This episode continues to exhibit the same qualities as a bowl of plot spaghetti BUT, at least we get to hear Gladys Jones sing!
Previously on Riverdale: Veronica owed Hiram $75K for burning his equipment but also owed Gladys about the same amount for burning the equipment Gladys had prepaid for; Cheryl started a gang for Toni called the Pretty Poisons; Gladys told Jughead to quit the speakeasy and incorporate the Gargoyles for numbers, but Kurtz, the King of the Gargoyles (not to be confused with the actual Gargoyle king), was totes creepy, but then Gladys got him anyway; Archie’s life was under threat; Evelyn recruited Kevin to the farm and then also drowned Alice in a baptism.
Alice cleans up the house in preparation to sell it, as she determined last week after the baptism. Everything’s perfect, except that Betty keeps interrupting her showings to remind everyone that the famous Black Hood serial killer lived here. Whoops, and, hee. Betty is pretty funny in rebellious-teen-saboteur mode.
Mo, the owner of the gym where Archie’s been training, finds Archie practicing and tells him he needs to start paying dues–or he can do chores to earn his keep. Wait, WHAT?! Archie hasn’t even been paying dues this whole time? It was bratty enough that he was complaining about not being able to box when Keller had been training him for four and a half minutes, but he wasn’t even PAYING to be there?! Archie’s entitlement has now surpassed Blair Waldorf levels and attained the supreme heights of that girl who sued to get into college with an 1180 on her SATs.
If you thought last week’s subplot about gang attrition rates was exciting, you’ll love this one: the Pretty Poison slash LGBTQA meeting, Farmies, and Gargoyles get into a fight over the single classroom that everyone uses for after-school meetings. Or, as one guy says to Jughead, they start “mixing it up.” You know what they say — when you’re a Serpent, you’re a Serpent all the way.
Jughead and Toni, as the nominal heads of their respective gangs, get hauled before the principal and accused of breaking into the school to steal Bunsen burners, you know, for cooking drugs. “Serpents don’t cook. Or steal!” Jughead says indignantly. Don’t you hate when people get mixed up between actual gangs and your fake gang that doesn’t actually do anything?
At La Bonne Nuit, Hiram wraps up a long and indulgent client dinner and orders Veronica to comp it due to her fake debt towards him. But when things get rowdy, she has to leave Reggie manning the bar to go take care of it. Later, she complains to him that all of their money is going towards these debts. Reggie says wisely, if not without mixing his metaphors, that they “need a line on a new cash cow.” Veronica is like, oh, we need MONEY! That gives me the idea to do the one thing that has already made us money: open a casino. So, preying on gambling addictions is OK but preying on drug addictions is icky but preying on prisoners in private prisons is OK? I’m not sure about Veronica’s logic here. Nor am I sure why Reggie needed to point out that they needed money for her to realize that she should do something that makes her money. She may hold her own when it comes to quipping her way out of a scary conversation with her murderous dad, but she is not the best businesswoman.
Josie finds Archie sweeping up and, for once, not complaining. They hear a noise and who should they find hiding in a back closet but a little kid holding a candle up to his face like a little boy ghost in a horror movie. Archie comes in hot with the interrogation, but Josie intervenes and asks him if he’s hungry.
Next thing you know, the kid is scarfing down a hamburger at Pop’s. He tells them he’s been holed up at the gym for a few weeks and has no family. Josie whispers to Archie that Betty could help them call Social Services, so the kid tries to run away. They catch him, and he tells them that he can’t go back to the “Santa Lucia” shelter, where some bullies branded him on the arm with the same symbol Archie’s branded with. There follows some majorly Stranger Things-esque music, which I guess makes sense since this is about a sketchy kid who’s escaped from a sketchy institution!
But, so, to recap, this town has enough people to populate at least four gangs (that we know of), to fill multiple abusive child shelters, to fill a PRISON, and yet there’s only one classroom available for after-school clubs. Huh.
Archie brings Ricky (the stray kid) home and sets him up in the garage. He says that it’s just him and his dad (cue sad tear for Luke Perry) and that the garage is his space. He tells him that he’s been in his shoes (“alone and on the run”) and swears that he won’t call social services.
Over at the Pink Satin Dream House, aka Cheryl and Toni’s bonkers bedroom, Toni sulks and Cheryl guesses that it’s about her conference with Weatherby. Toni, flexing her muscle a little bit, says she doesn’t want to have to suspend anyone for unruly behavior, especially Cheryl. Them’s fightin’ words! Cheryl smiles tightly and points out that since she hosts the meetings at her house, and her house has a pool, that would definitely be awkward.
