Previously on Riverdale: The grownups met to discuss a Pact they had regarding the Gargoyle King and a mysterious Night on which something bad happened; Ethel had a seizure after mentioning the Gargoyle King to Betty and Jughead; Ben killed himself to be with the Gargoyle King; Edgar’s creepy daughter Evelyn introduced herself to Betty; and Archie had a fight in the prison yard and was “tapped” by the warden to be the “new Mad Dog.”
The lights come up on Archie, who’s in some kind of isolation torture cell. The sadistic Warden comes to check on him and, when he’s still intransigent, leaves him there for another week.
Meanwhile, FP and Alice are totally post-coitally snuggling in bed! Whoa. Actually I kind of like it. FP says he’s happy that the farm convinced Alice to make out with him. Alice, in return, softly says that it’s been three weeks with no mysterious blue-lip murder. Not so good at the pillow talk is she?
After a somewhat Freudian cut, we learn that Betty and Jughead are also post-coitally cuddling at that same moment. Betty asks if it’s “ghoulish” for them to be using the bunker like this. Jughead doesn’t think so. Am I allowed to weigh in? Because yes. Yes it is. Like mother, like daughter: Betty is also bad at pillow talk. She remarks that there was no screaming when Ben killed himself, and the kids conclude that they need a rule book. “Every cult has its king,” says Jughead, which is one of those lines this show loves that sounds really dramatic, but, as soon as you think about it for half a second, actually makes no sense at all. (But look, I’m a straight woman, and I’m only human! I’ll listen to Jughead intensely reciting dramatic nonsense all day long.)
Archie shows up to the prison and asks to visit Archie. The warden declares that Archie started a riot and that his privileges have been revoked, and “I will decide when it is appropriate for him to receive visitors again.” My first, naive reaction was, “I doubt that’s how visitation works in real juvenile detention centers.” My second reaction was, actually… who even knows. Like, the shit that goes down in this silly prison storyline is wildly cartoonish, yet real life in private prisons is also cartoonishly evil. (The difference, of course, is that in real life it’s happening mostly to black boys, whereas Riverdale takes place in a post-racial fantasy world where the prison-industrial complex is just a scary boogeyman that has nothing to do with racism or Jim Crow.)
Speaking of cartoonish, Stepford Veronica is at Pop’s and she announces to Betty that the speakeasy she’s planning in the basement (have we ever heard of this before?) is ready but that she is waiting for Archie, while also telling Betty that Pop’s is in major financial trouble. Gee, I can’t think of any possible solutions to that problem! Betty gently tells Veronica that Archie wouldn’t want her to put her life on hold. You know, because it’s not the fifties and she’s not Betty Draper.
Later, at school, Betty and Jughead have an adorable exchange. She mentions the speakeasy and oh-so-casually says that Veronica will have a pretty strict dress code. “What are you getting at?” Jughead jokes, in his t-shirt and his weird hat, as Betty just raises her eyebrows demurely. Awww.
Then they see Evelyn talking to Ethel and Betty immediately jumps to the conclusion that the farm and the game are related. They decide to talk to Ethel first, because Betty avers that Evelyn “creeps me out.” I am wholly in support of this decision.
Kevin and Josie show up to the speakeasy, which is set up like the classic New York speakeasy, Please Don’t Tell: You enter a little phone booth, dial the right number, and get let in to the speakeasy, which in this case is in the basement. Veronica calls it “La Bonne Nuit.” I missed it on first viewing, but she also says that the speakeasy ONLY SERVES MOCKTAILS because it isn’t in the business of corrupting minors. What?! So the diner itself is struggling financially but we’re supposed to believe that what is essentially a hidden JUICE BAR in the basement is going to solve its financial problems? Josie excitedly agrees to sing and Kevin to MC. Veronica whips out some French: “Mais oui.” Wow, you’re basically fluent!
Then she’s called upstairs to deal with an unexpected visitor: Penny Peabody. (Penny reminds me of Sylar from Heroes: she’s too evil, she kind of sucks all the fun out of the episode as soon as she appears.) In this case, she’s offering protection to the diner in exchange for cold hard cash. She also speaks the episode’s title, praising the diner and then remarking, “as above, so below.” She’d hate for something bad to happen to the speakeasy! The Tinkling Chords of Impending Attack By A Sociopath accompany her exit.
The Warden brings Archie to a gym that he calls “The Pit,” where everyone watches from above as Joaquin and some other dude are in a brutal fistfight. Apparently being “tapped” means that Archie is supposed to be participating in this fight club, although only one person is tapped at a time and people like Joaquin are also participating, but I wouldn’t examine the logic of any of this too closely.
