Chapter Nineteen: Death Proof
After siccing the Black Hood on Nick St. Clair, Betty dashes to his hotel room. She finds Riverdale’s foremost attempted date rapist alive, to my personal disappointment. The Black Hood later explains that Nick isn’t from Riverdale, so he isn’t eligible to be purged. Penelope Blossom continues her uninterrupted flawless parenting streak by suggesting that her daughter provoked Nick into assaulting her, but also that nothing really happened anyway.
Meanwhile, although Toni and Jughead enjoyed a good old-fashioned “PG-13 grope session,” she doesn’t want to be his post-Betty rebound. And for what it’s worth, she prefers dating girls. (Toni is rapidly becoming my favorite non-Cheryl character.) That’s fine; Jughead has more important, if less adorable, things to attend to, including The Red and Black, for which he’s just written an op-ed in defense of the south side community. But his English teacher–slash-editor knows Jug pledged (is it a sorority?) the Southside Serpents, violating their agreement that he would get involved with neither jingle jangle nor gangs.
Jughead maintains that the Ghoulies, not the Serpents, are the source of the drugs, but it’s no use. Having learned that Josie and her friends got all jingle-jangled up at Nick’s party — on stuff Reggie purchased from a gang member — Mayor McCoy is newly resolved to clean up the bad part of town. She and Sheriff Keller burst through Southside High’s doors with police dogs. Archie swoops in and gets Jughead out just ahead of the raid, but Toni and Jughead’s long-lost yet unacknowledged face twin Sweet Pea are among those arrested. Is anyone watching this show and not rooting for the south side?
After enlisting the folks on the farm to help Polly hide out, Betty decides she’s done communicating with the Black Hood — until she decides she isn’t done communicating with the Black Hood and picks up the phone again. He has a new assignment for her: He wants Betty to find the maker of the drugs polluting Riverdale, a phantom known only as the “Sugarman.” If she doesn’t figure out the Sugarman’s identity (I thought we solved this mystery already), you won’t like what he’ll do. (He’ll kill somebody. Obviously.) Oh, and she should start with the daughter of the Sugarman’s former supplier, Clifford Blossom.
I hope Betty is getting some kind of independent study for working with the Black Hood, because these children are literally never in class. Of course Cheryl has heard of the Sugarman, she tells Betty. It was a creepy bedtime story that her mother — who, again, is a world-renowned parenting expert — would tell her and Jason. If the twins were bad, she recalls, their father’s friend the Sugarman would steal them away. Cheryl thinks he was no more than a made-up boogeyman, although she’s struck by an old drawing of the two little ginger siblings with the Sugarman lurking behind them. Odder still, Penelope denies that she ever told her tales of the Sugarman at all.
To Jughead’s horror, Tall Boy wants him to endorse a wartime partnership between the Serpents and the Ghoulies, represented by a gentleman named Malachi, who wears a floor-length flowing garment that still manages to leave his chest entirely bare, and whose vibe is about 10 percent Mystery a.k.a. The Pick-Up Artist. (Nevertheless … hello, Malachi.) But the Ghoulies and their nasty jingle jangle are why the school got raided in the first place! Jug and Archie head to the prison to seek advice from F.P., whose throwback prison uniform with sleeves cuffed just so is really working for him. (Hello, Skeet Ulrich.) His baffling but delightful advice: Challenge the car-obsessed Ghoulies to an illegal street race for control of Southside High. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?! Also, do any of these boys even have their learner’s permits?
At Pop’s, Veronica convinces “Benedict Betty” to explain why she’s been acting so bonkers. The ice between them finally melts.“You’re in a toxic relationship with the Black Hood and you need to break up,” Ronnie tells her. (That’s a deal-breaker, ladies.) Regardless, Veronica agrees to help her former ex-friend track down the Sugarman. She tracks down Reggie’s jingle-jangle connection, Verne, who looks like he’s wearing a gang member Halloween costume purchased on clearance at Party City. When she asks him about the Sugarman, he takes off running down an alley, where she and Betty proceed to tail him — only to get dragged to goth Ghoulie HQ themselves. There, Jughead and his unlikely consigliere Archie pitch the drag-race wager to Malachi, who doesn’t bite until the stakes are raised: If the Ghoulies win, they can add the White Worm and the trailer park to their territory. Fortunately for everyone involved, Betty inexplicably proves to have a background as a mechanic. Jughead stands broodingly by as she preps Reggie’s car for the race. She promises that one day she’ll explain everything, especially her hasty breakup by proxy. She never stopped loving Jug.
Cheryl and Nick cross paths at Pop’s, where he calls her “Sharon,” not to mention a “desperate tart” who was “begging for it.” Gee, I think I’m starting to dislike this Nick character. Rightly enraged, Cheryl announces she’ll be pressing charges. But as it turns out, the St. Clairs have already made a quiet financial arrangement with her dear, beloved mother. When Veronica learns her own parents are still taking the St. Clairs’ money for SoDale, she confronts them, telling them how Nick tried to assault her, too. It is highly pleasurable to witness how angry this makes H&H — who, by the way, are doing a very poor job of hiding how much they love the no-doubt financially beneficial chaos enveloping the south side.
Flag girl Cheryl, looking very Lana Del Rey, starts off the drag race. Jughead mans the wheel (with an extremely unnecessary Archie in the passenger seat) against a pair of Ghoulies in a red-painted hearse with flame details. I’m Team Ghoulies here, for the record. Jughead risks their lives gunning toward a bridge too narrow to fit both cars. At the last moment, Archie grabs for the gear shift to save them. Jughead is furious, but then they hear sirens up ahead — a police checkpoint manned by Sheriff Keller has stopped the Ghoulie car just over the bridge.
Back at the starting line, teens scatter in all directions as the cops descend on the scene, rounding up Ghoulies. Archie called the authorities, to Jughead’s dismay. Great, so his rivals will be gone for a month or two at most, and then they’ll come back hellbent on revenge. Speaking of revenge, Hermione coolly announces to her family members that the St. Clairs were run off the road in a car accident. It’ll take months for Nick to recover. What curious timing! “Karma’s a bitch,” Veronica says. I very much enjoy Ronnie reimagined as a willing participant in a crime family.
Cheryl finds the check from Nick’s family in Penelope’s bedroom, and agrees to give her the hush money in exchange for the truth about the Sugarman. Mother Blossom finally, tearfully admits that there have been many Sugarmen over the years. Cheryl dutifully hands over the check; Penelope throws it in the fireplace. Cheryl in turn passes the current Sugarman’s name along to Betty, but when the Black Hood calls, she won’t tell him. Instead, she notifies the sheriff’s office and publishes an exposé in The Blue and Gold. If she can track down the Sugarman, why can’t she out the Black Hood, too? Lo and behold, the Sugarman was hiding in plain sight: Jughead’s English teacher–slash–newspaper editor.
With the Black Hood no longer haunting her dreams, Betty is free to curl up close next to Jughead in his trailer. Is everything rosy in Bugheadland once again? A far less cozy scene unfolds in the Sugarman’s jail cell, where the Black Hood shoots him through the bars.