It’s hard to believe that Riverdale has never had a Halloween episode before, isn’t it? I love all things spooky to an extent that it is unequivocally unhealthy, but I have a somewhat unfair personal grievance with this episode. It is half-heartedly Halloween-themed (as in, the seminal 1978 slasher, which is one of my all-time favorite movies), sprinkled with synthy John Carpenter–inspired musical trills and superimposed titles in the same iconic font we’re used to seeing spell out “Haddonfield.” But … that’s pretty much it? I wish this episode committed harder, much as I wish Betty committed harder to her Laurie Strode non-costume! It just so happens that I, too, went as Laurie Strode this Halloween, but I accessorized with a homemade Michael Myers dummy strapped to my back, which caused my husband to scream louder than I’d thought he was physically capable of when he found it sitting up in our closet. Anyway!
The mysterious VHS tape left on Betty’s doorstep proves to contain six hours of continuous footage of the Cooper home (in which, by the way, Alice and FP are now officially living, and freely canoodling, together), recorded from across the street. Plenty more of their friends and neighbors are delivered unsettling Caché-style tapes of, and to, their own residences.
Betty is already having a rough Halloween, thanks in part to the trick-or-treater on her doorstep dressed as the Gargoyle King, when she receives a series of upsetting calls from someone purporting to be the Black Hood, voice modulation and all. Federal Brother of Investigation Charles conveniently arrives with a pizza and some casual call-tracing equipment.
I’m so tired of the Black Hood. Bloated, maggot-incubating Jason is a far more welcome presence to me at this point.
Speaking of! Toni insists that Cheryl put Jason back inside the ground, because there is being a supportive partner, and then there is being an accessory to the desecration of a corpse. Cheryl very reluctantly agrees, but warns that Jason won’t be happy to miss Halloween, their favorite holiday. Lo and behold, once Jason is (re)buried, a little redheaded doll of unknown provenance appears on the sofa. Jason’s ghost must be angry, Cheryl and her twintuition deduce.
Jughead hears of the vanished “Stonewall Four” from his prep-school classmates. Mr. Chipping calls this an urban legend — four students over a 30-year period dropped out, not disappeared, he explains — but Riverdale’s finest, and only, mystery writer suspects otherwise.
The corollary to don’t take candy from a stranger is, of course, don’t take coffee from an acquaintance. And yet Jughead accepts a mug from Donna and, heavily drugged, promptly collapses. When he regains consciousness, he finds that his seminar classmates have trapped him inside a coffin. Can you picture Cole Sprouse thrashing around inside a coffin, à la Ryan Reynolds in that movie I didn’t see where Ryan Reynolds was inside a coffin for some reason? I think you probably can. Let’s move on.
Charles manages to trace the Alleged Black Hood’s number to the Shady Grove Treatment Center, where Polly is currently being deprogrammed. The two sisters yell at each other on the phone briefly, but I’m not at all sold that it was Edgar’s teacher’s pet on the other end of the line before.
A very obviously creepy trucker — whose general vibe I’d describe as “Edgar demanding sugar water” — walks into Pop’s after closing time. Veronica, who is all alone, and who better read the copy of The Gift of Fear I am overnighting to the Pembrooke, grills him up a burger. A TV news bulletin warns that a serial killer with the remarkably specific M.O. of forcing his victims to cook him meals before he murders them has escaped Shady Grove.
Veronica is no fool. She flees downstairs to the Le La Bon Bonne Nuit, flips off all the lights, and throws about a gallon of liquor on her new favorite customer the moment he sparks a lighter. Our serial killer friend goes up in flames (shoutout to Halloween II?).
Archie and Monroe, dressed as superheroes (and old-school Archie Comics references) Pureheart the Powerful and the Shield, host a Halloween party at the community center to provide local kids a safe haven from the arcade-dwelling bad guys Archie recently vigilante-d. Dodger and company attempt to crash the event, and after Archie kicks them out, loiter menacingly in the lot outside. Dodger pulls up his shirt to reveal a) a gun and b) his preference for aggressively low-riding jeans. Despite Archie’s best efforts, Eddie, one of the Dodger’s impressed-into-service underage minions, ends up getting shot in the leg. Based on the way Archie eyes his Pureheart costume the next day, I worry his (… second) vigilante phase may have only just begun.
Toni throws the eerie little doll out, and yet he resurfaces in the chapel, hanging out in Jason’s wheelchair. Choni and Nana Rose bust out the ouija board, and the chatty planchette wastes no time in answering that, yes, there’s an entity inside the doll, and that his name begins with J. But not necessarily Jason, according to Nana Rose — she believes it’s Julian, the long-lost resorbed Blossom triplet who didn’t survive Penelope’s womb, and who Cheryl is just learning about now, excuse her, what? (Much like Dwight Schrute before her, Cheryl has the strength of both a teenage girl and a little baby.) Like the normal, sane woman we know her to be, Penelope raised the doll alongside her infant twins.
Weighing the lesser of two creepies, Toni will allow Jason back into the house if they can bury the doll in his stead. In no time at all, Cheryl is back to contentedly brushing her My Decomposing Dress-Up Twin™ doll’s hair.
I forgot Jughead was locked in a coffin, but he is, and there he remains, until Mr. Chipping pries the lid off the next morning. This charming Stonewall hazing tradition means Jughead “belongs” now, according to Donna, and also means all these weird-ass rich kids suck, according to me. Jughead returns to his room to find that Moose and all of his belongings have disappeared without a trace. Did he join the Army, as he’d told Jughead he’d been considering? Or did something more sinister go down?
You will never get rich betting against the sinister on Riverdale.
The haunting of Thornhill is, apparently, far from over: Toni discovers Julian sitting on their bed. Cheryl admits that she had been gaslighting her girlfriend before (Cheryl!!!!!! Not cool!), but insists she has no idea how the doll they definitely, for sure, no-doubt-about-it buried found his way back into the house. In the immortal words of Scooby Doo, ruh-roh.
File this, too, under Alarming Brother Behavior: Unbeknownst to Betty, whom he’s advised to sign up for the truly adorable-sounding Junior FBI Training Program, Charles has continued to tap her phone calls, listening in as she chats with Jughead.
We end on a spOoOoOky flash-forward to the Riverdale Coroner’s Office, where FP and Betty stand over a corpse who certainly looks a lot like Jughead. Happy Halloweeeeeen!