I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Archie’s fugitivedom seems to be going well. We find our outlaw enjoying nothing short of an Instagram influencer (or Hatchet enthusiast)-worthy lifestyle in a lakeside cabin with amazing light somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. He wears flannel and Patagonia. Vegas pants happily by his side. Your L.L. Bean Boyfriend has found a Firewatch-esque gig talking to some lady via the radio and clearing trails. It’s while completing the latter duty that he spots some alarmingly large footprints — and though, by God, I would trade a year off my life for a Riverdale Bigfoot story line — they turn out to belong to a grizzly bear, who wastes no time in attacking our hero. Archie, that is, not Vegas.
Back in the cabin, Archie sends an emergency message out on the radio, pours alcohol on the wounds the bear’s claws slashed into his chest and arm, and ties a raggedy old bandage around his torso in a way that I cannot imagine is successfully applying pressure on anything before collapsing on his bed. Vegas whines solicitously.
Back in Eldercare, excuse me, Eldirvare, the quarantine has been lifted and school is back in session. La Bonne Nuit is thriving, thanks in large part to star attraction Josie, performing selections from Cabaret in Josephine Baker flapper glam. And yet Reggie’s beer runs across the border are interrupted by beatings at the hands of Gargoyle gang members. These ambushes are courtesy of Hiram Lodge, who’s demanded 10 percent of his daughter’s profits in exchange for so-called protection. Veronica agrees, but supplies him with a “well-cooked” version of the club’s books. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a badass?” Reggie asks Veronica, not unlike someone who would like very much to smooch her, sooner rather than later.
Betty and ex-mayor McCoy’s campaign to convince the nuns to turn state’s witnesses against Hiram Lodge hits a roadblock when Sister Woodhouse and company take a convenient vow of silence. In the meantime, the Serpent slash Griffin Queen is hosting the displaced Lost Boys (well, mostly Lost Girls) from the Sisters of Mercy in a permanent sleepover in the Coopers’ living room. Alice wants to ship them all off to the Farm, but Betty feels responsible for them: They’ve “imprinted” on her, like this is an occult Fly Away Home.
A packet of Fizzle Rocks is discovered among the kids’ things, but all they’ll tell Betty is that it came from a Serpent. So Jughead announces to his cash-poor underlings that they’re going clean, with any crime committed by a Serpent to result in his or her permanent exile.
Cheryl is particularly irritated to hear this, given that she and Toni have recently branched out into cat burglary, wearing on-the-nose (in two senses of the phrase) cat masks and having sex on a haul that contains both $100 bills (hot) and loose change (less so). When Choni break into the Pembroke and steal Hermione’s Glamergé egg, Cheryl can’t resist leaving her signature behind: a lipstick kiss on the oil painting of Hiram Lodge that now hangs in his study.
Betty finds Evelyn and Polly talking up the Farm to her brainwashed little goslings and even handing out T-shirts. A cult-themed college recruitment event! Oh, by the way, Polly tells her sister, the kids finally admitted that it is none other than Fangs who’s supplying them with drugs. When FP and Jughead confront our wayward Serpent pal, he confesses, tearfully revealing that his mother is sick and he’s desperate for money. Rather than exile Fangs, Jughead quietly grants him onetime leniency.
Unfooled by Veronica’s creative accounting, Hiram dispatches a Gargoyle to terrorize Josie at home. He’d like Veronica’s accurate finances now, as well as the missing Glamergé egg, please. There’s no doubt who has it: Cheryl has been caught red-mouthed.
Hearing Veronica’s predicament, Jughead makes her an offer she couldn’t — well, yes, that she could refuse if she wanted to: What if instead of Hiram, the Serpents became her paid protectors?
Jughead demands Cheryl and Toni’s Serpent jackets on the basis of their latest B&E. Uh, excuse me — they happen to know for a fact that he already gave Fangs a pass for dealing Fizzle Rocks to children, a much less adorable crime than stealing from the rich. Fine! Fine. All three of them, including Fangs, are exiled.
Acting on a tip from a social worker, Sierra and Betty visit Sister Woodhouse in prison and reveal that they learned the Vatican disbanded their freaky-ass sect 60 years ago, and therefore the vow of silence wouldn’t hold up in court. (Is this how laws work? I am pretty sure the answer is no, but then again, I am also pretty sure that I am not a lawyer. Like, 80 percent sure.) All right, whatever, she’ll testify in exchange for immunity.
One of the Lost Boys, Tyler, accuses Betty of lying to them — he says he saw the Gargoyle King in Fox Forest, where he was beaten up by his gang. These characters are so annoying, but on the bright side, there are also way too many of them.
An alarmingly pale Archie wakes up disoriented. Or has he really woken up at all? Hoo boy. We are in for an extended dream sequence, and a rather dreadful one at that, so I promise I will make this part as quick as humanly possible. Cassidy and his dead friends are waiting for him to join their G&G game. Archie draws a quest card that instructs him to “defeat the hooded specter of death.” Suddenly, he’s back in Pop’s, watching the Black Hood take aim at his father. But this time, Archie tackles Fred’s would-be shooter, and returns to the cabin clutching Hal Cooper’s notorious balaclava.
Now, a blue-lipped Warden Norton greets him. Archie must find his “do or die moment,” he explains, the moment where everything went wrong.
Archie’s next quest card dispatches him to kill the Man in Black. He dream-teleports to the Lodges’ apartment clutching a dagger that the dream-teleportation TSA must have missed during his pat-down. He stabs Hiram, but once again finds himself back in the cabin, where visions of Betty, Veronica, and Jughead await him. He has no choice but to play another round, they tell him, if he ever wants to return home.
Archie faces down one last target. He stands in his childhood bedroom, looming over his own sleeping form with a bat. Though Fred tries to talk him out if it, the Red Paladin can’t be dissuaded. He believes it’s his own fault for getting into all this trouble. Tears staining his face, Real Archie (okay, Real Dream Archie) beats down on Bed Archie until he disappears.
Elsewhere, we witness the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Hiram finds the priceless egg smashed to bits on his desk, with a note on La Bonne Nuit stationery: “New Deal … NO DEAL!” Reggie is stopped by Gargoyles once again, but this time, the back of his truck is filled with bat-wielding Serpents, who give chase and do some smacking. Veronica is officially under Jughead’s protection now. As for the supposedly defrocked Fangs, Jughead secretly assigns him to embed undercover with the Gargoyles.
Veronica, too, is taking on new job responsibilities, Sally Bowles–ing “Maybe This Time” to entertain the La Bonne Nuit crowd in Josie’s absence. She makes eyes at Reggie from the stage, and he gives her what I am pretty sure is supposed to be a sensual thumbs-up in response. Soon enough, once the club has emptied, he tucks her hair behind an ear and, at long last, they make out. Varchie is in the past, my children. Veggie is our future.
You leave the house for five minutes, and what does your mom do? She calls up her personal Charles Manson — perhaps that’s not fair; I see Edgar as more of a Jim Jones — and has him pick up all your orphans. Perhaps worse still, an “anonymous donor” (whoooooom could that be?) has paid bail for the nuns and they’ve disappeared, leaving behind only the words “We Go to Join Thee” scrawled on the wall of their former cell. Betty rushes to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where, within the Gargoyle King’s chamber, she finds the nuns blue-lipped and bent over in fatal worship around the statue.
Park rangers burst into Archie’s cabin to find him very bloody and very unresponsive, staring glossy-eyed at the ceiling. Could you imagine if Riverdale just went ahead and killed Archie Andrews, smack in the middle of a season, no less? I, too, would die.