Riverdale Season 3, Episode 11: “The Red Dahlia”

In this episode, Betty learns moral lessons totally unjustified by actual events; Jughead channels Humphrey Bogart to rather amusing effect; Archie continues to be an absolute bore; and Veronica’s outfits are by far the MVP of the episode.

Previously on Riverdale: The Serpents caught Tall Boy dressed as Gargoyle King; Hiram got the town quarantined due to contagious seizures; Hiram followed Archie around and Archie and Veronica broke up; Betty visited her dad in jail; Claudius Blossom died in jail and Minetta was found decapitated in the swamp; Sweet Pea totally killed Tall Boy for some reason; and Hiram got shot.

Jughead’s narration starts us off, as usual. Didn’t he used to have a laptop? Now he’s got an actual typewriter. He refers to Riverdale as “Noir Town” and explains to us that everyone has secrets. Like for example, Jughead’s secret that Sweet Pea and Fangs killed Tall Boy. When FP interrogates him in the bunker, Jughead sticks to his story that he put Tall Boy on the bus, even though Tall Boy’s body is literally under the cot where FP is sitting, not even  hidden by long blankets or anything! FP is … not the best sheriff.

Meanwhile, Betty’s investigating Claudius’s murder, which apparently necessitates visiting her dad. She thinks Penelope may have brought the cyanide that Claudius ingested, which killed him. Hal asks why she’s the only one asking questions (the acting choices are such here that I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be acting creepy or just bored) and Betty’s answer, no joke, is “Because it’s black and white and wrong, dad!” She lists all the things she thinks Penelope’s done and Hal points out that there are other suicides that could’ve been murders. Like Clifford’s supposed suicide–where not only Penelope, but Cheryl, was present. “If there’s a witness,” Hal says, “it’s not a perfect murder.”

Jughead informs us that Archie is now searching for a sense of purpose. Oh goody, more existential angst painted onto an almost entirely blank character! He tells Fred that he doesn’t think college is for him and that he wants to work with his hands, like maybe for Fred’s construction company. Fred, saint and/or pushover that he is, agrees to this and tells Archie that the shift starts in an hour.

Next thing you know, Archie is working out all his “anger” by pounding rocks. The dude in charge (foreman?) announces a break, which Archie ignores. He yells that it’s a union shop and the break is mandatory and Archie goes, “I don’t need a break.” Uh… mandatory breaks aren’t just for when you need them. When the much bigger foreman yells at him again, Archie legit gets into a shoving match with the guy. What a brat! When your dad gives you a job on no notice, you don’t start the first day with open insubordination and violence. Ugh, Archie is the WORST.

Veronica stands in La Bonne Nuit examining a giant floral arrangement Elio brought in honor of Hiram’s gunshot wound. He says, “I’m praying he pulls through.” Veronica responds, “Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.” Um… it doesn’t sound like Elio thought he was dead? But OK? Elio warns her that whoever tried to kill Hiram will probably try again.

Veronica stands in a doorway with a dramatic black hat and a dramatic black coat.

Seriously this outfit is deliciously bonkers. What will she wear if Hiram actually dies?

So she shows up to Jughead’s office (aka the library at school) in an outfit that looks like it belongs on a widow on a soap opera set in the 40s, hands Jughead a pile of money, and asks him to find out who wants to kill her dad. Jughead, also playing this like a cheesy noir, whistles and goes, “I think half this town wants to see your old man kick the maple barrel.” I become worried at this point that the two of them are going to hook up, which I think would cause a fandom war on the level of Chair and Dair–especially because right before she shows up, Jughead is babbling about problems and says that “a hell of a good-looking one was about to walk through my door.” Veronica tells him about the fight she overheard between her mom and dad after her seizure. Jughead agrees to look into it and shakes her hand while his voiceover informs us, “I didn’t mind playing detective. Especially for this price.” What?! Playing detective is literally all you do. Why would we need to be informed that you don’t mind doing it? Sigh. “But if I’d known then and there where this investigation would lead me, I never would’ve taken the money.”

