Poor Kevin Keller. His sexual encounters keep getting interrupted by the violent deaths of local teens. Well, the good news is that everyone survives this time. Kevin was out “night jogging” in the woods with a handsome young man when they heard the gunshots fired into Midge and Moose’s car. Happily, both the jingle-jangle-addled kids made it, but Moose (who, #TBT, was Kevin’s woods hookup in the series premiere) ends up in the hospital because he shielded his girlfriend from the bullets. Archie, of course, can’t restrain himself from interrogating his bedridden football teammate about his almost-killer. It sure sounds like the same guy who shot Fred: He wore a black hood that failed to obscure his green eyes.
Veronica invites the rest of the Scooby Gang over to watch the season premiere of The Matchelorette (what if Riverdale devoted an entire hour to airing a full episode of its in-universe Bachelorette knockoff?). What she really wants is for all of them, especially Archie, to meet her father. She’s all in on rebuilding their relationship, despite a series of vague, ominous warnings from Hermione. Hiram “Daddy” Lodge offers his daughter’s boyfriend a firm handshake and an invitation to dinner. Back home, Archie stares longingly at his gun (ARCHIE, PUT IT DOWN), which is hidden in a box with comics and assorted junk out in the garage. One of the comic books catches his eye: The Red Circle. Next thing we know, Archie is pitching an idea to his teammates and some other miscellaneous kids: He wants to start a watch group of students to look out for the Green-Eyed Man. They won’t carry weapons; they’ll simply patrol to keep their fellow citizens safe. So … they’re Guardian Angels? I think I liked this better as a Sunny episode, but sure, let’s see where it goes! The Red Circle may be a mediocre name for a group of civilian crime fighters, but it would be a great name for a period-tracker app.
Over at Southside High, students are huffing Pixy Stix — I mean, jingle jangle — out in the open. This school is comically shitty, to the point that I’m pretty sure Riverdale has decided to reinvent itself as a polemic against income inequality. Jughead quickly befriends Toni Topaz, a pretty Serpent with a pink streak in her hair and a flair for photography. But he insists on sitting by himself at lunch, not with the rest of the Serpents, despite Toni’s warnings that going it alone will make him vulnerable to their rival gang, the Ghoulies. (Really? That’s the best name you could come up with, young gang members?) On the bright side, Jughead does manage to talk the frazzled English teacher into reviving the school newspaper. He’ll write; Toni will take pictures. After working late on a story that points to the Ghoulies as the source of the hard drugs in Clifford Blossom’s pipeline, Jughead leaves the darkened school all by himself. As the creepy synth indicates, something bad and scary is about to happen: Ghoulies beat the crap out of him in a stairwell. Later, Jughead explains his bruises to Betty as the result of hitting a pothole on his motorcycle. Toni backs him up, even though she knows the truth. Iiiinteresting. Jughead, having learned this Mean Girls lesson the hard way, sits with the Serpents at lunch.
Betty seems remarkably unbothered when she finds that someone left a frightening manila envelope labeled “COOPER” on her porch. As a handwriting non-expert, I would have to describe it as the unmistakable scrawl of a serial murderer. Have you really learned nothing about your hometown, Betty? When in doubt, assume something terribly sinister is happening. Inside is a friendly note of introduction from a man who identifies himself as the “Black Hood” and demands his letter be published in the Riverdale Register. He doesn’t just take responsibility for the murder of Miss Grundy (the “child predator,” in his words) and the shootings of Fred (the “adulterer”), Midge, and Moose (the “drug- and sex-addicted teenagers”), but has enclosed Grundy’s Lolita sunglasses and Fred’s missing wallet as proof. It requires only the lightest of Mindhunting to figure out that this guy’s whole M.O. is stomping out sin wherever he perceives it, and apparently, he perceives it all over Riverdale: “I am the wolf. You are the flock. This is the bloodletting.”
I forgot Polly Cooper existed, to be perfectly honest (has she been pregnant for like two full years now?), but she finds all this Black Hood business terribly upsetting. As an unmarried mother carrying her relative’s child, she’s well aware that she makes for an extremely murderable target. She quietly skips town without informing her parents.
Elsewhere, Archie and Hot Reggie go out on the inaugural patrol of Riverdale’s premiere cool teen militia. Ethel “Barb” Muggs, apparently the one person who has not heard that a crazed killer is on the loose, goes for a walk along a dark and deserted road. Or is that just how committed to timely Stranger Things promo she is? When a spooky van keeps circling back to follow her, she calls up Archie. The boys drive up just in time to send the vehicle screeching away.
After dinner at Chez Lodge, Hiram offers Archie some rum. (Is that a trick? It seems like a trick.) After asking to talk with him alone, a request that is met with Veronica’s disappointment, and in turn, Hermione’s schadenfreude. Hiram, an extremely shady convicted felon, advises Archie, a child, to go on the offensive against the Black Hood, a violent killer. Also, don’t hurt Veronica and don’t ever sneak into her bedroom again. Okay, that’s it, catch you later! The next morning, Veronica, still high on the fumes of her dad’s attention, tells Hiram she wants to take on a “more active role” in the family business. Are we going to witness the Michael Corleone–ing of Veronica Lodge?
Meanwhile, Riverdale’s No. 1 varsity night jogger is back on his bullshit. Kevin approaches an idling car with what appears to be an enormous eagle painted on the hood (red flag right there). The driver offers him a ride, which he very nearly accepts, until he’s overcome by a vision of this man stabbing him in the gut. Trust your instincts, kids, and don’t get in cars with strangers! It makes me, your long-lost biological mother who conceived you over the internet, very nervous. Sheriff Dad is waiting up for Kevin when he gets in. Betty, who’s been losing her mind with worry over Kevin’s cruising, ratted him out. Sheriff Dad’s parenting is on point here: He says he only wants Kevin to be safe and they should talk more. They hug, Kevin cries. But the next day, when Betty smiles at Kevin in the hallway, he ices her out.
Archie’s next move is to produce one of the single dumbest things I believe has ever been committed to film, and I say this as an avid hate-watcher of Megyn Kelly Today. He stands in front of a dozen mostly shirtless minions in masks (which are really more fuchsia than red, but whatever) to record a message to the Black Hood: “We’re called the Red Circle and we’re coming for you. We will find you. We will hunt you. And we will end you.”
Hiram looks pleased as he watches the final product on YouTube. If his endgame is to embarrass Archie, then mission accomplished.