The Warden, continuing to play up to his cartoonishly sadistic evil persona, remarks that Joaquin is “nearing the end of his usefulness.” Of course that breaks Archie immediately, because you can always count on Archie to embark on a misguided hero quest if you wave it in front of him. He agrees to participate, and next you know he’s in an underground training yard, meeting fellow fighters Baby Teeth, Thumper, and Peter. Poor Peter. How come he doesn’t get a cheesy nickname? Archie joins Baby Teeth at the punching bag ,and Baby Teeth explains that the warden sells tickets and the guards place bets. But when Archie asks about Mad Dog they get interrupted by a guard. The mystery thickens! I know we’re all curious about a bunch of random characters we met one episode ago!
At school, Veronica is busily promoting the opening of the worst speakeasy in the world. She promises a cuddly Tony and Cheryl free drinks and no cover. You’re going to charge a COVER to get into a speakeasy that only serves MOCKTAILS?! I am so offended right now. I think I’m more offended by this concept than by everything in Archie’s entire storyline combined.
Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty find Ethel, who doesn’t believe that they can help. Betty asks if she had any visions during her seizure, but Ethel doesn’t remember. She insists that Evelyn’s helping her get better so she can get off her meds, and then tells them about a peer support group Evelyn’s starting at school that’s an offspring of the Farm. Jughead follows Ethel to ask about what Ben said, about joining Dilton in “The Kingdom.”
That’s when things get funny — this is totally the best scene of the episode. Jughead asks if there’s a scripture that tells all the rules. Ethel plays coy, but Jughead puts on his most charming roguish smile and begs, “Please? Princess Ethelene?” She tells him not to call her that, because he’s not worthy of the scripture. Jughead says, straight-faced, “I want to be worthy, Ethel. Could you please show me how?” Then the funniest part: Ethel says softly that Jughead can meet her tomorrow at the bunker, but just him. She turns to Betty and says politely, “Sorry, Betty, but you’ll never be worthy no matter how hard you try.” Betty makes this hilarious face where she tries to act disappointed that she’s not worthy of playing Ethel’s weird murder game:
Over at the Worst Speakeasy Ever, Veronica and Reggie (who seem like they’re maybe about to hook up, because Reggie spends all his time helping Veronica with her doomed project?) get a mysterious shipment of jingle-jangle. They’re alarmed, but in my opinion, that’s the most fun this speakeasy has been all week! Sheriff Minetta just so happens to show up for an inspection at that exact moment, so Veronica leaves Reggie downstairs to get rid of the stuff. By the time they get down there, he’s ostentatiously polishing a glass with his lips pursed in a completely inadequate attempt to Be Cool. The Sheriff doesn’t spot any jingle-jangle but he does outright demand a cash bribe, payable after the opening. I mean when there’s about eight plotlines going on in any given episode, I guess your villains don’t really have time to be subtle.
Over at school, Betty shows up to the peer support group only to find it empty. Evelyn comes in and says awkwardly that the support group “Just needs time to catch on.” Aw, she’s acting almost like a normal kid who’s founded a club that no one wants to join! You almost have to feel bad for her. But I do not blame Betty for not taking the pizza Evelyn offers. Who knows what’s sprinkled on the top of that bad boy. Betty jumps right in to ask about the help Evelyn is providing Ethel. Evelyn says she’s trying to get Ethel off her medication and asks if Betty is taking any. Betty says no, but that she’s having seizures daily and she was hoping Evelyn’s dad could help. Evelyn lights up. Betty has her in the palm of her hand!
In the middle of the night, Archie is kidnapped from his bed and brought to the fighting pit, where he faces off against a super built dude and takes him out with two well-timed punches. The crowd yells in disappointment as the Warden looks on disapprovingly. We find out why after commercials, when Archie strolls out to the yard with the victory lunch provided to the winner (he asks for Pop’s, of course) and Baby Teeth asks what the Warden thinks of him ending the fight so fast.
If you’ve noticed that Betty and Jughead are basically on their own detective show totally separate from Veronica and Archie, here’s more proof: Veronica has to go to Cheryl and Tony, who are for whatever reason hanging out in what appears to be some kind of junkyard set up in Sunnyside Trailer Park, to ask them where Jughead is. V, why not text your female bestie, Betty?! She and Jughead are joined at the hips (or the lips). Veronica explains about Penny Peabody and Sheriff Minetta–but blames the whole thing on her father. That sounds like Veronica’s illogical paranoia to me, but the other girls buy into it: Tony explains that the Ghoulies have set up a jingle-jangle lab in the basement of the Hiram-owned White Wyrm. And, by massively convenient coincidence, Tony knows the place inside out because she used to bartend there. How old are all these people?! I’m so confused. Or maybe she was just bartending mocktails?