Spoiler alert in case you found this statement intriguing, the outcome isn’t really that bad.

Jughead shows up to Hermione’s office and asks if she shot her husband. Her: “I love my husband.” Jughead, bored: “Uh-huh. But did you shoot him?” Hee. He asks about the argument Veronica overheard, which Hermione quickly (way too quickly if you’ve ever seen a murder mystery ever) answers was due to Hiram having an affair. “I had Sheriff Minetta follow him. This was before he got butchered, of course,” she says calmly. Heh! She provides Jughead with photos of the mystery woman and says that Hiram has ended his affair. I enjoy how all the adults are always willing to stop their business and answer Betty and Jughead’s intrusive questions at a moment’s notice.

Back at the Andrews house, Fred scolds Archie and Archie’s defense is, “I was just doing my job.” Uh… no. Fred chases him down and shows him the alcohol he found in Archie’s room, but Archie just stomps off like the brat he is. Fred yells after him to “shape up.”

Betty arrives in the Blossom drawing room, where Penelope is holding some kind of service for Claudius. Speaking of forties widows’ costumes, Penelope is wearing a red strapless dress with a black lace turtleneck over it. Wow. When Betty sits down, Penelope resumes her tearful speech–and an old aunt leans over and whispers to Betty, “Crocodile tears.”

After the service, Cheryl asks Betty what she’s doing there. In typical Betty fashion, Betty lays all her cards out without considering if she should maybe be a little cautious around the, erm, complicated Cheryl. She says that people connected to Penelope keep dying and mentions Cheryl’s dad, which elicits an icy description of his suicide from Cheryl. A protective Tony pops up behind her and rescues Cheryl from Betty’s “investigation.”

Jughead has been summoned to the bunker by Sweet Pea and Fangs, who are upset because the Gargoyles are looking for Sweet Pea. Jughead says it’s too “hot” to move Sweet Pea right now. How long has it been since this dude died? I bet that bunker smells LOVELY. He tells Sweet Pea to tail someone for him.

Veronica stands in Hiram’s room looking pensively at her unconscious father. Next thing you know she’s telling two random lackeys that they need to present a strong front. The lackeys say that people have already noticed the “Man in Black”’s absence and that they should unite with the Grandes — Elio’s family. Veronica fires them for “mob-splaining” to her what’s best for her family. Ha! I mean this seems like a terrible move, but I like the pun.

Since these were apparently the last two “capos” her dad had, she is now bringing in the most inadequate backup you can think of: Smithers, the former doorman who’s about eighty years old, and Reggie, the mouthbreather. Or as Veronica calls him, her “jacked jack of all trades.” Smithers tells a long story about “back in the trenches” when they tricked “the enemy” into thinking “the barricade” was full of soldiers by putting their dead’s helmets on “bayonets.” First of all I find it hilarious that they don’t even bother to say what war this was. It’s just “in the trenches.” But second of all, bayonets?! WHAT YEAR WAS THIS? I take it back. Smithers isn’t eighty. He’s a hundred and eighty. “You’ve just given me an idea, Smithers,” Veronica says. I mean… I think he had the idea and was sharing it with you, but sure, Veronica. On the bright side, I really enjoy Veronica’s entire getup right now, which includes not only the widow’s weeds but fab dark nails and a giant pink drink.

We get a somewhat rare treat next, with Betty and Jughead pairing up on an investigation. Betty only has time to look for Hiram’s mistress with Jughead because she’s waiting for a call from Curdle Junior. For some reason Jughead was able to find out what floor Hiram’s mistress was on but not what room she was in, so he and Betty have a little couple’s time in between knocking on doors. (Sorry, that’s not a euphemism. They’re actually just hanging out and talking about their cases.) At one door Betty suggests moving on and Jughead says, “Would Bogart move on?” and for some reason this turns out to be a hotel room with an unlocked door that leads into a sex club.

