from her we won’t know until Wednesday night, but we can assume he’s not calling to ask her on a coffee date. Except wait, what if the Black Hood is totally in love with Betty, and that’s why he’s doing this all for her? That really throws a wrench in the “it’s her brother” theory, although we do know the Coopers have dabbled in incest in the past (Polly, looking at you).
It is still yet to be determined how this puzzling season is going to pan out. Just when you think the show has truly gone off the deep end, it does something self-aware, and you realize maybe they know what they’re doing after all. Well, besides the fact that they’re completely ignoring Cheryl. It needs to be said one more time: Justice for Cheryl.
“Riverdale” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Full episodes available on cwtv.com and Netflix.