Oh, Riverdale, you really messed with my emotions tonight. I’m moved, shook, and turned on all at once. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
We start with Kevin sucking face with a random dude in the woods. He stumbles across Midge, who somehow survived being shot at point-blank range. Teen show logic, I guess? (Moose is alive, too. Whatever.)
Meanwhile, Veronica’s having the squad over to watch The Bachelorette premiere. Hiram seems pissed about this, probably because this means he can’t skulk around creepily like he always does.
At Riverdale High, news of Midge and Moose’s shooting has everyone freaked, especially Archie. Kevin lies about why he was in the woods that night even though everyone knows he’s gay…so there’s some fuckery afoot there. Jughead, who hangs out at Betty’s school but doesn’t go there anymore, abruptly leaves the powwow because he’s late to meet his mentor at South Side High. I’m not even going to question how he’d get there so quickly if the South Side is as far away as this show makes it seem. Also, why isn’t his old school just letting him trespass? He doesn’t even go here!
Alright, what the hell? Kevin was literally cruising the woods for dudes. What is this, 1970? Betty reprimands him for this, but in a slut-shamey way I don’t appreciate. She tells Kevin not to go back there until the killer’s caught—sound advice he surely won’t follow ’cause hormones. Cheryl overhears this entire conversation and smirks diabolically. Does she…also want to cruise for gay men in the woods?
Archie and Reggie visit Moose in the hospital. Reggie makes some lame, hetero joke about Moose “popping a boner” in front of his nurses (I keep forgetting they’re teens), and Archie asks him about the shooter like he’s Olivia Benson. Everyone’s slowly starting to realize the same person is responsible for Fred’s shooting, Miss Grundy’s death, and Moose and Midge’s shooting.
Meanwhile, at South Side High, Jughead’s mad about having to walk through a metal detector. He pouts, and it’s annoying. Safety’s important, Jughead! He meets Toni Topaz, the girl all the blogs say will drive a wedge between Bughead. I can see why: She’s cool, has pink hair, and is a South Side Serpent. She gives Jughead a tour of the school, where kids are doing Jingle Jangle in plain sight.
Toni invites Jughead to sit with her and the other Serpents, but he declines and says some convoluted nonsense about how he “self-identifies as a loner.” Toni urges Jughead to sit with them, though, because the Ghoulies (a rival gang at the school) will mess with him if he doesn’t. I love how all these groups sound like plucky ’50s social clubs.
Back on the north side of town, Archie tries to convince his dad that his shooter also attacked Grundy, Midge, and Moose, but Fred dismisses his childish ramblings. Naturally, Archie ruins Veronica’s Bachelorette viewing party because of this. Hiram awkwardly meets the Core Four and tells them the police aren’t always the solution to ending crime, which puffs Archie’s paranoia up even more. Oy.
In the most bravura display of straight masculinity on this show, Archie rounds up the football players and suggests they serve as “watch dogs” at school to make sure the shooter doesn’t attack again. They all hoop and holler about this and call themselves “The Red Circle”; it’s cringey, but also kinda hot because they’re shirtless. Sheriff Keller isn’t pleased with their group, but they’re actually helpful; later in the episode, they rescue Ethel Muggs when she suspects the shooter was following her in a car.
At South Side High, Jughead finally finds a friend in his insanely sexy English teacher, Mr. Phillips. He asks Mr. Phillips if it’s possible to revive the school paper, which I’d usually be all for but not in this case. No one needs any more angsty Jughead journalism. The Serpents are trying so hard to hang out with Jughead, but he’s dragging his feet. Rightfully, they tell him to not come crying to them for help if he can’t even hang. They have a tense tête-à-tête, which Toni diffuses.
Later, Betty visits Jughead at South Side High, and he says she shouldn’t be there at night unless she’s “armed,” which is a little unnerving. Jughead realizes Clifford Blossom’s local drug business started at the school with the Ghoulies, who deal Jingle Jangle, and he wants to write an exposé about this. Betty, however, deters him from this plan because he goes to school with the Ghoulies. (Jughead should listen to this, but he won’t because his beanie causes him to rebuke all logic.) Then Betty meets Toni, and it’s awkward. Oooh, the love triangle begins!