This sex club is accompanied by pink lights, ladies in forties outfits, and the gentle sound of whips. You know, like any sex club you might find in suburban America. The first woman they encounter explains helpfully that it’s called the “Maple Club.” Gee… wonder who’s running it? Jughead has to bribe her to answer his questions about the photo of Hiram’s mistress. They’re sent to “room 311,” but before they can go there, they run into Penelope.

What did I tell you? Penelope immediately sits down to answer Betty and Jughead’s questions while she’s in the middle of what must be a somewhat taxing shift at the S&M-lite Maple Club. Penelope claims to be a friend to women, and launches into a sob story about being sold from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy by a “monsignor.” Betty says hilariously, “Fine, you didn’t kill the fake nuns. Did you kill Claudius?” Heh. She says that she was here when Claudius died and to ask the girls. The kids act all defeated, but we don’t even see them check the alibi, so…?

Jughead tries to get Betty to come with him to room 311, but she gets a text from Curdle Junior and ditches him–with Jughead looking affectionately after her.

Over at La Bonne Nuit, Josie sings while Archie gets drunk (I don’t know when they got a liquor license but I really support this move). Reggie tries to cut him off for his own sake, but Archie immediately gets belligerent again and starts yelling for another bartender. Before you know it, he’s getting his head slammed down on the bar. Josie stops singing to come to his rescue, and walks a staggering Archie out of the bar… and into…. a bathtub? What is happening? Archie mumbles about not telling Veronica about this, and Josie just tells him he needs a cold shower. YES. I am so on board with this.

After the break, Veronica embarks on her Smithers-inspired trickery. Jughead narrates this as “smoke and mirrors with a pretty girl.” I mean, she is pretty, but is anyone else concerned by the fact that he keeps mentioning this fact? Are we headed for a shipper war that could break the internet? Anyway, she walks up to some construction workers in a nearly floor-length black coat and demands payment, with Smithers and Reggie hanging out in the car–Reggie disguised as the Man in Black. Disguising her boyfriend as her dad? Kinky!

Betty meets up with Curdle at the morgue and finds out that in fact, Curdle Senior was a “curious man” who performed an autopsy on Clifford after his supposed suicide. Apparently he was poisoned with puffer-fish venom before hanging. Wow. There’s a lot of poisoning happening on this show. Jughead’s narration says helpfully, “And Betty Cooper thought, ‘Gotcha!’” You know, just like the heroines of classic noir movies thought.

In the morning, Josie feeds Archie a lemon-cayenne-ginger hangover concoction. She suggests he channel his anger into something constructive. He could box at the gym if he’s in the mood to hit things. Archie, his hair looking like he just got out of the cold shower from last night, kind of smiles at this. Then he goes into a whole thing about how he thought he’d faced his demons “at the cabin.” Josie is understandably confused, but for some reason Archie comes to the conclusion that he has to face “and kill” his demons again. Uh… don’t do that, Archie! Ugh this boy is SO DUMB. I CAN’T EVEN.

In Hiram’s office, Veronica is looking through Hermione’s papers and finds “a shady collection of invoices and receipts.” Ah, yes, those shady collections. She accuses Hermione of being part of the Fizzle Rocks empire. Hermione’s defense: “No.” Uh… very convincing. She claims the quarantine was a distraction to let Hiram shut off his empire, but Hiram lied to her. But seriously, she wants no part of this! Veronica, who has apparently not learned anything about her mother all this time, is like “OK, great! Let’s destroy the drug-making equipment together!” Hermione says that’s “one option,” but they could also sell it. Sure. She wants “no part” of this. Except, you know, the money.

