Following last week’s near-death vision quest, Archie has both survived and, perhaps more surprisingly, returned to Riverdale. But is this really Archie? The evidence in many ways suggests otherwise. There’s the dark hair, the truly alarming bear-claw scars, the obvious PTSD, and — it pains me to even type it — the root-beer float he orders at Pop’s. The era of strawberry milkshakes has come to a close.
The taste of her hunky bartender’s mouth still on her lips, Veronica could hardly be more shocked when Archie shows up unannounced at La Bonne Nuit. She’s happy! But she’s mad! Then they’re kissing! Back at school, Reggie flirtatiously approaches Veronica at her locker, going in for the canoodle, when whoops, no thank you. She can’t tell Archie what’s happened between them, she explains — it would hurt him. Reggie understands.
Archie is horrified to hear from his friends that the SATs are this Saturday. This storyline has brought me more joy than most things in my life this week, and I say this as a person who single-handedly housed two full-sized cannoli this afternoon alone. After two-and-a-half seasons of giving exactly zero shits about any of these children doing any of their homework, Riverdale abruptly introduces the SAT as a plot point and treats it with the same dramatic heft that it did a grizzly bear attack. First of all, not to be rude, but you can’t just show up and take the SAT — there are registration deadlines. And there are multiple SAT test dates throughout the academic year! There’s no reason Archie needs to take this particular SAT!
A practice test administered by Betty puts Archie in the bottom tenth percentile, which makes me think the Riverdale school system failed him long before Hiram Lodge came to town. Speaking of: Principal Weatherbee advises Archie to repeat his junior year, given how much school he missed. Obviously this is exactly what Archie should be doing; obviously this is not the course of action Archie chooses to pursue.
When Betty’s debit card is declined at Pop’s, she learns that all her bank accounts, including her college fund, have been drained. Alice has made a tax-deductible donation to the Farm, you see, to support the kids from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. “You could study at the Farm for free,” Alice offers, but alas, Flowing White Garments and Creepiness Studies are not accredited degree programs. With the assistance of ex-Mayor McCoy, Betty realizes that Alice apparently faked Hal’s signature on the paperwork that liquidated all her savings. She does have one option: Could Betty convince her father to sign an affidavit asserting the signature was a forgery?
Archie dyes his hair back to red in time for a surprise welcome-home party at La Bonne Nuit, where Veronica serenades him in Spanish, which is sweet, and publicly addresses him as “lover,” which is upsetting. But it’s no use: Tortured with dark visions of Hiram, Archie storms out mid-song. Soon after, Archie comes to Reggie to ask him about “cheating,” but his sort-of girlfriend’s sort-of boyfriend woefully misinterprets his meaning. “She told you?” Reggie says. “You know it’s over, right?” Ruh-roh: Archie was talking about SATs.
Ha(nniba)l is standing up in his glass-fronted cell waiting for Betty when she stops by. He denies it’s his signature, then brings up the Gargoyle King, volunteering to help his little Clarice catch her personal Buffalo Bill. He’ll trade her a signed affidavit for a copy of the G & G manual, quid pro quo. On her next visit, the Black Hood casually drops that, by the way, he was also the original Gargoyle King who poisoned the chalices at Ascension Night. I’m sorry, what? Weirder still, the prison guard just so happens to mention to Betty that Alice comes to see Hal every Monday, which she finds hard to believe.
Alice denies visiting Hal (or mentioning anything to him about the Midnight Club’s secrets), so Betty calls up the prison and asks them to describe her mom. We can only imagine the person on the other line said “red hair, scary, ranting about her future brothel,” because Betty immediately seeks out Penelope Blossom. Her aunt indeed admits to enjoying “conjugal visits” with Hal and to telling him about Ascension Night. Confronted by Betty, Hal explains that this lie was his way of trying to trick his daughter into spending more time with him. Okay, weirdo.
On a tip from Fangs, F.P. and Jughead ambush their undercover ally’s Gargoyle inner-circle branding ceremony (very NXIVM of them). The gang scatters, but not before the Serpents can apprehend and unmask the Gargoyle King: Wait, who’s that? Oh, yeah. Tallboy? Kind of anticlimactic, but whatever. The Serpents take their prisoner to the bunker.
Jughead demands Tallboy arrange a meeting with Hiram to “hand over” Archie, who agrees to serve as bait. But it’s Claudius Blossom, not the Man in Black, who arrives at the rendezvous — Hiram insisted on naming him the new sheriff, in spite of Hermione’s protests. FP, hiding under the Gargoyle King get-up, makes a citizen’s arrest. Making citizen’s arrests seems like a hobby I should get into.
Archie finds Veronica crying in his bedroom; she knows he knows. They sort of start to break up, but then press the pause button and take their clothes off, if only for one last time.
The next morning, Archie finds it impossible to concentrate on his SAT Math section, fleeing the classroom to stare into a bathroom mirror, visualize himself stabbing Hiram, and then shatter the glass with his fist. This, plus packing emergency granola bars, was my exact standardized-test–taking strategy in high school.
Over at the Pembroke, an unseen shooter nails Hiram in the chest. At the hospital, Veronica is not unsuspicious of Archie, to his great offense. I don’t know, Arch — you have been publicly fantasizing about murdering Hiram for the better part of a season now, so is she really that out of line? “It’s over, isn’t it?” Archie asks, displaying the emotional intelligence required to understand that, yes, this moment should be about their relationship, not about Veronica’s quite possibly dying father.
Hiram is stable, but still very much out of commission. The same cannot be said for Claudius Blossom, who is discovered looking awfully dead in his cell at the sheriff’s station. Hermione summons F.P. “I think it’s time,” she says.
Betty comes upon Alice, Evelyn, and various other spooky flower-child emissaries from the Farm celebrating with a giant jar of raw milk (this party is going to be off the hook) in the Coopers’ kitchen. Edgar got her mom an on-camera job on local TV and the Farm successfully purchased the convent as their permanent HQ. Bereft of an ally at home, Betty finds herself back at prison, making friendly SAT chit-chat with good old serial dad.
Reggie, clutching flowers and an adorably idiotic baby-blue “It’s a Boy!” balloon, shows up at Hiram’s hotel room and wraps Veronica up in a big hug. That’s what 2019 should be all about, for all of us: trading your sad, hot dummy for a fun, hot dummy.
In the bunker, Jughead finds Fangs and Sweet Pea panicking: Tallboy is dead, thanks to an “accident”/escape attempt. Jughead reasons that the Serpents should throw a big party as a distraction, and to welcome Fangs back into the fold. (Justice for Choni, y’all.)
A cop car pulls up, sirens blazing, and who should step out but freshly minted, fully uniformed officer of the law F.P. Jones, looking hot as hell, if I may add; what’s up, Skeet Ulrich, you wanna hang out sometime after I finally finish this sentence?
There’s a new sheriff in town, literally.