I have not adequately upped my moisturizer and serum game for winter, so allow me to serve as your Crypt Keeper for tonight’s Riverdale, which presents three very spooky tales. A letter from the Black Hood posted on the door of Pop’s warns the townspeople to consider the next 48 hours a test: If they sin, he’ll kill again.
We begin with the ballad of Jughead and Archie. Penny Peabody calls Jughead to cash in her favor. F.P. is in the prison infirmary after suffering an “accident” at the hands of some Ghoulies, as payback for Jughead seemingly making a deal with the sheriff. Now, he’ll have to deliver a crate of “pancake mix” from the south side to Greendale. Penny will use his cut of the cash to help his dad get an early release. (Is it really that easy to get an early release? Surely Veronica has an AmEx Centurion Card she wouldn’t mind lending out to her pals.) Jughead in turn conscripts Archie into borrowing Fred’s pick-up truck and coming along.
And so they load up the unreasonably huge crate without much of a problem, only for a tire to blow out on a dark and desolate stretch of road. A truck pulls over, driven by none other than Tony Todd a.k.a. Candyman (!), in case you had any doubt that we were barreling full speed toward horror. I love it. (Next week, can we cast Robert Englund as Riverdale High’s new shop teacher?) For the low price of $18, the sum total of Jughead’s life savings, Not Candyman agrees to take the rightful heir to the Serpent throne (plus his pancake mix dowry) along to Greendale. Archie stays behind to call “Triple C,” because apparently AAA didn’t furnish enough Cover Girl–level promotional consideration to the CW to make the cut. Archie sees a bloodied deer, looking more dead than alive, casually walk across the road. Uh-oh! Zombies are really going to drive down property values on the north side.
When they stop for gas and coffee, Not Candyman tells Jughead of the Riverdale Reaper, a killer who annihilated a family living by Fox Forest with his shotgun. Some say he was lynched, some say he skipped town, and some say he never left. Could the Reaper and the Black Hood be one and the same? Not Candyman demands “Crown Boy” pay their bill when Archie arrives just in time, heroically brandishing his debit card. Not Candyman calls the boys sinners (Riverdale is really starting to make me feel like I’m back in Catholic school) before making his exit.
With Fred’s truck back in action, they’re able to deliver the crate to a Greendale warehouse, where they’re greeted by a spooky little lady in a wheelchair. She has a beret, an Eastern European accent, and an armed valet who wears his sunglasses at night. This woman reminds me of Edna Mode crossbred with one of the shadowy figures from the opening of Zoolander. (Delivering pancake mix to Greendale is surely the new turning out novelty neckties in Hackensack.) I am deeply confused, but such is Riverdale. Contrary to the one-time deal Penny promised, Madame Spooky expects the Serpents — and Jughead specifically — to take over the Ghoulies’ regular deliveries.
Jughead goes to see his dad early the next morning, only to find Skeet Ulrich is as beautiful and unharmed as he ever was. There was no “accident.” Penny “incentivized” Jug, she explains, and now she has video footage of him and Archie at the warehouse to ensure he’ll do her bidding forever. F.P. made her a promise he didn’t keep, and the way she sees it, Jughead has inherited his dad’s debt. (Not for nothing, but Sweet Pea is definitely F.P.’s unacknowledged child with Penny.)
And now we’re on to Josie! She keeps staying late at school to practice a few solo songs unbeknownst to the Pussycats, because Cheryl, endlessly grateful to Josie for saving her from Nick St. Clair, has hooked her up with an interested producer. Josie’s (understandably freaked out) mother would prefer to have her home before dark, ideally with a bodyguard at her side. We can only imagine how freaked out Mayor McCoy would be if she knew that (1) a secret admirer has been leaving her daughter unsettling gifts like a teddy bear with a note that reads “I’LL BE WATCHING YOU,” and (2) the creepy school janitor seems to be lingering nearby at every possible moment. Shaken up after Val and Melody excommunicate her from the band for her disloyalty, the prodigal Pussycat accepts a ride home from none other than Chuck “Sticky Maple” Clayton. Though she’d firmly rejected him when he asked her out before, they find themselves enjoying each other’s company over milkshakes and cheese fries at Pop’s. They make a cute couple, when you allow yourself to forget that he previously distinguished himself as the Riverdale metro’s foremost slut-shamer.
But then Mayor McCoy storms in with Sheriff Keller. The mayor has received death threats, she reveals, and little does Josie know that she’s about to receive one of her own. Waiting for her in the music room is a pencil portrait of Josie inscribed “IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU NO ONE CAN” and a box containing a bloody pig heart. That’s messed up! Pig hearts are, traditionally, a seventh anniversary gift. Unsurprisingly, Chuck gets rounded up for questioning, but Sheriff Keller can’t find any evidence linking him to this disturbing present. Meanwhile, we find Cheryl sketching a picture of herself and Josie in an awfully familiar style. Yikes. Is she scaring Josie away from Chuck’s charms in a misguided effort to help her? Is she actually obsessed with Josie? My personal takeaway is that Cheryl Blossom’s talents are even more varied and abundant than we already give her credit for. Love you, C!
Chapter three: Betty and Veronica. The girls are convinced something is up with Sheriff Keller, who, per Kevin, is neither sleeping nor eating. Veronica’s theory is that he’s cheating. (Since when is there a Mrs. Keller, though? What’s her deal?) Betty’s theory is that he’s the Black Hood. Why not both? Let imagination be the only limit of your dreams.
Veronica invites herself over to Kevin’s house for a fact-finding sleepover, where she excuses herself from what appears to be a game of Cones of Dunshire to snoop in the basement. V hears male grunting as she descends the stairs. Lo and behold, it’s a shirtless Sheriff Keller lifting weights. Riverdale’s Hot Parent Bracket is even more stacked than I previously thought possible. Mrs. Keller is stationed on a naval base in Bahrain, he explains. Veronica questions him about how he copes, while coming off like she’s aggressively hitting on him, which, I get it, but I’m Miss Grundy-ed out, thank you. She hears the front door close in the middle of the night and spies him leaving, returning at the never-not-suspicious hour of 4 a.m. The next day, Betty waits for Sheriff Keller to leave his house and enters — at least she doesn’t break and enter — with a key hidden under a potted plant. She bobby-pins her way into Keller’s locked home office, where she finds what appears to be a black hood in a drawer.
Cut to Hal and Betty in the sheriff’s office. He explains his “official police business” alibis for all the murders, and that the hood was the same one he recovered from Archie’s locker. Maybe I’m blinded by Sheriff Keller’s latent hotness, because I find him credible, but Betty isn’t convinced. She and Veronica tail him on one of his late-night mystery drives to a local motel, where who should greet him with a old-fashioned friendly make-out but Mayor McCoy herself! Should the girls keep the affair secret to protect Kevin?
The subjects of all three tales find themselves in Pop’s: Josie and Cheryl in one booth, Betty and Veronica in another, and Archie and Jughead in a third. Just as Juggie leaves for the prison, the diner’s phone rings. You already know who’s on the other end of the line. A shaken Pop relays the Black Hood’s message: They’ve failed the test, sinners all. Now, he says, “the reckoning is upon us.”