Anyway, the girls wear their exact same thigh- and chest-baring outfits to break into the Jingle-Jangle lab and take a bunch of photos of all the equipment. “This should be plenty of admissible evidence for blackmail, Veronica,” Cheryl says. I love that she thinks there’s some standard of evidence for blackmailers.
Over at Dilton’s bunker, Jughead joins Princess Ethelene in full regal garb in the bunker, which she’s lined with candles. Ummm I realize that when you’re playing a game that involves drinking cyanide you’ve pretty much abandoned traditional notions of safety, but should they really have filled an underground bunker with open flame? But nothing daunted, Jughead sits down to play.
Betty arrives home to find her living room infested with Farmies, including Evelyn. Poor Betty is like, “Where’s Edgar?” All the other brainwashed beauties gently laugh and explain that she has to reach a certain level to meet him. First she has to participate in a testimony — which Evelyn explains is a “non-judgmental conversation” about everything she’s ever done wrong in her life. Oh, that sounds like a great idea! In fact, the Farmies already know about how Betty and her mother disposed of a dead body in their kitchen. Obviously this is stupid of Alice, but I’m just impressed that she even remembers that when so much more insane shit has gone down in this show since then. I personally had completely forgotten. They also know about Betty’s wig and her web camming. Awkward!
Betty loses her temper and brings up the fact that Evelyn is there at everyone’s seizure and that the Farm’s appearance coincided with the appearance of G&G, oh and by the way, Edgar Evernever is probably the Gargoyle King! (Until Betty said that I was kind of predicting he would be, which I realize would be really predictable. Perhaps I was underestimating this show — we’ll see.) Evelyn says gently that the first time any Farmies heard of that game was from Alice. The Loud Drum Clash of a Dramatic Revelation sounds in the background as Betty slowly puts this all together, that the game was part of her mother’s past. Alice totally panics, and Betty, looking like she’s about to faint, makes a quick escape.
Over at the bunker (I realize it kills the fun to point this out, but over at Betty’s house it’s like broad daylight and I thought Ethel and Jughead were meeting at night?). Ethel is the dungeon-master, I mean the game-master, and she leads Jughead right into the room with two chalices. Jughead refuses, but Ethel says that if he wants to prove himself worthy, he has to drink one of them. He asks if there’s poison in the Fresh-Aids, and Ethel responds in a snooty voice, “It’s Gargoyle blood, Hellcaster, as you well know.” Hee! Jughead protests for way too short a time and then asks if he’ll get the scripture if he drinks one of the goblets. Um, WHAT?! Fifty percent chance of dying just to get his hands on the scripture? This kid is a little too committed.
So, for god knows what reason, Jughead flips a coin, lifts the resulting goblet, and drinks it all down. Nothing happens. Jughead demands the rule book through his blue lips, and Ethel demands a kiss first. She says it’s in the rule book, but I think we all know she’s abusing her power to get a chance to kiss the pretty boy. That’s called sexual harassment, Princess Etheline! Anyway, Jughead rather begrudgingly kisses her and, while he’s marveling over the rule book, Ethel totally drinks down the other–poisoned–goblet.
It turns out that calling 911 saved Ethel. She wakes up in the hospital and Jughead explains that she got an antidote in time to save her. He tells her it’s over–that she has to tell her parents. Ethel gives him her Gryphon-addled smile and says, “It’s only just beginning.” She told the King that Jughead was worthy. Jughead basically ignores her and says the game is over. Ethel’s response is, “Thank you, Hellcaster.” I don’t think your message got through there, Juggy.
Over in her own little plot universe, Veronica finds her father and tells him to call off Penny and Minetta, or she’ll turn the photos of the jingle-jangle labs into the FBI. She also demands $10,000 a week in perpetuity and says, “That’s right, Daddy. I’m shaking you down.” Uh, where I come from that’s called blackmail, but sure!
Archie has been called into the Warden’s office, where the Warden has seen fit to turn off all the lights so that he and Archie are standing in the dim blue moonlight leaking in from the window. He reprimands Archie for ending a fight in one punch and tells him that he needs to take his time with the next one. The words “sate” and “bloodlust” are used. It’s pretty absurd.
