Content warning: This article mentions sexual assault.
It was going to be hard for this week’s episode of “Riverdale” (2017–) to top last week’s action-packed installment. And well, it didn’t. “Chapter 19: Death Proof” felt a little disjointed and seemed once again to serve as more of a set-up episode, although we did get a decent reveal at the end. At least Cheryl finally got the airtime she deserved, and Kevin solidified himself as the king of one-liners.
We jump back in the morning after last week left off. Betty runs over to The Five Seasons to see whether the Black Hood followed through on her instructions to kill Nick St. Clair and discovers him alive but moody. Apparently, he’s a little bitter that he got beaten up by a bunch of very angry girls the night before, and to make matters for him worse, the sheriff shows up to take him to the station to question him about his attempted assault of Cheryl.
Soon after, Betty gets a call from the Black Hood saying that he didn’t kill Nick because he’s not one of Riverdale’s own, but that he’s happy he finally got Dark Betty to come out and play. He might be the only one who enjoys Dark Betty. This prompts Betty to decide that she’s done answering the Black Hood’s calls, but approximately four hours later, she picks up the phone once again, and she receives her next and potentially final assignment. She has to find out the identity of the true sinner of Riverdale, the person who is the source of all the drugs in town and who goes by the pseudonym “the Sugar Man.” The Black Hood informs Betty that the Sugar Man worked with Clifford Blossom before he died, so Betty heads over to the Blossom residence to see whether Cheryl has any information.
We also discover that morning that Toni Topaz had spent the night at Jughead’s house. Kevin was basically all of us when he found out Betty and Jughead broke up, exclaiming “#Bughead is no more?” But don’t worry Betty (and Kevin), according to Toni, it was just a “PG-13 grope session.” And turns out she’s more into girls anyway. That’s all well and good, but then why has Toni been all over Jughead since the second she saw him? Seems like a pretty quick switch from determined home-wrecker to uninterested rebound.
Jughead has bigger problems than the fact that he didn’t seal the deal with Toni the night before, though. Some of the Serpents want to form an alliance with the Ghoulies. But Jughead doesn’t want to get involved with the Ghoulies, who he knows are the main drug dealers in the area from his reporting for the Southside High newspaper (despite the newspaper teacher’s explicit instructions not to investigate the drug scene). After consulting with his father in jail, Jughead decides to challenge the Ghoulies to a street race. If the Serpents win, the Ghoulies stop dealing at Southside High, but if the Ghoulies win, the Serpents have to give up a huge chunk of their turf. Bring on the race.
But first, Betty decides it’s a good idea to spill the truth to Veronica. She also comes partially clean to Jughead, telling him she had to break up with him for a reason and she’ll explain everything later. Great, Betty, the Black Hood was definitely kidding about murdering Veronica and Jughead if you continue to be close with them.
And now, the street race between the Serpents and the Ghoulies, along with Kevin’s best line of the night: “Not the kind of drag race I ever imagined myself going to, but at least the guys are hot.” Kevin is iconic.
Jughead, channeling Danny Zuko, is ready to drive to victory, but first Betty tells him she never stopped loving him. Jughead hops into the car and takes off, determined to save his school and the Serpents’ territory. Archie is in the passenger seat (is this a real thing? Danny was alone in “Grease,” and that’s obviously the only source of this reviewer’s road-racing knowledge) and, as it turns out, he has another plan in mind. He grabs the emergency brake and stops their car at the last second, allowing the Ghoulies to fly ahead and right into the trap that Archie laid for them: several police cars in place at the finish line ready to arrest the Ghoulies for racing. But as Jughead points out, this only temporarily solves their problem. At least for now, Danny Zuko lives to see another day. Now go get your Sandy.
Okay, finally time for Cheryl. Poor Cheryl is not having a good episode. First, as she tries to process what happened to her with Nick, her mother victim-blames her and says there’s no reason to press charges. Then she gets yelled at by her mother again when she tries to inquire about the Sugar Man on behalf of Betty.
The most horrifying scene of the episode comes when Cheryl runs into Nick at Pop’s. She confronts him about what he did (Cheryl is so tough), but Nick shows no remorse, telling her she was “high, naked and begging for it.” Chilling. Cheryl, strong woman she is, informs Nick she is going to press charges after all, only to find out that the St. Clairs paid off Penelope Blossom in exchange for Cheryl’s silence.
A distraught Cheryl finds the check from the St. Clairs, and in an amazing and moving performance from Madelaine Petsch, Cheryl confronts her mom about how she never protects her. She then informs her mother she’s withholding the money until Penelope spills about the Sugar Man. She also finds out that the Lodges are still in business with the St. Clairs and passes this information along to Veronica.
Outraged, Veronica comes clean to her parents about Nick’s attempted attack on her as well. This prompts Hermione to swear they’re done taking money from the St. Clairs and prompts Hiram to turn into the Riverdale version of the Godfather. Sure enough, at the end of the episode, we find out that the St. Clair family has been involved in a devastating car accident. They survive, but face several months of recovery. This must’ve been easier for Hiram than getting his hands on a horse’s head.
Finally, Penelope discloses the truth about the Sugar Man. There have been many “monsters” over the years that worked with Clifford in the secret drug business and contributed to the series of events that led to Jason’s death. In an act of solidarity with her daughter, she also throws the check from the St. Clairs into the fire. She then agrees to give Cheryl the name of the current Sugar Man.
Cheryl immediately calls Betty to inform her of the Sugar Man’s identity (although viewers can’t hear Cheryl’s end of the call), and Betty decides to give the name to the police so the Sugar Man can be brought to justice the right way, instead of being hunted by the Black Hood. She also informs the Black Hood that she’s coming for him next: “I’m breathing down your neck. Can you feel it? Can you feel me?” This is definitely supposed to be intimidating, but yuck. Dark Betty is kind of creepy and gross.
And finally the big reveal. It turns out the current Sugar Man is… drumroll… the newspaper teacher! (Does anyone know — or care about — his actual name?) No wonder he didn’t want Jughead digging around about drugs in Riverdale. He gets thrown behind bars, but despite Betty’s intentions, the Black Hood finds his way inside the jail to shoot the Sugar Man himself. Sweet dreams.
“Riverdale” airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on The CW. Full episodes available on cwtv.com and Netflix.