Friendship alert! Betty and Veronica actually have a conversation. It lasts exactly eleven seconds, and technically Jughead and Archie are there too. Betty is talking to Veronica about sabotaging her mom’s sale of the house. Everyone offers her a place to stay, which gives Archie a chance to humblebrag about the child he saved and hid in his garage. “Sounds like me, sophomore year,” Jughead says. AWWWW. Betty suggests calling the social worker, which Archie disingenuously agrees to. By the way, Betty is wearing a white turtleneck under red velvet overalls and… I’m kind of feeling it, you guys.
Betty finds Kevin at his locker and asks if they can talk, since they haven’t checked in recently. Kevin sees right through this since as Betty JUST SAID, they never talk. Betty admits she’s worried about the Farm getting him, so he calls her a “detractor” again and tells her to back off. Yeah, Betty basically doesn’t give a shit about Kevin unless he’s involved in her silly Farmie drama, so I kind of get where he’s coming from.
Jughead gathers the Serpents into a classroom and demands to know if they know about the breakin. Kurtz snidely mentions a quest that involved “looting the alchemist’s lair.” Jughead is pissed that they did this as part of a G&G game. Then comes possibly the most hilariously illogical part of this whole thing: Kurtz reminds him that he promised the Gargoyles immunity, and Jughead, no joke, retorts, “Not when you flagrantly break the law!” So… um… they only get immunity for their non-law-breaking activities? Is that called “immunity” or just “everyday life”?
A fight nearly breaks out between Sweet Pea (or Fangs, I can never remember which is which) and Kurtz and Jughead has to break it up. He follows it up by bellowing, “We’re aaaaaaall Serpents now.” Then he makes them all repeat the Serpent mantra like they’re in a reeducation camp or something: “In unity, there’s strength.” Kurtz refuses, and when Jughead tries to kick him out, he points out that the Serpents need the Gargoyles and threatens to kick Jughead out. Game, set, match to Kurtz.
Veronica and Reggie have gathered a bunch of random kids plus Josie to the casino at La Bonne Nuit to show off their new casino. (They couldn’t even have Betty there?!) A jazzy little sequence demonstrates how they’ll hide all their equipment in the case of a raid, or as Reggie inexplicably terms it, “The po-po sniffing around.” The kids are super excited! Veronica is an amazing businesswoman who is exploiting gambling addictions instead of evil, evil drug addictions!
Jughead comes to his dad for advice on the Gargoyles. Despite all his posturing about how everyone is a Serpent now, as soon as he’s in private with his dad he complains that the Gargoyles outnumber “us — the original Serpents.” And then says that they have “no sense of purpose.” Gee, I hate when I run a gang and my gang members have no sense of purpose, don’t you? FP (after making an impatient comment, “We talked about this, boy!”) tells him to form his own vision of the Serpents to get the Gargoyles on board.
Archie shows up at Pop’s and Ricky is gone because some “thugs” came looking for him, according to Pop. But Ricky conveniently left a detailed crayon drawing of his branding symbol, a big gargoyle king, and a bunch of screaming gargoyles holding up bloody knives.
Betty finishes up at the newspaper and packs up to go, only to catch sight of Kevin and a bunch of other Farmies holding their hands over Bunsen burners in the lab classroom, under the creepy supervision of Evelyn. Have I mentioned my theory that there is no Edgar and Evelyn secretly IS Edgar? Because this Evelyn character is clearly the boss. (Edit: Immediately after posting this I saw on imdb that there IS an Edgar and that he is played by Chad Michael Murray, which is possibly the most perfect thing to ever happen.)
Betty and Archie meet up with Ms. Weiss, the social worker, who explains calmly that it can be hard to get runaways back into custody. When she hears the name Santa Lucia she says it’s “one of the better homes in town.” (Seriously, I know I’m a broken record, but how big is this town? It has maybe two cops, but enough group homes for children for a statement like “one of the better ones” to make sense?) When Archie tells her about the branding, though, she totally believes him. Meanwhile, the guy next to her turns out to be a sketch artist and whips out a portrait of little Ricky. Archie confirms, and when Ms. Weiss says she’ll look for him in the database he asks to get some copies of it. Oh good, Archie has hatched a plan. I’m sure that will turn out GREAT.
