Chapter Seventeen: The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW
There’s no telling if the Black Hood took a break from binging Mindhunter to check out the Red Circle’s truly bonkers video threat, but Archie has certainly succeeded in riling up every other human being in Riverdale. Hermione doesn’t want Veronica to see her ginger boy toy any more, despite the fact that — unbeknownst to her — her very own husband essentially put Archie up to shooting this junior commando softcore scene. Fred demands his son take the original post down, but he already has. The video, shared and reshared and shared again, belongs to the internet now. In real life, there is no doubt in my mind that Archie and company would have ended up on Tosh.0.
The clip has even spread to Southside High, where Jughead comes upon Sweet Pea suggesting that a newbie Serpent “bring us the head of that northsider” as his initiation. Also, not for nothing, but are Sweet Pea and Jughead related or what? They have the same face. Maybe not on a Cole Sprouse/Dylan Sprouse level of same-faceness, but still! If the Coopers and the Blossoms are in fact one big unhappy family, maybe the Serpents have some genealogical secrets of their own.
Meanwhile, Principal Weatherbee will not stand for this Red Circle malarkey in his school. Unless Archie writes a letter of apology to the Riverdale High community and disbands his peppy little militia by the end of the week, he’ll be suspended. And that’s not all: Football is cancelled! It’s just like Footloose, but … Footballoose? You know what, I’ll keep workshopping that.
Betty discovers a creepy envelope, much like the one her mother received last week, among the Blue and Gold’s mail. But this one’s addressed to her. Inside is a letter from the Black Hood, in which he tells Betty he’s doing all this for her. Romantic! You see, he was inspired to kill by her Jubilee speech. So that means the Black Hood, whoever he (or she? Just kidding — middle-aged white dudes have the serial-killer game on lock) may be, must have been in attendance at Riverdale’s anniversary celebration. “The town’s sinners must show their contrition,” he writes. “If not, there will be more suffering and bloodshed.” He also included a cipher for her to solve, which will reveal where his next killing will take place. Betty brings the coded message, without the accompanying letter, to her mother, who in turn brings it to Sheriff Keller. After publishing it first, of course.
Archie tries to rally the Red Circle to take the fight to the south side, the Black Hood’s presumed stomping ground, in an attempt to draw him out. This is a terrible plan, as is universally acknowledged by Archie’s formerly willing minions. Riverdale: the story of a town tormented by the relentless stupidity of one young man. (That said, I will take Aspiring Charles Bronson Vigilante Archie over Aspiring Sensitive Musician Archie any day of the week.) Veronica, having accepted that her criminal-kingpin dad may have manipulated her impressionable, dopey boyfriend, decides to be supportive. She doesn’t just wear a custom-made Red Circle tank to school, but she’s also recruited her friends to hand them out to the entire student body. “The Red Circle is no longer a fringe band of radicals,” she tells Archie. “It’s a movement, with style and panache.” Oh, so it’s been gentrified.
I hate to say it, but could there be trouble in Bughead paradise? Jughead and fellow serial-killer nerd Toni Topaz are growing closer (how many episodes until they start a podcast?), with Juggie even ignoring Betty’s calls to work on the cipher with his new friend. The next night, all three kids plus Kevin come together for a “code-breaking party.” There, Toni accuses Betty — who’s sure she’s seen the cipher’s symbols somewhere before — of northside “privilege” for assuming the Black Hood hails from the south side, just because he’s been targeting people on the right side of the tracks. Also, did she mention that Jughead has been lying to her about sitting with the Serpents at lunch? Kevin’s reaction is very [Homer Simpson backing into a hedge dot GIF].
Having loaded on up a holster and Kevlar vest at the local army-navy store, Archie very slowly and deliberately spray-paints red circles all around the south side. The Serpents aren’t pleased to find him doodling on their turf. Sweet Pea pulls a knife; Archie pulls a gun. The Serpents scatter. On a tip from a bodega owner (are there even bodegas on the north side? The north side honestly sucks), the principal and Officer Krupke — excuse me, Sheriff Keller — pull Archie out of class the next day and search his locker. They find no gun, but they do find an awfully suspicious black hood. It’s Hot Reggie’s, but Archie claims it as his own. Nevertheless, he’s barred from the school.
Not long after Hermione warns her daughter of the dangers of being “blindly loyal” to her boyfriend (gee, it’s almost like she’s talking about her own relationship!), Archie dispatches Veronica to the school after dark, where she retrieves the gun, wrapped in plastic, hidden in a toilet tank. What a selfish, dick move. Understandably upset, she insists he tell her his true plans. Archie obliges: He wants the Black Hood dead, and he wants to be the one to kill him.
Well, too bad, pal. Veronica threw the gun in Sweetwater River. The football team arrives unannounced, with pizza. Hot Reggie is grateful that Archie, a “top-tier loyal badass,” didn’t rat him out. If he wants the Red Circle to keep going, they’re in. Good timing. Four Southside Serpents appear on Archie’s doorstep right then, like they’ve been summoned via Postmates. The Serpents and the Bulldogs line up in the rain to rumble, because this is now literally just West Side Story. (More like South Side Story, am I right?) Veronica, looking extremely noir in her hooded cape, fires the supposedly disposed-of gun in the air to get the boys to stop, but not before Dilton Doiley gets stabbed in the leg. That night, she and Archie really do throw the gun into river, making this episode a PSA not just about weapons possession, but about litter.
In the notebooks Betty left at Jughead’s house, he accidentally discovered the letter from the Black Hood. He assures her that none of this is her fault: “You’re like Nancy Drew meets Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That jogs Betty’s memory. They rush to the library, where she finds The Nancy Drew Secret-Code Activity Book, an obsession for her as a little girl. So that’s where the symbols are from! The decoded message reads, “I will strike next where it all began.” That seemingly refers to the Jubilee, which took place in the town hall — which is where the mayor is right now holding an emergency town meeting. Riverdale’s own Romeo and Juliet burst in and demand everyone leave. The lights flicker off, and Betty pulls the fire alarm.
Back home, Betty finally hands over the letter to her mother and Sheriff Keller. But the night’s not over yet. Betty gets a phone call from someone who, in a modulated voice, claims to be the Black Hood. Couldn’t he have just texted?