Riverdale Season-Finale Recap: Snakes and Ladders

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW


Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World Season 2 Episode 22
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Put on your mourning beanie. Riverdale wastes no time in answering the question that’s been on all of our minds: What happened to Jughead? Well, he’s dead. Betty, Veronica, and Archie visit his grave. “Come back to me, Jug,” his girlfriend-widow cries. Just kidding — this is actually a dream sequence. Don’t be mad at me, I’m sorry, I love you!

Jughead wakes up in the hospital, looking pretty good, considering that in the state we last saw him he could have been left out in somebody’s yard as a passable Halloween decoration. His dad is at his bedside. FP reports the Serpents fought hard, but were sorely outnumbered by the Ghoulies. Also, by the way, Fangs is actually alive? The sheriff’s deputy who told FP of his demise was, apparently, full of shit. Never forget that the town of Riverdale is built on a sticky, unstable foundation of maple syrup and lies. Anyway, most of Sunnyside Trailer Park has burned. “The Serpents, they don’t exist anymore,” FP laments. This is an awful lot of exposition about an exciting series of events I would have loved to have, ahem, actually seen with my own eyeballs.

Crowds of curious onlookers are gathering outside the Cooper house to snap a photo of the Black Hood’s former residence. Alice, seemingly (and understandably) a little unhinged, eggs them on: “Do you want to see where he planned all of his murders? Do you want to see where he ate? Where he slept?” As for Betty, she’s handling the whole Black Hood dad thing as well as can be expected, which is not very well. She refuses to return to school, because she’s ashamed to show her face in front of those who’ve been affected by her father’s horrible crimes. Unsurprisingly, she decides to drop out of the student council race, as do Jughead, Veronica, Reggie, and Josie. The only candidates remaining are Archie and third-party dark horse Ethel Muggs, Ross Perot if he had a mean milkshake-throwing arm.

Without politics to distract them, the Scooby Gang considers the mystery of the second Black Hood. It’s pretty clear to all of them, including Veronica, that Hiram must have had something to do with it. But who, exactly, has been under that hood? Lodge himself? A hired gang member? The new sheriff? Manetta soon announces that an anonymous tip in the second Black Hood case led them to a suspect —none other than Tallboy, getting up to all sorts of mischief in his Serpent exile! — who died after engaging the cops in a firefight. Guns and, yes, a black hood found on the premises link him to the town-hall shooting. So how about we all move on and not ask any more questions about this whole case — wouldn’t that be nice? What’s that, over there? Okay, see you later!

Kevin finds Moose crying in the bathroom. Midge’s locker was trashed during Riot Night. All her belongings and the memorial tributes people had left for her have disappeared. Kevin’s consoling hug rapidly evolves into a consoling smooch session, as these things often do.

A memo from Principal Weatherbee informs Jug, Sweet Pea, and Toni that the former Southside High students are to be bused to two-hours-away Seaside High (I smell saltwater, and a spinoff). He blames them for trashing the school during Riot Night, which, to be fair, Sweet Pea did literally do. Despite what his father said, Jughead discovers a healthy contingent of Serpents, displaced by the Ghoulies war, living in the Wyrm like a de facto shelter. Jug finds FP drunk at home —Hiram fired him from Pop’s. So why did he lie about the remaining Serpents? FP says they need to give up on the gang and skip town. He’s moving the two of them to Toledo, to be with Jughead’s mom and sister Jellybean.

With some legal finagling courtesy of Sierra McCoy, attorney at law (who seems to be representing 90 percent of the town at the moment), Nana Blossom is now Cheryl’s legal guardian. When Cheryl goes to deliver the completed paperwork to Penelope and Uncle Father Claudius — who have been living in a barn on the Thistlehouse grounds, presumably because Hal was monopolizing Sharebnb’s local evil lair offerings — she’s shocked to spot Hiram meeting with them, intel she dutifully passes along to Veronica.

Hiram blows off V’s questions, but Hermione — who every day appears more ready to defect from the Democratic People’s Republic of Hiram — privately confides that her husband could very well have been behind the town-hall attack. She even arms her daughter with a powerful secret. Hiram intends to turn the entire Southside into a “something” beyond just a prison, but there’s a piece of the geographic puzzle he hasn’t been able to get his handsome claws on: the White Wyrm. Veronica enlists Mayor McCoy’s legal help (I told you: business is booming!) to get her million dollars back from the trust Hiram shoved it in. She threatens to smear his secrets all over town, with Hermione’s mayoral election just days away. Blackmail is nothing if not effective.