Chez Lodge, Hiram asks Veronica to help him land a prospective deal with someone who owns a playing card manufacturer. He wants to convince him to move production to Hiram’s prison so that his “for-profit prison inmates” can earn a small wage. I love that–like the show is worried we’ll forget that Hiram is evil! Veronica says, “That’s shady, Daddy,” like, you’re the one who convinced him to ditch his drug business for the equally shady for-profit prison business! Anyway, she agrees to show the client a good time in exchange for forgiving 5% of her debt if Hiram lands the deal.
Cut to an almost exact repeat of this scene, but with Gladys in La Bonne Nuit. This time, Veronica agrees to let her sing at La Bonne Nuit in exchange for 5% of her other debt. Gladys, hilariously, refers to herself as “the Joan Jett of Riverdale.” I cannot WAIT to see this lady sing.
Betty finds Josie in the music room and tells her about Kevin’s little adventure with the Bunsen burner. “Oh, Kevin,” Josie sighs. Poor Josie. She’s surrounded by boys making THE WORST choices. She reveals to Betty that she’s heard Kevin sneaking out at night and maybe it’s to meet the Farmies.
Friendship moment! Archie and Jughead are actually interacting with each other! (I feel it’s important to highlight this because it’s SO rare, given that this show is usually juggling at least five or six plotlines per episode.) Archie shows Jughead Ricky’s preternaturally skillful drawing and then reports that he was chased off by “thugs.” Jughead crankily says, “Thugs? You mean gang members?” I love how Jughead runs this gang but gets all mad when people think they break the law and are thugs. Maybe just call it a “close group of friends” if you’re going to be like that, Juggie. Anyway, Archie points out that Jughead did indeed recruit some rather thug-like Gargoyles recently, and Jughead sighs.
Next thing you know he’s in the Sex Bunker showing Ricky’s portrait to his close group of friends and ordering them to form a search party. Kurtz is incredulous at being asked to provide free labor, at which point Archie stomps over like an angry football player to get all up in Kurtz’s grill. Kurtz calls him “Dude,” sarcastically, which instantly endeared me to Kurtz. He blames the Gargoyles who broke off when the main Gargoyles joined the Serpents, at which point everyone realizes that uh-oh, there are Gargoyles out there even scarier than Kurtz. A few of the non-Kurtz Gargoyles do offer to help out. Hooray unity! For anyone counting, this means there are still at least four gangs in Riverdale: the Serpents-cum-Gargoyles, the extra-crazy Gargoyles, the Pretty Poisons, and the Ghoulies.
Over at La Bonne Nuit, Veronica introduces Gladys, who–while I wouldn’t compare anyone to Joan Jett–is pretty fabulous up there at the mic. Hiram’s obnoxious client starts heckling her for no reason after she’s been singing for, oh, twenty seconds. Reggie almost leaps over to kick him out for being a “total asshat” (I love how Reggie’s entire dialect is slang that was being used ironically back in 2003 when I was his age) but Veronica stops him because he’s a VIP.
Luckily, Gladys does not need a dimpled teenaged boy to protect her. She hears the heckling, stops singing, and fully whips out a KNIFE. This sends Hiram and his client into hysterical laughter because they are the worst. Reggie, given the go-ahead by Veronica, legit says, “I’m gonna ask you to leave, bro.” His dialogue is AMAZING. “Cheekbones here is bouncing me?!” says the client incredulously. Hee! I’m going to call Reggie cheekbones from now on. Hiram follows the guy out, but not before he hisses to Veronica that she may have cost him his deal.
Deep in the forest somewhere Evelyn is leading a fire walk ceremony. They’re also surrounded by candles that have been placed directly on the ground. Fire hazard much? Also, there’s still no sign of Edgar Ever-Never. It’s Kevin’s turn first–but Betty has apparently tracked him into the forest (there is way too much going on in this episode for us to actually see her tracking him; after all, when you’re following four gangs and a cult, you have to be efficient!). She tries to stop him, but he just walks right across the fire and into Evelyn’s creepy embrace as Evelyn shrieks delightedly, “We are one! We are one!” Yikes.
More Archie-Jughead friendship! Hooray! Jughead finds Archie and suggests they check out Gargoyle ground zero. This turns out to be a sort of dark, abandoned house which for some reason has a shitload of dismembered Barbie legs hanging from the walls (what?!) and a big graffiti-covered tablet, that no joke, says “Fate” across the top and then has a list of names covering the rest. Of course, all the names are crossed out except for Archie Andrews and Ricky. Archie actually utters the words, “All these names… they’re sacrifice.” Does this guy even speak English?!