Betty goes right to Penelope to tell her she knows she poisoned Clifford. Again… wouldn’t it help for Betty to stop running around informing all the many villains of Riverside of the exact status of her investigation? Penelope doesn’t even bother denying it and just asks Betty why she thinks she does it. Betty: “Because you’re… a black widow. The Red Dahlia, let’s call you.” Hashtag titleofepisodespokenbycharacter. Penelope’s answer is that men are the true poison and that actually Claudius caused all the seizures. The runoff from manufacturing Fizzle Rocks was the culprit. When Betty asks why, she says, “I am an herbalist, Betty, not a medical doctor.” Oh–you don’t say! Betty still thinks it was wrong for Penelope to kill Claudius… but Penelope points out that Betty also killed someone who was bad, aka the guy you all forgot about from season 2, Chick. Penelope says if Betty turns her in, she’ll turn in Betty.

Jughead: “And that’s when betty realized. No one’s innocent in Crime Town.” That might be an even dumber name for Riverdale than “Noir Town.”

As for the narrator himself, Jughead is in the hotel room of Hiram’s mistress when he finds a “Glamerge egg.” The woman herself interrupts him there and points a gun at him and it’s KELLY EFFING RIPA, you guys. I love that! He remarks that it’s weird a water inspector has a gun, so… if you were wondering what part of the country this takes place in, I guess we can safely say it’s a blue state. Jughead says he’ll drop the precious egg if she shoots him, and this somehow makes her drop her gun. Jughead starts juggling the thing while he asks how she affords the “Five Seasons.” “I’m no kept woman. I do a job, I get paid for it,” she says. Kind of funny because that also does describe a kept woman. When he asks why she faked the water test report (which Penelope mentioned in her scene with Betty as well), Kelly Ripa loses all patience and says she’ll shoot him egg or no egg, so he leaves.

But then he gets a call from Sweet Pea, who brings him to spy outside Hermione’s window where she’s making out with none other than supposedly-decapitated Sheriff Minetta. Twist! She tells him to take care of their “little outstanding problem” and to use the sheriff’s gun so it looks like it was FP. “They’re talking about framing my Dad,” Jughead says brilliantly. Sweet Pea asks for what, and Jughead says he’ll have to figure it out–and leaves before he can hear the rest of the conversation. Great investigating, chief.

Ohhhh, no. Archie enters an entirely empty hospital, and Jughead informs us he’s “on a collision course with his dark destiny.” And he’s holding a gun.

BORED.

Jughead finds FP in the sheriff’s office, which is being kept extremely dark and blue for some reason, and tells him that Hermione and Sheriff Minetta are planning to kill off Hiram and blame it on FP. How did he find out, you ask? We learn in a black-and-white flashback that Jughead visited Curdle Junior and he promptly confessed that Hermione asked him to identify the headless torso as Minetta’s. He wants FP to arrest them, but FP says he can’t–because he (FP) shot Hiram. Hermione asked him to and he wanted revenge for Riot Night. FP gets in a little scenery-chewing of his own, ranting about how he’s been “BI-ding my TIME” waiting for revenge. Jughead says bitterly, “I guess it’s lucky that you have me in your corner.” Then he confesses about Tall Boy and says he has an idea.

Archie is taking a page from Jughead’s, er, typewriter and giving Hiram an emo speech about his emotional pain before killing him. Unfortunately, the emo speech takes so long that someone else comes in to shoot at Hiram before Archie can get around to it. So Archie shoots them in the arm, I guess because he wants to shoot Hiram himself? But not right away, because Reasons?

Hermione has now agreed to sit down for an interview on camera with FP; Alice is behind the camera. FP cheerfully informs Hermione that he’s found Hiram’s shooter, and that it was Tall Boy. I mean, Hermione, if your partner in crime randomly asks you to do an on-camera interview with them in (once again) a COMPLETELY DARK ROOM, maybe don’t agree? Hermione says pleasantly that she’s glad this is all over. FP suggests that Alice interview Hermione next. (What… is she doing now?) So that they’ll both be on the record, he says. Subtle, FP.