Later, Betty gets on Kevin’s case about going into the woods to bang. He says he doesn’t need her approval, which is true. (In Betty’s defense, though, she’s only concerned about Kevin running into the serial killer on the loose.) Cheryl overhears this entire spat and tells Betty that Kevin’s only trolling for dudes in the woods for validation. What a queer icon.
Meanwhile, Alice Cooper receives an ominous package in the mail. It’s from someone who calls himself the “Black Hood,” and he asks the Coopers to publish a letter he wrote in the paper. Not-so-surprising twist: This is the masked shooter, and he wants everyone to know he’s responsible for all three attacks in Riverdale. He included Fred’s lost wallet in the package as proof he’s the real deal. Bah!
And oooh, this is interesting: In his letter, the Black Hood calls Fred “an adulterer,” Grundy a “child predator,” and Moose and Midge “drunk-and-sex-addicted teenagers.” He’s some kind of morality killer punishing Riverdale for its hypocrisy. Polly’s afraid she’s next because she’s having a child out of wedlock with her cousin. I mean, I’m not judging her for that, but this deranged guy probably will. She leaves Riverdale because of this.
At the hospital, Kevin and Moose share a really tender moment. Kevin confesses that he’s aware cruising in the woods is dangerous, but he can’t stop—he doesn’t care. Moose understands this, saying Riverdale is hard for “guys like them” (read: queer) and finding bliss for just two minutes in the woods is a coping mechanism. Ugh, why aren’t they dating? They’d be the hottest couple on this show!
After his visit to the hospital, Cheryl spots Kevin running into the woods again and tells Betty about it. They ambush Kevin, and Betty tells him he should have more self-respect—which is the wrong thing to say. He gives a genuinely moving speech about how he doesn’t have the same options as Betty in Riverdale. This is the only way he can find intimacy, and she needs to stop judging him for it. All true things. Yeesh, this subplot is taking me back to high school.
Hiram invites Archie to dinner, which, for some reason, Hermione thinks is a bad idea. I’m starting to think she’s the sketchiest one out of this whole family. It’s clear Hermione still thinks Hiram is dangerous, but she won’t admit it—and until she does, Veronica says she doesn’t have the right to ban Archie from family dinners. Hiram overhears Hermione and Veronica arguing about this and straight-up threatens Hermione to stop poisoning his relationship with Veronica. It’s scary. He’s scary. He’s definitely the sketchiest of this twisted Brady Bunch.
Hiram and Archie have a super-tense chat in Hiram’s mysterious office; he gives some ominous warning about how Archie shouldn’t sneak into Veronica’s room anymore. He then gives some whack-a-doo advice about how Archie’s Red Circle should use fear and violence to defeat the Black Hood. If this means more bloodshed, I’m done.
And, yup, Jughead should’ve listened to Betty: The Ghoulies jump him, probably because they’re onto his snooping. He lies to Betty about it, and Toni tells him this should give him more incentive to join the Serpents. He probably won’t because he’s dumb.
Oh no. Oh God. Kevin goes back into the woods, and a strange dude asks him if he needs a ride. He has a vision about this guy being Black Hood and rejects his invite; the dude then gets aggressive, but Kevin runs off before anything happens. My nerves! At home, Kevin’s dad (the sheriff) confronts him about his cruising and says he cares about his safety. It’s a truly endearing moment with distinct shades of Kurt and Burt Hummel on Glee.
We end things with Veronica asking to have a more active role in Lodge Industries. (This is just so she can see what Hiram’s doing in his eerie office space, TBH.) Jughead, clearly shook from the Ghoulies beatdown, decides to eat lunch with the Serpents. Kevin’s still pissed at Betty. And Archie’s Red Circle films a mildly intimidating—but mostly just sexually arousing—video threatening Black Hood. Hiram’s thrilled. I care about this subplot the least, yet it’s the most prominent one.