Naturally, they immediately find Ricky crouched in the back of the room. He avers that he hid here because he thought it would be the last place the Gargoyles would look now that they had abandoned the place. Ricky blathers about how Archie and he have the same branding mark and it means they’re marked for death. Archie promises that nothing will happen to Ricky (seems foolhardy, but on the other hand, it’s nice to see Archie worrying about something other than his imaginary boxing career). He asks Jughead to back him up and Jughead says, “Yeah, that’s right. That said, let’s get out of here.” Oh, Jughead. I love you.
The next day at school, Evelyn and Kevin–wearing matching burnt-orange shirts–find Betty at the newspaper office typing madly away at her Farm article. She even quotes it for them: “A dangerous cult of deluded teenagers who gather for occult-like, self-harming activities.” Well, she’s an investigator, not a poet laureate! Kevin insists that the procedure made him euphoric, but when Betty threatens to publish the article, they counter with a little light blackmail. Thanks to Alice, they know all of Betty’s secrets. Foiled again! Betty slams her laptop shut and covers her face with her hands.
Archie’s grand plan for protecting Ricky is to teach him to box. He asks again about the branding, and Ricky explains that the older kids were trying to use him as a runner and branded him when he turned them down. He suddenly decides he should run away, but Archie tells him he’s not alone and he doesn’t need to run.
Meanwhile, Jughead has gathered the Serpents in the classroom to give them assignments for tracking down the (no joke, he says this) “Rogue Goyles” who are chasing Ricky. Then Toni dashes in to say that Kurtz is about to kill Fangs. Huh, I guess it was Fangs after all. Whoops! Anyway, Jughead dashes out into the hallway to find Kurtz and a buddy dangling Fangs off a ledge, Clueless-style. Kurtz calls Fangs a “dirty Serpent spy” and drops him, but luckily Jughead rushes over to break his fall. Ouch.
La Bonne Nuit is hopping when Veronica arrives to find Gladys chilling out behind the bar making herself a stiff drink. She says Veronica’s “boy toy” doesn’t make them strong enough, which frankly doesn’t surprise me. Just then Hiram arrives, bragging to some other client that he’s always wanted a casino. Veronica’s jaw drops and she goes over to rant to Reggie about the grownups salting her game. He remarks that he misses the Serpents, which gives Veronica some kind of idea for how to use the money from the casino. I mean, just a suggestion, she could use it to pay off her debt to Gladys and Hiram?
Archie finds Ricky in his room, trying on his varsity jacket. Aww!! He tells him he can keep it. He tries to bring Ricky down to meet his dad (awwww :sad tear:) and, when Ricky gets scared, promises him that he’s going to find him a home and visit him all the time to check in. Hey, I like Archie in big-brother mode! He’s so sweet and selfless! I wish Ricky were going to stick around to keep Archie from whining like he usually does. Unfortunately, as you probably deduced from the Stranger Things music, Ricky is not long for the Riververse.
Jughead has gone back to FP to complain about Kurtz. I love this father-son relationship, especially how FP keeps calling Jughead “boy” for no reason, but why is the sheriff sitting around all day at his desk listening to his gang leader son complain about his gang? Doesn’t he have, like, an entire city full of criminals to police? Even the LEAST criminal teenager on this show still has a history of hitting people over the head with a shovel and burying evidence in lakes. Anyway, Jughead has some kind of big idea to give the Serpents purpose.
Meanwhile, Veronica has decided to hire the Pretty Poisons as security. She proposes this over milkshakes at Pop’s. Again, wouldn’t this money be better spent paying off her supposed debts? Anyway, she unknowingly pushes Toni’s buttons by asking if she needs to run this by Cheryl. Of course Toni immediately agrees to prove that she runs the Pretty Poisons.
Betty has now seen fit to don a tight sweater under a pair of denim overalls. I don’t know what this new Betty obsession with overalls is but I kind of like it, even if some of the outfits are headscratchers! She comes home to find her mother packing. Apparently they’re in escrow, an anonymous buyer has purchased the house. “I’m sure it’s someone overseas,” Alice says. Yeah, I’m sure that rich people from overseas are just dying to buy pied-a-terres sight unseen in suburban towns overrun by warring gangs.