Veronica finds Reggie and tells him they need to destroy the drug equipment before Hermione can sell it. Reggie says he’s in… but Veronica gets a call from Archie and runs off, though not before asking Reggie to complete the task on his own. WOW Veronica is taking advantage of Reggie so hard. What a jerk.

Veronica meets Archie at the hospital with a long hug. She thanks him for keeping her dad alive and asks what he was doing there. “I came looking for you,” Archie says. I realize that objectively trying to murder Hiram is worse than lying to Veronica, but for some reason this shocked me. He is going to take credit for this? Ugh Archie is such a jerk! He apologizes for not being himself, and she apologizes for thinking he might harm Hiram. This would be Archie’s cue to tell her she was right, but he doesn’t. What an effing hero. She tells him that Hiram’s awake and wants to see him, and offers him her friendship. Veronica, stop! Go back to Reggie! He will literally single-handedly destroy drug equipment in defiance of scary gangs for the love of you!

Archie enters Hiram’s room and tells him all he wants is to live in peace in Riverdale. Hiram offers a truce: he won’t mess with Archie if Archie doesn’t mess with him.

Meanwhile, Veronica and Reggie have started a bonfire of what is apparently supposed to be drug paraphernalia, though it appears to consist largely of pink cardboard boxes. What a fun first date!

Betty visits her dad and tells him what she found out. She says that she’d planned to turn Penelope in, but that she feels sorry for her now. Hal agrees that he and Penelope were both “twisted” by the environment they were raised. Uh… I feel like this is going to sound callous, but I’m not sure if being sold by one monsignor is actually justification for a multi-decade poisoning rampage. Blah blah blah, Betty has learned that things are not black and white. Hal wants her to see him with compassion too. Don’t fall for it, Betty!

Archie finds Josie doing her homework at La Bonne Nuit, which sounds dumb except that La Bonne Nuit is actually almost as deserted as a library. He asks about boxing with Mr. Keller, and then asks if she wants to jam. Josie grins and agrees. I smell a romance I’m not gonna care about!

Veronica, once again wearing an absurd black hat, proudly tells her mom that she set fire to all the drug equipment. Hermione wails that the buyer already paid for the stuff, and Veronica says proudly that she saved her from being a drug dealer. Hermione already spent the money paying off the governor, though, so she’s totally screwed — not that Veronica cares.

Hermione and Jughead are having a conversation in, I think, the school library. Jughead is being even more hilarious than usual, walking with a kind of James Dean swagger as he outlines in tough-guy Bogart language what he’s found out–you know, Kelly Ripa The Water Inspector doctoring reports for Hiram, the seizures, the drugs, all the stuff we already know. The new part is that he thinks Hermione hired FP to shoot Hiram because she was mad at what the water contamination was doing to the girls. Hermione does not give one fuck: she says that if she goes down, FP goes down. Then she full-on grabs Jughead by both sides of his collar and tells him in a sexy voice that they should keep each other’s secrets. Uh, keep it in your pants, Hermione!

Back home, Hermione cuddles with Minetta until he suggests tying up loose ends with FP and the kids–and she takes the cue by shooting him like eight times. Maybe she thinks Jughead is too pretty to kill.

Veronica once again comes to find Jughead in her sexy widow outfit. Seriously, are these two going to make out? She gives Jughead the second half of his payment, and says she told Hiram Tall Boy was the one who tried to kill him, and that she’s willing to believe that story. He asks if she wants to know who really did it and she just says, “Forget it, Jughead. It’s Riverdale.” Oooookay then.

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3 Comments

    1. Yeah the show is doing this weird thing where they want Archie to be the most complicated/angsty one, yet have not done any true work to bring him to life as a consistent character, so everything he does makes no sense and drives me bonkers! 🙂

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  1. But the fact that Hiram and Archie’s plot-line comes down to a truce after two to three episodes this season was about Archie being away from home because he was running from Hiram… seriously? That’s like ordering a pizza, getting all hype about about the pizza, and then once I get the pizza there’s no cheese. Like what? All the excitement for one lousy handshake.

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