Jughead is tipped off by Cheryl — there is no nefarious shady business within the Riverdale city limits her mother isn’t tuned into — that the sheriff is about to raid the Wyrm. The Serpents scatter just as the cruisers pull up. They’ve been offered “asylum” at the Andrews house (which is … not that big, no?), where Fred makes everyone breakfast the next morning. The Northside-Southside love on display in this episode is heartwarming, and about to get even more so: Weatherbee finds the school hallway filled with students wearing (borrowed) Serpent jackets —with Archie, Veronica, and even Reggie among them — and threatening a walkout in support of their Southside classmates.

Hiram pays a visit to the Wyrm, where he meets its brand-new teenage owner. Veronica makes him an offer. She’ll trade him the bar in exchange for the deed to Pop’s, her friends’ beloved hangout —seemingly defeating the purpose of buying the Wyrm in the first place, but whatever. It’s a deal, on the condition that she’s fully financially cut off: No more allowance, no more trust fund, no credit cards, no ownership stake in Lodge industries. I’m intrigued by this development! What would Veronica on a budget look like, dressed exclusively in Forever 21?

Polly, visiting with her twin babies, encourages Betty to forgive their father. And so Betty goes to see Hal for a Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter–style stare-down through the glass of his cell. She insists she’s only there to say good-bye; he insists they have more in common than she wants to believe, and that she carries whatever kind of serial-killer gene keeps getting passed on through their family (a great reason to look into 23andMe). “You’ll be back, Betty,” he shouts at her retreating form. This conversation must have been at least a little cathartic, as Betty tells her mother she feels ready to go back to school. But Alice is still on shaky ground. Polly wants her to meet a friend from the Farm (not that I want to look this gift horse of a future plotline in the mouth, but didn’t she leave the Farm?) who “healed” her after Jason’s death. Alice is open to it. Does this mean that finally, finally, finally Riverdale is going to give me the Manson family story arc of my dreams?

Both the mayoral and the student council elections are held on the same day in the Riverdale High gym, which strikes me as unnecessarily complicated. Weatherbee shares the results of the latter race over the PA: Archie Andrews is their new president. And also, by the way, the Southside kids can stay in Riverdale after all! (If you’re beginning to think this sounds like too much good news to end a season on, your suspicions are correct.)

At a Serpent barbecue on the banks of the Sweetwater River, FP proclaims he’s retiring, “for real this time,” and passes the crown onto Jughead. The new “Serpent King” promises they won’t die out, and in his first official act as gang leader, presents a custom cherry-red Serpents jacket to — who else! — Cheryl Blossom. (Fortunately, she did not have do that idiotic Serpent Dance as part of her initiation.) This is a truly wonderful moment, and I would greatly appreciate it if somebody could mail me a red Serpent jacket of my own immediately, thank you in advance. Later, as Betty and Jug do some postcoital cuddling in a room at the Five Seasons, he’ll ask her to be his Serpent Queen. She’ll think it over!

Fred gets a call: Hermione won the election. Someone knocks on the front door. It’s … Hermione. She’s come to congratulate Fred on his campaign — they were fewer than 200 votes apart — and offer a sincere handshake. Archie, meanwhile, sneaks over to the Pembroke to confront Hiram with a knife, and hold on, who gave Archie a knife? New Daddy may have manipulated Archie when he was vulnerable after Fred’s shooting, but no more. He knows Hiram hired Tall Boy and the Ghoulies; he knows Hiram ordered the killings of Papa Poutine and Cassidy, the creepy townie who broke into the Lodges’ lake house. “I won’t hesitate like I did with the Black Hood,” he says. “I’m going to make my bones once and for all.” But first, Archie makes his bones with Hiram’s desk, stabbing his knife directly into the very expensive-looking wood, and while I am definitely on Archie’s side here, I still cringe when I think about what it’s going to cost to have that gouge fixed.

Veronica has learned from Pop that the basement of the Chock’lit Shoppe was once a speakeasy. Now she wants to reopen it as a “cabaret space,” for North- and Southsiders alike, with FP as its manager. She does expect her father is plotting revenge, which, of course, he is. Hiram has assembled Riverdale’s Death Eaters at the White Wyrm: Penny, Penelope, Claudius, Sheriff Manetta, and Malachi. “Welcome to new Southside,” he says. The new Southside will, as Lodge sees it, involve a healthy drug trade running through his private prison, as well as a brothel for Madam Blossom. And he has a plan in store to sideline those meddling kids, too.

Archie’s inauguration is the cause for a celebratory school assembly, with an unlikely guest lurking in the back: Hiram Lodge. Then Sheriff Manetta and two deputies march in to, excuse me, arrest our pure and precious flame-headed boy, for the murder of Cassidy Bullock — that is, Townie Creep. (Is that even their jurisdiction?)

I have so many questions: Will Veronica get conjugal visits? Is Archie more of a Piper or an Alex, or is he by virtue of his hair color automatically a Red? And can he and Hal be bunkmates? The cruelest and most unusual punishment is that we have to wait until season three to find out.

Riverdale Season-Finale Recap: Snakes and Ladders