Even more absurd, we are now treated to a monologuing Archie in his cell, remarking on the not particularly subtle irony that he voluntarily went to jail to pay for the nebulous concept of “what he did,” and now he’s doing so much worse stuff. Hey, maybe if you didn’t confess to a murder you didn’t commit, you wouldn’t be in this mess and you wouldn’t have been written into this bonkers plot ghetto? Just a thought. It turns out he’s monologuing to Fred Andrews. I have to wonder how this actor feels about being pulled back onto the show for a bananas prison fight club storyline. Fred’s advice? “There are other ways of putting on a show for the warden.” Then he disappears. It’s all very dramatic.
Alice finds Betty sitting at her vanity in a silk robe, because of course she is. Betty tries to explain to her mother that she’s now put both herself and Betty under the power of the Farm, but Alice’s composure cannot be swayed by such a small thing as reality. She tells Betty she trusts the Farm more than her anyway. Yikes.
Veronica’s Martinelli Speakeasy is having its grand opening. Everyone has dressed in sparkly New Year’s Eve type outfits–even Jughead has seen fit to pair his usual hat with a dark suit. But the loyal Reggie warns Veronica that they have a problem “topside.” Hiram has shown up–to donate the portrait of Veronica to Pop’s. What do you want to bet he has a camera stashed in there? Or more jingle-jangle? He says he’s proud of her, and Veronica shows him downstairs, but has Reggie keep an eye on him.
Kevin, emceeing, introduces Josie, not before ineptly pronouncing La Bonne Nuit as “Lay Boh Nuee.” Josie sings Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” which turns into a montage of Archie’s fight, where Archie demands his opponent to hit him instead. “Make me bleed!” he yells like the emo kid he secretly is. (Can you tell I’m really, REALLY over this prison storyline?) But, finally, once he’s really beat up, he gets up and knocks out his opponent with one punch. “That kid is a star,” the Warden intones creepily from above.
Archie returns to his cell and finds it filled with Mad Dog’s hand-me-downs. The Warden appears to give him a bottle of Lodge-brand rum as a “token of appreciation.” Have I mentioned that Archie is super emo now? Because he is. His next step is to have a bunch of flashbacks to Hiram looking on as his life was destroyed, and then to throw the bottle of liquor at the wall (gee, have a little pity and donate it to Veronica’s sad speakeasy, why dontcha?), and then to like punch all the rest of his furniture, because he actually is kind of violent and thuggish.
Betty and Jughead are hanging out in the trailer when FP and Alice arrive themselves. Awkward! They start yelling at the kids asking where they got the rulebook, but Betty says she won’t tell until the parents share what they know about the game. FP just says it’s “pure evil.” (Yeah, I think we got that from the hilarious scene in the morgue where the mortician decided to declare Dilton’s murder pure evil.) Anyway, FP runs out and throws the rule book into a conveniently located bonfire.
Now it’s Veronica’s turn to sit in front of her vanity in her ostentatiously luxurious robe (actually it’s pretty covetable; it’s black, with a fur collar and I would totally wear it if the fur were fake and if I had three hundred dollars to spend on a damn bathrobe). Veronica surmises that he’s already cleared out his drug lab, and Hiram leaves smugly.
Meanwhile, Archie strides into the prison yard. He tells all his new friends that Mad Dog kept a rock hammer in his book. And get this: it’s not a rock hammer that can like dig tunnels. It’s just a tortured metaphor: for some reason Archie knows that Mad Dog kept it as a “reminder that there’s a world outside that’s worth getting back to.” Then he announces that they’re going to escape. “I’m in,” Joaquin immediately says.
I mean, I am SO READY for this prison storyline to be over. But like. Come on. If it’s as easy as getting rilly rilly mad and deciding to break out, then couldn’t he have just broken out in the first episode and saved us from having to watch all of this fight club nonsense?! I’m just saying.
Back to the reason I’m still watching, Betty and Jughead have once again availed themselves of the sexiest possible location to make out: the underground bunker where at least one of their friends drank poison. Hot! They’re cuddling and talking about the rule book, which Jughead–in case we didn’t catch this before–announces was “pure evil.” I think we get it, guys. Thanks. Betty is convinced their parents have played the game, but Jughead thinks no one will ever play again since the rulebook was destroyed. “It’s over,” he says. Of course, this is the third episode of the season so we all know it is not, in fact, over.
Cut to Ethel talking to herself in her hospital bed, telling the Gargoyle King that she has “spread his gospel.” Sure enough, the next morning Jughead arrives at school and finds that there is a copy of the rulebook (bound and everything, which is an impressive feat for Ethel to have pulled off) in each person’s locker. Jughead’s Melodramatic Voiceover intones, “The real game is just beginning.”