Jughead’s idea is even sillier than I expected. It’s that the Serpents, who if you’ll recall are A GANG, are going to be paid (and get school credit) to help out the Sheriff’s department. First of all, that’s hella unethical to hire your son’s organization for government business even if said organization weren’t a gang, not that anyone in Riverdale cares about ethics obviously. But also, what kind of gang is just an arm of the police department? I guess maybe in like the Soviet Union? Anyway, Jughead says that he wants them to be united, so they’re going to take a vote. FP adds helpfully, “If it’s not unanimous, there’s the damn door.” Um… not the best way to get an honest vote, but OK. Kurtz actually does take up the offer and walk out, leaving everyone else happily voting to become a gang of police interns. “Do we get to carry guns?” asks Sweet Pea or Fangs. At the same time, FP and Jughead say “Absolutely not” and “No.” Hee!
Archie and Ricky are playing video games (Archie continues to be much more charming as a big brother figure than a tortured hero) when Archie gets a call: Ricky’s real name is Ricardo DeSantos, he’s Joaquin’s little brother, and he’s got a history of violent behavior. Naturally, when Archie goes back to the living room, Ricky isn’t there. Archie pads through the house quietly–it’s totally scary–only to confront Ricky in the kitchen, where Ricky wields a giant butcher knife and brags about having tricked Archie by branding himself on the wrist. He wanted to get Archie in order to get in on the G&G game. This kid is committed! “You… you’re playing me?” says Archie about thirty seconds after it becomes clear to the rest of us. Then Ricky legit STABS HIM and runs away just as Fred arrives home. Aww, Fred! ❤
Afterwards, Fred cleans up Archie in the kitchen. Archie apologizes for being such an idiot. (FINALLY!) But Fred says, “You’re not an idiot, son, you’ve just… got a big heart.” First of all, I think Archie had it right. Second of all, “big heart” is apparently the last refuge of a show that has accidentally written its protagonist to be a giant asshole but wants everyone to keep pretending that he’s nice. See also: Dawson’s Creek. Then they find a crumpled G&G playing card that says “Kill the Red Paladin,” who, of course, is Archie. Ominous music plays, even though we totally already knew that Ricky was trying to kill Archie in order to get in on a G&G game, so this card tells us exactly nothing new.
Cheryl is sulking over Toni’s threat to kick her out, so when Toni gets dressed for her security job at La Bonne Nuit, Cheryl refuses to go and says coolly, “I’ll be asleep.” Toni sees she’s being cold but doesn’t ask, just leaves. Uh-oh, trouble in paradise.
Gladys arrives at La Bonne Nuit already swigging out of a beer bottle. Classy! Toni and some other Pretty Poison stop her, and Veronica announces that she’s banned until she can play by the rules. Gladys makes a hilarious smirk at this, but just then Hiram distracts everyone by showing up and getting the same spiel from Veronica. “I’m running my business, my way,” she announces–just after promising them she’ll both pay them back her made-up debt. Well, at least she’s kind of gotten a backbone!
Remember Dark Betty? Well, she peeps out for a second here. Betty sits in her room, staring creepily at herself in a mirror while burning a single millennial-pink candle. Seduced by Kevin’s description of the euphoria he experienced after burning himself, she reaches her hand out to the candle’s flame–but just then, Alice interrupts to snottily tell Betty to make progress on the packing. Oops, Alice, you almost had her! Now Betty’s mad again. She carries her candle downstairs, hatching an evil, evil plan.
The Serpents descend upon the Gargoyle lair to clean it up and make it the new Serpent HQ. Rather than helping, Archie stands moodily at the tablet of names. Jughead tries to joke him out of it, but Archie resists because, in his own words, “I remain marked for death.” Emo much, Archie? Jughead suggests, “Maybe it’s time you make this thing come to a head?” Archie doesn’t get it, so he clarifies that he means the G&G game that Archie’s apparently still playing. “Will you help me?” Archie says. Jughead says, “Obviously.” Awww!! Then Betty appears out of nowhere and says, “Count me in.” Double awwww!! FRIENDSHIP, you guys! Jughead remarks that she seems cheerful. We soon find out why as Alice arrives home to find the house on fire. Dark Betty rears her head again!
The very end of the episode is a title card saying, “In memoriam Luke Perry.” So I guess this was Luke Perry’s last episode. But at least his last scene was Fred taking care of his son–that’s sweet.