It had been a long two weeks since we last saw the “Riverdale” (2017–) gang in action, and this reviewer was more than ready for the return of some classic Riverdale shenanigans. Unfortunately, the majority of last week’s episode was a huge letdown. In a change from the typical format, this week was split into three different plot lines over the same two days.
It all begins with a letter from the Black Hood, which details that the next 48 hours will serve as a test for the people of Riverdale to prove they’re good of heart and no longer in need of the Black Hood’s punishments. In theory, having three different segments following different characters is a good idea, but it would’ve required plot twists that weren’t completely predictable. Only one segment, the one with Josie and (surprise) Cheryl, was even remotely compelling. And as usual, throughout the hour, all the characters made just absolutely awful, self-destructive decisions, making “Chapter 20: Tales From the Darkside” an incredibly frustrating viewing experience.
Archie & Jughead
Poor Archie is still getting dragged into everyone else’s messes. This week, he has to help out Jughead, who has just met with Penny Peabody, after she called him to say she’s ready to cash in the favor he owes her. Mistake number one. Jughead, your dad specifically told you that she was bad news and not to meet with her again, so what are you doing? At their meeting, Penny informs Jug that because of the drag race fiasco, his dad was beaten up pretty badly by some Ghoulies and therefore needs to get out of jail before something worse happens. In order to get him out, they need cash, but since Jughead only has $18, Penny suggests a different arrangement: Jughead makes a one-time delivery of a crate of “pancake mix” to Greendale, and the money from that transaction can pay for his dad’s case. Jughead agrees to this (mistake number two). Why are you trusting this woman? Also, it seems pretty obvious that Penny is bluffing about this jail incident, something Jughead never even considers. It would have been pretty easy to pop by the jail to see whether FP is okay, but instead Jughead blindly agrees to this shady deal and enlists Archie to drive.
Sure enough, it turns out Penny is bluffing, not only about FP’s supposed injuries (Jughead finally gets around to visiting after all is said and done and discovers he had never been attacked), but also about the “one-time” nature of this deal. She has footage of Archie and Jughead making the delivery, so if he backs out, she can go right to the cops. Good job, Jug, way to get yourself blackmailed.
While on the delivery, Jughead also has a weird encounter with a stranger who picks him up on the side of the road when Archie’s dad’s truck breaks down. (Can someone call “Triple C”?) The man has a bloody, dead deer under a tarp, and also tries to make off with Jughead’s crate after they stop in a cafe for the stranger to indulge in some mystery meat. Stranger danger, kids. He does tell Jughead about the Riverdale Reaper, who years ago, killed an entire family in their sleep and was never caught. Could there be a connection between this guy and the Black Hood? Why anyone still lives in Riverdale is becoming increasingly unclear.
Next up is Josie, who surprisingly has the best storyline of the night. She’s been flying under the radar for the most part this season, but clearly someone has been noticing her, because she finds a stuffed bear in her locker with a note that reads, “I’ll be watching you.” Casual. And in Josie’s mistake of the night, she doesn’t tell her mom (or Sheriff Keller, who always seems to be with her mom — more on that later) that she’s been threatened even when explicitly asked.
She also has been staying at school late most nights rehearsing because, as a thank you for rescuing her from Nick St. Clair, Cheryl has set Josie up with a music producer she knows, although the catch is that he only wants Josie, not all three Pussycats. This leads to a classic high school bathroom catfight (yes, pun intended) between Josie and the other two Pussycats, where they ultimately decide to break up the group.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, former football player/sleazeball Chuck Clayton is back and hitting on Josie, although he claims he is not the one who’s been stalking her. She smartly turns him down, but Chuck continues to show her his softer side, and ultimately Josie accepts a ride home from him after another creepy late night at school. They stop at Pop’s on the way and end up sharing a dance that’s much more suited for a frat basement than a family diner. But alas, the hormone-filled teens get broken up by Josie’s mom, Mayor McCoy, before they can kiss.
The next day at school, Josie gets another gift. This time it’s a drawing of Josie that says, “If I can’t have you no one can,” along with a pig’s heart. Cheryl accompanies Josie to confront Chuck once again, although Chuck continues to deny it. The janitor, who has been being creepy with Josie in a really unsubtle way all episode, takes Chuck away to the principal’s office. It totally is the janitor then who’s been the one stalking Josie, right? WRONG. Turns out it’s Cheryl, who we later see drawing a picture of her and Josie that’s almost identical to the one Josie had received earlier. This is the kind of twist we expect, “Riverdale.” What could Cheryl possibly be up to? Seems like she’s either framing Chuck or is in love with Josie. Madelaine Petsch did say in an interview that Cheryl would be getting an unexpected love interest this season.
Betty & Veronica
The final segment involves Betty once again acting like she’s the Sherlock Holmes of Riverdale, and she sets off on a mission to prove that Sheriff Keller is the Black Hood. Who else could’ve gotten into the prison to shoot the Sugar Man? Also, Kevin says his dad has been acting weird and sneaking out at night. Betty hears this and naturally assumes serial killer; Veronica hears this and naturally assumes affair. Veronica arranges a sleepover at the Kellers’ to dig up dirt, but only discovers that Sheriff Keller is totally ripped (seriously, those abs), although she does catch him slipping out around 4 a.m. Betty takes a different approach, sneaking into the Keller house, only to get caught by Sheriff Keller himself. Instead of arresting her, he shows her his alibis for all the shootings. Because it’s Betty (and Betty is always borderline unhinged), she won’t back down, and she and Veronica follow Sheriff Keller to a motel in the middle of the night, where they discover him kissing Mayor McCoy. Yawn. Honestly, this was obvious from the moment Veronica suggested affair. It should be said though that these two really maybe should’ve kept it in their pants during the two days the whole town was being inspected by a serial killer for bad behavior. Apparently the teens aren’t the only ones filled with raging hormones.
Okay, so obviously at the end of the 48 hours, the Black Hood calls Pop’s to inform him that no one has passed his purity test, and Pop announces to the gang, who have all ended up back at the diner, “The reckoning is upon us.” No duh. This whole town, much like this episode, kind of sucks.
“Riverdale” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Full episodes available on cwtv.com and Netflix.